Diffraction grating is such an awesome way to have science fun with kids.
Discover some cool ideas and activities for learning about and enjoying diffraction grating in your homeschool, classroom, and family.
Katie from Rainbow Symphony is kindly sharing her ideas and tips for using diffraction grating for spectacular science fun with your kids. My boys and I have been having a blast with these science activities and we hope you do, too!
Amazing Ways to Get Your Kids Excited About Science
Did you know that light doesn’t travel in a straight line?
It travels in waves, although the human eye can’t pick up on it—most of the time, anyway.
Any time light slips through a narrow pinpoint, it spreads. The result is typically a rainbow.
Bring diffraction grating products into the mix, however, and some spectacular variations occur.
You can teach your kids about light diffraction with the help of a few handy props. Watch out, though. Soon you’ll have a wannabe physicist on your hands!
Just a Simple Candle Trick to Introduce Light Diffraction
An introduction to diffraction can begin with something as simple as a candle.
- Start with the candle and two pencils.
- Light the candle and instruct your child to hold the pencils close together so that there’s the thinnest possible slit of space between them.
- Holding the pencils close to his or her eye, your child should peer at the candle flame through the space between them.
Doing this reveals small dots of light. When your child makes the slit between pencils even smaller, those dots grow into bigger blobs of light. They spread further away from each other, as well. The edges of the blobs will be blue and red, but the blue edges will appear closer to the candle flame.
Next, it’s time to use the glasses. For this experiment, 500 line/millimeter glasses will do just fine. Putting on the glasses will show your child how light bends in a different way.
If you choose to do this experiment with a small flashlight with the cover removed, then your student can hold the flashlight close to his or her face and rotate it while staring through the glasses. The diffraction is gorgeous!
More than a Blank Wall
Teaching your student about diffraction on a higher level can be fun for both of you. In this activity, your student needs to write down his or her observations. You’ll need:
- a clean white wall or a projection screen
- some type of light source
- a pair of 1000 line/millimeter diffraction grating glasses
- a sheet of colorful plastic
- a few binder clips (to hold the glasses in place)
At a table or another surface, a couple of meters away from the projector screen or wall, instruct your student to clip the binder clips to the glasses to hold them steady.
At a point between the glasses and the wall (or screen), your young physicist should position the piece of colored plastic. Now, he or she is ready to shine the light source behind the glasses.
Ideally, the light will shine through the glasses, become diffracted, and reflect on the screen.
Ask her to observe the pattern of lines. Specifically, he or she should describe how it’s different from—or similar to—the way light shines and separates through a prism.
Light Diffraction Through a Prism
A suncatcher may seem like a pretty little knickknack, but it’s much more than that in the world of science and physics.
To observe the way sunlight diffracts and separates through a prism, all your student needs is a suncatcher, a window, and a little bit of sunlight.
Show him or her how to hang the suncatcher on a window or in a window frame that gets the full light of the sun.
All he or she has to do is sit back, relax, and observe the technicolor patterns of light thrown by the prism.
Rainbows in the Yard
Take a field trip out to the backyard. You still get to play with a suncatcher, but this time, your budding scientist can view the magic in an open, natural setting.
Hanging a suncatcher outside when the sun is bright shows a different effect. The light still bends through the prisms in the suncatcher, creating a dazzling explosion of rainbows, but it throws off different patterns and your student may notice stronger or weaker color reflections.
A Day of Observation for Diffraction Grating
It’s easy to spend an entire day devoting yourself to diffraction grating.
Using different glasses, such as 13,5000 line/millimeter shades in addition to 500 line glasses and 1000 line glasses, your teen will notice that the light diffracts in a distinct way each time.
The light source he or she uses can change what he or she sees, too!
One suggestion is to play around with spectrum tube lights in an array of colors. The experiment changes with the addition of colorful plastic grating sheets, too.
Can you think of any other ways to teach light diffraction to your kids? Let us know your science lesson plans!