Visibility of Light

Siemens STEM Day
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Experiment/Lab Activity
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.



Students work together to build knowledge around the behavior of light.  They discover that light will pass through, not pass through, or reflect off of certain objects.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
- none -
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

1-PS4-3 Plan and conduct investigations to determine the effect of placing objects made with different materials in the path of a beam of light.

Clarification Statement: Examples of materials could include those that are transparent (such as clear plastic), translucent (such as wax paper), opaque (such as cardboard), and reflective (such as a mirror).

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the speed of light.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This Performance Expectation is addressed with some modifications because students work together to conduct an investigation around the effects of placing many different materials in the path of a beam of a flashlight. In order to fully address this Performance Expectations, teachers will need to incorporate student ideas into the planning and carrying out of the investigation.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource was not designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students conduct an investigation when they work together to test which materials allow for the passage of light. In order to address this Practice more fully, the teacher may modify this lesson by allowing students to determine which materials to investigate. One possibility to begin this process would be to incorporate the items labeled “Second Grade”, as they would support students in developing capability around conducting investigations.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students figure out this Disciplinary Core Idea during the lesson when they carry out an investigation around which materials allow light to pass through them. To fully address this Disciplinary Core Idea, teachers may need to build in further discussion with students to develop these ideas.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Cause and effect is addressed in this lesson as students test materials by attempting to shine the flashlight through them. In order to support students in designing simple tests to gather evidence to support or refute student ideas, it will be necessary for the teacher to involve the students in the planning of the investigation. Students might share their experience around the behavior of light, how it passes through, is blocked by, or reflected off of certain surfaces. Students can use this background knowledge to design a simple investigation and gather evidence to support or refute their ideas.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This investigation may serve as a helpful piece for supporting 3-dimensional learning. In order to accomplish this, teachers may need to make modifications to each of the three dimensions to ensure they work together at the level described in each dimension. For example, students could work together with the teacher to develop the list of materials to be tested. Additionally, the lesson would benefit from a clear, phenomenon-driven purpose. This would keep learning centered on figuring out and explaining, and make it more student-centered.

  • Instructional Supports: In order to improve the instructional supports of this investigation, teachers may need to develop options for differentiation, means to build on existing knowledge, and opportunities for feedback to students. Teachers can also allow students to share their own experiences with the phenomena in order to make connections to real-world contexts.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: This investigation as a stand alone may need more opportunity for students to demonstrate evidence of three dimensional learning. Once this is in place, teachers would have the opportunity to determine helpful points for gathering formative assessment evidence. For example, when students apply their learning in future lessons, the teacher could ask each team to explain the materials they would need and why. The teacher could use these interviews as informal assessment of students’ understanding of which materials allow for the passage of light, and which do not.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: In its current state, this investigation does not incorporate a connection to technology integration. However, teachers could easily work with students to determine an additive technological connection.