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Light Box

Target Audience

Upper Key Stage 1 / Lower Key Stage 2

Link to the National Curriculum

Sc4. Physical Processes (Light)

Children should;

“Recognise that they need light in order to see things and that dark is the absence of light” (NC. Yr 3 programme of study for Sc4 Light)


To ensure that children understand that to see, light must come into their eyes reflected off objects and that without this light they cannot see.

Download worksheet

What you need

•Shoe boxes
•Black lining paper
•Plastic models of different colours
•Craft Knives( adult use only)

What you do

•Watch the video clip on the website: www.practicalprimaryscience.co.uk
•Line the shoe box with black paper to consolidate the dark enclosure.
•Make sure that the child holds the box in a horizontal position at eye level, whether seated or standing.
•Only one light level should be exposed at a time
•Once the object can be seen including its colour this should be recorded on the investigation sheet.
•This procedure is repeated for each different box, but the light level must be at zero each time (no light) to start.
•Make sure that the light conditions in the class are similar for each group e.g. don’t allow one group to undertake their investigation directly under the classroom ceiling light. In other words the lighting conditions must be the same for each group to make it a fair test.

Group/ class activity

•Split the children into groups, each with an adult helper
•Make sure each child is keep secret which colour they have identified in the box until everyone in the group has undertaken the activity for a particular box
•Make sure that the lighting conditions are the same for each group
•Each child should be given an individual recording sheet

* Clearly much will depend on the number of adult helpers and apparatus available. If only one adult is available then the other children should be engaged in some associated activity e.g. Art: A dark night! Or Language: What frightens you about the dark?

How it works

There is a basic misconception by many young children and those not so young that light comes from your eyes when you open them not into your eyes reflected off objects.

Preliminary Activity

Tell the children that you are going to take them into a darkened area to show them a picture, not shown until they enter the area and you are going to ask them to describe it while there. Clearly it will be an impossible task.

Now bring them back into the classroom and ask them to describe it. This will certain set the scene for what is to follow.

Follow up work

This would take the form of class or group discussions to determine that without light we cannot see and that light coloured objects are more readily seen in poor light conditions. Interestingly, in the most recent curriculum orders, the understanding of Light, while only first mentioned in the Yr 3 orders, is capable of being understood through practical activity by many children at an earlier age.

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