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Physics Volunteer Activities
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Physics Volunteer Activities
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Time Needed for Activity

Students learn about characteristics of light and create their own kaleidoscopes.

This activity includes the kaleidoscope activity from Bright Lights, Big Science and is set for a one hour time slot. 

What You Need

Materials if being dropped off at a school:

  • Square pieces of acetate about 1.5 inches (2 pieces per student)
  • Cardstock kaleidoscope body (1 per student)
  • Pins (1 per student)
  • Pieces of mylar larger than the cardstock body (1 per student)
  • Permanent markers (check to see if the teacher has access to any)
  • 2 rolls of scotch tape (the teacher can hand out pieces of tape)
  • 3 or 4 glue sticks in case someone does not have glue

Ask students to bring in a flashlight if they have one. If the educator has a slinky, they can use it for the introduction.

Materials if NOT being dropped off at a school:

  • Square pieces of clear/transparent plastic (about 1.5 to 2 inches), 2 per student - This can be clear plastic from a box, plastic tray, report cover, etc.
  • A piece of cardstock or light cardboard (like a cereal box) cut in a 2 x 3 inch square
  • 1 pin or toothpick
  • Pieces of tin foil slightly larger than the cardstock/cardboard
  • Permanent markers (2 or 3 different colours)
  • Tape, glue and scissors
  • Flashlight if they have one. 



Safety Notes

As a Let’s Talk Science volunteer, safety must be foremost in our minds during all activities. As STEM role models, volunteers must always also model safe science practices.

Always keep in mind the following precautions:

  • Emphasize and demonstrate appropriate safety procedures throughout the presentation.
  • Be professional but have fun.
  • Keep workspaces clean to avoid tripping hazards.
  • Allergens should have been checked before reserving the kit (e.g. allergies to latex).
  • Activity Specific Safety: Do not point flashlights into anyone’s eyes; be careful with the safety pins as they are sharp; do no look directly into the sun with the kaleidoscope.

What To Do

If the students have flashlights, have them try to find things in their classroom/home, etc. that light can pass through as a part of the introduction.

Kaleidoscope Activity

  1. Have the teacher pass out the cardboard pieces (kaleidoscope bodies) to the students and have each student glue their mylar to the kaleidoscope body. 
  2. While they do this, the teacher can hand out two pieces of transparent squares to each student and have the students get out their markers.
  3. Instruct students to colour the two pieces of transparent material with as much and as many different colours as you can. The more colours and the brighter the colours, the better their kaleidoscope will be.
  4. The teacher can put 4 pieces of tape on each student's desk.
  5. Have students fold the body of the kaleidoscope into a triangular prism and tape along the edge to hold it closed and not allow light in.
  6. Have the teachers hand out the pins (1 per student).
  7. Have the students put a long pin through the middle of one transparency and through the corner of the other one. Remind them to be careful as the pins are sharp. 
  8. Have the students tape the pin to the body of the kaleidoscope where the pin shape is shown on the body of the kaleidoscope. The teacher may need to help with this. 
  9. Allow the students to test out their kaleidoscope.