Kinesthetic Model of Refraction

Project Description

Light slows down and bends when it travels from air into another medium, such as water or plastic.

Grades: 1 to 5
Duration: 1/2 Hour – 1 Hour

Supplies: Masking Tape, An outdoor sidewalk that runs along a grassy field OR A large, flat area for marching students

Step 1

Bring your whole classroom to your chosen spot:

a. either an outdoor area with a sidewalk that lines a grassy field, in which case the sidewalk represents “air” and the grassy field represents another medium (water or plastic)

b. OR, indoors, create a boundary between media with a long strip of masking tape.

Download the FREE Activity

Instructor Tip:
Download the attached PDF for student worksheets and detailed information on the concepts in this lesson.


Step 2

First, get students to march in step with a uniform pace and then learn to change to steps half as long with the same frequency on your mark. It helps to count out “left-right, left-right” until they are able to march in both ways.

Step 3

Line students up in fours, each tier with linked arms to imitate consecutive wavefronts. Then let them march on the sidewalk or on the “air” side of the tape – approaching the boundary at an angle (as in the drawing above).

Step 4

As soon as each crosses the boundary s/he must change to steps half as long. This will slow down, as students crossing the boundary will cause the direction of the “light” to shift.

Step 5

Once they have all crossed, have them travel in the other direction – taking half steps until they cross back out into air where they again resume full steps – causing the “light” to bend back to the angle that they began with!

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