Dumpster Optics

Teaching and Learning about Light with “Junk”

 

What’s Dumpster Optics? We’ve all seen kits for teaching physics in general and optics in particular – some are really expensive, some have poorly written instructions and some couldn’t possibly have been tried with real kids- they would never work!  So we’re developing lessons that use cheap materials, trying them out with real students and writing detailed notes for teachers that include not just what to do but what might go wrong and how to fix it.

We try to avoid buying specialty items, using household items and shopping when we can in
dollar stores and on eBay. Shopping tips are in the teacher notes.

Some of the activities were demonstrated by participants in the PHOTON Projects of the 
New England Board of Higher Education. We also adapt materials we find on the web, in
books and at workshops. We’ve assembled activities into lessons of about 1-2 hours duration,
aimed at 10-12 year olds (USA 5th grade).  A few of the activities have been used with high
school and even college students, both in class and as part of an online home-lab course
(requiring deeper analysis, of course).

This project was supported by SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics.
The videos of the PHOTON Explorations were funded by a grant from OSA, the Optical Society.  

Spanish translations were provided by the amazing outreach team of the Departamento de Física

of the Autonomous University of Nuevo Léon, Mexico.


  1. THE LESSONS: 

  2. LIGHT AND SHADOWS

  3. MAKING WAVES – THE COLORS OF LIGHT  

  4. BENDING LIGHT - REFLECTION   

  5. BENDING LIGHT - REFRACTION 

  6. BENDING LIGHT - DIFFRACTION 

  7. SEEING COLOR - EYES AND ART

  8. POLARIZED LIGHT ART

  9. WHAT IS A LASER?

For U.S. TeachersDumpster Optics NGSS alignment.pdf

Spanish versions of student instruction slides are available in individual lessons