Classroom Caves

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SWBAT make observations to construct an evidence-based account that objects in darkness can be seen only when illuminated.

Big Idea

Today's activity gives students a chance to use science to refine their understanding of light and sight. Students learn that light allows us to see.

Setting the Stage

1 minutes
  1. Materials:  

    • *  White LED or Flash Light

    • *  Blankets / Boxes

    • *  Paper Doll Template (I use the pre bought oaktag cutouts)

    • *  Aluminum Foil

    • *  Construction Paper (white and black) 

    The students will work in groups as they review the concept that a light source illuminates objects and allows us to see.  It is the last lesson in this unit (before the assessment) and I want to review this concept and create a lesson that has them building dark spaces.  What kid doesn't love to build a "fort or cave."

    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.



5 minutes

I have the students gather in a circle on the carpet.  I will use our initial conversation to engage them with today's lesson.

"For our last lesson in our light unit, we are going to review a concept that we have focused on the entire unit.  Without light, there is no seeing.  I would like you to think of places that are dark."

As students come up with ideas (cave, movie theater, deep sea), I list them on the board.  

"Why are those places dark?"

Facilitate a conversation that leads students to realize that without a source of light, there is no light; and with no light, there is no seeing! 


20 minutes

Advanced Preparation:  You will need to make 8 gingerbread cutouts.  3 should be made out of black construction paper, 3 out of white paper, and two out of aluminum foil and a copy of The Cave for each student.  

"I have created a very dark “cave” in our classroom using paper and the big table .  I am going to tape 8 paper dolls to the bottom of the tables that are in our cave (I show them the cutouts)."  I have included a video of the introduction.  

Show students the dolls and invite them to predict which doll(s) they will be able to see inside the cave (without taking a light in with them). Write down their predictions.

"I am going to hand you each a copy of The Cave recording sheet.  I would like you to read the first question and make a prediction.  Then I will invite one or two of you at a time to go into the dark cave without a light to look for the hidden dolls.  When you come out you should answer the 2nd question. You should then make a prediction about the next question and test that as well."  

The students then go back into the cave with a flashlight and note the difference on their recording sheets.  


The students will realize, that they can not find any dolls. Don't discuss it yet, wait until you meet as a group in the next section of the lesson.  


10 minutes

I gather the students onto the carpet and and have them sit for a science circle discussion.  

"I want to know what you found out.  Were you correct in your predictions?  Why could you not see the dolls when you went into the cave without a light?  How did the light help?  Were the dolls there the whole time?  What was the variable in the task?"

I will use this conversation to reinforce the idea that scientist predict, test, revise, and predict again.  


5 minutes

"We have spent a lot of time (in this unit) talking about illuminating items in order to see them.  I now want you to think about a car.  A car has white lights in the front and red lights in the back.  The white lights are brighter than the red ones.  Why is this?  Why should the lights in the front be brighter?"

"I would like you to write your ideas in your science journal."



5 minutes

"Once you are done, I would like you to grade your entry in your notebook.  I would like you to use the Science Journal Scoring Rubric 2 to grade your work."

I am looking that students connect to the idea that the brighter the light, the more it can illuminate the road while you are driving.  By looking at the students' predictions, I am able to gain an understanding of who truly understood the concept.