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Curriculum Source:


  • Use scientific knowledge about the transfer of light to solve problems that directly affect people’s lives.
BOS Content:

Light from a source forms shadows and can be absorbed, reflected and refracted.

  1. STUDENTS classify materials as transparent, opaque or translucent, based on whether light passes through them, is absorbed, reflected or scattered
  2. STUDENTS observe and describe how the absorption of light by materials and objects forms shadows, eg building shading
  3. STUDENTS gather evidence to support their predictions about how light travels and is reflected CCT
  4. STUDENTS research, using secondary sources to gather information about science understandings, discoveries and/or inventions that depend on the reflection and refraction of light and how these are used to solve problems that directly affect people's lives, eg mirrors, magnifiers, spectacles and prisms

Please also see: Assessment Rubric




Example Introduction:

Light is what's called an “electromagnetic wave”, just like radio waves, microwaves, X-ray waves, etc. Electromagnetic waves typically start when an electric charge jiggles back and forth.

Depending on the “frequency” of the electromagnetic wave (on how scrunched together the peaks in the wave are), you get different kinds of waves.

For example, radio waves have a low frequency - that is, the peaks in a radio wave are quite a long way apart and they are not visible to humans).

Next come:

  • microwaves (with peaks closer together),
  • infrared light.
  • visible light spectrum (i.e. the different colours of light that people can see)
  • ultraviolet light
  • x-rays
  • gamma rays (higher frequency still - the peaks are still closer together).

Sometimes you'll hear that light is made of photons. What that means is that when light is absorbed or emitted, the energy in the wave comes in lumps rather than waves.

The size of those lumps (or 'quanta') of energy depends on the frequency. The higher the frequency the more energy per photon.

As light interacts with the things around us, its properties can be become altered. By studying these changes, we can find out a lot about light and the objects that it interacts with.

For example, through the study of light we can discover what stars are made of, watch the processes that occur in living cells, and even look back in time to see things as they happened millions of years ago.

The human body has a variety of ways (senses) to detect energy.

  • Your ears perceive certain frequencies of longitudinal waves as sound.
  • Your skin, mouth and tongue can perceive thermal energy as hot or cold.
  • Your eyes perceive certain frequencies of electromagnetic waves as light.

Using technology, we can now 'see' things that would normally be invisible to us.

One amazing thing is that the human body can detect the wavelength of visible light by the colour that it appears to be.

What a magnificent energy sensing instrument the human body is!

Don't worry if it still seems a bit complicated or confusing - Light, is difficult to understand:

All the 50 years of conscious brooding have brought me no closer to the answer - Of course today every rascal thinks he knows the answer, but he is deluding himself. (From, Catching the Light, p. ix) Source - Albert Einstein

Video 1. Light - What do blind people see

Being a good light detective is as much about how we see as what we see.

My STEAM Heat Project will Identify. Explore and Discuss...

  1. Test using light to classify materials as transparent, opaque or translucent, based on whether light passes through them, is absorbed, reflected or scattered

- Observe and describe how the absorption of light by materials and objects forms shadows and how the effect of the relative positions of the light source and the object affect the shadow.

- Perform experiments to gather evidence about how light travels and is reflected.

- Refer to existing research and identify how the properties of light are used to solve problems that directly affect people's lives

- Apply our new scientific knowledge about the absorption and reflection of light to solve problems that directly affect people’s lives.

Example Visual Design Element (Image/Video):

Example Procedure:

  1. I made a guess about that i would be able to use light to identify coloured dots on skin
  2. I described how scientific knowledge about light is used by people in their everyday life
  3. I identified that the colours of objects are a result of reflected and absorbed light measure.
  4. I observed the changes that occur when the distance and direction of the light is changed relative to a measured object.
  5. I observed the structure of materials that can be seen with the naked eye compared with a digital image - including materials such as glass, paper, stone, fabrics and human skin.
  6. I identified the physical properties of materials, the way they interact with light and how these properties influence their use.
  7. Used evidence (data) that I had collected to help see if my guess (hypothesis) was correct.
  8. I used engineering skills to design a diagnostic instrument using light.
  9. Included visual design/artistic elements to improve reader understanding and interest.

Example - How Light Travels (BBC interactive experiments & results):

In your class/group discussions, describe some everyday situations where, how and why people, plants and animals use light and shadow.

Complete the on-line interactive tasks to predict, observe and record the effects of shining light on a variety of everyday objects.

Light & Dark:

Light things up

1. Light & Dark - Light & Dark: Drag different things into the centre of a dark room:

1. Does the candle shine the same amount of light as the torch?
2. Does the candle shine the same amount of light everywhere in the room?
3. Does the torch shine the same amount of light everywhere in the room?

Light & Shadows:

Light & Shadows

2. Light & Shadows - Drag different things into the path of the light:

Follow the instructions: Enter your answer below:
1. What happens when you drag the pink handle closer towards the object?
2. Can you move the light to make all of the objects fit between the lines on the screen?
3. What happens when you use the blue handle to tilt the mirror up?
4. What happens when you use the blue handle to tilt the mirror down?
5. What happens to the shadow when you make the light dimmer?

How We See Things:

BBC How we see things

3. How We See Things - Drag different angled mirrors into the path of the light:

Follow the instructions: Enter your answer below:
1. What happens when you drag a mirror onto the light (drag first, then click)?
2. Can you select the correct mirror to reflect & re-direct the light beam onto the tent?
3. How many mirrors do you need to direct the light beam onto the bench?
4. Can you direct the beam onto the dog & then the bench by only changing one mirror?
5. How many mirrors do you need to direct the light beam onto the balloon stall?
6. Press the 'QUIZ' button. How many answers can you get right?

Light Adventures:

<HTML> <object type=“application/x-shockwave-flash” data=“http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/ks2/science/sja_live/sja_7/sja_7.swf” width=“640” height=“410”>

<param name="movie" value="http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/ks2/science/sja_live/sja_7/sja_7.swf" />
<param name="flashvars" value="configXMLLocation=http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/ks2/science/sja_live/sja_7/config.xml" />
<param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" />
<param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" />

</object> </HTML>

4.0 BBC Light Adventures

BBC - Rani is trapped in the Spellman's Circus Hall of Mirrors! Use your knowledge of light to guide her to safety

Example Experiments: How Light & Shadows work

The purpose of this simple experiment is for students to determine the relationship between distance, shape and position of shadows when light falls on opaque objects.

Students will use a torch and cardboard cut-out's to discover more about light and shadows:

Video 1. |Light & Shadows

Light experiment - Shadows

Instructions Results
Do shadows get larger or smaller when the light is closer to the object?
Do the edges of the shadow have sharp or blurry edges?
Can you see more than one shadow of the object?

How Shadows Are Formed:

Video 2. How shadows are formed (umbra & penumbra)

  • Why do you think that the shadow has an 'umbra' and a 'penumbra'
  • Why was the shadow sharper when the screen was close to the light?

3. Think of examples of things that depend on light from the sun

Enter your own examples here:
1 Why does a shadow have an 'umbra' and a 'penumbra'
2 Why is the shadow sharp when the screen is close to the light
3 Could you change one thing in the experiment to get a sharp shadow

Colour Mixing & Shadows

Two on-line colour mixing interactives are shown below:

In one interactive, you mix coloured lights, and on the other, mix coloured shadows.

Is there any difference between mixing coloured lights and coloured shadows?

Fig 1. Mixing Red, Green and Blue (RGB) Light . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fig 1. Mixing Coloured Shadows

When you turn different combinations of lights on and off, what changes?

What happens to the shadow(s) when:
1 Only the red light is on
2 Only the green light is on
3 Only the blue light is on
4 What colour lights make yellow

In the colour shadow interactive, learners explore how coloured lights become blocked and result in the formation of a “color shadow” on the screen located behind the person.

Three different lights can be turned on and off, resulting in various coloured shadows on the screen behind the person.This demonstrates both colour subtraction (the person blocks or takes away some of the incident light) and colour addition (the incident light that reaches the screen combines together to produce a different color).

Furthermore, the interaction of the incident light with the person's clothes reveals the colour of the clothes under different lighting conditions.

If you are able, we recommend preceding the use of this Interactive with a demonstration of the same phenomenon. The demonstration will require that you have three coloured spotlights available to project upon you and a screen behind you upon which the coloured shadows can be cast. Begin with one light at a time and get students to understand the “geometry of shadow formation.” A light placed to the left side of you will cast a shadow on the screen on the right side of you. One your understand the geometry of shadow formation, begin experimenting with various combinations of two coloured lights.

Once you've done the demonstration, allow students to explore the physics of shadow formation with this Interactive.

Related resources:

Example Experiments - Where does light come from:

Explain the importance and consequences of light from the sun.

3. Think of examples of things that create light:

Enter your own examples here:
Where does the sun go after dark?

What other interesting questions can you think of about light?

The discussions should show that:

Most people know where light comes from. It comes from the sun, from light bulbs, from televisions…. but why it comes from these objects is a mystery to many.

No matter what the source, light is generally produced via the same mechanism: electrons changing their orbits around nuclei.

How does this work?

It takes energy to move an electron away from a positively charged nucleus, to overcome the great electrostatic attraction between them. Similarly, moving an electron closer to a nucleus actually gives off energy.

Light is just energy and thus light can be given off in this process. This process, by the way, is called radiation. 1)

This type of 'radiation' is not the same thing as the stuff that will kill you, but it's very similar:

Here's an easy colour wheel activity to demonstrate colour mixing:

Color Wheel Illusion Newton's Disc Easy to Make ~ Incredible Science

Video 1. Eureka - Light Radiation & Spectrum

References and optional additional activities:

Example Observations:

Students will observe, describe and compare materials using the naked eye and one or more instruments such as a 'thermographic' (infrared) webcam, microscope or similar.

A thermographic camera (also called an infrared camera or thermal imaging camera) is a device that forms an image using infrared radiation compared with a standard webcam/camera, which forms an image using visible light.

Video 2. How snakes see using 'invisible' light (infrared)

Have the above experiments changed the way you think about 'visible' and 'invisible' light?

Example Research & Data Collection:

  1. I visited museums and/or sites on the Internet like
  1. I found out about the modern science of heat compared with old/traditional ideas about heat.

using Google sheets or similar).

  1. I asked people to fill in 'My Count The Moles Survey', including their age and occupation, to find out if the number of moles a person has varies with age or occupation.
  2. I performed experiments then analysed and discussed the results.
  3. I created a survey (data organised in rows + columns on a sheet of paper or an on-line survey
  4. I used a maths formula/software that I found on the Internet to compare/graph my results.

Example - Physical Properties Of Objects:

Scientific knowledge about the effects of light is used by people in their everyday life, eg the colour of clothes worn, the packaging and preparation of food and everyday devices, eg signs, building materials and packaging.

Reflection, Transmission & Absorption

Video 2. Gummy Bears - Light Reflection, Transmission & Absorption

Create a simple survey to find out what people think about their favourite colour for different objects.

Table 2. Example - Properties Of Materials Survey:

Discuss the results of your 'Properties of Materials Survey' results in the section below.

My results for Table 1 (above) show that most adults and students (66%) prefer blue on packaging and yellow on signs and think that bananas are yellow.

This confirms the misconceptions that most people may have (as described in Video 1. above).

*All data from Table 1 was evaluated and graphed using Google Sheets formulas.

Example Discussion:

Data in Table 1: Most of the ideas about light fall into three main types:

  1. Reflection
  2. Refraction
  3. Absorption

My favourite experiment was the prism because it was easy to see the colours and the way they changed direction.

In my survey 80% of people think that blue light cannot be extracted from white light.

Similarly most people thoughtthat 'black' was a colour.

My survey results confirmed the [http://beyondpenguins.ehe.osu.edu/issue/energy-and-the-polar-environment/common-misconceptions-about-light-heat-and-the-sun|research findings]]: that most people have misconceptions about light.

Using an infrared webcam to observe the structure of materials compared with what can be seen with the naked eye: I discovered that we can use infrared (like we can use x-rays), to see things that are invisible to the naked eye. I discovered that the reason the webcam can see more than our eyes is because warm things reflect and absorb light that webcams can see but our eyes cannot see.

Some animals, like snakes can see infrared light with their eyes but humans cannot.

Example Conclusions:

The principle of science, the definition, almost, is the following:

The test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific “truth.”

But what is the source of knowledge? Where do the laws that are to be tested come from? Experiment, itself, helps to produce these laws, in the sense that it gives us hints.

But also needed is imagination to create from these hints the great generalizations — to guess at the wonderful, simple, but very strange patterns beneath them all, and then to experiment to check again whether we have made the right guess.

This imagining process is so difficult that there is a division of labor in physics: there are theoretical physicists who imagine, deduce, and guess at new laws, but do not experiment; and then there are experimental physicists who experiment, imagine, deduce, and guess.

When we say we are a pile of atoms, we do not mean we are merely a pile of atoms, because a pile of atoms which is not repeated from one to the other might well have the possibilities which you see before you in the mirror.

Source: http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/I_01.html

Example Summary:

The data from the above research and experiments suggests that heat is a result of jiggling/motion and that heating and cooling is the result of more or less movement.

By contrast, my survey results and others have shown that most people believe that light travels outwards or comes from the oject, not the sun - They think, for example, that mirror images 'really' are on the face of the mirror.

More research (and funding) is required to investigate how to have more fun with light!

How To Teach Science:

Research around the world indicates that at the end of their schooling, large numbers of students still hold many ideas, or conceptions, which are not in accord with the way that scientists understand our world. Here are some guidelines for teaching science at school.

A good scientific guide for students: investigating light

The Scientific Method:

Scientific Method - A Flow Chart

The scientific method is one particular way to ask and answer scientific questions by making observations and doing experiments. Some people argue that there is no such thing as 'The Scientific Method' - make up your own mind:

The steps of the scientific method are to:

  • Ask a Question
  • Do Background Research
  • Construct a Hypothesis
  • Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
  • Record your Observations in a Table of Results
  • Analyse the Data and Draw a Conclusion
  • Communicate Your Results

No matter what your method is, it is important for your experiment to be a fair test:

A fair test means that you should set up your experiment so that everything is fair.

  • You should only change one thing at a time, and note down the results.
  • If you change more than one thing at a time, you can not tell which thing (variable) it was that affected the results.

Example Rubric (for teachers)

Here is the sample rubric: Assessment Rubric

Engineering Task

Go to the following page to see the Engineering task referred to in the above rubric Engineering task


Tests and interviews revealed that almost all students shared certain misconceptions about light and its role in vision. In particular, most students believed that their eyes perceived objects directly rather than detecting light reflected by those objects.

Most students also viewed colour as a property of objects, not of light reflected by those objects.

When teachers used conventional textbook-based methods of instruction, only a few students were successful in changing these misconceptions.

Most students, however, successfully mastered the scientific conceptions when teachers used materials specifically designed to help students overcome their misconceptions. 2)

Colour and Vision - 20 Misconceptions

  1. The pupil of the eye is a black object or spot on the surface of the eye.
  2. The eye receives upright images.
  3. The lens is the only part of the eye responsible for focusing light.
  4. The lens forms and image (picture) on the retina. The brain then “looks” at this image and that is how we see.
  5. The eye is the only organ for sight; the brain is only for thinking.
  6. A white light source, such as an incandescent or fluorescent bulb, produces light made up of only one colour.
  7. Sunlight is different from other sources of light because it contains no color.
  8. When white light passes through a prism, colour is added to the light.
  9. The rules for mixing color paints and crayons are the same as the rules for mixing coloured lights.
  10. The primary colours for mixing coloured lights are red, blue and yellow.
  11. A coloured light striking an object produces a shadow behind it that is the same color as the light. For example, when red light strikes an object, a red shadow is formed.
  12. The shades of grey in a black and white newspaper picture are produced by using inks with different shades of grey.
  13. When white light passes through a coloured filter, the filter adds colour to the light.
  14. The different colours appearing in coloured pictures printed in magazines and newspapers are produced by using different inks with all the corresponding colours.
  15. The mixing of coloured paints and pigments follow the same rules as the mixing of coloured lights.
  16. The primary colours used by artists (red, yellow and blue) are the same as the primary colours for all colour mixing.
  17. Colour is a property of an object, and is independent of both the illuminating light and the receiver (eye).
  18. White light is colorless and clear, enabling you to see the “true” color of an object.
  19. When a colored light illuminates a colored object, the color of the light mixes with the color of the object.
  20. Naïve explanations of visual phenomena involving colour perception usually involve only the properties of the object being observed, and do not include the properties of the eye-brain system.
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