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).

Make a Light Fountain

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Understand the law of light reflection inside a stream of water.

Comments

Use this activity to illustrate total internal reflection, as well as how optical fibers work.

Link: http://www.optics4kids.org/home/content/classroom-activities/medium/make-a-light-fountain/

Credits: optics4kids.org

Make Money Appear Before Your Eyes

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Understand the law of refraction using a cup, a coin and water.

Comments

Explain the concepts of light that travels from water to air and index of refraction. Possible connection with the wave–particle duality of light.

Link: http://www.optics4kids.org/home/content/classroom-activities/easy/make-money-appear-before-your-eyes/

Credits: optics4kids.org

Mirrors and Images

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Understand law of reflection using two mirrors.

Comments

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

Discuss relationship which combines the angle between two hinged mirrors with the number of images you see.

Link: http://www.optics4kids.org/home/content/classroom-activities/medium/mirrors-and-images/

Credits: optics4kids.org

Parabolas

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Learn about the law of reflection and create an illusion, which is done with mirrors, that would do credit to any magician.

Comments

Introduce the law of reflection before performing this activity.
This tool can be bought in many stores, but if you want to create your own Mirror Mirage see http://www.exploratorium.edu/snacks/real_image/index.html

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

Credits: exploratorium.edu

Photosynthesis

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Experiment to show that a plant needs light for photosynthesis.

Comments

CAUTION! It's necessary an adult supervisor to handle boiling alcohol and water.
Introduce photosynthesis in advance. For help see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photosynthesis.

Link: http://www.mikecurtis.org.uk/photosynthesis.htm

Credits: mikecurtis.org.uk

Release the Rainbow

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Understand  through refraction's law that white light is composed by 7 different visible colours (the rainbow's colours).

Comments

Explain what wavelength is and why we usually see the light white. Remember that some wavelengths are not visible to our eyes.

Possible connection with rainbow (what is, why it forms), see also  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow.

Link: http://www.optics4kids.org/home/content/classroom-activities/easy/release-the-rainbow/

Credits: optics4kids.org

Ritter Ultraviolet Experiment

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Prove the existence of UV light.

Comments

CAUTION! This experiment uses ammonia to develop blueprint paper. The ammonia should handled by an adult only.

Before doing the activity explain that light coming from the sun or white light  is composed by different colours, some of them are visible and other invisible.  It contains light from the ultraviolet, visible and infrared regions.

Link: http://coolcosmos.ipac.caltech.edu/cosmic_classroom/classroom_activities/ritter_experiment2.html

Credits: IPAC, NASA

Shadow Sculptures

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Understand how shadows occur and  an create sculpture that looks like a pile of trash, but it finds meaning when you shine a light on it.

Comments

Explain how shadow occurs and its properties in advance. Then follow the instructions and use your fantasy.

For examples of shadow sculpture see:
http://freeyork.org/art/the-art-of-shadows-by-kumi-yamashita
http://www.thisismarvelous.com/i/4-Amazing-Shadow-Sculptures-by-Tim-Noble-and-Sue-Webster

Link: http://www.instructables.com/id/Shadow-Sculptures!/

Credits: instructables.com

Soap Bubbles

Age: 8+

Learning Objectives

Learn about the laws of reflection and refraction of light and create geometric art with soap films.

Comments

Explain the laws of reflection and refraction of light in advance and then explore what happens with thin slits (bubbles, oil slicks).
For help see the activity "Why Are Bubbles So Colorful?".

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

Credits: exploratorium.edu

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 Sun!
Introduce in broader way what colours compose the light (visible and not) and explain  that each colour has a different wavelength and frequency and what they are.

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

Credits: exploratorium.edu