Daylight in a Bottle

Discovery Place
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



In this engineering design activity, students will  investigate radiant energy and the concept of refraction in order to develop a natural lighting system made from recycled water bottles.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Early Elementary
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

1-PS4-2 Make observations to contruct an evidence-based account that objects in darkness can be seen only when illuminated.

Clarification Statement: Examples of observations could include those made in a completely dark room, a pinhole box, and a video of a cave explorer with a flashlight. Illumination could be from an external light source or by an object giving off its own light.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Expound on Step 1 in the Research and Gather Information section of the lesson plan. Try to give students an experience with as little or no light possible. They will revisit this idea later in the lesson with a pinhole box.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Be sure to allow students time to go through each of the prescribed engineering design steps, as described in the lesson, to engage in the full practice. Have students talk about their own experiences with the phenomena to understand their preconceptions and so they can compare them with their observations in the activity.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
To meet the full expectation of the Disciplinary Core Idea, provide students with additional opportunities to observe and investigate with objects that give off their own light in completely dark spaces e.g. a battery-operated tea light in a shoebox with a pinhole in one end for them to look through.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Allow enough time for students to design, test, and redesign their devices. Require students to justify their designs and allow for modifications when needed, so students can make strong connections between the cause and effect of design modifications on their product.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The lesson builds understanding toward the Performance Expectation by allowing students to make observations before they engage in the design process. One would need to provide additional activities as described in the Tips to fully address the Disciplinary Core Idea. The practice is fully addressed if the lesson is followed with fidelity.

  • Instructional Supports: The lesson provides extensive background knowledge for the teacher along with guiding questions and discussion starters to help students connect their learning to real-world experiences. Student sheets and diagrams are appropriate instructional support for the students. Since this is an engineering activity, only a testing sheet and instructions for making the testing box are included. Teachers need to pay close attention to the teacher prep instructions.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The teacher is provided with guiding questions throughout the lesson; however, there is no set evaluation for student designs. The lesson could benefit from student developed rubrics for judging if the designs are successful.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -