How Can We Light Our Way in the Dark?

How Can We Light Our Way in the Dark?

How Can We Light Our Way in the Dark? is part of Smithsonian Science for the Classroom, a new curriculum series by the Smithsonian Science Education Center. It is aligned to a group of grade 1 standards. It has a focus on physical science with a secondary focus on life science and engineering design. In this module, students:

  • Investigate interactions between a beam of light and transparent, translucent, and opaque materials, including the formation of shadows and reflection of light
  • Identify cause-and-effect relationships as they explain their observations
  • Obtain information about animal structures that use light to help the animal survive
  • Design a solution that mimics animal structures and increases student visibility in the dark

Below are digital resources that support teaching of this module.

Lesson 1: It’s Dark in Here

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These photos of cave exteriors and interiors serve as an introduction to caves and give students the opportunity to practice making observations.

Cave Objects
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The file contains images of the objects students will investigate in the Light Up the Cave simulation.

Cave Simulation Directions
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The file provides directions for students prior to and during the computer simulation.

Light Up the Cave
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The Light Up the Cave simulation is available as a website for computers. Download the application for use on tablets or mobile devices.

This simulation gives students an opportunity to investigate light sources in a dark environment.

Students move objects one at a time into the cave to see if they provide light. Objects on the right are not in the cave. As soon as you click on an object, it is in the cave. It remains in the cave until it is released (clicked again). Once students have investigated an object, they should place it along the left side of the screen, ordering the objects based on how well they would help the student find something in the cave. Objects can be reordered. The students’ final ordering will show on the screen once students select Done.

Since a reflective vest does not give off light, it will not be visible upon initial selection or inside the cave. Students should be given the opportunity to explore this on their own, but they may need help moving the object from the right side of the screen to the left side ordering boxes. To move this item, click on it once to pick the item up (you will not see the vest at this time). Move your cursor to the left side of the screen and place it into the correct ordering box by completing a second single click. This will drop the object into the box, making it viewable to the user.

To use the simulation:

  1. Select an object on the right of the screen by clicking on it once. This will pick up the item and allow the item to be moved throughout the cave.
  2. Explore each object to see how each object lights up the cave.
  3. Place each object on the left, ordered by how well they would help you find something in the cave.

Navigation Help

  • To move an object from the right side of the screen to the boxes on the left, single click an object on the right, move it to its correct position on the left and single click again. This will release the object into the ordering box chosen.
  • Objects can be moved between ordering boxes by clicking the object once, moving it to a new position, and releasing the object by clicking once again.
  • If the object is released anywhere outside of the ordering boxes, it will snap back into its original position on the right side of the screen.
Lesson 2: Shining Light on Danger

Ada Asks Introduction (1:48)
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Ada introduces students to the themes of the module. She defines the word problem at 1:03. She talks about rocks in the water being a problem starting at 1:20.

On a Boat (0:43)
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This video gives students an idea of what it is like to be in a boat out on open water and near a coastline.

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These are line drawings of lighthouses for use in the Daymarks extension.

Lighthouse Map
A StoryMap with information about the lighthouses pictured in “Shining the Light.”

Lesson 3: Shining Through

In a Cave (0:35)
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The video is composed of two clips. The first clip shows a group entering a cave and the other shows the group farther into the cave with helmet lights on. There is also a light source on the cave floor in the second clip.

Light Investigation
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This file is displayed to guide students in planning and carrying out their investigations.

Lesson 4: The Shadow Effect

Shadow Investigation
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This file is displayed to guide students while carrying out their investigations.

Cave Shadows
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This is a line drawing of a cave with two light sources.

Lesson 5: Bouncing Around

Reflection Flash (0:28)
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This video provides a lesson-specific phenomenon to prompt student discussion. One clip shows reflections of sunlight off decorated CD-ROM disks. One clip shows reflections of sunlight off moving water.

Cave Drawing
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This is the cave line drawing from pre-assessment used for self-assessment.

Lighthouse Video (0:30)
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This video provides students with a visual of a lighthouse in action.

Lesson 6: Hide! Escape! Survive!

Flashlight Tag
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These are the rules of Flashlight Tag in picture form for students and text for teacher.

Lesson 7: Reflecting on Safety

Safety Solutions
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These images are used to guide students through discussions about problems related to human survival and possible solutions.

Lesson 8: Caution—School Students

Reflective Safety
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These are photographs of reflective animals and engineered products for class discussion.

Sign Goals
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This is a summary of the sign design goals.

Lesson 9: Emergency Escape Part 1

Ada Asks Science Challenge
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Ada introduces students to the science challenge.

Investigation Gallery
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Slides provide students with an example of a museum gallery and the model they will use to represent one in their investigation.

Emergency Exits
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Slides provide students with examples of emergency exit markings.

Kit Tips & Tricks