Work in Progress
Please pardon our progress while we refine the look and functionality of our new ALEX site! You can still access the old ALEX site at If you would like to share feedback or have a question for the ALEX Team, you can use the contact form here, or email us directly at

Learning Resource Type

Learning Activity

Lego Shadow Art

Subject Area

Arts Education




This is a STEAM activity that allows students to reinforce their knowledge of materials that allow and do not allow light to pass through an object. The students will build an opaque Lego tower and use its shadow to create a piece of artwork.

This activity results from the ALEX Resource Gap Project.

    Science (2015) Grade(s): 1


    Investigate materials to determine which types allow light to pass through (e.g., transparent materials such as clear plastic wrap), allow only partial light to pass through (e.g., translucent materials such as wax paper), block light (e.g., opaque materials such as construction paper), or reflect light (e.g., shiny materials such as aluminum foil).

    Unpacked Content



    • transparent
    • translucent
    • opaque
    • reflect
    • investigate
    • observe
    • light
    • partial
    • block
    • material
    • record
    • data
    • shiny


    Students know:
    • Some materials allow all light to pass through.
    • Some materials allow partial light to pass through.
    • Some materials block all the light from passing through.
    • Some materials reflect light, which changes its direction.


    Students are able to:
    • Investigate to determine the effect of placing objects made of different materials in a beam of light.


    Students understand that:
    • Simple tests can gather evidence to determine that placing different materials in a beam of light will cause light to either: pass through, partially pass through, block, or reflect.

    Scientific and Engineering Practices

    Planning and Carrying out Investigations

    Crosscutting Concepts

    Cause and Effect
    Arts Education (2017) Grade(s): 1 - Visual Arts


    Develop skills by following a sequence of steps to create works of art on subjects that are real or imaginary.

    Unpacked Content



    • Complementary colors
    • Contrast
    • Curator
    • Elements of Art
      • Texture
    • Landscapes
    • Portrait
    • Positive/ negative space and shape
    • Principles of design
      • Repetition
      • Variety
    • Secondary colors
    • Still life
    • Technique
    • Venue

    Essential Questions

    EU: Artists and designers experiment with forms, structures, materials, concepts, media, and artmaking approaches.
    EQ: How do artists work? How do artists and designers determine whether a particular direction in their work is effective? How do artists and designers learn from trial and error?

    Skills Examples

    • Work with a partner or small group to create an artwork.
    • Use the book Perfect Square by Michael Hall to help "thinking outside the box" skills.
    • Create two-dimensional artworks using a variety of gadgets for printmaking.
    • Use paint media to create paintings of family portraits or a favorite memory.
    • Create three-dimensional artworks such as clay pinch pots or found-object sculptures.
    • View a step-by-step demonstration of an artistic technique.
    • Properly clean and store art materials.
    • Use Mouse Paint book by Helen Walsh to teach color mixing of primary to achieve secondary colors.
    • Create a painting inspired by Piet Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie.
    • Create a "Pop Art" inspired artwork of positive and negative spaces and shapes by using colored paper cut-outs and gluing to different background squares.
    • Make a color wheel and identify the complimentary colors (red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple).
    • Draw different forms in the school environment: cones in the gym, cubes in math center, and sphere used for a globe.
    • Create texture rubbings by placing paper over different surfaces and rubbing with a crayon or oil pastel. Use a rough brick wall, a smooth table, bumpy bubble wrap, or soft felt shapes.
    • Use repetition in art by looking at the designs on a shell or the stripes of a zebra for inspiration.

    Anchor Standards

    Anchor Standard 2: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.


    Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    Students will show understanding that opaque objects such as Legos do not allow light to pass through creating a shadow.

    Students will use the shadow made by the Legos to create a work of art.

    Activity Details

    The teacher will ask the students what translucent, opaque, and transparent mean. The teacher will display a Lego and ask whether the object is translucent, transparent, or opaque. 

    Students will respond that it is opaque. Ask them what happens if we shine a light on the object. Students should respond by saying the Lego will not allow light to pass through and that it can create a shadow. 

    Give groups of students (two to four students each) a bag of Legos. Tell students they are to build a tower using the Legos so that they can then use the opaque object to cast a shadow on their paper. 

    Allow students the ability to manipulate a flashlight to cast a shadow off of the tower they created onto a piece of paper. Another student will trace the shadow using the pencil. Have students repeat this step until all students have a traced shadow. 

    Ask students to share why their shadows might look different. Some answers will be different shapes and the difference in how far or close the light was to the object. 

    Next, have students turn this traced shadow into a piece of art using their imagination. Students may use any media to complete this project. 

    Assessment Strategies

    Assessment Strategies

    Teachers will take up artwork and assess student work for completion. 

    The teacher will observe student responses during the initial discussion to assess students' knowledge of opaque, translucent, and transparent materials. The teacher will observe the students' investigation of building materials.  

    Variation Tips

    Any opaque building object will work for this activity. 

    Background and Preparation

    Background / Preparation

    Students need to be placed in groups of two to four. 

    Each group will need a bag of Legos, a flashlight, and a pencil.

    Each student will need a piece of blank paper to trace a shadow. Legal size paper works best. 

    Students will need to have an understanding of the terms translucent, transparent, and opaque.