Investigate how to change the colour of light by making lanterns.
Early Learning Goal links
- Understanding the World ELG: Past and Present
- Understanding the World ELG: People, Culture and Communities
- Understanding the World ELG: The Natural World
- Expressive Arts and Design ELG: Creating with Materials
STEM vocabulary to introduce
Light, dark, shadow, source, block, change, shape, travel, long, short, big, small, straight, solid (opaque), see-through (transparent), translucent (you can see light through it but not clear shapes), colours- bright, dim, fuzzy, clear
Before you start
Cut the plastic bottles ready for the children. Try to work somewhere that you can make darker- or ensure you have access to a dark room or den. Make your own lantern to introduce the activity.
Show the children the lighting technician poster and tell the children that they are going to be lighting technicians for this activity.
Ask the children if they know what a lighting technician does. Lighting technicians design the way lights are used in television programmes, films, concerts, in the theatre or plan how to light up buildings, statues or bridges from the outside.
Tell the children about the attributes. Lighting technicians are:
Observant and look carefully at light and shadows
Creative in the way they use lights to make people feel happy, sad, frightened or excited
Collaborative when they work in a team to set up lights for shows, filming and events
Tell the children that they are going to be lighting technicians and investigate how to change the colour of light. To do this they are going to make lanterns. They will need to be creative in their designs and collaborative as they will be working in pairs to make lanterns.
How to make your lantern
Cut off the bottom of your bottle so you are just left with the base. The tops could be used in the sand or water area as funnels.
Paste PVA or glue stick onto the bottle. Stick pieces of different coloured tissue and cellophane onto the bottle. Add a few opaque shapes.
Turn on the tealight and put it in the base. You should be able to see the light shining through the translucent materials.
What to do
Show the children the lantern you have made earlier. Talk about the different colours and materials used.
You could ask:
- Which colours can you see?
- Can you see through any of the materials or colours?
- Are there any materials or colours you can’t see through?
- What do you think will happen when I put a light inside the lantern?
Darken the room or move to a darker room. Turn the tealight on and put it into the lantern. Discuss what the children can see.
You could ask:
- What can you see?
- Is the light shining through all of the materials or colours?
- Which materials or colours let the brightest light through?
- Which materials or colours have a dim light shining through them?
- Do any of our materials block the light? Do they make a shadow?
Tell the children they are going to make their own lanterns now. Show the children how to apply the glue and stick on the tissue paper and cellophane shapes -(don’t provide the opaque shapes yet- we want the majority of the lantern to be covered with translucent shapes). Encourage one child to hold the bottle while the other glues on the shapes. Encourage turn taking so both partners get a turn.
You could ask:
- Why are you choosing that piece to stick on?
- What do you think will happen when the light shines through it?
When the majority of the bottle is covered, ask the children if they would like to add any of the opaque shapes.
You could ask:
- What happens when you put s solid shape in front of the light?
- Do you think you will make a shadow?
- What shape will your shadow be?
Leave the lanterns to dry and then put an electric tealight in them.
Other things to try
When the lanterns are dry and light lit, you could repeat the question from step two with the children.
You could use the lanterns in the dark den provocation.
The science of lanterns
We have put together some useful information about the science of lanterns to accompany this activity. Don’t worry, this is for your information only and to help you answer any questions children may have. We don’t expect you to explain this to the children in your setting!
Why did some of the materials let the light through?
The light we see is made up of the different colours of the spectrum, these are the colours of the rainbow. Before Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727) when people talked about the rainbow they only included 5 colours – there was no orange or indigo. Newton added in two extra colours because he thought that 7 was a perfect number!
Some of the materials you used are transparent – we could see through them and they let all of the light through them. Examples are clear plastic, cellophane, water and glass.
Some of the materials you used are translucent. This is when materials absorbs part of the light but allows part of the light through. The light that travels through the material is scattered so that you cannot see clearly through the material. Examples are tissue paper and frosted glass.
For both transparent and translucent materials, if your material looked green, it only let green light through and absorbed all the other coloured light. If your material was red, it only let red light through and so on.
Some of the materials you used were opaque – they absorbed all the light. Examples are wood, thick plastic and metal.
Why did the light shine more brightly through some materials?
The cellophane is more transparent than the tissue paper – we can see through it more clearly. The tissue paper absorbs some of the light and scatters some of the light as it travels through the material. Cellophane absorbs less of the light than tissue paper and the light travels straight through the material.
What you’ll need
- The base of a 1 or 2l pop bottle
- Plastic LED tea lights
- Tissue paper
- Coloured cellophane
- Opaque stickers or shapes
- PVA glue or glue sticks`
- The lighting technician poster
- 20 minutes reparation time to cut the bottles
- 15 to 20 minutes to complete the activity