Now You See It.... Vision Lab

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SWBAT test different aspects of vision and explain the phenomena they are experiencing.

Big Idea

In this lab, students "see" what they learned during discussion by conducting vision related activities.

Materials and Set up

This is a hybrid lab (using internet resources and lab equipment), so it is relatively easy to set up and requires minimal equipment. I provide students with choices regarding which sections of the lab they complete and sometimes I require that they complete each section. This varies based on class time and the group of students. This video describes the vision lab materials for the activities.

As the students work through this lab, they work on the Science and Engineering Practices 1, 3, 4, and 6* as they ask questions and then complete activities and analyze their data in order to develop answers. This activity also links more broadly to MS-LS1-8** as students examine the manner in which information is collected by the eye and transmitted to the brain.

* Science and Engineering Practices

1 Asking Questions and Defining Problems - This lab contains activities that relate to questions the students have developed about the process of vision.

3 Planning and Carrying Out Investigations - During the lab, students carry out several investigations.  As they work, some of the students come up with different plans for carrying out parts of the lab.  For instance, some of the students develop different ways to determine eye dominance.

4 Analyzing and Interpreting Data - The questions in the lab activities require the students to analyze and interpret the data they collect and we discuss this data as a class.

6 Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions - The students use their data to construct explanations about the process of vision.  This is especially evident when we review the blind spot and optical illusions.  

** Performance Indicator

MS-LS1-8 Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories. In this lesson the students conduct a variety of tests in order better understand the process of vision and how visual stimuli are processed and arrive in the brain.


5 minutes

As the students enter the classroom, they take out their journals and respond to the prompt: 

Describe the path of light as it travels through the eye.

The students have previously written on this prompt before, but I use it again as a way to reinforce the structures of the eye and their function. Because this is the second time the students have addressed this prompt, I do not let them look back at their notes. While the students write, I focus in on which ones of them seem to be struggling the most, so I can provide them with additional support and practice prior to the summative assessment.


5 minutes

I explain to the students that they will be working on a vision lab in order to explore some of the aspects of vision discussed in a previous lesson (The Eye - Flipped). I point out that I want them to be able to experience the information that they wrote down, such as the blind spot. I use an eye model to quickly review the various structures and functions of the eye, as they wrote about in their journals, with the students. To do this, I hold up a section of the model and ask one student to provide the name of the structure and another student to explain the function of the structure. This simple review provides the students with another opportunity to see and hear about the different structures of the eye.


25 minutes

I place the students into teams of two and have them find a seat in the science lab. I then have them open the Vision Lab on their Chromebooks and review the requirements with them section by section, while demonstrating how to use the equipment. Before we begin the lab, I am careful to point out to the students that this lab is not intended to determine how well they see, but rather for them to better understand their notes. I further explain that students should keep their glasses on and contacts in and that wearing them will not negatively impact or provide them with an advantage during the lab.

I tell the students that they must all complete the background information section. I point out that all of the blanks must be completed and if the students have difficulty initially, I remind them that they may look in their notes to find the answers.  This section of the lab is meant to help them focus on the process of vision.

Part One: Eye Dominance

I read through the instructions for this activity with the students.  I also demonstrate how to roll the paper and hold it in order to determine eye dominance. As they work on this portion of the lab, some students are able to make connections to their own lives. For instance, one student pointed out the relationship between his dominant eye and dominant hand in regards to hunting.

Part Two: Pupil Reflex

We have discussed pupil reflex in previous classes and the students have a general understanding of how pupil reflex works. This part of the lab directs student attention specifically to pupil reflex by having them examine their partner's pupil before and after having their eyes closed and covered for a period of time. I let the students take pictures of their pupils using the Chromebook, and while this is a good way for them to see what is happening to their own eye, it can be distracting for some of the students.

Part Three: Blind Spot

If you have time to complete only one part of the lab, this is definitely the one you should use. This part of the lab is one of the most difficult for the students, but it is also the part they are most impressed by. Please refer to the video in the materials section for more information about how to complete this part of the lab.

Part Four: Near Point of Vision

This part of the lab can be completed using a variety of materials. I have my students use a small metal rod. I demonstrate this portion of the lab for the students and they are able to easily complete it.

Part Five: Judging Distance

This portion of the lab has students explore depth perception by completing a task using one eye and then using both eyes. As I demonstrate this activity for the students, I purposely miss placing the pipe cleaner in the straw a couple of times because students tend to have difficulty with this activity and it tends to make them feel less insecure when they are unable to accurately complete the task.

Part Six: How Good Is Your Vision?

This is a typical vision test used in physicians offices. Students tend not to select this part of the lab to complete, because it is something they are very familiar with.

Part Seven:  Field of Vision

This part of the lab is popular with the students, primarily because of the equipment required.  Please refer to the materials section of this lesson for more information regarding the equipment.  This section helps students determine the angles of their peripheral vision.  Many of the students, specifically students involved in athletics, are surprised to learn that their peripheral vision is not as good as they expected.

Part Eight: Optical Illusions

In this section of the lab, the students examine optical illusions and how they work. I provide students with various optical illusion books and they may look up optical illusions on their Chromebooks as well. They are challenged to find interesting optical illusions and then to explain what is happening to the nervous system as they view the illusion.

Part Nine: Perceptions of Color

This section is an online game. During class, I tend to steer students away from this activity and focus instead on the activities that require equipment. If students do not finish the required number of activities, then I encourage them to complete the online sections at home or during study hall.

Part Ten: Color Vision

This section is also online and requires students to examine pictures in order to determine whether or not there are benefits to having color vision. 

This video provides an Online Activities Review for parts nine and ten.


Wrap up

5 minutes

At the end of class, I ask the students to share their general thoughts about the lab. By doing this, I help them feel more comfortable talking about their observations and data. I then ask them to share their data for some of the activities. This differs by class, as I generally try to focus in on the activity that most of the students completed and enjoyed or that had the most interesting results. For instance, in one class we focused in on eye dominance and whether or not it was related to hand dominance.  This piece of student work demonstrates the students' interest in the blind spot. The wrap up time is not long enough to review the results from each of the activities, so we revisit the information in subsequent classes. The activities can also be explored at greater depth by the students as a part of their capstone project. I also ask the students to share the information they learned from the lab, as they recorded on the last question of the activity.