FOR ALL AGES

Light Sources (KS2) To Illuminate You

Sun shining through the trees in the forest.

Image © Unsplash.

Light is a vital thing that's needed to sustain life on earth, and without it, we simply wouldn't be able to live. Helping your kids learn about what's on the science curriculum can be hard, but Kidadl has you covered.

The KS2 light definition states simply that light is a form of energy. It is a source of food for plants, can be harnessed into clean solar energy to power cars and houses and it allows us to be able to see the world around us. Here is a handy free resource that outlines the sources of light KS2 students will learn about as well as giving you some dazzling science experiments to encourage your children to explore this topic on a deeper level.

Light Sources

Boy sat at the table doing his homework on light sources with his mum helping him.

There are two different kinds of light to explore, these are either made from man-made or natural light sources.

Natural Light

The main source of natural light for life on earth is the sun. The sun uses its own resources to create light, and is constantly burning its own body of gas which gives off a huge amount of energy. This energy travels down to earth at an amazing speed in the form of light, this is what enables us to see things.

The moon is another resource that gives us natural light, however, it does not produce its own light energy. The moon shines in the night sky because it reflects light from the sun. The energy coming down to earth from the moon is not as strong as the sun's, which is why it gets darker in the night time than it does in the day.

Boy reading under the covers with light from a torch - an example of man-made light.

Man-Made Light

Humans use natural resources to create man-made light sources. Thousands of years ago, ancient civilisations would use fire and torches as a light source when the sun went down. Over the years education and technology have developed so much that we no longer need oil lamps and candles to read our books in bed. In today's modern life there is a huge range of man-made light sources that are used all over the world. From street lights to phone screens, humanity relies heavily on electricity for everyday sources of light.

Characteristics Of Light

There is a whole range of features of light but your children only need to learn the basics that are on the education curriculum for KS2 science. We've outlined three of the main characteristics here along with some handy experiments that will help your children further explore and understand this topic.

1) Light Travels in Straight Lines

Rays of sunshine coming through the dark grey clouds.
Image © Pixabay

This characteristic of light explains why shadows exist. Light travels in a straight line from its sources and is only stopped when something solid gets in the way. Where the path of light is blocked, there is darkness. Objects that take up physical space all create shadows. Shadows change size and shape depending on where the light source is coming from and how far away it is from the object.

Shadow Experiment

You Will Need: A torch, three pieces of card, scissors, plasticine.

Method

1) With the scissors, cut a circle at the same place in each piece of card. Using the Plasticine, or another method, stand the cards upright in a row so that the circular holes all line up.

2) Turn off the lights in the room and shine the light from the torch through the cards. Notice how the light travels all the way through.

3) Now move the cards so that the holes are no longer aligning and repeat the process.

Result: The light does not reach past the last card, proving that it can only travel in straight lines.

2) Reflection

Reflection is what happens when light bounces straight off of the object it hits. Most objects will reflect the light into space which allows us to see, however other objects can force the light to bounce and create images on their surfaces. These objects have to be smooth and shiny in order for this to happen, eg mirrors, bodies of water, spoons.

Reflection Experiment

You Will Need: A torch, a mirror, plasticine, various other shiny and reflective materials eg. spoon, makeup mirror, tinfoil.

Method

1) With the plasticine prop the mirror upright on a table.

2) Turn off the lights in the room to make the surrounding area as dark as possible.

3) Shine the torch on the mirror at an angle.

Result: You should be able to see the light beam bounce off the mirror and shine out at the opposite angle. This demonstrates reflection.

Bonus Step: For some more reflective fun, try using different shiny surfaces to create images. Get your children to notice how different the reflections look in a spoon or a tray of water than it does in a mirror.

3) Dispersion

Light energy is made up of all of the colours of the rainbow, therefore colours are created when light is split. This process is called dispersion. A classic example of this would be a rainbow. Rainbows happen when it rains and the light coming from the sun hits the falling water droplets at just the right angle to split the light and disperse it. This reveals the beautiful spectrum of colour that is in every light beam.

Hand with a small rainbow on it caused by the dispersion of light.
Image © Pixabay

Dispersion Experiment

You Will Need: A glass prism, a white piece of paper, a torch.

Method

1) Place the prism on the piece of paper and have your children shine the torch on it at different angles.

2) After a few tries, they will find an angle that splits the light from the torch.

Result: A spectrum of colour will appear on the page underneath, demonstrating the dispersion of light.

Author

Written By

Megan Wynne

Living in Dublin, Megan is passionate about all things creative. Currently studying Art in university, when she’s not experimenting with paint and photography you can find her in the cinema enjoying the newest films. She loves spending time with her two younger sisters, exploring nature and finding fun things to do in the city.

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