Upper Elementary/Middle School
Students use mirrors and their knowledge that light travels in a straight line to see an object hiding behind a wall.
- 1 Expert Roles Information (per group)
- 1 Student Journal: Periscope (per student)
- 1 Pair of scissors (per group)
- 2 Small mirrors (per group)
- 1 Small object such as a counter bear (per group)
- 1 Folder (per group)
- 2 Paper towel rolls (per group)
- 2 Toilet paper rolls (per group)
- 1 Paper (per student)
- 1 Pencil (per student)
- Expert Roles – Download
- Student Journal: Periscope – Download
- Student Rubric – Download
- Teacher Rubric with Sample Student Responses – Download
Have all materials ready and separated by group for easy distribution. Keep the small objects hidden until the activity begins.
Explain that we need light in order to see things, but sometimes the things we want to see are around a corner, out of our line of sight. Discuss line of sight with the students by explaining to them that light travels in a straight line. We are only able to see things that can make a straight line from our eyes to the object.
- Have students stand up and turn around so their backs are to the board.
- Draw a big X on the board and ask the students to tell you what you wrote on the board without turning around to look. Ask students, “Why can you not see what is written on the board?” We aren’t facing the board. Our eyes are not in a direct line with the board.
- Have students turn around to see the big X on the board and return to their seats. Ask, “What is written on the board and how do you know?” There is an “X” on the board that we can see because it is in our direct line of vision.
- Introduce the problem.
Your teacher has hidden an object behind a “wall” on your desk.
Use the mirrors and cardboard rolls to see what object is behind your “wall.”
Criteria and Constraints
- You may only use the materials provided by the teacher.
- You may not look on the other side of the “wall.”
- You and your team must design a periscope blueprint that will see the object on the other side of the wall.
- Follow your blueprint to create your periscope and discover the hidden object.
There are four Expert Roles and your group needs to have at least one Expert for each role. You will choose what role you would like to be an expert in. These roles include:
- Design Team Expert
- Material Engineer
- Architecture Engineer
- Mechanical Engineer
Design Team Expert
As the Design Team Expert, your role is to ensure that your team successfully completes the task in the allowed amount of time. You will lead and keep track of all planning, encourage communication among engineers, and make sure that all members of the team fully know and understand all parts of the plan. You and your team members will present your final product.
As the Material Engineer, your role is to communicate with your team and assist them with lining their periscope up to the object. You will be the only team member on the side of the wall with the object. You must keep the object secret from your team. You and your team members will present your final product.
As the Architectural Engineer, your role is to ensure that your team develops a blueprint for your design. Be sure to keep all blueprints to track changes that are made after testing. You will guide the team’s activities to ensure that all the required elements of the blueprint are included in your design and presentation. You and your team members will present your final product.
As the Mechanical Engineer, your role is to ensure that your team included scientific principles in your design process. You will guide the team’s activities so that all the required elements of the criteria and blueprint design are included in your design and presentation. You will be responsible for testing your design model. You and your team members will present your final product.
Build, Test, Refine
Monitor students to make sure they are staying within their design parameters. Once students have come up with a design prototype, they should check to make sure that their design meets all the constraints and refine as needed.
Share and Critique
Students should invite others to view their work and answer questions about the design. Students need to explain how their solution will solve the problem. Encourage students to work collaboratively, using respect, to provide constructive feedback and questions for other groups so the design process can continue with more ideas.
Possible questions include:
- Why are there mirrors in your model? The mirrors allowed to light to reflect in a different direction so it could reach our eyes.
- How many mirrors did you need? We used 2 mirrors to make the light reach our eyes.
- What challenges did you face? It was difficult to make the mirrors line up correctly so we could see the reflection of the object on the other side.