Smile on their dial

December 23rd, 2023Smile on their dial

It would probably be pretty hard to beat the creation of a sundial as a well-rounded learning experience.
Daylesford Dharma School students Ziggy Hudson, Aya Taube and Aurora Freeman with the school’s sundial. Ziggy is acting as the human gnomon required to cast the sundial’s time-telling shadow as part of this well-rounded learning project, while Aya and Aurora prepare to add finishing touches to the project by painting in months of the year. Image: Eve Lamb

It would probably be pretty hard to beat the creation of a sundial as a well-rounded learning experience.

The analemmatic sundial that was progressively created by students at Daylesford’s Dharma School over much of the 2023 school year provides a perfect example.

The idea came about when students were attending “bush school” and developed from there, leading to a pretty interesting learning experience for staff as well as students, says grade five-six teacher Rachel Taylor.

Students become totally engrossed in the creation of the ancient practical means to telling the time of day by virtue of the angle of shadows cast by the changing position of the sun relative to directional compass bearings in the landscape.

The resulting sundial is not just a useful tool for telling the time of day, it also became an investigation into the ancient Egyptian origins of sundials, the precursors to analogue watches of today.

Research, maths, geography, science and practical building skills all got a fairly rigorous workout in the process, as did a bit of interpersonal politics with students encouraging parents to get on board and help out, which they generously did along with the Daylesford Rotary Club.

The students and their various staff and parental helpers also created a beautiful herbal meditation and tea garden around the sundial.

“It was amazing to see a student-led project that produced such passion and follow-through,” reflected Dharma school principal Andrea Furness, admiring the sundial in its beautiful little herbal garden, just days out from the end of the school year.

Andrea says anyone who is interested in the project is now welcome to go check it out, while enthusiastic students say anyone keen to create their own site-specific sundial would do well to check out the Solar Schoolhouse human sundial website.

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