This week we’re celebrating TWO upcoming holidays: Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year! Let’s explore transparent, translucent, and opaque materials to make a Valentine’s shadow frame, and play with tangrams for good luck during the Chinese New Year!

This week our Apprentice-level STEM youths will celebrate Valentine’s Day by making Valentine’s-themed shadow frames, allowing them to experiment with transparent, translucent, and opaque materials and the shadows they make. And for Chinese New Year, they will explore the traditional geometric Chinese puzzle called tangrams!

Activity 1: Valentine Shadow Frames Activity 2: Tangrams
Materials
  • Cardstock
  • Rulers
  • Contact paper
  • Construction paper
  • Coloring implements
  • Tissue paper
  • Flashlights or sun
  • Scissors
  • Tangram shapes (Sophia will bring plastic shapes, or you can print p. 5 of this document, 1 per student, and have the students cut and color their own tangrams)
  • A few copies of tangram puzzles
    • Easy ones from here
    • Harder ones here and here
    • Have a few copies of the solutions to the above available
  • Coloring implements in case students want to color their puzzles
Lesson Flow
  1. Gather materials. Make an example shadow frame or print a picture of the example on the next tab.
  2. Introduce the activity: Demonstrate how the shadow frame uses transparent, translucent, and opaque materials.
  3. Have students make Valentine’s-themed shadow frames.
  4. Let students hold the frames up to the windows, if available, or shine flashlights through them, to explore the visual properties of the various materials.
  5. Ask students to identify which of their materials are transparent, translucent, and opaque.
  1. Gather materials. Print out a few copies of the various shapes and station them around the classroom.
  2. Introduce tangrams by telling the story of their origin.
  3. Ask students to identify the tangram shapes (5 triangles, 1 square, and 1 parallelogram).
  4. Introduce the challenge: Go around to the different stations and use the 7 shapes to make the puzzle shapes at the stations. They can choose either the easy ones with outlines, or hard ones without outlines for more of a challenge.
  5. Give students the option to color any puzzles they want to take home.
Goals
  • Explore how shadows work and how they can be manipulated.
  • Explore and understand the differences between transparent, translucent, and opaque materials.
  • Explore geometry and spatial reasoning.
  • Identify basic geometric shapes.
  • Fulfill criteria while staying within constraints.

Lesson Steps

  1. Gather materials. Make an example shadow frame or print this picture.
  2. Introduce the activity: Demonstrate how the shadow frame uses transparent, translucent, and opaque materials.
    • The contact paper is mostly clear and lets most of the light through. It is transparent.
    • The tissue paper that makes up the decorations lets some of the light through. It is translucent.
    • The cardstock that makes up the frame does not let any light through. It is opaque.
  3. Have students make Valentine’s-themed shadow frames. Follow these steps:
    • Draw a rectangle on a piece of cardstock. You may want to use a ruler to help you.
    • Cut out the rectangle by folding the paper slightly. This turns the cardstock into a frame.
    • Cut out a piece of contact paper that is at least as big as the window in the cardstock, but could be as large as the entire frame for a more uniform look.
    • Stick the contact paper onto the frame by peeling off the backing.
    • Cut shapes out of construction paper and tissue paper to decorate inside the frame. Place them on the sticky side of the contact paper. Also do any writing or coloring at this time, as it’s not easy to draw on contact paper!
    • Get a second piece of contact paper, the same size as the first, and place it over the sticky side, to seal the frame in place.
    • If needed, trim off excess pieces of contact paper.
  4. Let students hold the frames up to the windows, if available, or shine flashlights through them, to explore the visual properties of the various materials.
  5. Ask students to identify which of their materials are transparent, translucent, and opaque.

Lesson Steps

  1. Gather materials. Print out a few copies of the various shapes and station them around the classroom.
  2. Introduce tangrams by telling the story of their origin. You can either show this Youtube video, or tell a summary of the story like this:
    • In ancient China, an old sage (wise man) named Tan was given a test by the emperor: travel across the whole kingdom with a square pane of glass without it breaking. Tan rode a camel to cross a vast desert, rode a boat to cross a wide river, and had to climb the tallest mountain. But right at the top of the mountain, he tripped and fell! The pane of glass broke into 7 pieces—the 7 pieces we know as tangrams. Tan brought these pieces to the emperor and arranged them into shapes to tell the story of his travels: his house, a camel, a boat, and the mountains. The emperor liked the puzzle so much that it became a beloved part of Chinese culture ever since.
  3. Ask students to identify the tangram shapes (5 triangles, 1 square, and 1 parallelogram).
  4. Introduce the challenge: Go around to the different stations and use the 7 tangram shapes to make the puzzle shapes at the stations. They can choose either the easy ones with outlines, or hard ones without outlines for more of a challenge. Have students rotate around to the different stations.
  5. Give students the option to color any puzzles they want to take home.