100 Educational Activities about Light and Photonics

Learn about the wonders of light and photonics by using these 100 educational activities.

All activities have been curated by Silvia Simionato and Pedro Russo from the Universe Awareness Programme (UNAWE) based at Leiden University within the framework of The International Year of Light in Europe 2015 Project (LIGHT2015).

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Angles of Reflection

Age: 6+

Learning Objectives

Simple experiment with a mirror to understand how reflection works.

Comments

Introduce the concept of angle of incidence and angle of reflection. Underline the fact that light bounces off a mirror at the same angle that it arrives.

Link: http://www.optics4kids.org/home/content/classroom-activities/easy/mirror,-mirror-on-the-wall-angles-of-reflection/

Credits: optics4kids.org

Mirrorly a Window

Age: 6+

Learning Objectives

Make fun of your brain with a mirror.

Comments

Introduce the law of reflection before performing this activity.
This activity uses the same concepts as the activity Anti-Gravity Mirror, but produces a different effect.

Link: http://www.exploratorium.edu/snacks/mirrorly_window/index.html

Credits: exploratorium.edu

Shadowbox Theatre

Age: 6+

Learning Objectives

Build a shadowbox theater and shadow puppets and have fun with them.

Comments

Explain what shadow is and explore some of the features of shadows in advance.

Link: http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/optics/activities/students/shadows.html

Credits: micro.magnet.fsu.edu

Spinning Your (Colour) Wheels

Age: 6+

Learning Objectives

Learn that the white light is composed by different colours, the colours of rainbow.

Comments

Explain that this occurs because we see the coloured light reflected by objects. In this case, the sum of rainbow's colours gives white light.
Introduce law of refraction and make connection with activities in which we see the different colours of rainbow starting from white light.

Link: http://www.optics4kids.org/home/content/classroom-activities/easy/spinning-your-(color)-wheels/

Credits: optics4kids.org

Watch TV Upside Down on a Piece of Paper

Age: 6+

Learning Objectives

Learn how magnifying glasses work. Thanks to them we can use the behaviour of light to create images.

Comments

Discuss the behaviour and the properties of light in advance and explain the law of refraction.

Link:   http://www.optics4kids.org/home/content/classroom-activities/easy/watch-tv-upside-down-on-a-piece-of-paper/

Credits: optics4kids.org

Water Sphere Lens

Age: 6+

Learning Objectives

Make a lens and a magnifying glass by filling a bowl with water and use the law of refraction to focus light as in the 1700s.

Comments

Explain the law of refraction and how magnifying glasses work in advance.

Link: http://www.exploratorium.edu/snacks/water_sphere_lens/index.html

Credits: exploratorium.edu

What Color is a Tomato?

Age: 6+

Learning Objectives

Shine white and coloured light (try different colours) on several objects (tomato, orange, etc.) in order to understand how light affects the colours we see.

Comments

Explain why we see colours: the reflection and absorption of the wavelengths and the detection by our eyes of the reflected visible ones.

Link: http://www.osa.org/osaorg/media/osa.media/Membership/Explorations-in-Optics-July-2103.pdf

Credits: OSA

Stations of Light

Age: 7+

Learning Objectives

Four stations to examine light energy behavior: refraction, magnification, prisms and polarization.

Comments

Before doing the activity introduce the concept of wavelength and explain that light coming from the sun or white light is made up of a large range of wavelengths. It contains light from the ultraviolet, visible and infrared regions.

Link: http://www.teachengineering.org/view_activity.php?url=collection/cub_/activities/cub_energy2/cub_energy2_lesson03_activity1.xml

Credits: teachengineering.org

An Ice Lens

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Understand the basic lens-making techniques and how these affect quality of lenses.

Comments

Before constructing the ice lens explain properties of lenses and behavior of light through them.

Link: http://www.optics4kids.org/home/content/classroom-activities/advanced/an-ice-lens/

Credits: optics4kids.org

Bridge Light

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Understand constructive and destructive interference of light waves producing a  rainbow-colored interference pattern.

Comments

Before doing the activity explain what a light wave is and its properties. Introduce the  laws of reflection and refraction of light in connection with thin slits.

Link: http://www.exploratorium.edu/snacks/bridge_light/index.html

Credits: exploratorium.edu