In last year’s Rainbows class, we made our own spectroscopes from paper towel tubes, tape, and CD’s. (Learn how here.) The original idea was from Buggy and Buddy. They were a pretty easy project, with pretty good results. Using cardboard tubes from the recycle bin fits in with our style, but scaring up 30 used CD’s each time we do the project can be a pain. (Yes, I know I could buy blank CD’s, but that somehow feels like it’s violating the goal of trying to use recycled items when possible.)
This year, we discovered the Rainbow-Scope Science Kit on Amazon. (You can also order direct from Nature Watch.) They run about $1.75 per scope, once you count for shipping. It looked like they would produce a nice looking result, with maybe more consistent spectroscopic images than the DIY ones. We decided to give them a try.
Here’s what comes in the package: cardboard tubes (the size of toilet paper tubes, but much sturdier, purple foam disks for one end, with slits cut in them, red foam “donut” shape disks for the other end, diffraction lenses, glue, tube wrappers to decorate, a prism, instructions, and handouts with additional scientific background on spectroscopes and light, and ideas for extension activities.
1. Put a little glue around the inner rim of the red foam circle, then set a diffraction lens on it, centered over the hole. (Important to emphasize to the child to use as little glue as possible. If there’s too much, it oozes onto the lens and blocks your view.)
2. Have the child decorate the wrapper, coloring in each band with the appropriate color marker.
4. Glue the purple foam circle on one end. (Near the “violet” band on the wrapper.)
5. Hold the tube up so you can look through it up at the light. Hold the red circle on the open end (the one you’re looking through.) Rotate the red circle till you see horizontal bands of color next to the light. Then glue it on.
The materials were good quality. It produces a nice result for a “take home project.” (See photo at top.) Our three to four year olds were able to decorate their wrappers themselves, but needed an adult to do all the assembly. Our six and seven year olds could do most of it, but you really need an adult for step 5.
Here’s what you see when you look through the spectroscope (click on any image for a larger view)
These are, from left to right: light reflected off a desk, computer screen, moving toward a ceiling light, hanging kitchen light, Christmas lights, and ceiling light.
Overall, this is a good project for our class.