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Target Audience
Upper Key Stage 2

Link to the National Curriculum

Sc4 Physical Processes (light) Yr 3 Non statutory guidance

  • “Pupils explore what happens when light reflects off a mirror or other reflective surfaces, including mirror games to help them answer questions about how light behaves”

Sc4. Physical Processes (Light) Yr 6

Children should:

  • “Design and make a periscope using the idea that light travels in straight lines to explain how it works”. NC notes and guidance (non statutory)


  • To enable children to understand that there are useful practical applications to be made from the phenomenon that light travels in straight lines
  • To enable children to understand that the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection when light hits flat smooth shiny surfaces.


What you need

  • Shoe box,
  • two plastic mirrors,
  • rulers/ pencils
  • craft knife*

*Adults only to use craft knives

What you do

  • See the video clip on the website: www.practicalprimaryscience.co.uk
  • Lay the shoe box, without its lid , on its side and then mark a point at the same distance up the side. Draw a line from this point to create a right angled triangle with two 45 degree angles for the adjacent sides of the triangle
  • Also do the same for the other ends of the box.
  • A craft knife should be used to cut four diagonal lines(adults only) See video clip
  • Mark out and cut two viewing holes; one in the lid and one in the box. See video clip

Group /Class organisation

  • Depending on the number of adult helpers and apparatus available will determine how many groups of three / four children will take part in this practical activity.
  • If limited help is available then other children not involved directly in the practical activity should be engaged in associated work with the topic e.g. how the periscope saved my life…..
  • Children should also be given individual observation sheets to complete to consolidate their understanding of light and reflection from smooth shiny surfaces.

How it works

  • The periscope works on the principle that the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection when light hits a smooth flat shiny surface

Preliminary Activities

  • This would take the form of class or group discussion to consolidate their understanding of Light in relation to angles of incidence and reflection.
  • Physical Education Lessons provide an ideal opportunity to understand how light is reflected using a ball kicked or thrown at a wall and it will be observed that the angle at which the ball hits the wall will be the same that it rebounds off the wall.

Follow up work

  • Design Technology: Challenge the children to construct the longest periscope and to discuss the potential problems that might occur from this exercise.
  • History: This work also allows for cross curricular links to historical topics such as the Second World War.

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