Mountain School @ Home Lesson 11: Shadow Painting & Poetry

This is part 1 in the series: Mountain School at Home

Students! Parents! Teachers! During this time of school closures and stay-at-home guidelines, North Cascades Institute is sharing lessons and activities from our talented Mountain School instructors. We hope these will inspire students of all ages to continue to learn about the natural world and discover new connections to the outdoors from home. This lesson was created by Mountain School instructor Bre Harris. Find more lessons and activities on our blog or website.

Shadow Painting

Have you ever made a nature shadow painting? It’s easy! Just grab an intriguing nature item, set it up so it casts a shadow on a piece of paper and trace the shadow!


  • Large piece of paper
  • Nature item(s)
  • Pencil
  • Paint, colored pencils, crayons, or markers
  • Bright light or a sunny day 
  • Something to prop the item up with (you may have to get creative)


Step 1: Find a nature object. This fern will result in a shadow painting with a detailed outline while a maple leaf or flower may have a simpler outline.

Step 2: Set up the nature object so it casts a shadow onto a piece of paper. You can do this outside with the sun or indoors with a bright light shining behind the object. (I taped my fern to a shelf on which my lamp was shining.)

Step 3: Trace the outline of the shadow onto the paper. 

This might be hard to see but look closely for my pencil lines tracing  the edge of the shadow.

Step 4: Bring your shadow to life with some color! I chose to use watercolor, but you can use colored pencils, crayons, markers, etc.

If My Shadow Didn’t Copy Me

Your shadow does everything you do, but what if it had a mind of its own? Use this poetry-writing activity (adapted from Scholastic Teachables) to have fun thinking about what your shadow might do differently from you. Start by thinking of something you might do outside, and then tell what your shadow would do differently.


  • When I would pick berries from a bush,
    y shadow would mash them up and make them into a jam.
  • When I would throw a frisbee,
    my shadow would throw it back to me.
  • When I would________________________________,
    my shadow would________________________________.
  • When I would ________________________________,
    my shadow would ________________________________.
  • It would be fun if once in a while my shadow did something new.
    But I like it a lot that my shadow does whatever I like to do!

Download Lesson as PDF


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