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In "Love Will Guide Us," a Tapestry of Faith program
This quiet, more contemplative activity helps participants recognize that while science can be exciting, it also involves reflection. Along the fine line between mystery and knowing is found the spiritual aspect of learning and discovering. Why is the sky blue, but a sunset red? This very simple experiment shows why. Hopefully, it will also evoke a sense of wonder! This experiment is used with permission from a University of Wisconsin website, Science Is Fun.
Light the flashlight and hold it against the side of the container so its beam shines through the water. Ask children to note the direction of the beam. They may be able to see some particles of floating dust, which appear white. However, it is difficult to see exactly where the beam passes through the water.
Now add 1/4 cup of milk to the water and stir it. Hold the flashlight to the side of the container, as before. Ask the children to share their observations. Affirm that the beam of light is now easily visible as it passes through the water. Look at the beam from the side (as it travels through the water) and from the end where the beam shines out of the container (looking directly toward the flashlight). From the side, the beam appears slightly blue, and on the end, it appears somewhat yellow.
Add another 1/4 cup of milk to the water and stir it. Ask the children what they see. The beam will look more blue from the side and more yellow, perhaps even orange, from the end.
Add the rest of the milk and stir. What has changed? Now the beam will look even more blue from the side. From the end, it will look orange. Furthermore, the beam seems to spread more now than it did before; it is not quite as narrow.
Process with these questions:
Make the point that knowing why light appears different—refracts differently—in different situations need not take away from our enjoyment of a sunset's beauty.
Do not let your explaining role dominate this activity. Minimize fussing with the lamp, balloon, and ball. Emphasize the children's own observations. Keep explanations short and simple. Allow silences so children can absorb what you are showing them. This is a great activity for a wide assortment of learning modalities. The challenge is to keep them from playing in the water!
If the group includes a visually impaired child, verbally describe your actions and their effects at each step of this experiment.
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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.
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