It was still dark wintry afternoon even though April was right at the corner to greet us. Yet, Ms. Sarah Dugan brought lights into our classroom to fill our minds with light-full moments. Ms. Dugan has been working in Laser Optics research at Northwestern and has over-five-year experience developing pre-college curriculum. What is fascinating in her lesson was watery plain jello. My girls always love investigating or experimenting snacks or desserts like chocolates or ice-creams. Yes, we’ve done these before. However, it wasn’t about tasting or finding nutrients in jello. The plain jello is a replica of the lenses; it can be a zoomed-in version of our eyes.
Before we explored through the lights and lenses, Ms. Dugan guided a discussion: What is light? How do we perceive or use lights? The girls were very excited to share what they have already known or learned in science classes. Aubriana grabbed a marker to start writing what we have shared on the board. I always love when students have an ownership of their learning like Aubriana. “Doctors use light to see inside our body.” “We have light spectrum, red, yellow, green, and purple.” “Light is visible and invisible.” “Light is electromagnetic.” “It is very fast.” “I see green lights when I close my eyes.” Such an amazing discussion. We could go on and on and on, but we had to move onto exploring lights through the jello lenses. How creative it is to explore lenses with jello! Science is truly a Creative work!
Ms. Dugan let the girls taste the plain jello, but some girls were little hesitant tasting it. T’meyah was brave enough to take an initiative. After tasting it, she said, “It is like water. It’s water. Nothing to taste.” Then Ms. Dugan cut the jello into different shapes. Oval. Rectangle. Double Convex or Plano Convex. Double Concave or Plano Concave. With these jello pieces, Ms. Dugan created different paths for lights to shine through. Two or three girls in each group started creating their own path and used a laser pointer to shine lights to see how lights move along the path. Such a remarkably beautiful moment to see how lights fill the path. Sometimes the lenses block the light to get through. It depends on how the lenses are set up.
The girls were very actively engaged in creating the path and their own lens’ shapes. Faith and Elizabeth made a heart shape to fill with lights. It was a quite hard task—filling heart with lights without letting lights through. I let them try and find out how they would fill the heart with lights. Faith tried to laser from each side, different angles, but lights were shining through, not filling in. Elizabeth tried as well. She used her left hand to block the path as she laser-pointed with her right hand. Yay, the heart was filled! Such an amazing exploration for all of us! I could see each and every girl’s passion for such fun learning experience like this activity. Science does really give each one of us Creativity and Critical Thinking.