Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Homeschool Astronomy: Investigating Prisms

Just try your best to ignore her dirty fingernails, sigh. If it makes you feel better, after looking at the entire reel of these photos I put a couple of nail brushes in my Amazon cart.

The spectroscopy units in Will's Astronomy study made me realize that I've never let the kids do much exploring with prisms, gasp! 

Fortunately, there's still enough time to fix that gaping hole in their education before she goes off to college. Can't have her trying to make her way in the world with no experiential education regarding prisms, can we?

I bought this set of four different prisms and set up a viewing station by covering a large square of cardboard in white paper, taping it to my camera tripod to make it adjustable, then taping two pieces of Styrofoam scavenged from the recycling bin upright on the cardboard with a very narrow gap between them.

It worked great!


First, Will spent a ton of time simply playing with each prism--yay! She discovered all the positions in which each prism would produce a rainbow, and at what angle the rainbow would appear in relation to the prism's face and the ray of sunlight, and which colors in the rainbow were absent or most evident:


If she'd wanted to be scientific, she could have measured these various angles, and she might go back and do that for her Astronomy Lab Notebook, but for now this was pretty much just play:



It was harder to make rainbows with the other prism shapes:






And she never did manage to make a rainbow using the sphere, which I personally find weird because raindrops are the prisms through which rainbows are formed. Are raindrops not perfect spheres, or should we have also set up some white paper walls to better catch the dispersion?


There was a break time to cuddle Luna, who WILL NOT STOP CHEWING HER TAIL.


Finally, Will was curious to see how colored light might affect a prism's dispersion, so she set up an experiment using colored cellophane:


That one DID go into the Astronomy Lab Notebook!

All the play with prisms made me long for one in every single sunny window of our house, sooo... high school astronomy can have the occasional craft project associated with it, right?

Ooh, and Syd's back to homeschooling, which means that I need to find some enrichment and contextualization and hands-on activities for Geometry. Time to break out the Zometools, then absolutely repeat this activity with a protractor at hand!

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