The Magic of Light – Using spectroscopes and colour wheels to study the properties of light

Brief description

In this set of eight activities, pupils work individually or in groups to build a spectroscope that can be used to look at light sources possibly including the Sun, LEDs, and a screen. By doing this they will understand that white light can be broken down into many different colours, and that complex colours are made up of combinations of the three basic colours (red, green and blue). They can then make their own complex colours by mixing basic colours in a colour wheel, and can make white light with a colour wheel containing all the colours of the rainbow.

Subject Science, Art and Design

Learning Objectives

• Understanding the methods and processes of science
• Exploring ideas and asking relevant questions to expand understanding
• Exploring, talking about, testing of everyday phenomena
• Recognising and controlling variables when necessary
• Reporting findings from a scientific study in oral and written form
• Improving spoken language skills through discussion of results
• Exploring ideas and recording experiences through creative work and
• Using a variety of materials and techniques

Age range
8 – 12 years old
Time
approximately 45 minutes per activity
Resource available in:
Activity 1: What is a light source?
In this activity, pupils will learn about the different sources of light and how to identify them. Talking about the different sources of lights clarify the students’ ideas about natural and artificial light sources.
Activity 2: How can we study light?
In this activity, pupils will learn about the different way to study light and are building a tool to study light by themselves. The built spectroscope will be also used in later activities.
Equipment

• Thick black A4 paper
• Printed A4 spectroscope design
• CD or DVD
• Glue stick
• Ruler
• Scissors
• Adhesive tape

Activity 3: Is white light truly white?
In this activity, pupils will make their own investigations by using the spectroscope to look at different light sources. They learn that white light can be broken down into many different colours of the rainbow. 
Equipment

• Spectroscope
• Phone Camera (Optional)

Activity 4: How does your screen produce colours?
In this activity, pupils will  understand how colours are produced on a computer screen. They will learn and understand that pixels are made up of three basic colours (red, green and blue).
Equipment

• Water or magnifying glass
• Screen (e.g. a mobile phone, a computer, a tablet)

Activity 5: How can you break down a complex colour into basic colours? (I)



In this activity, pupils will look at complex colours using their self-made spectroscope and understand that complex colours are produced from basic colours (red, green and blue).
Equipment

• Spectroscope
• Screen (e.g. a mobile phone, a computer, a tablet)

Activity 6: How can you break down a complex colour into basic colours? (II)


In this activity, pupils will look at complex colours using their self-made spectroscope and understand that complex colours are produced from basic colours (red, green and blue).
Equipment

• Spectroscope
• Screen (e.g. a mobile phone, a computer, a tablet)

Activity 7: Can we make our own complex colours?
In this activity, pupils will build a colour wheel to study
the effects of combining different basic colours. They will understand that we can combine the basic colours (red, green and blue) to make
more complex colours.
Equipment

• Colour wheel template
• Cardboard (at least the size of the colour wheel template)
• Colouring pens if using template 3 (choose two out of red, green, and blue)
• Pencil
• Ruler
• Scissors
• Glue stick
• String (the same length as your height!)
• Torch

Activity 8: What happens when we mix all the colours of the rainbow?


In this activity, pupils will build  a colour wheel to study how every colour can be combined. They will understand that white light can be made from all the colours of the rainbow
Equipment

• Colour wheel template
• Cardboard (at least the size of the colour wheel template)
• Colouring pens (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet)
• Pencil
• Ruler
• Scissors
• Glue stick
• String (the same length as your height!)
• Torch

Did you know?

We see rainbows when it is sunny and rainy at the same time. Raindrops in the air split white light from the Sun into lots of colours, in a similar way that your spectroscope just did. What colours do you see when you look at a rainbow?

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