Today we are going to learn about some simple physics by doing simple and easy science activity i.e. Refraction of light.
This activity is so quick and I really wondering how I missed this experiment this long to explain or show my kids and make them Wowww!! This is one among the 10 min STEAM activity. This activity is perfect for 5-7 years old kids (since they are in budding stage to understand physics), however all the kids can understand the science behind light refraction. Children under 5 years may not understand the science but they will enjoy the experiment results. The best part is, it is an experiment which is listed under experiments done with items available at home.
In the beginning, my daughters were like scratching their heads and saying “what Mamma!! What are you going to do only with a glass of water”? “We don’t find much ingredients except water which is boring!!” There is a reason why kids were disappointed seeing the ingredients because this experiment or activity is so quick and best part is that it does not need much ingredients. In addition, this activity doesn’t need much set up as well since we can set it up within minutes.
But after seeing the magic that light does in water, my kids were amazed. Let us see what made them surprised in this activity.
What is refraction of light?
When light travels from one transparent medium (air) to another transparent medium (water), the speed of the light slows down and when it hits water it changes its direction slightly. This change in the direction of light is known as refraction of light. In a simple language, light refraction is bending of light. This looks simple and easy but it is unusual.
- A piece of paper
- A glass or jar
- Graphic designed papers. You can download the graphic designs from the net and take printouts. (optional)
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Experiment Steps : Refraction of Light
Firstly, ask your kids to fill the glass jar carefully with the clean and clear water. Here I tried to fool my kids saying that I have given them a magical liquid to fill. My younger one (5 year old) is almost in my trap but not my elder one (7 years old). She laughed at me and said ‘hey! Don’t fool me mom, it is just water’! Lollll…
Get a piece of paper and ask your kid to draw an arrow. Let the kids draw the arrow in any direction (any direction of arrow works out) and hold it vertically.
Now place the water filled jar in front of the paper (exactly focusing) just before the arrow. Adjust the glass jar between the glass and the arrow on the paper until the image (arrow) can be seen clearly through the glass.
Ask your kids to come in front of the glass jar and see what happens. Here ask them a few questions like ‘what did they observe’, is there any direction changes’, if the answer is yes (from kids), then ask for any clues or reasons to explain why it happened.
(You can have a debate session by gathering your kid’s friends as well. Having debate sessions improve their communication skills, speaking skills in public as well as builds confidence).
Coming to our activity, in step 4 you can watch the arrow appearing in reverse direction through the glass jar. This is just amazing and pretty surprising right!!
Now, my younger daughter took a paper and showed her drawing skills as well by drawing a small cat to check again through the water. J She is totally in wow mood seeing her cat in reverse direction through the water.
In this way, you can ask your kids to observe the light refraction concept through a glass of water by trying different graphic design papers. We have tried some graphic zebra lines, round shaped dots, and some curved lines to observe the light refraction.
What to explore
- Try different glasses and jars of different shapes
- Repeat the experiments using different distances between the graphics and the glass jar
- Also try the experiment using different liquids like oil, juice etc.
- You can observe some aberrations or blurriness when you see through the glass. This is due to the imperfections in the glass production.
- Things look like a little funny and different when you see through a glass.
What is the secret behind this activity?
The secret that made the experiment work is “Refraction”. As I already told you, refraction is bending of light as it passes from one medium to another medium. Ex: Air to Water or Water to Air.
In our experiment, the light wave traveled from the image (arrow) into the water crossing the glass cup and finally traveled out of the glass cup and again into the air and reached our eyes. Here, water acts as a magnifying glass which makes light more concentrated towards the focal point (near to the center). When the light ray goes beyond this focal point (to come out of the glass jar in order to reach our eyes) the image looks reversed. That means, the light on the left direction is now changes to right direction.
Hope you all too understand the experiment. Have a try with your kids!!