Making a human sundial has been more than a fun project for Whangarei school students - it has also given them confidence and aided in their learning.

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students at Whangarei Primary School on Monday unveiled a project they have been working on since the beginning of the year - a human sundial.

Teacher aide Julie Hepi said the project incorporated language, listening, reading, and maths and had given the children confidence.

"Sometimes they feel quite shy doing things in front of our Kiwi kids but with this they know stuff the other students don't and they're proud enough to speak up and say 'this is what we've done and this is how you use it'."


To create the human sundial the school worked with Bob Adam from the Northland Astronomical Society. It took him two days to do the calculations for the sundial.

"Most of the work was double checking the stuff I got off the internet was going to work. I made a model of this and I tried it out at home because I've got a north/south line in my driveway," he said.

In the middle of the human sundial is a date scale with each month of the year, and surrounding it are the hour markers with two numbers - the top number is New Zealand Standard time while the bottom is Daylight Saving time.

To use the sundial you stand on the centreline of the date scale with one foot on the correct month - this is to ensure accuracy as the sun rises in different positions in winter and summer.

You then hold your hands together above your head and when the sun is out it will cast a shadow telling the time which will be accurate to about 15 minutes.

"This has been quite exciting seeing the enthusiasm and energy that the kids have. The kids were coming and going and asking questions," Mr Adam said.

Mrs Hepi said as part of the research process students visited the library and read about sundials and made their own simple versions. They also went to the Town Basin to look at the sundial there.

"The interest is huge and the kids couldn't wait to come down and use it," she said.