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Williams Hands-on Science

When I was first told I had to teach about the electromagnetic spectrum, I didn’t know where to start! I was uncertain about where to begin and didn’t have much to start with. In other words, I had to reinvent the wheel. However, it didn’t take me much time to discover amazing phenomena online that I could modify into a captivating and easy prep one-week lesson called Light Waves Stations.

Light Waves Stations

Once I started looking, I found that I already had most of the supplies I needed. Materials like, pencils, beakers, oil, water, pennies, spoons, test tubes and colored paper. The cost for Light Waves Stations materials is minimal and easy to find!

Then comes the hard part, reinventing the wheel! Figuring out the logistics and how to use the phenomena of Light Waves Stations to teach my students the NGSS DCI: PS4.B: Light is reflected, absorbed, transmitted and refracted depending on the material it interacts with.

Light Waves Stations

Here’s how i do Light Waves Stations:

Light Waves Stations

Light Waves Stations #1: Penny Puzzler

Students start with a penny at the bottom of a bowl. Students lean back just enough so they can’t see the penny. Students then pour water into the bowl and suddenly the penny appears! This is an example of Refraction.

Light Waves Stations

Light Waves Stations #2: Pencil In Water

It’s as simple as just placing a pencil in water! When students look at the pencil, it looks broken. This is an example of refraction and transmission.

Light Waves Stations

Light Waves Stations #3: Lens In A Washer

Students make a magnifying glass by placing a drop of water in a washer. This is an example of refraction and transmission.

Light Waves Stations

Light Waves Stations #4: Spoons

Students look at a spoon and see that their image is upside down. This is an example of reflection.

Light Waves Stations

Light Waves Stations #5: Disappearing Act

When students immerse a test tube filled with vegetable oil in a beaker of vegetable oil, they will notice that the test tube becomes invisible in the oil. This phenomenon occurs because the oil and glass have the same refraction index, causing the glass to vanish from sight. This is an example of transmission and refraction.

Light Waves Stations

Light Waves Stations #6: Mirror Writing

Students place a piece of paper with a word on it, between them and a mirror. When they look at the word in the mirror, they see that the word is backwards and they attempt to write the word exactly how it looks in the mirror. It’s not easy! This is an example of reflection.

Light Waves Stations

Light Waves Stations #7: What is Color?

Students shine a light through pieces of tinted paper and observe the color change. They learn that all the colors are absorbed by the paper except the one they see. This is an example of absorption and transmission.

Light Waves Stations

Light Waves Stations #8: Which Way?

Students set up an empty beaker between them and a piece of paper with an arrow on it. As they pour water into the beaker, they will see that the arrow they are looking at through the beaker will change direction as the water fills the beaker. It’s so cool! This is an example of refraction and transmission.

I give students 15 minutes per station and each group consists of 3-4 students. It usually takes two, 2 hour block says to complete all 8 stations. Much of what I do is inquiry based, therefore students have not been exposed to light waves. When I start Light Waves Stations, I’m transitioning from sound waves, specifically Analog and Digital Signals, to light waves. I then follow up the Light Wave Stations activity with the Waves Card Sort as a reinforcement and review of the properties of light and sound waves.

If you want all of the Light Waves Stations bundled and packaged in both print and digital formats, with questions, directions for both students and the instructor, and a materials list, click here to learn more. Students absolutely love this and once you’re set up, the stations allow you to get work done, and get one on one time with students while they are engaged and inspired to learn about light waves!

Light Waves Stations

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