Saturday, 16 January 2016

"The shadows are dancing!" Exploring Light and Shadows

"Experiences involving light and shadow enable children to appreciate the awe and wonder of the world around them and provide an environment that is rich in possibilities for them to develop their natural curiosity."
Making The Most Of Light and Mirrors by Linda Thornton and Pat Brunton

A short time before the winter break, we decided to store away the light table for a while replacing it with an overhead projector and a few flashlights. We wanted to introduce different types of light sources to the children hoping that their curiosity would generate new wonders and explorations. 

Initial materials placed at the overhead projector.

What do you notice?


A group of children became very interested in using the flashlights to create shadows. They collected various materials from around the classroom setting the flashlight on each item to see what the shadow looked like.

"Free exploration and investigation quickly develops into discussion about the properties of different materials (transparency, opacity and so on), colour, shape, form and position. Working with a partner or in a small group also provides the opportunity for co-operation, negotiation and teamwork." 
Making The Most Of Light and Mirrors by Linda Thornton and Pat Brunton

The children were so excited about their discoveries that they asked if I could come see! Together we started playing with the flashlight and noticed that when we raised and lowered the flashlight the shadows started moving.

"The shadows are dancing!" M. O.

"Something has to be see through for the light to go through." R. S.

"The part around the block is black and the middle shows colour because it's see through!" M. O.

Based on the children's observations about shadows, we discussed the meaning of transparent, translucent, and opaque in relation to the materials they were investigating.

We also read a fantastic book called "The Black Rabbit". 

"Why did the rabbit not see the black rabbit in the water?" Mrs. Ralph

"The sunshine can go on the water but it can't go into the water." C. C.

"Because there's no darkness." L. B.

"Can shadows move?" Mrs. Ralph

"Yea! Shadows can dance!" P. M.

The Black Rabbit book inspired us to go outside and explore shadows further!

Some obervations made by the children:

"This reflects red (block). Are shadows always black? Now red again. When I turn it the shadow gets longer." B. P. 

"When I put a yellow object in a red shadow they yellow gets red on it." P. M.

"The light is pushing the green light through the jewel." C. C.

"My shadow is bigger!" L. S.

"I look like a grown-up!" B. P.

"My shadow is behind me when I run and in front of when I turn around!" K. C.

"When I look through the see through object (prism) object into the light you're smaller." F. D.

"The magnifier is making light on the tree, I have to put it in the sun and now it is making it hotter!" A. J.

"When the sun is in front of you your shadow is behind you." C. D.

Can you run away from your shadow? Can you make your shadow disappear?

"You have three shadows. When I look ahead of me I see a shadow, in front of me I see a shadow, and when I look behind me I see a shadow!" L. B.

"Using the effects of light and shadow, both indoors and outside encourages children to be aware of their own physical development, their own movements and use of space and their capacity to solve problems. Shadows are a wonderful resource for encouraging critical thinking and for making connections in learning."
Making The Most Of Light and Mirrors by Linda Thornton and Pat Brunton

At this time the light on our overhead projector burned out. It took me a while to find a replacement and I worried that the momentum of interest was going to stop. But instead, the children started placing materials on the table where the overhead used to be and used the flashlights to create shadow stories and experiments.

Can you create a story with light and shadows?

One day C. C. told me she knew how the overhead projector worked. She told me that is contained a mirror inside that made the light reflect on the wall. I asked if she wanted to try and show me by using some of the materials in our classroom. Together with Z. G., they worked to try and figure out how the overhead projector worked.

First attempt, using a transparent block.

C. C. decided to try a mirror block and shine her flashlight on it. She then noticed the light appear the wall!

Z. G. grabbed the standing mirror and pointed his flashlight at it.

He showed me that pointing the light at the mirror made it bounce on R. S.!

Seeing the light beam using a water spray bottle! Thanks Mr. Grundy for the suggestion!

One morning Z. G. told me he had a lamp at home that projected stars on the wall in his bedroom. I was very curious and asked if he would be able to bring it in to show everyone. I asked the children how they thought the stars were going on the wall?  

With the return of the overhead projector, the children continued to explore, investigate and create stories using the open-ended materials.   

When J. K. was using the overhead projector I noticed he was making hand shadows.

"When you move your hand it goes dark because it makes a shadow. When you go faster you shadow goes faster." J. K.

"When I push it (hand) it makes the shadow push." C. T.

Seeing that a few children were interested in J. K.'s shadow figures, we read the book "Shadow" by Suzy Lee. A story about an imaginative little girl and the shadow stories she creates.

What hand shadows can you make?

The iPad was a new addition to the light area with the hopes that children would use it to document their learning.

Moments of exploring captured by the children using the iPad.

During the creation of a story, M. O. and F. D. noticed something interesting with the way the materials were projected on the wall compared to how they were placed on the overhead projector. Other children also started noticing this phenomenon!

"It's backwards, you see it's here (on overhead projector) and on the wall it's over here!" L. B.

"Why do you think that is?" Mrs. Ralph

"When I look in the mirror at my house, there's a mirror in here (waving her hand over the arm of the overhead projector) and in the mirror my shirt is backwards, my love shirt, the love is spelled backwards!" L. B.

Some children also started seeing rainbows on various objects and materials in our classroom. In hopes of extending this excitement and curiosity, some materials and books were placed for them to explore and investigate further.

Some children chose to move materials from the rainbow area to the overhead projector to explore and investigate creating rainbows further!

The children used the iPad to document their experiments and investigations! It's so interesting to view the pictures that they took and see what they found fascinating through their eyes. It's a different perspective into their thinking and learning!

G. S. took this picture of S. T., C. D., and L. B. because they wanted to see how they looked covered by a rainbow!

During some discussions with the children, we decided to create a collaborative art piece using the many transparent, translucent, and opaque materials we had in our classroom. The children selected the pieces and arranged them on the laminating sheet. Others added tissue paper and wrote with coloured sharpies excited to see the effect the sun will have when it shines on them. Z. G. had the great idea of using "transparent" tape to stick the materials onto the plastic laminating sheet rather than using the hot glue.

"Sun catching collage"

 Named and created by the children of room 109!
(Inspired by the book: Making The Most Of Light and Mirrors)

"When creating and thinking critically children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things."
Making The Most Of Light and Mirrors by Linda Thornton and Pat Brunton

Stay tuned for part two of our light and shadow investigation!

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