Have you ever been amazed at a firefly or inspired by a sunset? Are you fascinated by rainbows and awed by the stars? Then come along with us and discover how we explored the wonder of light!
I think all children love things that glow in the dark. To spark the interest of my kids, I gathered some fun glowing items. Glow in the dark stars, glow sticks and some UV torches.
What makes them glow? How is light created?
I stewed some intriguing books on light, some of the favourites were:
- Amazing Creatures That Light Up (Lisa Regan)
- In the Dark – the science of what happens at night (Lisa Derest Betik)
- Let’s make a Rainbow (Chris Ferrie)
- Scientists Who Changed the World – Sir Isaac Newton (Anita Croy)
Even though my children are getting older I still love bringing out picture books. Don’t be tricked into thinking that picture books are only for your little pre-readers. A good picture books can be enjoyed at any age, so, my chosen read aloud was Ada Twist – Scientist (by Andrea Beaty). A great story to encourage a questioning mind. I want my children to inquire and explore and question – the best way to learn.
It’s been awhile since I really looked into the science of light. Can you remember your elementary science lessons on light? All I could remember was particle-light theory that I studied at uni, I knew that would be enough to confuse and disenchant my kids. I needed something a little simpler and engaging!
My solution was to set up six items
- a candle
- a light bulb
- a picture of lightening
- a fluorescent light bulb
- some glow in the dark stars
- some glow sticks
The question: “How is light made?”
It helps to have a vocabulary of what you are learning. These are the words that we linked to the items Heat, Incandescence, Electric, Fluorescence, Phosphorescence, Chemical and Biolumionesce.
First we talked about light that can come from HEAT. We lit the candle and talked about how fire and heat give us light. I passed around an INCANDESCENT light bulb. I asked the children if they could see the wires in the light globe and explained that when electricity passes through the wires they heat up and give us light. We call this type of light INCANDESCENCE.
The next type of light that we discussed was ELECTRIC. Some of the books that I had chosen had great photos of lightening strikes. These showed how electricity can light up the sky! Each of these types of light sources have in common the addition of energy to create heat and light. As does a FLUORESCENT light. While showing a picture of a fluorescent light globe we talked about the difference in incandescent light bulb and the fluorenscent light bulb. The fluro one has no internal wires but is a tube, filled with gas, when electricity passes through the gas it makes the coated glass tube glow.
Anything glowing is fun! We looked at some glow in the dark stars and I explained that in the sea, plankton have this amazing light feature called PHOSPHORESCENCE, where something will absorb light and release it again slowly, making it glow in the dark.
There are amazing creatures in our world that can create their own light. If you have ever seen fire flies you will have appreciated this beautiful light display. A fire fly creates light by a CHEMICAL REACTION. To demonstate a chemical reaction, each of the children activated a glow stick. Glow sticks have a glass tube in them which breaks as you bend them. This then causes the liquid in the glass tube and the liquid in the tube around it to mix, creating a chemical reaction, which creates the glowing light.
We watched this video as the children had never seen a fire fly before.
When animals create their own light we call this kind of light BIOLUMINESCENCE. Some creatures that do this are Glow worms, fireflies, some types of squid, plankton, glowing coral and some jelly fish. The book Amazing Creatures That Light Up (Lisa Regan) has lots of examples and has fun glow in the dark pages.
Here is a file you can use to print out the labels that I used as vocabulary prompts.
Whenever I can, I love to let my children ‘meet’ amazing mathematicians and scientist. This time is was Isaac Newton. I shone a torch though a crystal to create a rainbow and then shone the light onto a CD, once again creating a rainbow. It was Isaac Newton who first described how light can be broken into the colours of the rainbow. He wrote about this, demonstrating with prisms.
To experiment with splitting light we made a ‘Spectoscope’, a device to split light. I followed the instruction by Little Bins for Little Hands.
A little note, cutting a CD is super easy if you follow this method.
I found this out AFTER I had shattered about 6 and was almost ready to give up!
We also made Fire Flies out of empty soft-drink bottles. We were inspired by Teaching Mama .
One of the highlights of our light investigation was to observe scorpions. Using a UV torch we were able to see them glowing. It is super cool! Scientists aren’t certain what the purpose of their ability to do this. Maybe one of our up coming scientist-children will find out the answer!
Just for fun, try the app called Triple A – it’s a fun, interactive light display app.
I also made use of some great twinkl resouces
A poster of Isaac Newton from the famous scientist set.