Light, Sound and Waves

Totally in the dark!

Classroom Activity for 5-11 11-14 Supporting Physics Teaching

What the Activity is for

Experiencing a completely dark space.

This activity allows pupils to enter a completely dark space, something which very few are likely to have previously experienced. Once in this light-free space they will recognise that it is impossible to see anything around them.

What to Prepare

This activity depends on the availability of a light-tight space. If your school has a photography dark room that will be perfect for this activity. If not, a handy store cupboard (partially cleared out for the occasion!) will serve just as well.

What Happens During this Activity

This is a great lesson! The impact of the activity is much enhanced by the discussion between teacher and pupils which leads up to the dark room experience. The starting point is: How are we able to see the things around us? This can lead on to talk about places where the pupils are unable to see anything. Typically pupils will refer to being outside at night or perhaps to the moment when you first switch off your bedroom light and it's completely black. In either case, however, pupils will be happy to tell you that after a bit your eyes get used to the darkness and you can see the things around you in the bedroom.

The discussion can be pushed further by introducing what you might call the: Hand in front of your nose test.

The challenge is: Can you think of a place where it is so dark that you cannot see your hand in front of your nose?

Maybe some pupils will have been potholing or caving and it will be good to listen to their experiences. You might refer to mining accidents where miners have been trapped underground, without light waiting for their rescuers in complete darkness. You might also ask the question of whether Superman would be able to see in the dark, with the special rays coming from his eyes.

To carry out the hand in front of your nose test pupils can go into the dark room in groups of four.

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