When the Shadows Get Shorter: 4 Projects to Celebrate the Summer Solstice

Summer is a time of life and growth. For your students it is also likely to be the time for exploring the outdoors and spending time with their friends. These sunny days are a great opportunity to teach your class about the importance of summer to civilizations around the world and throughout history and to discuss how midsummer, the season’s solstice, is celebrated by different cultures.

Here are a few things you can teach your class and some craft ideas to make the lessons even more memorable.

1. A Class Sundial

A few days before the solstice, you and your students can create a class sundial. This can be as simple as placing a long stick in the ground and marking the area around it with chalk.

Explain to your students that the shadows get shorter the closer you get to the solstice, because the days are longer and the sun is higher in the sky. This is one of the reasons midsummer is so widely celebrated: Historically, longer days meant more hours of productivity. The solstice is the last day before the hours of daylight begin decreasing to lead up to winter.

2. Midsummer Wreaths

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Wearing wreaths is a common part of solstice celebrations in several countries, including Greece, Latvia, Romania, and Serbia. Why not go on a forest walk with your class to collect flowers, twigs, and fallen leaves for their own wreaths? While doing so, you can teach your class about the custom of collecting herbs, branches, and flowers before the solstice to decorate doorways and use in good luck charms.

Alternatively, use colored paper to make leaf shapes, pipe cleaners instead of twigs, and crépe paper for flowers. Weave the materials together, and fasten them in place using craft glue.

3. Instruments for a Solstice Dance

Dancing is another big part of solstice celebrations, often accompanied by instruments such as horns, pans, or drums. Many of these dances also involve jumping over a bonfire for protection in the remaining months of the year.

Guide your students in making instruments using recycled food containers: coffee cans for drums and cardboard tubes (from paper towels or toilet paper) for horns, for example. Draw a bonfire on the ground with colored chalk, and encourage your class to play their instruments as they take turns jumping over.

4. Solstice Sun Plates

The sun is at the center of all midsummer celebrations, so encourage your students to decorate plates to look like it. Alternatively, they could create designs based on what they have learned about the solstice and their favorite traditions from around the world. During this lesson, you could even discuss the cycle of the seasons and why days become longer as the solstice approaches.

There are many ways you can teach your class about this important festival, and so many more traditions they will enjoy learning about, like Austria’s procession of ships or Finland’s hunt for the magic fern at midnight. However, these crafty ideas should get you started. Wrap up your lessons with a party to celebrate the summer solstice!

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Nona Taut

Nona Taut is Sales Director for Makit Products, located in Dallas, Texas.

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