As an educator, there’s no greater thrill than seeing your students get excited about a subject. You know the feeling: suddenly, they’re sitting up straighter, they’re paying attention, they’re asking questions, and they’ve got that look in their eyes – they’re learning!
But it can also be easier said than done. If you’re repeating the same activities over and over again, or simply working from a textbook, you may find that attention spans run short and your students can start to lose focus. That’s why when it comes to the study of light, one of the ways to help capture your classroom’s attention is to use fun and engaging experiments to demonstrate some of the universe’s most fascinating concepts – right before their eyes!
Below, we’ll outline a few ideas to help you make a lesson plan for your science class that will help you make your students a little bit brighter when it comes to understanding the laws of light.
Begin with the Basics
First and foremost, it always helps to lay down a sturdy foundation of basic science. That includes reviewing what a scientist is, the scientific method, and why experimentation is important. This will help your students feel like they are scientists themselves – and realize that the experiments you’re about to engage in are a small part of a larger effort to provide additional proof to scientific theory.
A Few Experiments to Try
Diffraction of Light
The diffraction of light is a great place to start when it comes to teaching students about the study of light and basic principles of physics. Begin by explaining the underlying concept of light diffraction: the bending of light as it moves past the edge of an object. How much that light bends will depend on the size of the opening through which the light passes, as it relates to the size of the wavelength of the light.
Now, at this point, depending on the age and level of interest your students have in science, you may start to notice the attention of your students waning. That’s your cue to introduce diffraction grating visual aids! If you have access to a slide projector, move through the various diffraction grating slides as you provide context for what it is they are looking at – the spectrum of visible light with various numbers of lines per millimeter and wavelengths of light.
Our diffraction grating slides are incredibly bright with a minimum of distracting visual noise. You can also use these in conjunction with colored gels for different color demonstrations. Last but not least, directly engage the interest of your students by passing out diffraction grating glasses that your students can experiment with themselves! Once you’ve laid the foundation of science for them, they can use these individual pairs of glasses to let them make an intimate connection between light, color, and diffraction.
The electromagnetic spectrum can be a particularly challenging concept to teach kids, especially since only a short wavelength range falls in the visible light spectrum. Ultraviolet radiation is a critical aspect of the study of light – especially given the need for kids to understand the existence of UV light and potential dangers of prolonged exposure to it.
A fun and engaging way to visually demonstrate the power of UV light to your students is by using Sun-Bow UV Detection Beads. These beads change from a translucent white into stunning colors, including orange, yellow, blue, and pink, when exposed to UV light.
Surprise your students by introducing the day’s lesson plan for science class… with an arts and crafts workshop! Let them use pipe cleaners or string to express their creativity and make necklaces and bracelets using the beads. As they’re putting together their pieces, you can begin to plant the seeds of UV light, how it is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and is best known as the radiation produced by the sun. When you take your kids outside (or use a handheld UV light device), they’ll be thrilled to watch the beads change into a rainbow of color!
Not only will they have absorbed a lesson that they likely won’t forget any time soon, but they’ll also have a piece of original art to take home as a reminder.
There is no better opportunity to teach your students about the wonders of the solar system than a solar eclipse. While these solar phenomena are rare, when they do occur, you can take advantage of the buzz and hype surrounding the event to create an unforgettable lesson plan for your science class and get your students genuinely excited about it
Your solar eclipse lesson can start well ahead of the actual event; in the days leading up to the event, outline the basic principles of the solar eclipse and why it is such a rare event. This is a great time to revisit the concepts of the solar system, how the moon revolves around the earth, which in turn, revolves around the sun. Finally, you can teach your students about the importance of safety when it comes to observing a solar eclipse (while you shouldn’t instill fear in your students, there’s no doubt that the element of danger will arguably be one of the most captivating aspects of the experience – and will certainly get their attention).
Once you’ve covered the underlying scientific principles of a solar eclipse and its relationship to the study of light, you can hand out individual eclipse viewers to your students. This can be done the day before the event to give them a chance to prepare. You can go through a dry-run of how to safely view the event through the viewers, and let them ask any questions or express any concerns.
On the day of the event, you can lead your students outside to witness the solar eclipse for themselves. Make sure everyone has their eclipse viewer and remembers the safety protocol. Your students will inevitably be excited to be outdoors and to finally be witnessing this event that you’ve been building towards for days or weeks.
After the eclipse, you can head back into the classroom, where you can revisit the basic principles of the solar eclipse now that you’ve actually seen it first-hand.
Follow Up Questions
After the experiment, take a few minutes to actually recap what just happened. This doesn’t have to be a quiz or a test (remember, we’re trying to make this fun, after all!); you can instead build off of the buzz of energy likely humming around your classroom – you might notice that suddenly even the quiet kids are more willing to raise their hands!
What did we just learn? What are the vocabulary terms we use to describe what just happened? And more importantly, why did what just happen actually happen?
This recap conversation can help ensure that the lesson plan for your science class sticks for both the visual and auditory learners in the class.
Get The Educational Tools You Need
At Rainbow Symphony, we have a number of educational products designed to make the study of light fun and accessible for students of every level of learning. Whether you need a bulk order of diffraction grating glasses to teach diffraction of light, eclipse viewers and shades to keep your kids protected as they learn about the cosmos, or UV detection beads to help your students see the real power of those invisible UV rays, we’ve got you covered!