Telling Time by the Sun and Stars

27 Mar


My latest project is to have us learn how to tell time without a clock. Sometimes when we go to the beach, it would be useful to know the time without having to pull out a cell phone (which could end up in the hands of a wet kid or other catastrophe).

The other day, I had the kids go out every hour (more or less) and plot on a piece of paper the sun’s position —–well, things kind of fizzled by the afternoon so we didn’t finish our observations, but in sha Allah, we’ll continue learning as I think this is a very useful skill.

So here are some resources I’ve collected in hopes of using, in sha Allah.


Sun Position Calculator

Well this kind of ruins the whole going out an observing experience, but you can just use it as a check and still observe.

Select your location and it gives you a diagram of where the sun is at different points during the day.  Neat!

How to Tell Time Using the Sun, Moon, and/or Stars


How to tell time from the sun

How to tell time by the sun

Tells how to estimate how many more hours of sunlight are left.

How to Tell Time Without a Clock (by the sun, moon, or stars)

Telling Time by the Light of the Moon

Lesson plan for grade 6-8

Has a neat seat of pictures for making a lunar flip book!

How to Tell Time without a Clock

I thought this was pretty well and simply written.


Telling Time by Sun and Stars



How Does a Sundial Work?

Lots of Links related to sundials

Making Sundials/Sun Clocks
Make a Sundial

Making a Sun Clock – experiment

Also a little background information on when time in US began to be regulated

Make Your Own Sundial

Garden Sundial

Homemade Sundial

Fun in the Sun Sundial activity (simple)

Resources for times of sunset/sunrise:

For US:

Custom Sunrise Sunset Calendar


You can compare these with your prayer calendar times if you use one……



One thing I marveled at was yet another beauty of Islam.  Our prayer times coincide with major events/times of the day (sunrise– time of shurooq, when fajr goes out; sunset, noon(ish), etc, so we can use those as points for the kids to go out and observe where the sun is.  This will be useful so that they can know approximately what prayer is/will be in (my 10 year old has trouble figuring out if it’s likely to be dhuhr or asr sometimes).


Posted by on March 27, 2010 in Science: Earth/Space


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4 responses to “Telling Time by the Sun and Stars

  1. ummtafari

    March 27, 2010 at 3:35 am

    As salaam alaikum,

    Alhamdulillah, what a wonderful and beneficial project. This is such a great idea.

    We recently experimented with a human sundial at the local botanical gardens, masha Allah. Then, we played around with our shadows.

    • talibiddeenjr

      March 27, 2010 at 6:35 am

      wa alaykum us salaam,

      Naam, I think this is one of those things that teaches kids real skills that they can use an a real physical lab instead of a contrived science experiment, the kind I remember from school, doing but not really understanding the point, or getting the point but it was like, ok, so? I just have to keep making sure that it doesn’t become too “schooly.” I love the idea because it’s useful, when were out or outside, they can get an idea of what time it is, a concept that I find of the few kids, as I mentioned, don’t know if it’s still morning or afternoon.

      I love that we have a yard now, ma sha Allah and can do simple stuff like this.

      The shadow play sounds like fun, I’ll have to be mindful of that, but the funny thing, stuff like that usually works itself in from the kids so I probably won’t have to do too much, eh? I’m working on trying to be more spontaneous as I see that sometimes I’ve got this big ole plan and it’s hard for me to focus on the kids’ feedback as I am gung ho at trying to get in everything I intended. The kids come up with such wonderful stuff that I have to be careful to not rush past it (which I do at times). That’s the thing of education isn’t it, it’s not just one sided, it’s not just the teacher filling the child with facts and ideas, but it’s the processing of those ideas and discussing new ones that the kids come up with during “class” that really educate the children (sorry, got a little off topic, was just thinking………..)

  2. ummtafari

    March 28, 2010 at 12:39 am

    Wa alaikum as salaam,

    Alhamdulillah, it seems like you are flourishing in your new place! I sensed a change in you from this very post and from the other on self teaching! You go girl!

    • talibiddeenjr

      May 16, 2010 at 9:53 am

      As salaamu alaykum,

      Thank! Sorry to take so long to respond. A little backed up on comments…………………

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