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How does light travel?

Gretchen Walker, Patricia McGlashan, Laura Danly, Eric Hamilton, Stephanie Fotiadi, The Education Department at the American Museum of Natural History

This activity includes two experiments that explore shadows and light and how mirrors can demonstrate how light travels.

This experiment takes approximately 60 minutes. Additional materials are required.

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • The document is targeted to after school groups that are generally multi-aged. There may be additional preparations for materials that offer extensions for the older groups.
  • This is one activity in a large educator guide about the sun and light.
  • This activity can be related back to the climate and earth's processes, while the other activities are more solar system/universe based.
  • This activity is pages 15-17 and no other reference is neccessary.

About the Science

  • Using flashlights and mirrors, this experiment demonstrates the basics of the physics of light.
  • It establishes the concepts of how light travels and how it interacts with objects, for example by casting shadows or being reflected.
  • This activity can be extended to relate to solar energy.
  • This is very hands-on. You can propose a hypothesis and test it.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • This experiment has a hands-on activity for the students to learn about light.
  • The activities and outlines are rendered in an organized and consistent manner both structurally and graphically.
  • There are also several discussion questions provided and the students are asked to record their observations in a science journal.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Overview, connections, and activity prep and process is well organized for all activities.
  • Most of the included links are broken. However the content can be found easily with a quick online search.

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