First Grade NGSS
Light, Shadows, and Seasons


Comparing how light moves when it reflects and refracts.


·         Comparing reflect and refract.
·         Discovering how light moves


calcite, ulexite, quartz, and an index card with lines
Bag with 2 mirrors
Biconvex lens
Model of eye (optional)

Light (slideshow) first few slides


Physics helps us explain the world around us. There are many things occurring  in the world that we can't explain. This unit has students investigating the  properties of light. They will not understand the physics of light, but will begin the process of becoming familiar with some of the bizarre things light can and cannot do.

The world is full of images for children. A reflection in a mirror or window can scare them; a penny in a pool may look closer than it really is. Light has always played with our sense of sight. Children can learn how these images are different from the real thing. Children need to discover that they can change the way light moves. As children play with optic toys, they begin to see that light can play tricks with their eyes.
Young children need to experience different examples of reflect and refract to recognize them easily. Reflect is easier to understand than refract. Reflection is just a "bouncing" back of an image, while refraction is a change of direction of an image. A prism, for example refracts or bends light to create a rainbow. However, with just a little guidance, students can look at light and identify whether it refracts or reflects

Light can be controlled by lenses, prisms, and mirrors. Light moves. Lenses are important in our everyday life. Many people wake up putting on eyeglasses or contacts. People who take pictures use lenses in the cameras. Lenses are in magnifiers, lighthouses, microscopes, telescopes, binoculars and projectors. Nature has found a natural way to create a lens system in most organisms (eyes) so they can see. The word lens comes from the Latin word "lentil," (a bean used in soup that is biconvex.)

A prism causes light to change direction or refract as it moves through the prism. Light when it travels through different substances can also refract. It appears to our eyes as if the object is bending, but it is only "light" playing tricks with our eyes. A mirror allows light to "bounce"  or reflect from the surface of the mirror. We see ourselves in the mirror because light reflects or bounces from the mirror and the image is captured by lenses in our eyes.  Light can also diffract when it goes through a small slit.  The light particles spread from the center into distinct packages.  Depending on your class we usually do not expect the students to learn this term, but saying the term is allowed.

Many people do not realize that light is actually a real phenomenon. It moves, it changes directions, and it is part of a branch of physics called the electromagnetic wave spectrum.


In this lab, students will "play" with light. Students will view several examples of reflection and refraction and will try to discover how light moves.

1.    Use slideshow and go over how light can move.  Go over the parts of the eye and emphasize the shape of the lens the lens and how the lens makes the image upside down.


2.    Give students a biconvex lens and an index card (white).  Have them focus an image onto the paper. They will see that the image is upside down.  To do this, the best way is to turn out the lights and have light come in from the windows.  Can also use the slide projector image

3.    Skip to slide10—refracting bends light and reflection bounces light.  Go over objects that reflect and refract. Common objects include mirrors (reflect); glass of water with spoon in it (refract); foil (reflect); oil in a glass bottle (refract); prism (refract); glass (refract); lens (refract); or any shiny surface (reflect).  

4.    Give each student a mirror in pairs.  Have them play with reflection by working with a partner and put the two mirrors opposite and see if children can see infinity reflect.  Make sure they put something in the center. 

After they see infinity, you can also have them hold the mirror horizontally at eye level so that the students either see the ceiling or the floor. They can tilt the mirror back and forth so it looks like people are walking on the ceiling.  They usually get very excited doing this.

5.    Then give students a bag of quartz, ulexite, and calcite.  Tell them these all refract light but refract it in different ways.  Have them discuss how the mineral refracts the line. (quartz can make multiple images, ulexite will bring the picture to the top (color image is better), calcite will make it double).  Students can also put the mineral to their eyes and look at objects.  The calcite will double and the quartz will make rainbows; the ulexite does not have an image because the individual crystals are small fibers.   Ulexite  has boron within its structure which only allows light to go one direction.  Boron is an ingredient used in making fiber optics.

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