Take a Voyage
Rodrigo A. Vicencio
In 2008, an optics professor at the
University of Chile and ten pedagogy
students began work on a program to
educate elementary school children
about light and optics. A marvelous
voyage had begun.
Our journey began when I, an opti- cal soliton researcher at the University of Chile, invited my optics students
to apply for a grant to promote science
within Chilean schools. We targeted
elementary school children around 9
years old because we wanted our experience to emphasize play and the fun of
exploration. The project was intended
to help kids to explore optics and the
characteristics of light with games
In developing materials and activities, the group emphasized simple but
innovative experiments that children
could reproduce on their own. This
enabled the children to be the protagonists in their own learning experience.
Experiments included recyclable and
low-cost materials that were easy to
mount. We constructed camera obscuras
from potato-chip tubes and a homemade laser with a paper towel tube. The
workshop activities were divided into
five 90-minute teaching modules that
were taught once per week.
In March of 2009, we produced
experimental kits that would be used in
Boys playing with a periscope (right) and a camera obscura (below). Courtesy of Rodrigo Vicencio
the workshops in six selected schools of
central Chile, mainly in Santiago. We
wrote a project manual that included a
theoretical introduction to the learning
modules and the steps to follow in each
activity. The experiments were supported
with videos in which the hands of a
mime showed the children how to put
together the experimental kits. The video
helped to attract the kids’ attention and
to engage them in each experiment.
As part of our dissemination plan,
we designed motivational posters related
to each module. Participating teachers
were asked to display the relevant poster
in their classrooms before a new topic
was introduced. We produced a DVD
that included all of this audiovisual
material and gave it to each participating
teacher for free. We also created a website that contains the project content—
Step-by-Step: How to Make a Camera Obscura
1 potato-chip tube cut
into two parts, including
its opaque lid.
1 pair of scissors
Make a small hole in the middle of the metal
bottom of the tube.
Close the shorter piece of tube (the one with
the metal bottom) by fixing the lid with tape.
Take the larger piece of tube (~ 15 cm) and
build up the original tube, putting it on the lid
and fixing it with tape.
Place one eye in the open part of the tube and
block the light with your hands. Look to any
bright place and surprise yourself!
16 | OPN Optics & Photonics News