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22.1: Chapter 22: Visible Light

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Chapter Overview

Visible light can be produced by incandescence or luminescence. Light may interact with matter by reflection, refraction, transmission, or absorption. In terms of light, matter may be transparent, translucent, or opaque. The wavelength of visible light determines the color that the light appears to the human eye. Mirrors form images by reflecting light, and lenses form images by refracting light. Mirrors and lenses are used in optical instruments such as microscopes and telescopes. The structures of the human eye collect and focus light and send electrical signals to the brain, which interprets the signals. Common vision problems can be corrected with lenses, which help to focus images on the retina.

Online Resources

See the following Web sites for appropriate laboratory activities:

At the following URL, you can access more than 50 hands-on experiments designed to introduce middle school (and high school) students to optics based on the ray model of light. Topics include reflection, refraction, pinhole cameras, the human eye, color and the visible spectrum, and optical devices. Each lab has background information, safety guidelines, and tips for use in the classroom.

In this class experiment, students build a simple spectroscope, using inexpensive materials, to separate visible light into its component colors. Students will also use their spectroscope to analyze light from different sources.

These Web sites may also be helpful:

The resource at the URL below contains a set of six activities on the properties of light, designed to be used as learning centers in middle school physical science classrooms. The stations include lessons on diffraction, transparency and translucence, rainbows, spinning disks, refraction, and the relationship between light and heat. The activities were designed to be economical and simple to set up, using common objects such as thermometers, Styrofoam cups, flashlights, and aluminum foil. Students rotate from one station to the next to observe and analyze each unique property.

This Web site offers a collection of resources on the topic of optics, including simulations, activities, and reference materials. There are sections dedicated to teachers and aspiring scientists, so the resources range in scope from simple to complex.

This is a guide for an introductory workshop on light for teachers. The workshop has been discontinued, but teachers may freely download all the materials. After completing the workshop materials, you may be better prepared to teach your classes about light, and you can adapt most of the experiments for use in the classroom.

The site below is a large collection of high school and middle school curricular materials on optics and microscopy. Users can link to comprehensive tutorials on basic microscopy, digital imaging, optical microscopy, and related topics. Text is supplemented with innovative virtual microscopes that allow users to explore focus and magnification.

Pacing the Lessons

Lesson Class Period(s) (60 min)
22.1 The Light We See 2.5
22.2 Optics 3.0
22.3 Vision 1.0

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Date Created:
Nov 11, 2013
Last Modified:
Jul 31, 2016
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