Kaleidoscope Eyes

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SWBAT make their own kaleidoscope and reinforce the ideas behind composite reflections.

Big Idea

Based on composite reflections, a kaleidoscope creates fascinating designs that change as the kaleidoscope is rotated.


10 minutes

Before students arrive today I prepare their tables with the materials that they will need to create their own kaleidoscope. I found nearly all of my materials at a Dollar Store (see materials section). 

I provide enough materials so that every student can make his or her own, but one scope per pair of students is fine with respect to the learning objectives for this lesson. During today's investigation teamwork is very important, even if each student makes his/her own scope. So, I emphasize working together in pairs, and, guiding each other throughout the tasks.

Before students begin to work on their Kaleidoscopes, I show the following "Human Kaleidoscope" video to introduce and motivate the activity:

TEDxSummit intro_ The power of x (720p).mp4

After the video I ask the class to use just one or two geometry terms to describe any part of what they saw. Some expected answers are:

  • symmetry
  • reflections
  • composite reflection
  • congruence
  • rotation
  • dilation

I also provide my students with the following links in case any student is interested in learning more about this interesting video:

  • http://www.businessinsider.com/watch-stunning-human-kaleidoscope-in-motion-2012-7
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0-zCwSfkOo




The materials needed to make one kaleidoscope and an illustration can be found here Kaleidoscope Material1. Some of the items can be found at home, so I plan way ahead and ask students to bring in some of the materials. I also find many items in my local Dollar Store, including the beads and the magnetic locker mirror. In the Toys Aisle, I find beads (or cheap beaded necklaces and bracelets) which you can cut and use the beads.

The locker mirrors are great because they can be cut easily with a carpet knife. I chose to split open the frames opening frames pic and cut the mirrors myself to avoid students handling the cutting tool. Scissors will not work well with locker mirrors because they will shatter on of the mirror pieces along the edge. 

Making your Kaleidoscope

40 minutes

I advise teachers to use the instructions and make a Kaleidoscope themselves first, as I did. This helped me lead the class better and smoother knowing exactly how to carry out each step and recognizing the difficulty spots.

Once everyone has their materials in place, I hand out the step-by-step Instructions to each student or pair of students making a kaleidoscope. There are two ways to proceed, either allow each student or pair to work at  their own pace, or lead the class, working together one step at a time. I prefer the latter. This allows me not only to monitor the class better, but also prevents students making errors that would mean having to start things over again (See my Occupy the Whole Room reflection).

Here's a brief clip illustrating a Student Kaleidoscope.

Closure: Spin and Observe

10 minutes

In the these last minutes of the class I really don't need to ask students to fiddle around with their scopes. They all will be observing their own as well as their classmates' final products. I also allow students to use their cell phones and take a picture placing their cell phone camera on the kaleidoscopes eyehole. I ask that they print these at home if possible, or bring the picture file in so that I can make printouts. 

As students share their cell phone pictures and kaleidoscopes Student Kaleidoscope, I go around checking for any problems students may have encountered. Sometimes students place too many gems inside and spinning the scope may not show as many different images. This can be fixed by uncapping the scope (removing the 2nd or top lens) and removing some gems, then placing the lens back and taping it secure.

I address the students telling them that tomorrow we will be taking this a bit further and connecting our kaleidoscope images to geometric concepts learned in previous lessons. We will be discovering and explaining how changing the characteristics of our kaleidoscopes, changes the images we see. 

Before the bell, I ask students to help clean up and collect unused materials that can be stored away for another day. 

Homework: A society for Kaleidoscope lovers, and a little history

Who invented the Kaleidoscope? How many types are there? Where can I buy one? 

The homework for today is a reading and exploring assignment. I ask students to visit the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society website and explore the site for a few minutes and answer these questions and others. I specifically ask students to read about the history of the Kaleidoscope and its inventor David Brewster. Another essencial reading would be in the section called Kaleidoscope Image.  There is information here relevant to our next class. I don't ask for any written material for this assingment, but I will be questioning the group at the start of our next class and discussing the reading assigned. 

Brewster Society