ALEX Lesson Plan


Light, Can't you See? Investigating Materials that Allow Light to Pass through Them

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Jamie Shelton
System: Pike Road
School: Pike Road City Board of Education
Author:Meredith Mahoney
System: Dallas County
School: Valley Grande Elementary School
The event this resource created for:NASA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34205


Light, Can't you See? Investigating Materials that Allow Light to Pass through Them


Students will work in small groups to conduct a hands-on investigation to see what materials allow light to pass through. They will label materials as opaque, translucent, and transparent. They will operate solar panels and place different materials between the sun and the panel.  The panel is attached to a fan which will stop, continue spinning or slow down depending on the material. Learners will record their findings in chart form.

This lesson was created as part of the 2016 NASA STEM Standards of Practice Project, a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 1
3 ) 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).

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
P4.2: Objects vary in the extent to which they absorb and reflect light and conduct heat (thermal energy) and electricity.

NAEP Statement::
P4.9: Light travels in straight lines. When light strikes substances and objects through which it cannot pass, shadows result. When light travels obliquely from one substance to another (air and water), it changes direction.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Planning and Carrying out Investigations
Crosscutting Concepts: Cause and Effect
Disciplinary Core Idea: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Given materials, determine if light passes through, partially passes through, is blocked or is reflected.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • 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.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Sound and Light, Foss
Sky, Delta

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.1.3- Identify objects that are see through (transparent) and objects that are not see through (opaque).

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

  1. Students will investigate materials to determine which types allow light to pass through to run a solar powered fan.
  2. Students will identify materials that are translucent, transparent, and opaque.
  3. Students will organize, represent, and analyze data.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

31 to 60 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

A sunny day

A big book that introduces "light." A couple of options are The Wonder of Light available through Newbridge

Light and Shadows, also available through Newbridge.

One solar panel per group. These can be purchased at a variety of vendors, here is just one example (kits available online).

cellophane, wax paper, aluminum foil, color paddles, tissue paper, construction paper, glass, water bottle, wooden block

record sheet (attached)

Technology Resources Needed:


Begin by reading a big book with students. Ask questions about light to increase interest. What is Light? Where does light come from? What can we use light for?  Chart their responses.

A center is made available with flashlights and above materials, light brite, kaleidoscope, light box and X-rays, texts on light, etc for students to have exploratory time with.  Allow students a few days to explore materials before beginning the lesson on opaque, translucent, and transparent.



  1. The teacher will introduce the lesson to the whole group.  The teacher will begin a web with "light" in the center and ask students to describe light.  The teacher may elect to use the Webbing Interactive Tool from ReadWriteThink.
  2. The teacher will introduce the lesson with a video that defines terms opaque, transparent, translucent.


  1. Students will be divided into small groups of 4-5 students.
  2. Students will also be given a job: Solar Panel Handler (1 student), Materials Handler (2-3 students), Recorder (1 student)
  3. Students will walk outside, cluster in their group, and investigate with the materials.  The Solar Panel Handler will remain stationary. The Materials Handlers will divide objects among themselves and take turns moving the material in front of the solar panel (between the panel and sun).  The group will discuss what happened to the fan. The Recorder will record results on the Record Sheet.  Multiple trials are recommended.


  1. Students will come back together in the classroom and share their findings.
  2. The teacher will revisit the previous web and add new knowledge acquired through the lesson.

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Assessment Strategies

The completed record sheet will be recorded for completion and accuracy.





View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.