Tag Archives: light

Light and Sound Exhibit

Not only were the third graders expected to create a set of instructions explaining how to make a science experiment, they were also expected to share their learning at an exhibit.  Lower School students as well as family and friends were invited to come and celebrate what the Magical Minds had learned in their latest Unit of Inquiry.

Reflecting Mirrors

Reflecting Mirrors

It may look simple, but this exhibit performs three very important functions in our learning process:

  1. It’s a summative assessment.  As the Magical Minds put their experiments together, and as they explained their thinking, I was watching to see how well the understood the content we had covered.  I was also looking to see if they were using the “science words” we had learned, using them in the correct way.  Finally, I was looking to see what skills the children had mastered over the last six weeks, including writing quality instructions, using the scientific method and creating experiments.

    Assessing the Learning

  2. It’s a celebration.  This exhibit was like a grand “You did it!”  Our friends and family saw what magnificent learners and scientists the Magical Minds truly are. It’s a nice way to joyfully complete and wrap up a unit.

    Celebrating Learning

  3. It’s service learning. We exposed our friends and family to new learning and interesting experiments.  Our hope is to teach as well as inspire others to do their own experiments into light and sound.  This year’s third graders remember when last year’s third graders did a similar exhibit.  Their memories both motivated and challenged the Magical Minds in their learning. Our instructions on how to create experiments is also a service to an even larger audience: kids teaching kids around the world.

    Service Learning

    Teaching Others


How To Investigate Light and Sound

The Goal:

Create quality istructions that explain how to learn about light and sound through an investigation (experiment).

How do we know if we are successful?
We made a rubric, together.  After examining a variety of How-To Videos and Instructions, the Magical Minds and I made a list of the top five things that are needed to create “quality instructions.” This blue poster was the foundation for the rubric, which we also used to assess  our instructions on writing quality comments on a blog post (formative assessment or “practice round”).

Enjoy their projects below, or click here to see our wikispace:

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.

Investigating Light: Reflection

In the spirit of empowering the Magical Minds to pursue their own interests, I carved out time for the Magical Minds to design their own investigations into light.

While some kids chose to search the internet or watch a movie to find answers to their questions, a small group explored our collection of books to find an experiment.

Soon enough, they had a page marked with a sticky note, and they were filling in a Scientific Method Guide Sheet.

Their question: can you bounce light off mirrors to hit a target?

They started collecting mirrors and sticking them to the floor with Blu Tack.  I borrowed a light box from the middle school science teachers.  The kids build a target.  We turn off the lights.


Adjusting Mirrors

After some time spent adjusting mirrors, and changing angles, I decide they are ready for some new vocabulary to describe what is happening.  I ring the musical triangle – it’s a “Pause for Learning.”  The Magical Minds give me their eyes, ears, hands and minds.  I introduce the word reflection. A couple of my kids recently studied the simple prefix “re-,” and I challenge them figure out what the word “flect” might mean.  With a hint of guidance we determine that “flect” must mean bounce or bend.  Etymonline.com helped us find the real answer:

Because our student-led conferences are just around the corner, I also challenged them to think how light reflecting is similar to the reflections we write for our portfolios.


Plotting Mirror Placement


Light Travels in a Straight Line

This is a nice experiment because the movement of the light so obviously reveals how light travels in a straight line It only bends when something causes it to bend.

Next up – refraction.