Lesson plan

Light stations

Summary
Students freely experiment at several stations with light and shadows and reflections. Discussion distills their discoveries into some principles of light.
Science content
Physics: Light and Sound (1)
Materials
  • materials in the activities
  • for indoor lesson: room that can be darkened a little (pitch black not necessary)
  • optional: flashlight, candle and light stick for a demonstration during discussion

  • for outdoor lesson: best with a full sun day, but cloudy day also possible
  • add sheets of white paper to show shadows shapes up well

Procedure

Set up four activities as stations, which students move through.
Run the lesson using the Play-Debrief-Replay format (see resource).
Older students take notes/younger students remember what they discover about light at each station.
Discuss as a group what they find, and distill out the principles of light that they have discovered (see photos for examples).

Optional: at an appropriate point during class discussion, discuss and show that light can be made in different ways.
Flashlight: chemical energy in the battery is converted to electrical energy in the wires, to light energy (and heat energy if it is an incandescent bulb) in the bulb.
Candle: chemical energy (in the wax which is a fuel) to light and heat energy through a chemical reaction (a combustion reaction).
Light stick: chemical energy to light energy through a chemical reaction.
Sun: chemical reactions in the sun generate light. The sun's light energy is captured by plants.

Indoor lesson

Rainbows from light best in a dark alcove of the classroom, near an outlet. Students look at holiday lights of different colours through scratched plastic (which separates out their component colours).
Big ideas that might emerge from students comments: Some objects are visible because they emit light. White light is made up of different colours. Colours we see can be made from mixtures of different light colours.

Shadow shapes best in a darker area of the classroom, possibly on the floor behind a desk if the windows are bright.
Big ideas: Light goes in straight lines. Shadows are the lack of light. Some objects are thin enough to pass light. Brightness is the amount of light energy.

Shadows and mirrors best in a darker area of the classroom, possibly on the floor behind a desk if the windows are bright.
Big ideas: Light goes in straight lines and can be reflected. Some surfaces reflect light, some do not. Some objects are visible because they reflect light that has arrived from somewhere else.

Mirror symmetry patterns in a brighter area of the classroom on grouped tables.
Big ideas: Light travels in straight lines. Light can be reflected multiple times. To see an object, light from it must come into our eyes.

Outdoor lesson, full sun day

Rainbows from light. Students look around them through scratched plastic (but not directly at the sun).
Big ideas that might emerge from students comments: Some objects are visible because they emit light. White light is made up of different colours. Colours we see can be made from mixtures of different light colours.
Coloured filters can also be added to the materials bin.

Shadow shapes. Students use the sun to make shadows onto large white sheets of paper laid on the ground.
Big ideas: Light goes in straight lines. Shadows are the lack of light. Some objects are thin enough to pass light. Brightness is the amount of light energy.

Shadows and mirrors. Students angle their mirror to bounce the sun's rays onto a sheet of white paper, displaying their pictures/writing.
Big ideas: Light goes in straight lines and can be reflected. Some surfaces reflect light, some do not. Some objects are visible because they reflect light that has arrived from somewhere else.

Mirror symmetry patterns in an area that students can use plant leaves and petals to make multiple reflections.
Big ideas: Light travels in straight lines. Light can be reflected multiple times. To see an object, light from it must come into our eyes.

Outdoor lesson, cloudy day

Rainbows from light. Students look around them through scratched plastic.
Big ideas that might emerge from students comments: Some objects are visible because they emit light. White light is made up of different colours. Colours we see can be made from mixtures of different light colours.

Coloured filters. Students look around them through different coloured filters.
Big ideas: Light is made up of different colours that can be separated. Colours we see are made from mixtures of different light colours.

Mirror maze and writing. Students draw through a maze or write while looking in a mirror.
Big ideas: Light goes in straight lines and can be reflected.

Mirror symmetry patterns in an area that students can use plant leaves and petals to make multiple reflections.
Big ideas: Light travels in straight lines. Light can be reflected multiple times. To see an object, light from it must come into our eyes.

If there is a gap in the clouds, pause all stations to make hand shadows together as a class with the full sun.
Big ideas: Light goes in straight lines. Shadows are the lack of light.

Attached documents
Grades taught
Gr 1
Gr 2
Teaching Site
Carnarvon Elementary
Fraser Elementary
Gordon Elementary
Ross Road Elementary
Shaughnessy Elementary