Light Blox introduces children in the elementary grades to the science of light and color. While the kit says that it is for ages eight and up, I think many six-and seven-year olds will be ready for it.
The kit includes a 21-page teacher manual, three battery-operated Light Blox (one each of red, blue, and green), three lenses (convex, concave, and trapezoid), a small diffraction grating, two mirror stands, two small mirrors, and a round protractor. You’ll need a few more supplies of your own such as index cards, a hole punch, wax paper, cardboard, paper, and masking tape.
Hands-on activities lead children through discovery learning into an understanding of basic principles regarding, light, color, diffraction, and the movement of light. Children should have great fun with the Light Blox. These simple lights have square frames that shape the beam of light and they also have removable caps so they can project a line. (The line is used when children experiment with bending light through lenses, mirrors, and other surfaces.)
While lessons are written for use in a classroom, they are actually even more appropriate for homeschoolers. For example, instead of darkening an entire classroom, you can use a large closet or small room for the first few activities. One or two children working together is ideal, although discussion among children in a class group could be more stimulating. Even the one activity that has children marching in a group can be done effectively with a single student.
In the teacher manual, each activity begins with a brief introduction for the teacher, including some information that teachers might convey to students as they deem appropriate. A box explains the “big idea” of each lesson in one or two brief sentences—the science idea to be learned. On this same page are a list of what you need, the Next Generation Science Standard being covered (if applicable), and brief instructions with discussion points. Every “big idea” page has one or more activities. There are reproducible activity pages with a few questions to be answered based on observations from the activities. You might have older children write responses but discussion is likely to be the best feedback mechanism with most children.
Activities are fairly simple, but some of the concepts will surprise and intrigue your students, and probably parents as well. (I didn’t know that combining red and green lights could produce yellow!) Concepts build upon one another to some extent, so you should use the lessons in order and not skip any lessons.
You should encourage children to think about and ask additional questions based on what they have experienced, even beyond questions in the teacher guide. One perfect opportunity to do this is with the lenses. The activity has students work only with the concave and convex lenses, but give students the trapezoid lens as well and let them figure out how they might bend light with it.
You can step up the level of the activity with a few additional free activities on the Laser Classroom website. The free Lesson Guide: Intermediate Reflection and Refraction uses all of the same resources in the kit, although one activity requires a semi-circular refraction cell that you won’t have. (I found these refraction cells available at a number of websites including Ward’s Science and Amazon). This guide also has some information about the Light Blox themselves that might be useful as you start using the elementary kit—information not included within the kit. The “intermediate” activities also make use of the specialized protractor that comes with the kit that is otherwise not mentioned within the kit’s lessons. With a family, start all of the family at the basic level, but then continue on with students (up through high school) with the more challenging activities. You might have them use the protractor to measure and compare angles even when it’s not mentioned as part of an activity. Taking advantage of this free guide and adding the semi-circular refraction cell significantly increases the value of the Light Blox kit.
It’s probably practical to have only a couple of children working with one set of materials at a time since each child will want to manipulate the Light Blox and other items. You will need multiple sets of these resources to do the activities properly with a larger group.
As long as you take care of the resources, they should all be reusable. If the price seems high for just one family, consider having two or more families take turns using the same set.
Even though the kit is intended for the elementary grades, Light Blox is likely to be fun for the entire family. Even little ones will be fascinated by the lights and effects despite being too young to grasp principles. Experiments won’t take a lot of time, so this might be a great activity to do at a time when everyone in the family can participate.