Here are some great web links and other resources on optics. Your library or bookstore should have some of the books, as well as others on various aspects of optics. If you know about other web sites or programs with good educational content on optics, please let us know! Also ask your friendly librarian or science teacher to help you find other books on optics or other areas of science! Links open in another window.
Design a Light Show!
This site, iKnowThat.com, is for Pre-K to 6th graders and covers many subjects such as math, language arts, and science. Click on the Science section, and then the Optics Workbench, where you could design your own light show! Experiment with light sources and optical instruments such as lenses, mirrors, and more. Requires the Adobe Shockwave plug-in.
OSA (Optical Society of America) has a great educational web site that is also called "Optics for Kids." This site has a colorful, graphics-rich interface and provides many fun and educational features including articles, experiments, and a parents and teachers corner. Must have the Flash Player installed.
The OSA Foundation has developed a resource guide for girls, ages 11 – 15, called Lighten Up! Discovering the Science of Light. Must have Adobe Reader or Acrobat installed to read the PDF.
ZAP! is a PC-based educational software productfor kids 8 to 12 years old. The subtitle is "Save the Show with Sound, Light, and Electricity," and the concept is that you are helping a rock band to fix the sound and light show for their big concert. You do this in three "workshops" where you can use your mouse to play with simulated components of several types. You build simple circuits in the electricity workshop and experiment with sound waves in the sound workshop. In the "laser lab" workshop, you play with light sources, mirrors, lenses, and color filters. By solving simple problems posed by animated characters, or simply by inserting, moving and tilting the parts to design simple optical systems, you can have a lot of fun and learn first-hand about reflection, refraction, color mixing, and more. There is also an interactive reference section. This is a great program -- it creates game-like goals that make you want to figure out how to solve the problems. Its interactive interface is easy to learn and use, and it helps to build an intuitive understanding about how light, sound, and electricity work. Highly recommended!
A History of Light and Lighting by Bill Williams
This site by Bill Williams is a very broad view of the history of light and lighting, starting with the birth of the sun over 4 billion years ago and including references to optics, stage lighting, various types of lamps, and key people in the history of light and lighting.
This site is part of "Molecular Expressions Microscopy Primer" and is at a substantially higher grade level than this site. But it's worth a look for the excellent explanations, graphics, and some interactive Java tutorials on refraction and reflection. It includes details on many subjects only briefly mentioned here, including diffraction, polarization, and interference. A fantastic Web site! There is also a fantastic activity guide on optics for teachers.
Materials (lenses, filters, a hologram, optical fiber, diffraction grating, etc.) for various simple experiments with optics. Includes instruction booklet. Multi-kit classroom packages are also available.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. is a leading provider of learning and knowledge products. They are one of the world's most trusted sources of information on every topic imaginable - from the origins of the universe to current events and everything in between.
StudySphere provides fast, easy and free access to a wide variety of research-quality child-safe websites organized for education online from home, school, study abroad and home school. StudySphere’s goal is to help students, teachers, librarians, and other researchers find both highly targeted and closely related information quickly.
Laser Tech Online contains a directory of links to general optics tutorials, classroom demonstrations, and many more helpful optics links.
LIGHT ACTION! by Vicki Cobb and Josh Cobb
(Illustrated by Theo Cobb, SPIE, April 2005)
Subtitled "Amazing Experiments with Optics," this is a terrific book for continuing your exploration of optics. The experiments cover many of the points discussed here, but they go on to include more advanced topics such as polarization and diffraction. Experiments require only simple household materials and objects (suggested for grades 6 and up). Highly recommended! Go to Amazon.com
Eyewitness: LIGHT by David Burnie (Eyewitness Science Series, DK CHILDREN, October 4, 1999)
Great photos and explanations! See this book on Amazon.com
Explorabook: A Kids' Science Museum in a Book by John Cassidy (Klutz Press, January 1992)
Lens, mirror, diffraction grating and more for optics experiments, plus others on magnetism, bacteria, etc. -- a really cool book. This comes from the Exploratorium in San Francisco, a really great science museum. See this book on Amazon.com
How Science Works by Judith Hahn (Revised edition, Reader's Digest, November 26, 1996)
Very good optics (and other) experiments with simple home-built parts. See this book on Amazon.com
Public TV's Family Science Show. Website has activity guides and experiments for school and home on wide variety of scientific topics. Check for TV listings and for many media resources.
Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC), the only unit at the Smithsonian Institution that is solely dedicated to formal K-12 science education reform. Students explore light, how it travels, its colors and wavelengths, reflection, refraction, optics, and more in this Science and Technology Concepts for Middle Schools™ inquiry-based physical sciences module. It includes a module-long research project. All materials developed by the National Science Resources Center.
NASA has an abundance of materials for teachers on many science-related subjects. For educators K-12. They have an excellent teacher's guide called, "Optics: Light, Color and Their Uses." This guide contains activities for grades K-12 in science and math. It has color and light activities using lenses, prisms, hidden messages, periscopes and kaleidoscopes. You need Adobe Acrobat reader to open this guide.
A local science or children's museum may sell simple lenses, prisms, mirrors, etc. Laser pointers are now quite inexpensive and can be used for optical experiments with colored filters, lenses, and optical fibers. You can buy laser pointers at office supply and electronics stores.
Edmund Scientifics is a good source for all sorts of optical and other scientific items for experimenters.
Science Kit & Boreal Laboratories is a leading provider of science education products to K-12 teachers, home-schoolers and science hobbyists throughout the United States. Sells prisms, mirrors, and lenses.
View their online catalog for their extensive selection of optics and optical components.
They offer experimental and commercial grade optics such as lenses, mirrors, prisms, magnifiers, lasers, and much more. They also have an Electromagnetic Spectrum Chart available for purchase online.