Sun Prints

Children will investigate the effects of the Sun’s rays.


Lesson Objective

Children will use colored paper to investigate the effects of the Sun’s ultraviolet rays.


What You'll Need

  • Dark-colored construction paper – 1 piece per child
  • Variety of objects with interesting shapes – 2 per child
  • Sunny location outside, where papers will not be disturbed

What To Do

Note: This activity requires taking the children outside to a sunny location.

  1. Discuss the Sun’s light with the children, making sure they understand that some of the light transmitted by the Sun is invisible ultraviolet (UV) light (see Did You Know?).
  2. Tell the children that they will be using colored paper to investigate the effect of the Sun’s UV rays.
  3. Take the children outside, and distribute the colored paper.
  4. Have the children place their paper in a sunny spot where it will not be disturbed for 1–2 hours.
  5. Allow children to choose two objects to place on their paper.
  6. Leave the papers exposed to the Sun for at least an hour but no longer than 2 hours.
  7. Have the children take their objects off the paper, and discuss the results (see Guiding Student Inquiry).

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Tell me what happened to your paper.
  • Describe what you did to make the print.
  • Explain why only parts of the paper faded.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Try placing colored paper in the Sun with an object covering part of the paper. Place the same color paper with a similar object in the shade. Expose the papers for at least 1 hour. Discuss the results.
  • Expose the colored paper with an object on top for an extended period of time. When you remove the object, the image of the object will be blurry. Discuss with the children that the Sun moving across the sky caused the shadow of the image to move as well and this created the blurry image.
  • Have a discussion with the children about the importance of protecting their skin and eyes when they are in the Sun.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children describe what happened to their papers?
  • Could children explain what they did to make the print on their paper?
  • Could children explain that the prints were caused by the Sun fading the part of the paper that was not covered by an object?


Did You Know?

The Sun sends out heat and light to the Earth. Without the Sun, life on Earth would not be possible. Part of the light from the Sun contains invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays. Even though we cannot see them, UV rays are very strong. They can cause damage to many things if they are not protected; in this lesson, UV rays caused the colors in the paper to fade. We all need some Sun exposure to get our supply of Vitamin D. It does not take much time in the Sun for us to get the amount of Vitamin D we need. Like the colors in the paper fading, the Sun’s rays can cause damage to our skin and our eyes. In order to enjoy the Sun, you need to protect your skin and eyes from the damaging rays of the Sun. Adults can help children by making sure they are wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, clothing to cover the body, and a hat.

The amount of UV light that reaches the Earth depends on the time of day, the season of the year, how close you are to the equator, and exposure time. The Sun is strongest between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. UV rays from the Sun reach the Earth every day, but exposure is greatest in the summer. Locations nearer to the equator have the greatest exposure to UV rays and get less exposure the farther they are from the equator. Exposure time is greater the longer you are out in the Sun.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • Sun – the star that is nearest to the Earth; the Earth receives heat and light from the Sun.
  • print – a shape marked onto a surface.
  • ray – a thin beam of light or some other radiation.
  • ultraviolet – light that is beyond the color band of visible light; also known as “UV.”
  • exposure – being open to the weather or to a condition.
  • fade – to lose color.

Lesson Tips

  • Present the concept of ultraviolet (UV) rays to the children in friendly terms so as not to scare them.
  • Use inexpensive, dark-colored construction paper for best results.
  • Make sure to anchor the papers to a fixed surface so they do not blow away.
  • Several hours of Sun exposure will cause the prints to be “blurry” because the shadows on the paper move with the Sun.


  • Fun in the Sun Safely by Dianne Goldman-York
  • Hello Sun! by Hans Wilhelm
  • What the Sun Sees, What the Moon Sees by Nancy Tafuri
  • The Sun Is My Favorite Star by Frank Asch

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed.

Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS