Applied Science - Physics (1A)

  • Comparing reflect and refract.
  • Discovering how light moves


  • lens
  • reflect
  • refract

Students look at different items and determine if they reflect or refract light


The world is full of images for children. A reflection in a mirror or window can scare them; a penny in a pool may look closer than it really is. Light has always played with our sense of sight. Children can learn how these images are different from the real thing. Children need to discover that they can change the way light moves. As children play with optic toys, they begin to see that light can play tricks with their eyes.
Young children need to experience different examples of reflect and refract to recognize them easily. Reflect is easier to understand than refract. Reflection is just a "bouncing" back of an image, while refraction is a change of direction of an image. A prism, for example refracts or bends light to create a rainbow.

However, with just a little guidance, students can look at light and identify whether it refracts or reflects.


In this lab, students will "play" with light. Students will view several examples of reflection and refraction and will try to discover how light moves.

  1. Display different types of objects that reflect and refract. Common objects include mirrors (reflect); glass of water with spoon in it (refract); foil (reflect); oil in a glass bottle (refract); prism (refract); glass (refract); lens (refract); or any shiny surface (reflect).
  2. Instruct students to shine light through the different objects and have them record on their lab sheet whether the light is refracted or reflected. Instruct them to write in the object and then the word "reflect" or "refract."
  3. Students should look at the Swift GH and then look through the optic tube. The light is refracting through the tube. Ask the students how they can get more light through the objective. Give them the word "mirror" as a clue. The mirror can help concentrate light through "reflection" and then help to illuminate an object better. The Swift GH uses reflected light. The light bounces up from the object through the lens in the objective. The light then is refracted through a series of lenses. Then you see the image through the eyepiece.

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