Forever-lasting Sundial

Sally Ride Elementary is a relatively new school. In 2018 Cypress Park and Durance Elementary schools merged into a new and beautiful school. The old buildings and exterior areas were demolished and what used to be the old Cypress Park, became into the nowadays amazing and very modern school. During this construction process, the once built by Sun for You and Me club’s students school sundial was destroyed.

It was then, necessary to build a sundial, which could make us all very proud of. Under Ms. Berriz’s direction, the sundial was redesigned and recalculated. We have learned with her how to build a Horizontal Sundial and many basic concepts that will help us not only to better understand how a sundial works but also to master different Science and Math standards. The team has been working hard. Students and volunteers from the whole school have helped us with this project. These are some images that show the whole process.

What have we learned about sundials?

A sundial is a time measurement instrument and therefore needs precision in its design and construction. To this day, the calculation and design of sundials is a subject of relative complexity because it needs knowledge of space geometry and spatial vision for the interpretation of cuts of planes and curved surfaces. This chapter teaches a sundial design methodology available to all. Each sundial usually consists of two essential parts: the sphere or surface where the time- lines are located and the gnomon that gives the shadow on the surface of that sundial. Time- lines are the intersection lines of the sphere plane with Earth’s time planes. This project included the construction of individual paper sundials. Hundreds of sundials were made by our schoolmates.

Main Parts of a Sundial

What is behind this project?

Students and teachers, from Kindergarten to 5th grade, we all have learned about sundials!

How can we classify the sundials?

  1. Vertical equatorial sundial.
  2. Horizontal equatorial sundial.
  3. Vertical sundial. (One of most popular)
  4. Horizontal sundial. (One of most popular) This is the sundial that we learned about and the one that we are building for this project.
  5. Vertical sundial with Azimuth.
  6. East and/or West sundial.
  7. Pyramid sundial
  8. Circular sundial.

We don’t know how to build all these sundials, but the horizontal one we can explain to you!

How can we calculate a sundial?

Type:  Horizontal Local Sundial
Place: Orlando, Florida, USA
Latitude f=28.5ºLongitude l=81.3º
Azimuth g=0ºInclination a=61.5º
AY= 6.29AX=1.43
Cb=Ca.Fg=0Inclination b=0º
DY= AY.Bg.Bb=6.29DX= AX/ Bg=1.43

This data was used for the design and calculation of the horizontal sundial built in Orlando, USA, by students from the Sally Ride Elementary school
Diagram of the school sundial. Gnomon and Time lines.

In the diagram are represented the time lines for the school’s local latitude (28.4 degrees to the North) and longitude (81.21 to the West). The gnomon ( on the left side) has the inclination angle equal to the local latitud. If we could prolong that line for 434 light-years, we will meet the Pole star. This line indicates the real North. (See the Glossary/ Pole star)

How was designed the sundial?

The design was discussed by the team, Ms. Berriz, and Ms. Torres, our Art teacher. It represents our school. Sally Ride Elementary school is proud of having the Aviation & Aerospace Magnet Program. The sphere of the sundial was painted by students from VPK to 5th grade. The gnomon was donated to us by SignWrap Xpress.

Who participated in this project?

From the very beginning, our purpose was to involve as many people as possible and we did it! Several adults supported us in many different ways: donation of materials and tools, working with the concrete part, and during the painting part of this project. The list includes scholars from VPK to 5th grade (375 students), our Sally Ride school staff, the community, local stores, friends, and families. We could round the number of participants to about 450 persons. It was that big!!! We appreciate the unique and very valuable support that we have had.

To name just six participants, based on this competition requirements, here we have them in the same order as they appear in the video below:

Adelina, Brendon, Neil, Kensleigh, Alex, and Sasha.

Let’s listen what the experts have to say. Enjoy the video.

The experts are talking!

Now is the Sun’s turn to show the solar time in our schoolyard.


Gnomon– A rod parallel to the Earth’s axis of rotation (Polar North-South axis) that shadows a given plane where time-lines are represented.

Horizontal Plane – Plane of the local horizon where the cardinal points are located.

Local Latitude – Coordinate used to determine the location of a particular point on Earth. The latitude of a given place is the angle that having as a vertex the center of the Earth forms that place with the equatorial plane.

Local Longitude – Angle formed between the meridional plane 0 (passing through Greenwich) and the local meridional plane or cenital plane.

Meridian– One of the coordinates used to define the position of a point on Earth and is the cutting line of a southern plane with the Earth’s sphere. The meridian of a place defines its length, that is, its distance to the zero meridian, located in Greenwich, and at the same time defines the solar time.

Meridional Plane – Plane passing through a given place and the Axis of Rotation of the Earth, i.e. Polar North-South Axis. By international convention, the meridional plane passing through the Greenwich Laboratory in England is the zero meridian. As the Earth takes a full turn every 24 hours, each hour corresponds to an angle of 15 degrees. These meridional planes are called remarkable meridional planes or planes of longitude. The reference starts from the meridian zero or Prime Meridian (see Fig. 1).

North, South, East and West – Cardinal points of a given location. They are measured and represented on the horizontal plane of the place.

Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere – The equatorial plane divides the Earth into two hemispheres, the Boreal or North and the Southern or South.

Official noon – It’s called official noon at 12 a.m. by the official time.

Official time – Time that for convenience takes a country to organize its activities that usually refers to a meridian of longitude.

Pole star indicates the Earth’s North

Pole Star – Star that is on the same axis of rotation of the Earth and therefore remains in the same place when the Earth rotates. It is used to determine the Polar North, that is, the cardinal points. Pole Star, also known as North Star or Polaris, forms with the horizontal plane an angle equal to the latitude of a given place.

Sundial – Clock that gives the real or true-time by changing the shade that the Sun gives on a certain surface.

True-time – It’s the time that gives the meridional plane where the Sun is located.

True noon – It’s called true noon at the moment when the Sun is at its highest point in the celestial sphere, that is, at 12 a.m. solar or true time.

This website and its content was approved by Ms. Berriz.

33 thoughts on “Forever-lasting Sundial

  • This is very impressive. I enjoyed the presentation and great job learning about how to calculate a sundial.

  • It’s great that you resurrected the Sundial that was destroyed when your new school was built. I’m so impressed with the knowledge and the presentations about the design and function of the Sundial. Involving the entire school was a great idea, so now everyone knows about the Sundial on campus and can say they helped make it happen! Great job!

  • Hi, I am Sasha. Thank you for your comment. I enjoyed this adventure.

    • The sundial is cool and the marbel thing is cool to thank you for the sundial by the way sasha and neil and jon and audrey and moris and evreyone that worked on it thank you guy…….

  • I love this project! What a wonderful way to honor the school’s history as well as mark it for the wonderful years to come. So great to have all the kiddos participate. Bravo Mrs Berriz 🙂

  • This was an amazing project! Than you for sharing with our school.

  • it is so cool! I love how much I learned form this

    • Hi Aria! This is Alex. We’re so happy that you learned from this! Sundials are extremely cool to learn about!

  • Wow, what outstanding students’ project!!! It is amazing to see how these elementary students are able to explain how this Sundial works. Beside, their creativity is beyond of whatever everyone can expect. Congratulations team!!! Your teacher and everyone at your school must be very proud of you all!!! I love it! Go Sally Ride Elementary! Go!

    • Hi I am Brendan thank you for your comment I enjoyed this adventure

  • I am so proud of the dedication Mrs Berriz and our scholars have shown in their efforts to build the sundial!

    This project is a wonderful example of how our Sally ride scholars are innovating!

    • Hi, I am Alex. Thank you so much for your nice comment Cameron! This was such a blast to build and learn about!

  • Great video explaining the calculations behind a sundial. And what a beautiful finished project. Your team learned so much science and math….as well as engineering and construction skills!

  • What a great way of involving kids with Science. I loved it!

  • Amazing !!!!. It is the first time I have see a job of this category in an elementary school. I congratulate the students, teachers and collaborators for such an excellent educational work.

  • Sundials have accompanied humankind since the early beginning.
    It is still amazing in this age of digital technology to teach Kids how to build this instrument and all the underling science to it.
    A lot of amazing things are learnt during the process giving the children a sense of belonging and achievement.
    I want to congratulate Ms. Berriz for the sheer will of making the world a better place and giving the best 100% of the time.

    • I am highly excited to see the students involved in this amazing sundial project

    • Hi Vasili! This is Alex. Thank you for your very nice comment! This was our first time doing this sort of thing but it is totally without the doubt not the last!

  • I couldn’t be more proud of our school community for making the project so amazing.
    Our Sally Ride Explorers did such an awesome job explaining and presenting the information on how the sundial is meant to operate and work. This was a great opportunity for the students to learn for themselves as well as to teach others. Thank you to everyone involved, it turned out beautiful. Great job!!!

    • Hi I am Brendan thank you for your comment I loved the experience Jenny Morgan

  • Well organized and great delivery of the information. It is great to see how you make sure the students and staff participated in the process. Not that many schools have a Sundial, so this is very unique. Great job to the team!!

    • Hi i am Brendan thank you for the comment Raquel Flores it was my first time but not my last

  • You guys did an awesome job! I love how involved the students are and how much they have learned. This will be an opportunity for future students to learn as well. A project that keeps on giving!

  • What an amazing project! I love the way the whole school got involved in learning about the sundial and how it works. The students did a great job explaining concepts that could be quite difficult for even adults to understand. It is great to see their enthusiasm for learning about science and math!


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