The Dark Box

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SWBAT observe that objects can be seen only when illuminated.

Big Idea

Students will try to identify an object with no light, little light, and full light. Through their observations and work, they will understand that in order to see an object it must be illuminated.

Setting the Stage

1 minutes

Materials:  All ABout Light by Lisa Trumbauer, pinhole boxes, small figurines (lego people), and flashlights.

After a group discussion to reinforce the idea that to see objects they must be illuminated,the students will work in teams of 4 as they use various amounts of light to identify an object in a box.

Our district has not moved toward implementation of the NGSS yet.  However, sound waves is a concept that is in our current curriculum.  I am pushing my students toward the full NGSS expectations of both light and sound waves.  Since it is above what the district requires, I am can push the students to go beyond the expectations. The NGSS expects students to:

1-PS4-2. Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that objects in darkness can be seen only when illuminated.
1-PS4-3. Plan and conduct investigations to determine the effect of placing objects made with different materials in the path of a beam of light. 
1-PS4-4. Use tools and materials to design and build a device that uses light or sound to solve the problem of communicating over a distance.

The 8 lessons in this "Light" unit will focus on mastery of these content standards.  


10 minutes

I gather the students around the carpet and give them each a copy of What to Do.  I am posing a problem that requires them to think of ways to illuminate objects (in this case two people).  This engage activity is reviewing the idea that items need to be illuminated to be seen.  The understanding of this knowledge will help with understanding the task later in the lesson.

"You are having a sleepover with your best friend.  You decide to sleep in the basement where there are no windows.  All of the sudden the lights go out!  What are some things that you could use to see each other?"

"I want you to partner up with someone and find a spot in the room to come up with a list of ideas. You can draw pictures and label them or just make a list of words.  I will give you 5 minutes to complete this."

Once they are done, I ask the students to gather back in a circle and share out their ideas.  

"Will the objects that you all came up with work?  Would they help you see your friend? Why?"

The idea to get at is that they would all illuminate the objects in the room.  It directly hits on the NGSS standard that objects in darkness can be seen only when illuminated.


20 minutes

Advanced Preparation:  You will need to make a box for each team of four.  The box would have a lego figurine inside it and a quarter sized hole in one of the sides.  The box should be sealed shut at the top.

"I would like to read a book to you.  It is called All About Light.  Once I am done, I am going to ask you to work on another light activity."

I am choosing to read this book because it hits the basics of light through the eyes of children and offers a great vocabulary review at the end of the book.  It also reinforces the idea of need for light to be able to see an object.

"Let's talk about the light vocabulary words that were discussed in the book.  Were there any familiar ones (referring to unit words on our vocabulary words)?"

Use as much time as you feel is needed to solidify the students knowledge of familiar terms.   

"You are now going to work in teams of four on the next task.  Each team will need a box, and a flashlight."

 I then go over What Do You See Inside? recording sheet.  Once they are clear not the directions, I have them go ahead start the task.

I am choosing to do teams of four strictly for the purposes of materials and preparation.  You could make smaller teams or even have them work as individuals if you have the materials.  

As students are working, I will circulate to make sure that students understand the idea that the object is only seen when it is illuminated.


10 minutes

Once the students are finished, I have them bring their recording sheets to the carpet and gather for a conversation about their learning.

"I would like to discuss what you saw when you looked in the box, when you flashed the light inside the box, and when you opened the top.  When was it easiest to see the figurine?  When was it the hardest?  What can you say about what your learned?"



5 minutes

"I want to finish the lesson by playing a video for you.  The video focuses on the hobby of caving.  Once the video is over, I will ask you about a specific piece of equipment that spelunkers use."

I show them the video.  What I like about the video is the song that is playing.  It gives them  clue about the last question that they will answer.



1 minutes

"I want you to open up your science notebook and set it up for an entry.  The focus is illumination. You are going on your first caving trip.  You will be going 100 ft below the ground.  Should you bring a headlamp with you?

I want you to draw a picture and/or use words to explain why or why not."

I want to see if the students will connect their learning from the boxes to the real life situation of caving.  The goal is that the light will help them see inside the cave because there will be no natural light.