Light, Sound and Waves

Lights in the environment

Classroom Activity for 5-11 Supporting Physics Teaching

What the Activity is for

Comparing natural and man-made lights.

This activity is useful to begin to develop a descriptive language for light (recognising the many qualities of the light in addition to the more common quantitative measures). We think it's good to recognise the richness of the sense of seeing, rather than focusing in too rapidly on brightness or colour as being the most easily quantified descriptions of the lights.

So this is an exploratory activity, and is therefore somewhat divergent.

What to Prepare

  • scouted locations where a range of natural and man-made lights can be seen

What Happens During this Activity

This approach can be used at any time in the children's exploration of light. It can be used as a starting point or to extend their understanding.

The children categorise the different lights that they see. You'll want to choose the categories with the abilities and interests of you class in mind. There are no rigid categories that are invariably useful at this early and exploratory stage. However you will want to start to differentiate between reflected sources of light and direct sources of light.

Safety note: Children should never look into the sun.

You'll want to explore a variety of different ways of noticing and noting the differences and similarities. Discussion here supports both reasoning and a variety of representations is likely to prove fruitful if encouraged. Here are some questions that we found useful to direct thinking:

Teacher: What would the world light like without humans on the planet?

Teacher: How can you explain to a friend that one light is from the Sun, whilst another is artificial?

Teacher: Can you block out light?

Teacher Tip: This can be used specifically in a science session or could lead to a cross-curricular imaginative writing activity in which the ideas of light as travelling vibrations can be explored.

is formalised by Law of Reflection
can be exhibited by Progressive Wave
has the special case Total Internal Reflection
Limit Less Campaign

Support our manifesto for change

The IOP wants to support young people to fulfil their potential by doing physics. Please sign the manifesto today so that we can show our politicians there is widespread support for improving equity and inclusion across the education sector.

Sign today