STEM outreach is a critical component of preparing young people for scientific literacy, success in school and ultimately, a satisfying career – and Light, Lasers, Color and Optics is a wonderful subject around which to base outreach efforts.

These pages along with our FREE downloadable Outreach Guide and our Outreach Kit can get you started – whether you are a scientist, engineer, advanced student, program leader or other professional.

Benefits for Students

When you visit a classroom to share what you know, you set an example and make a lasting impression – specifically, you can help students to:

  • See the hidden applications and uses of one of the most powerful enabling technologies in their lives: light, lasers and optics (photonics)

  • Begin to make a connection between school work and a future career

  • Become inspired to explore a science or engineering career for themselves

Benefits for Teachers

Teachers are facing incredible challenges every day – when you visit a classroom, you are able to :

  • Introduce a dose of “reality” into the class which may seem quite isolated to students

  • Contribute knowledge, which may fall outside the teacher’s area of expertise.

  • Bring specialized materials and equipment that the classroom may not be able to afford.

Connecting Outreach and Photonics to “The Standards”

For the past 30 years, science education has been undergoing a shift – away from discipline based lectures focused on learning content and towards hands-on experiential learning with connections to the “real world” and a focus on the skills and practices of science and engineering.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are a set of standards that reflect this shift in thinking about science education. One aspect of the NGSS is that it focuses on a relatively small number of “Core Disciplinary Ideas” rather than a long list of ever increasing content about science. Of 12 Core Disciplinary Ideas, four relate directly to light and waves – or, photonics.

Each of the Core Disciplinary Ideas were selected to meet at least two of four criteria. The Core Disciplinary Ideas related to Light meet all four.

  •  Have broad importance across multiple sciences or engineering disciplines or be a key organizing concept of a single discipline..

    The ability to control and manipulate the power of light and optics, a discipline known as photonics, is critical to engineering today’s most advanced technologies in medicine, manufacturing, data storage and transmission, energy and defense.

  •  Provide a key tool for understanding or investigating more complex ideas and solving problems..

    The phenomenon of light and optics, or photonics, has enabled a host of technologies that allow us to explore worlds beyond the reach of our ordinary human senses. From the imaging technologies of microscopes, telescopes and sophisticated medical imaging devices to converting sunlight into power, photonics is a key tool for understanding and investigating many of the most complex human issues.

  •  Relate to the interests and life experiences of students or be connected to societal or personal concerns that require scientific or technological knowledge.

    Because the science and technology of light and optics, or photonics, enables so many key technologies and applications, it is easy to connect with the societal and personal concerns of students. Whether a students is interested in national security, advancing the health care system or improving the environment – photonics is at work and offers a rich and valuable context for learning the transferable science, technology, engineering and math skills that benefit all students.

  •  Be teachable and learnable over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication.

    Because the phenomena of light is familiar, there is a natural starting place for investigating photonics. And because deeper understanding of light can be counter intuitive, there are many “wonderful” and surprising moments of learning along the way. From realizing that objects can only be seen as a result of light that is reflected into the eye to comprehending the dual nature of electromagnetic radiation offers a spectrum of depth and sophistication that parallels the history of the field.