Use optics activities to help students see the light in STEM and begin connecting science concepts to the real world in meaningful ways.

Though optics is a branch of physics that explores the study of light’s production and interaction with matter, this area of science also expands into other subjects, including earth science and astronomy. Optics also includes examining other forms of radiation, how they are made, carried, and diverted.

In astronomy, optics concepts are used to study how light travels through space and the celestial objects that occupy galaxies. When explaining the relationship between optics and earth science, teachers can discuss with students the processes of photosynthesis, reflection and refraction, thermal stratification, and—of course—climate change. Through using the following optics activities, teachers can help students understand concepts taught in this subjects and their connections to the real world.

1. Reflections of Understanding Optics

optics activitiesWith the help of the letter R and a few mirrors, the International Society for Optic and Photonics (SPIE) outlines one of its optics activities in “Multiple Reflections,” which helps teachers explain the relationships between angles, light, and reflection.

They chose the letter R because it is neither horizontally nor vertically symmetric, which makes it much easier for students to track the orientation of the reflections than using a symmetrical letter or shape.

If you’re a fan of International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19 each year), there is even a punny pirate joke in the printable handouts to help get you through the day.