Village Life in the Middle Ages - Make Your Own Sundial

Middle Ages Unit Study 
Week 15: We learned about life in the middle ages and made sundials.

A time when the feudal system with kings and queens, knights and ladies, craftsmen, servants and peasants determined status, life was very different than today. Few people could read and write. Girls learned to cook and sing, and were married around 12 years old. Boys learned the skills of their fathers. People dumped chamber pots into the streets and slept together on beds of hay. Bath water was shared between family members and blood letting was a common medical procedure. The maypole and egg dances were performed during special events and children played games such as hoops, bad mitten, chess and marbles. Early geared clocks had been invented, but only the very rich could afford them. Most people kept time with sundials.

Adventures in the Middle Ages (Good Times Travel Agency) is the story of a two children who visit a time travel agency and journey back to the middle ages. On their vacation they experience empty bellies in peasant houses, poachers stealing animals, castle kitchen work and more. An excellent book for young children studying the middle ages.

After learning a bit about life during the middle ages we did two simple projects focusing on time and seasons.

Labors of the Month

During the middle ages, many people performed similar labors each month of the year. For example, in March, seeds were often planted, April was for weeding, June was for harvesting early crops, October was for milling, and November was for butchering and weaving. Much of this work is still performed during the same months today.

Although we cut out this color wheel and glued it to a paper plate for display, creating a unique wheel where the children were able to fill in the labors would be much more rewarding.
In addition to being a good middle ages activity, this activity is great for children learning about the months of the year and the calendar.

Make Your Own Sundial

Our simple sundials were constructed using a paper plate and a straw. To have a successful sundial project the following items are key.

  • A dry sunny day
  • A spot which receives sun most of the day to place the sundial
  • Rocks, duct tape or some other method to prevent the sundial from flying away in the wind
  • An alarm to go off every hour as a reminder to mark the shadow on the sundial

To make sundials a thumb tack and pencil were used to pierce a small hole in the center of a paper plate. Next a straw was inserted into the hole and dabbed with glue to secure into place.

Next the sundials were placed outside in a sunny spot and secured in place with rocks. At each hour of the day a line was drawn and labeled to mark the time.

I've seen instructions for sundials which include images of the numbers 1-12 evenly spaced around the paper plate much like the face of a clock. Although it's tempting, and easy to do that method will result in a sundial which does not work.

Depending on the location of the sundial, the numbers will end up being spaced in more of a semi-circle shape.

This very simple project went extremely well with both our Earth Science study and our study of the middle ages. Please visit our history and science pages for more hands-on activities.

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1 comment:

  1. I am so happy you are ahead of me in history because each week I can add a new activity or two to my list to do for next year. Happy dance!


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