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Light Activities

A compilation of public engagement activities that explore light visible to our eyes and other wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum.

Light plays a central role in our lives. The electromagnetic (EM) spectrum includes wavelengths ranging from radio waves, microwaves, infrared, the visible spectrum that we perceive as light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays. The main source of visible light on the Earth is our Sun, which provides virtually all the energy used by living things. These activities and resources cover some of the different ways we interact with and use light. 

Featured Short hands-on activities

Search for more on light and optics
a group of learners build UV color changing beaded bracelets

Exploring Properties - UV Bracelets

In this activity, learners use ultraviolet light to change the color of beads that contain photochromic dye.
A family looks at an image through a blue filter

Exploring the Universe: Filtered Light

In this activity, learners discover how colored filters can help reveal more about an image and we can use light and filters to learn more about an object.
image of a handprint that was created using heat sensitive liquid crystals suspended in thermal paper

Exploring Materials - Liquid Crystals

In this activity, learners will investigate the properties of a heat sensitive liquid crystal and make their own liquid crystal sensor to take home.
Liquid crystal display activity components including signs, guides, craft materials, safety gear, and liquid crystal material

Exploring Products - Liquid Crystal Displays

In this activity, learners investigate temperature-sensitive liquid crystal sheets and liquid crystal displays from a calculator.
Girl looking at objects in a beaker filled with liquid that appear to be invisible

Exploring Properties - Invisibility

In this activity, learners investigate how glass objects can be "hidden" in some liquids through refraction.
Hands holding glass objects on a string in a beaker of liquid

Exploring Nano & Society - Invisibility Cloak

In this activity, learners explore how refraction can be used to make a glass stir rod "disappear" in a cup of baby oil, while having conversations about new technologies.
Exploring Products - Sunblock activity components like the construction paper, swabs, and sunblock.

Exploring Products - Sunblock

In this activity, learners compare sunblock containing nanoparticles to ointment.
Exploring Materials - Thin Films activity components including signs, activity materials and guides.

Exploring Materials - Thin Films

In this activity, learners create a colorful bookmark using a super thin layer of nail polish on water.
two children looking at Blue Morpho butterfly

Exploring Structures - Butterfly

In this activity, learners investigate how butterfly wings get their color and that some wings get their color from the nanoscale structures on the wings instead of pigments.
Child holding squares of red stained glass colored by nano gold

Exploring Materials - Nano Gold

In this activity, learners discover that nanoparticles of gold can appear red, orange or even blue.
Learner uses 3D glasses to look at a image printed on a sheet of paper

Exploring Tools - 3D Imaging

In this activity, learners use 3D glasses to discover what ordinary objects look like under magnification.
Exploring Properties - Capillary Action activity components including signs, activity materials and guides.

Exploring Properties - Capillary Action

In this activity, learners explore how liquids flow in narrow spaces.
Two learners and one facilitator look at gold nanoparticles suspended in a solution which makes a red color

Exploring Materials - Stained-Glass Windows

In this activity, learners use contact paper and colored tissue paper to create a "nanoparticle stained-glass" window.
Person's hand resting a Stained Glass window

Nanoparticle Stained Glass (cart demo)

In this activity, learners make a collaborative stained glass window and a take-away card with pre-made nanoparticle solutions containing silver or gold
Family using thermometer to take temperature of their arm for the Heat Map activity

Exploring Earth: Temperature Mapping

In this activity, learners model the way Landsat satellites use a thermal infrared sensor to measure land surface temperatures.
A young learner in a grassy field observes an image of the Sun being projected on her solarscope

Exploring the Solar System: Observe the Sun

In this activity, learners safely view the Sun and study features on its face, via a solarscope.
Hands holding square of polarizers and transparent tape

Exploring Materials - Polarizers

In this activity, learners experiment how polarizers affect light by using two polarizing sheets and overlapping layers of transparent tape.
Child in a red shirt with a preserved butterfly

Butterflies

A collection of resources about butterflies that can be integrated into other programs or exhibits on butterflies. These butterfly activities and resources focus on light, color, iridescence, pigmentation versus structural color, and technology inspired by nature.

Annual Events

Electromagnetic Spectrum EMS info graphic developed by NASA showing different wavelengths and examples for each rom very long radio waves to very short gamma rays
NASA Introduction to the Electromagnetic Spectrum 

More resources

Working with STEM Experts Guide cover including an image of expert  puring a liquid and using a strainer with a girl and her family at a museum public event

Finding STEM Experts