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Lesson Title: Making Use of the Electromagnetic Spectrum
May 11, 2012

Unit: Physical Science - Waves and Optics

Grade Levels: 4-6

Connection To Curriculum: Science, Mathematics and Technology

Teacher Prep Time: 1 hour

Lesson Time Needed: 2.5 hours

Complexity Basic

Keywords: reflection, refraction, diffraction, medium, passive detection, waves, light, magnifier


Sheet of 8.5" x 11" photosensitive paper
Transparent tape
Three 4" x 5" sheets of black poster board
12 flashlights
Two UV lights
One sheet each of red, blue and green colored gel
4" to 6" wide and 2" deep or larger containers to hold water
One box of food coloring
Ice cube tray
Small spoon
Bottle of tonic water or two sheets of white paper

This lesson guide integrates a pair of activities designed to demonstrate methods of using the electromagnetic spectrum to learn about our universe.

Students will:
• Demonstrate methods of collecting electromagnetic energy.
• Compare levels of detail shown by using different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation.

First page of Making Use of the EM Spectrum

Lesson Guide
Making Use of the EM Spectrum Lesson
[80KB PDF file]



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Lesson Activities and Sequence
The suggested sequence is to start with simple detection of light through passive sensing and then demonstrate the differences in knowledge gained by using different light sources.

  1. Amazing Rays
    Students explore light and heat as different components of the sun's energy using photo reactive paper as a passive sensor.
    Keywords: reflection, refraction, diffraction, medium, passive detection, waves, light, magnifier

  2. Investigating Ice Worlds
    Students use various light sources to examine ice and understand how NASA studies planets and moons from space.
    Keywords: spectrum, magnetic, electrons, color, light

National Standards:

National Science Education Standards, NSTA
Science as Inquiry
• Skills necessary to become independent inquirers about the natural world.
• An appreciation of "how we know" what we know in science.
Physical Science
• Light, heat, electricity and magnetism.
• Transfer of energy.
History and Nature of Science
• Science as a human endeavor.


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Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator