Hands up who remembers playing with a torch as a kid? Creating shadow puppets with your hands and making scary faces with the torch under your chin?
Maybe a game of spotlight tiggy on a warm summer’s night? Or practicing a bit of amateur radiology, trying to see your skeleton by shining a powerful torch through your hand? Playing with light was fun!
And learning about light is fun too. Because what you probably didn’t realise at the time was those simple games from childhood were actually providing you with a practical introduction to an important field of physics called optics.
Defined as the study of light, optics explores how light is created, how it travels and what happens when it hits different surfaces. From the beauty of rainbows and the twinkling of stars in the night sky, through to the amazing workings of the human eye, light is everywhere and plays a key role in our daily lives.
Light is also created and controlled in much of the technology we use every day, including smartphones, scanners, cameras, fibre optic communications, medical imaging and so much more.
All of which makes light and optics a super engaging theme for kids to explore, and perfect for applying STEAM learning principles. STEAM is an educational approach to learning that integrates Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Maths by applying hands on learning, problem solving, creativity, curiosity and fun!
Using light, vision, shadows and reflections as starting points, Tiger Tribe’s Light and Shine - Playing with Optics is an activity set designed for curious kids and filled with projects and experiments designed to help kids apply STEAM principles to the world around them.
During product development every project and all the scientific facts contained in the kit were fact checked by Dr Niraj Lal, a physicist, presenter, author and dad.
“I was commissioned as a scientist to review the content of the Light and Shine kit. Not only was the science in the kits a joy to review and check – and largely almost completely accurate before I checked it – but the design, composition and physicality of the kits themselves were a delight to play with,” says Dr Nij,
The activities in the kit are divided into four sections and everything you need to complete the experiments and activities is included.
Using the mirrors included, the Light and Shine journey begins by investigating reflection. Explore the fascinating world of mirror mandalas, then experience shape-shifting fun with mirror masterpieces and discover how water warps shapes through the power of refraction.
Shadows and Torches
Time to get that torch out and create some fun shadow puppetry, using your hands or the pop-out puppets enclosed. Light up your own Planetarium using the supplied constellation cards, or communicate like a spy at your next sleep over by practicing dots and dashes with flashlight Morse Code.
Learn how the eye responds to light and dark, test your peripheral vision and take the one-eye challenge to find out why we really do need two eyes. Then trick your brain with a bunch of amazing optical illusions or explore the Stroop Effect! You can even create your own Thaumatrope — a brilliant optical toy that creates animated movement.
Did you know you can use the sun to tell time? This section explains how to design a cool Sun Clock, have fun with moon mapping and create a model that demonstrates why the moon shines.
“It’s perhaps the physicality of Tiger Tribe’s Light and Shine - Playing with Optics that is the best — it’s not screen based, or digital, or virtual in any way, but real and holdable and explorable — something that is becoming rarer in the modern educational environment,” explains Dr Nij.
“In addition, the provision of the equipment in these neat, self-contained, beautifully designed kits, provides a robust, real and empowering introduction into the world of STEAM, to spark young minds to independent exploration.”
And this is perhaps the key to STEAM learning — encouraging kids to find answers themselves. Arguably never more important in a world inundated with online information sourced from wikipedia, google, social media and fake news.
As Dr Nij points out, “The challenge for children growing up today is less in finding information and remembering it, and perhaps more in how to figure out whether it's believable or not. Science and the tools of critical thinking help us figure this out for ourselves, identifying evidence and using it to learn how the universe works. With science we can learn how rainbows work, and what sunlight is made of, and how our eyes work, and why the moon shines – all things that this kit helps to explain.”
Grab yourself a copy of Light and Shine - Playing with Optics. We’re sure the bright sparks in your house will give it a glowing review!
About Dr Niraj Lal
Dr Niraj (Nij) Lal graduated with a PhD in physics from the University of Cambridge as a Gates Scholar in 2012 and was named one of the ABC's Top 5 Scientists Under 40 in 2016. He's the author of Henry the Flying Emu, a children’s book about gravity illustrated by Adam Carruthers, and is currently a Visiting Fellow with the ANU Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems, Principal at AEMO, and the new host of Imagine This for ABC Kids Listen. Nij regularly appears on telly and radio to talk science (he’s obsessed), and lives in Melbourne, Australia with his partner Sally and two kids Ash and Ella.