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Activity 4: The Power of Magnification

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Magnifying glasses for participants to share
  • For Sun Bursts. Latex balloons, enough for all participants plus some extra, two or three magnifying glasses, string and scissors, and (optional) water
  • For Light Write. Paper for all participants
  • Optional: Ink pads and paper (for an alternate indoor activity)
  • Optional: Sheets of black or dark blue construction paper for all participants, shiny star stickers, and white chalk or crayons (for an alternate indoor activity)

Preparation for Activity

  • Find a bright, sunny outdoor area the group can use for this activity. Sun Bursts requires a wall or fence to which balloons can be tied with string. Light Write requires a paved or concrete (non-flammable) surface that gets strong sun.
  • Prepare an alternate activity, in case the day is not a sunny one. You might invite the children to use magnifying glasses to look at various items close up, such as fingerprints made from each child's index finger stamped with ink and printed on a piece of paper. Or look at eyes, hair or ears. You might invite children to make personal constellations using sticker stars in gold, silver, and red, on black or blue paper, and connect the stars using white chalk or crayon lines.

Description of Activity

Use the magnifying glass as a tool to indulge in some investigative science. Encourage the participants to speculate what will happen as you try these experiments.

If you are going outside, take the group to the sunny location you have chosen.

Sun Bursts

Invite each child to inflate and tie a balloon. For added drama, have players fill balloons one-fourth full of water. Form two teams. Ask each team to attach all of its members' inflated balloons to a wall or fence, using string.

Then, have the children in each team line up, one behind another, facing their own team's balloons.

Give the first person in each line a magnifying glass. Instruct them to burn a hole in the balloon they inflated, using the intense beam of light created by a magnified sun ray.

Say "GO!" to start the first people of each team to direct enough light from the sun, via the magnifying glass, to burn into the balloon and pop it. After a child breaks his/her balloon, tell them to pass the magnifying glass to the next team member and run to the end of the line.

The first team to break all its balloons wins.

Light Write

Form small groups of two or three. Give each participant a sheet of paper and each group a magnifying glass. Have participants place their paper on the sidewalk or pavement. You may suggest they place stones on each corner of their paper to keep it from blowing away.

Tell the group:

Taking turns, each person will hold the magnifying glass so that the sun shines through it and makes a dot of light on the paper. Keep adjusting the magnifying glass slowly until it makes the smallest and brightest dot possible. Hold the glass until the paper begins to burn. As the paper starts to scorch, move the dot slowly to form your own first initial. This takes time, so be patient.

As the children become proficient at making letters, have them try a collective drawing. Allow each participant to add a line or dot.

Or, have children work together to write on a single sheet of paper. Passing it along, each person adds another scorched letter. You can form teams, and invite each team to try to spell a word.

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