Sep 26, 2013

WonderWorks: Mirrors + Reflection
What do you see in the mirror?

Today's Topic: Mirrors + Reflection
--mirrors (in a variety of shapes and sizes.  For safety reasons, choose plastic instead of glass where possible.)
--flexible craft mirror (optional, but fun!  I got by with just two and there was minimal arguing.)
--half images (create your own, or feel free to use mine)
--DIY Periscope kits (note:  I purchased only one set of 12 kits and put together 4 periscopes before class and used the rest of the small mirrors by themselves for kids to do experiments with.)
--flashlights (I had two on hand and e-mailed parents inviting them to bring one from home)
--bright colored paper or cardstock

 cover art Sorry! / Landa, Norbert

 What Kids Do: 
younger siblings were content to just check themselves out in the giant foam mirror blocks (hooray for a baby-friendly part of this lesson!). 
 At the beginning of class, I talked about how beams of light usually go in a straight line, but then showed what happens when you shine the light onto a mirror.  There was a lot of this action in class:
 But kids also tried shining their flashlights other places to see what would happen.
 Spoons make interesting reflections!
 And are also good instruments...
 This participant noticed that the foil reflected the color of his pants and shirt when held nearby.
 Those flexible mirrors make funny reflections too!
 I set up a full-length mirror at the front of the room with the question, "I wonder what happens when you hold a mirror up to a mirror?"
 And incorporated a little writing practice into one station where kids could play with mirrors and letters:
 or mirrors and drawings:
 I asked at the beginning of class how the kids could finish my half-pictures.  The cover image above was the typical response, but we also discovered this two-mirror approach:
or drawing your own half-pictures:
 or just finishing the drawing by hand!
 The DIY periscope kits led to a lot of creative ideas, including this one where he stuck a wad of foil in one end, then shone a flashlight in the other:

 Or this one who shone the flashlight in one end and looked into the other:
 And then extended her flashlight play by trying to shine one flashlight into another:
 and putting a mirror on TOP of a flashlight and seeing what the beam looked like on the ceiling.
 This participant noticed that you could get that same mirror-in-a-mirror tunnel effect using two giant foam mirror blocks (and she spoke about the reflections in excellent scientific terminology!)
 This participant noticed that my metal magnetic clips had shiny surfaces that were basically a tiny mirror:
 and then we got really silly with the mirror blocks:
 This experiment with two periscopes led to very interesting (and disorienting!) results:

Adult Challenge of the week: 
Ask "What could you change?" to foster the idea of experimentation.  (i.e. Don't just tell your child what to do, let them play around themselves and make their own discoveries.  They are so much more exciting that way!)

Hindsight Tip: 
--a few extra flexible craft mirrors and print-outs of the half pictures might have been nice.  They were very popular! 

 Variations to try: 
--apparently, mirrored acetate (sold as gift wrap) has interesting reflection properties, but I couldn't find any.
--I also introduced the concept that things other than mirrors reflect by pointing out that if you hold brightly colored paper near your chin you can see the color reflected there.

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