Friday, April 12, 2013

Exploring Reflective and Translucent Materials Part One

We’ve recently acquired a huge lot of scrapbook paper and in it I found some really cool reflective card stock and velum paper for the kids to explore. As I was playing with it and thinking of how to introduce the materials to the children, I discovered that the reflective surface of the card stock bounces light onto the velum in an interesting way so that it casts some really cool light patterns on paper. I was thinking the kids might want to use these materials to create some structures.

As I worked one of the children noticed my little experiment and asked if she could play with the paper too. Then everyone wanted some reflective paper so I invited all the kids to come over and see what I was doing. I demonstrated how they could catch light, bounce it off the reflective surface and cast pools of light on the wall. Then we discussed how the bouncing light is different from casting shadows but both require movement and light.

Pretty soon they were experimenting with pieces of reflective card stock in different ways. They chose various sizes and shapes to see how each one bounced light. We experimented by changing the level of the light in the room to see how the ambient light affected the intensity reflections cast on the walls. As they worked the children discovered that larger pieces of card stock were easier to capture and move light. We also noticed that the bounced light was easier to see when half of the room was darkened and that the shape of the light was effected by the size of the reflective surface.

After our work I decided to extend their thinking about reflective and translucent materials by setting up this provocation:


Metal lids, Plastic lids, Reflective paper, Translucent paper, Iridescent paper Wax paper, Flash lights, Scotch tape, Scissors

The idea of translucent and reflective surfaces is not entirely new to the children as we have explored these concepts many times before, however its been a while and the concepts were a little foggy for some. As a refresher I demonstrated the words “translucent” and “reflective” by using a flashlight and translucent / reflective objects.

During our breakfast discussion we used the flashlights to determine which objects were translucent and which objects were reflective. Later the children sorted items in both categories according to their properties. As they worked they used flashlights to shine on the surface of their choosing, if the light beam penetrated the surface it was deemed translucent and if the light beam bounced off the surface it was reflective. 

Some of the things the children discovered in their play:

Carmen was really interested in the way the tinfoil held its shape. She collected a huge quantity of it after all the kids left and wrapped it around several things on the table then shined her flashlight on the sculptures. As she worked she peeked in the holes of her wrapped objects then shined her light in the holes to see how they looked.

Yoli seemed to be interested in the way light and color bounced around on the iridescent cellophane as she crumpled it in her hands. Most of her exploring was done using only the ambient light in the room. She and the other girls got to work making a collage of iridescent cellophane and scotch tape on the reflective card stock.  

Will experimented by covering his flash light beam with wax paper and colored plastic. He was also really fascinated by the reflective surface inside my studio lights. His questions sparked an in depth conversation that brought all of the boys out of the building area to investigate. We opened up the studio lights and talked about how the reflective surface around the bulb bounces light and the cover of the soft box softens it.

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