Groundhog Day is this week! Will the groundhog see his shadow? Let’s explore light and shadows to celebrate!

This week our Apprentice-level STEM youths will celebrate Groundhog Day by learning about properties of light and shadow.

Activity 1: Groundhog Shadows Activity 2: Laser Target
Materials
  • Groundhog cutouts
  • Flashlights
  • markers/ coloring implements
  • Construction paper
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Rulers
  • Craft sticks
  • Tape
  • Glue
  • Decorative materials like pompoms
  • Scissors
  • Treats/prizes (optional)
  • 4 small mirrors per team
  • 1 laser pointer per team
  • Target template
  • Paper
  • Ruler
  • Pencils
  • Stopwatch
  • Protractor
  • Treats/prizes (optional)
Lesson Flow
  1. Gather materials. Print and cut out one groundhog cutout per pair of students.
  2. Introduce the challenge: Use the groundhog cutouts to make shadows of various sizes and shapes.
  3. Split students into pairs.
  4. Let pairs of students explore making shadows with the flashlights.
  5. Post the size and shape challenges on the board.
  6. Students will trace shadows on paper to show that they have fulfilled the constraints.
  7. (Optional) Give treats to pairs that finish all the challenges.
  1. Gather materials. Print out one 4-in target and tape it somewhere in the room.
  2. Discuss reflection. Have students hypothesize how light will bounce when it hits a mirror.
  3. Introduce the challenge: In pairs/ teams, use all 4 mirrors to bounce the laser pointer’s light onto the target.
  4. Let students explore with bouncing light with the mirrors.
  5. Then let each team try to hit the target from at least 5 feet away.
  6. When all teams have tried and succeeded, move the target elsewhere/farther away.
  7. (Optional) Give treats/prizes to the team that gets the highest score.
  8. Again ask the students to answer how light bounces when it hits a mirror, and discuss light’s behavior.
Goals
  • Explore how shadows work and how they can be manipulated.
  • Fulfill criteria while staying within constraints.
  • Iteratively adapt designs to better fulfill criteria.
  • Practice with measurement.
  • Learn how light reflects/bounces.
  • Practice with angles and measurement.
  • Fulfill criteria while staying within constraints.
  • Iteratively adapt designs to better fulfill criteria.

Lesson Steps

  1. Gather materials. Print and cut out one groundhog cutout per pair of students.
  2. Introduce the challenge: Use the groundhog cutouts to make shadows of various sizes and shapes.
  3. Split students into pairs.
  4. Give the pairs of students the cutout and ask them to tape a popsicle stick to the back of it. Let pairs explore making shadows with the flashlights for about 10 minutes.
  5. Post the size and shape challenges on the board:
    • Make a shadow that is twice the height of the groundhog cutout.

    • Can you make a shadow look smaller than the groundhog cutout?

    • Make a shadow that is three times wider than the groundhog cutout.

    • Make a shadow whose head is wider than its feet.

    • Make a shadow that looks like just a line!

  6. Make sure students have rulers. Students will trace shadows on paper to show that they have fulfilled the constraints. They can decorate them any way they want. Color with markers! Add a pipe cleaner for a hat! Pompoms for buttons! Etc.
  7. At the end of the class, discuss what you all have learned: light causes all objects to cast shadows. Objects closer to the light source cast shadows that look larger. As objects get farther from the light source and closer to the surface where the shadow is cast, their shadows will look smaller. It is impossible to make a shadow look smaller than the object unless you manipulate angles.
  8. (Optional) Give treats to pairs that finish all the challenges.

The Law of Reflection | Physics

Lesson Steps

  1. Gather materials. Print out one 4-in target and tape it somewhere in the room.
  2. Discuss reflection. Have students hypothesize how light will bounce when it hits a mirror.
  3. Introduce the challenge: In pairs/ teams, use all 4 mirrors to bounce the laser pointer’s light onto the target.
  4. Let students explore with bouncing light with the mirrors.
  5. Then let each team try to hit the target from at least 5 feet away. They are not allowed to move their mirrors after the laser pointer turns on. Wherever their laser pointer light lands on the target, that’s how many points they get. Then let another team try. Alternate teams attempting to hit the target until all have succeeded in hitting the target (though not necessarily in getting a bullseye).
  6. When all teams have tried and succeeded in hitting the target, move the target elsewhere/farther away. Continue the process until you have about 5 minutes left.
  7. Again ask the students to answer how light bounces when it hits a mirror, and discuss light’s behavior.
    • “Light travels in straight lines. Light that bounces off one surface onto another is reflected. Mirrors reflect most of the light that hits them. If we know the direction [from] which the light came, we can predict the direction of the reflected light.” (https://www.beyondthechalkboard.org/activity/bouncing-light/)
    • Light bounces off a mirror at the same angle it hit the mirror, but in the opposite direction.
  8. (Optional) Give treats/prizes to the team that gets the highest score.