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Year 3 Light workshop

(can be taught to other year groups)

Learn all about how light works from the source to the human eye, take pictures with an 1880 lens and make ipad light pictures!



National Curriculum suggested year group:


Duration (for single class, multiple classes normally share a day)

Half day or a single session as part of a science day

NC objectives covered:

All objectives for both year groups apart from shadows investigations (which you are best doing yourself over a period of days)

Learn all about light in a totally unique way in our 'Science and History of Light' workshop, with the full day, single class version comprising of a fun scientific and historical timeline followed by three activities on how light behaves from the moment a photon leaves an atom to how it is used in the modern world.


Pupils learn about the birth of photography by wearing Victorian clothes and have their picture taken with a genuine 1880 brass lens; move to the modern age by making digital ipad 'light paintings' and finally look at Victorian 3d stereoviewers and make paper light toys to take home.


All in all, this workshop offers a perfect combination of the science and history of light that pupils will remember long after the event and it can be used as either a single 'wow' day for one class, or any of the activities can be chosen as a one hour experience for a single class as part of a multi science day.

making light pictures in out year 3 light primary science workshop
looking through the eyes of a horse in our primary science light workshop

Activities in this KS2 light workshop

(This can be for one class, several classes in turn, or choose one activity as part of a multi science day with other classes)

1) Presentation on the science and history of light

This interactive presentation sets a perfect context for the rest of the day's learning activities in a fun way with lots of front of class participation.


Beginning with a very scientific (yet pupil friendly) explanation of how light works, we soon move on to an historical timeline outlining the uses and development of light, from the first attempts to measure its speed, to the world changing invention of Thomas Edison's lightbulb.  

light workshop big screen display

Other wow moments include a look on screen at the amazing natural agates; the collimating effect of perspex rods and fibre optics, which is at the heart of the internet, and even a comparison of how the eyes of different animals see light using the magnificent Horse-inator glasses, which let pupils experience life through a horse's eyes!  

seeing how light works in our year 3 science workshop

2) Victorian photography studio

taking victorian photos with an 1880 lens

In an activity shared with our Incredible Inventions workshop, we look at how the birth of photography spanned the Victorian era and how it became one of the greatest scientific achievments of mankind.   


Beginning with a close up look at genuine Victorian cameras, we then move on to pupils taking turns to take each others' photos in costume with a genuine 1880 brass lens stopped down to a 2 second exposure.  Pupils then face the challenge of staying completely still so their photos aren't blurred, just like in a Victorian studio (very hard for some pupils :)  All pictures are then transferred over to your school computer for you to use in your topic work afterwards.


This activity is extremely popular and quite unique.  After all, when will pupils ever get the chance again to have their picture taken with a Victorian lens?

3) Digital ipad light painting

After freezing to have their pictures taken in the Victorian task, it's now all about movement as pupils make brilliant light paintings in front of our ipad with its fantastic light painting app and custom made fibre optic torches.


Whether they choose to do abstract paintings or something more traditional such as their name, bunny ears or the outline of their bodies, the choice is theirs in this imaginative and creative activity.


We also (where possible) connect it to your interactive whiteboard, which shows in real time the amazing pictures the pupils are creating for the rest of the class to see.   As per the Victorian photo task, when we finish all the pictures are then transferred over to your school computer for you to use in your topic work afterwards.

making year 3 light paintings

4) Incredible stereoviewers!

using a 3d steroviewer in our year 3 light workshop

One of the most interesting aspects of the use of light throughout history by humans has been the way that it has been used in inventive ways.

We explore this by looking at some incredible stereoview images from the early days of photography, which give pupils not only an insight into the past but teach them how light and images can be manipulated to great effect!

NOTE: this is normally done at the same time as one of the other tasks for the pupils to do while they are waiting.

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