Exploring the Science of Light
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Classroom Activities

This section features classroom activities coupled with more in-depth explanations of the optical principles.

Color & Vision


Reflection, Refraction & Scattering

Color & Vision

Colored Shadows and Retinex Vision

Demonstrating Sources of Light and Color - A series of demonstrations designed to awaken the curiosity of people with only a casual understanding of optics.

Diffraction Experiments - Two nice diffraction experiments that produce nice results, yet are very simple and inexpensive to set up.

Get Green - This article describes how to make your own monochromatic lamp for less than $25 and then gives you some fun experiments you can conduct with Newton rings and other thin film effects.

Kitchen Chromatography


Discovery Science Workshop

Share the Fun of Optics - An article intended primarily for engineers and scientists working with optics, but the concepts may be applied by anyone who would like to create a workshop on optics for young students.


Create your own laser show - The movements and colors of a laser show are fascinating. Shapes dance in a dark room, in colors too intense to be real. The trick is to make that magic accessible using objects from everyday life.

Electro-Optics Games - Students love games! So why not use them to teach electro-optics technology principles? In Electro-Optics Games, two to five member student teams learn about laser applications, fiber optic principles, basic optics principles, interference filters, and other electro-optics phenomena while racing against the clock and other teams.

Fun with CDs - If you're looking for something to do with CDs here are some fun, amusing, and inexpensive optics demonstrations that make use of these and other commonly found objects.


Pinholes and Lenses

Where the Sun's Rays Meet - A short series of experiments you can do at home with youngsters to help them understand why lenses and mirrors are used to bend light.

Reflection, Refraction, & Scattering

Optics for the Fish - A series of experiments using a water-filled fish tank to display principles of optics such as refraction, reflection, scattering, and interference, as well as demonstrate a simple water-based system for optical communication.

Optics for the Fish Part II - A series of water-based optical systems that can be demonstrated using a fish tank.

Optics Fun With Gelatin - Gelatin is not just for dessert anymore; it's great for illustrating some basic optical principles.

Optics in the Fish Tank - Using a 10-gallon tank ($10) and an inexpensive laser pointer ($40) or a He-Ne laser, a flashlight, and a ruler, one can show many sophisticated effects ranging from waveguiding to Rayleigh scattering.

Physicist Coloring Book

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