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).

Corner Reflector

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Understand the law of reflection using a corner reflector.

Comments

Explain that objects which don't give off their own light must reflect light in order to be seen.

Discuss the fact that the number of images that you see in the mirrors depends on the angle that the mirrors form. Notice that in a corner reflector, multiple reflections reverse the image and invert it.

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

Credits: exploratorium.edu

Demonstrating Light Pollution and Shielding

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

To demonstrate what constitutes light pollution, by illustrating the effects ineffective lighting has on energy consumption, cost and our ability to see the stars.

Comments

This interactive demonstration illustrates the effects of lighting on our view of the night sky and how shielding can reduce light pollution while at the same time making the lighting more effective. This demonstration is best done when in a completely darkened room.

Link: http://www.globeatnight.org/dsr/dsee/Dark%20Skies%20Activities/Demonstrating%20Light%20Pollution%20and%20Shielding%20Activity/Demonstrating%20Light%20Pollution%20&%20Shielding%20Activity.pdf

Credits: globeatnight.org

Detecting Ultraviolet Light Using Tonic Water

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Prove the existence of UV light and and understand the concept of fluorescence.

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.ucar.edu/learn/1_5_2_23t.htm

Credits: University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

Diffraction Between Wax Blocks

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Understand the diffraction of light using a Ripple Tank.

Comments

This is a simulation of light wave behaviour using waves in water. Before doing the activity introduce the concept of wavelength and explain that light  is made up of several wavelengths. Possible connection with the wave–particle duality of light.
If in need of help for the Ripple Tank see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ripple_tank.

Link: http://www.optics4kids.org/home/content/classroom-activities/advanced/diffraction-between-wax-blocks/

Credits: optics4kids.org

Duck Into Kaleidoscope

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Understand the reflection of light by making multiple images of yourself.

Comments

Build a kaleidoscope and create hundreds of reflected images. Explain the law of reflection in advance. The basic kaleidoscope is a triangle, but mirror tiles can beformed into other shapes and angles as well.

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

Credits: exploratorium.edu

Everyone Is You and Me

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Learn about the laws of reflection and refraction and see yourself become someone else thanks to a "two-way" mirror.

Comments

Explain the laws of reflection and refraction in advance.

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

Credits: exploratorium.edu

Exploring UV Light and Sunscreen Lotion

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Detect UV light and discover if sunscreens protect us well against it through simple experiments with UV beads, different material (glass, coloured and transparent plastic) and several sunscreen lotions.

Comments

CAUTION! Do not stare at the UV light or shine it in someone's face.
Before doing the activity explain that white light is composed by different colours, some of them are visible and other invisible. Explain what UV light is, that it is dangerous on our skin and why.

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

Credits: OSA

Exploring Lenses - The Magic Lens

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Understand how law of refraction works between different media.

Comments

CAUTION! Do not look into the laser cavity or at any reflections of the laser from shiny surfaces. Construct an "air lens" and use this and other lenses (made by glass, plastic, etc.) in air and water.

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

Credits: OSA

Exploring Light Spectra

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Construct a spectroscope in order to examine the different colours of light (the spectrum) radiated by several different sources.

Comments       

CAUTION! Do not look into the laser cavity or at any reflections of the laser from shiny surfaces. Do not look into the Sun!
Introduce in broader way what colours compose the light (visible and not) and explain  that each colour has a different wavelength and what a wavelength is. Similar to the activity "Spectra".

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

Credits: OSA

Exploring Refraction (Gelatin Optics)

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Understand the law of refraction using laser (or a flashlight) and gelatine and learn how lenses work.

Comments

CAUTION! Do not look into the laser cavity or at any reflections of the laser from shiny surfaces.

Underline the connection with the concept of light that travels from air to glass and then with eyeglasses lenses. Explain that the strength of the lens depends on its shape and the material it is made of. If you have more gelatin, try different curvatures and see how the light behaves with each shape. The great thing about these simple lenses is that you can layer them to manipulate light in many ways.

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

Credits: OSA