A kaleidoscope is a toy that uses light and mirrors to make pretty patterns with symmetrical designs. Symmetry is when two or more parts of a thing are identical. Think of butterfly wings, matching socks, and spiderwebs — they all have parts that match. In this experiment, with a little help from Ziploc® brand bags , you’ll learn how kaleidoscopes use reflections in a mirror to create symmetry. When you spin the wheel, the pattern you see changes. Why do you think that is?

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The mirrors inside our kaleidoscope face each other. So when light enters the colorful side, it bounces off of the mirrors and creates a pattern. If we move the mirrors, we change the angle, and the reflected pattern changes. And if you change the thing that is reflected in the mirror, you get a new pattern. Try placing objects of different materials over the tube. What happens then?

Connections with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer 1-PS4-3.

Plan and conduct investigations to determine the effect of placing objects made with different materials in the path of a beam of light.

Place different materials in the kaleidoscope to observe how light passes through mirrors and clear plastic. Notice how the mirrors bounce and reflect light to create different patterns in the kaleidoscope.