Child-Centered Inquiry into Light

What Does Light Travel Through?

J came up with her own question.  She’s amazing like that – a natural inquirer who loves to dig deep into a topic.  She tells me, “I want to know what can light travel through and what can it not travel through.”  I scribble on my anecdotal notes, “develops own question to explore with scientific method.”

She uses the Scientific Method Guide to help her make a plan and formulate a hypothesis, “light will travel through most things.” Interested in J’s question, A comes along and asks to join.  While I set up the light box, the two girls collect materials to test with.

Holding up objects to the light, these two scientists are engaged, thinking, problem-solving and reflecting.  With each material, they add new observations to their guide sheet.

I sense they are ready for some language to describe what they are observing and ring the musical triangle.  “Pause for Learning,” I announce.  Within seconds I have the eyes, ears, hands and brains of a classroom of third graders.

I ask the girls to separate the materials into two groups, things that light can travel through and things that light cannot travel through.  I give them the word opaque.

Opaque Materials

We revisit the pile of objects that light can travel through.  J immediately notices that light can travel completely through some things – they are “see-through.”  I give her the word transparent.

Light Travels Through These Things

What about the last group, which light can travel a little bit through? I give them the word translucent.

Translucent Materials

The “Pause for Learning” is over, and the Magical Minds dissipate around the room, refocusing their attentions to their own inquiries.  I stick our new “science words” up on our “inquiry wall.”  They will be revisited in days to come.

When the session is almost at an end, and J is putting things away, she catches my attention. “You know Ms. M, my hypothethingy was wrong.  Light doesn’t travel through most things.  Most things are…” There is a pause while she looks for the right word on our inquiry wall. “Most things are opaque.”  I remind her, trying to silence the sound of my heart bursting with joy, to write this insight down as her conclusion.


5 responses to “Child-Centered Inquiry into Light

  1. Thanks Erin,
    For taking us on a journey of discovery in your classroom
    “Most things are opaque.” I remind her, trying to silence the sound of my heart bursting with joy, to write this insight down as her conclusion.”
    I needed that,

  2. Incredible opportunities for learning happening in this classroom! Love the Pause for Learning. Your heart should also be “bursting” with pride in developing such budding scientists. Way to nuture curiosity!

  3. hypothethingy …I wish I had invented this word, but I shall be using it from now on!

  4. Aren’t kids brilliant!And we get to be there to see them grasp new learning. I also love the hypothethingy.

  5. Thank you for sharing this with us and for sharing your resources. I loved how you captured your students’ thinking.

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