teaching and Learning optics without a kit


What’s Dumpster Optics? We’ve all seen kits for teaching physics in general and optics in particular – some are really expensive, some have poorly written instructions and some couldn’t possibly have been tried with real kids- they would never work!  So we’re developing lessons that use cheap materials, trying them out with real students and writing accompanying detailed notes for teachers that include not just what to do but what might go wrong and how to fix it.

We try to avoid buying specialty items, using household items and shopping when we can in dollar stores and at eBay. Shopping tips are in the teacher notes.

Some of the activities were demonstrated by participants in the PHOTON Projects of the New England Board of Higher Education (The PHOTON Explorations). We also adapt materials we find on the web, in books and at workshops. We’ve assembled activities into lessons of about 1-2 hours duration, aimed at 10-12 year olds (USA 5th grade).  A few of the activities have been used with high school and even college students, both in class and as part of an online home-lab course (requiring deeper analysis, of course).

This project was supported by SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics. The videos of the PHOTON Explorations were funded by a grant from OSA, the Optical Society.