Science: Light

Let there be light!

While I still think shadows was more fun, light was a fun topic to explore too.  It was a little less hands on, but there were a whole lot of good book resources to tackle it.  This is a double post today with Color, as we’re catching up with science finally!  Oh, and for anyone who might be interested, I compiled all my science posts into one handy tab up at the top of the blog titled “Science Without a Net” (as in, without a curriculum!).  It links to all the previous posts as well as lists in one handy spot our favorite video and book resources.

Book Cover

We had several basic books out about light, but as usual the Let’s Read and Find Out title Day Light, Night Light by Franklin Branley was the best.  My only complaint about it was that it said repeatedly that light=heat, which is only true to a point.  So to balance that, I was glad we happened upon the book Cold Light by Anita Sitarski, which was a long form picture book exploring concepts in fluorescence by looking at things like glow-in-the-dark stickers and various glowing animals.  The other thing that struck me was how many of the books we looked at expected the kids to be able to go see how hot a lightbulb gets within just a minute of being turned out.  Seeing as we changed out all the house bulbs to be CFL’s around the time Mushroom and BalletBoy were born and the other source of light they know best is probably the LED’s in their flashlights, the idea of the old fashioned incandescent bulb perfected by Edison is pretty foreign to them.  But the books were all at least a few years old.  So we took out the book The Lightbulb by Joseph Wallace to read as well.  This book told the story of why people wanted the lightbulb so badly (having just read Bill Bryson’s At Home, I was well brushed up on this myself!) and explained Edison’s journey to invent it as well as the future of the lightbulb (including LED’s and CFL’s) in some good detail.  Both this book and Cold Light were on the long side for a science book for Mushroom and BalletBoy, but just like they’ve learned to appreciate longer fiction books and history books, I think it’s good to push them a little with read aloud nonfiction titles like these, even if we didn’t quite read every word in either of them.

For videos, The Magic School Bus offers us “The Magic School Bus Gets a Bright Idea” which isn’t one of their best offerings but is perfectly fine.  Bill Nye gives us two options.  First, we have “Light” and then we also have “Light Optics.” I also stumbled upon the show DragonflyTV, which I had never seen before, but which is available free on PBS’s website.  This is a clip about light and color.

We watched a lot of videos about light bulbs.  Despite the fact that it was an ad where I skipped a bunch of the commercial parts, the kids really like this one by a company who makes CFL’s.  It shows the process by which a CFL bulb is created, which the kids found very cool.  Here’s another one, from the Discovery Channel about florescent bulbs.  Of course, you can also go with the more traditional option.  This is from How It’s Made about incandescent bulbs.

The kids did a bunch of very simple observations to go along with light:

  • They looked at each other’s pupils as they expanded and contracted depending on the amount of light.
  • They found things that reflected light and talked about the materials.
  • They found things that were transparent and opaque.
  • They found the darkest, completely dark back of the basement room to see what it’s like with extremely limited light.
  • They felt the heat of various light bulbs as they went from cold to warm.
  • They observed how light bends when it goes through things, such as by making a straw look “broken” in a glass of water.

I’ve been really appreciating how my friend, who took over science, gets the kids to slow down, ask more questions, and discover things like transparent and opaque for themselves.  It’s pretty cool.

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