“Always remember to light other people’s candles and let them light yours,” one of Dana Gaertner’s mentors often said. She and Patricia Lim wanted to explore both the literal and symbolic aspects of light and created a project with many phases and products. Science investigations allowed children to see how different materials are affected by a beam of light. Experiments involved reflections, shadows, opacity, being in the dark inside a cardboard box, and predicting if glitter or foil would sparkle without light. Students learned about electrical circuits and built flashlights.
In the literacy components of the project, students discussed the idea of a symbol, and what light symbolizes. Many read alouds helped to provide context. Students wrote fictional stories that featured characters bringing “light” in the form of kindness or joy to each other. Stories were joined together, and re-written as plays to be performed with shadow puppets during the exhibition.
In math, students investigated three-dimensional shapes and eventually built lanterns from these shapes.
This project was featured in the 2021 book Changing the Subject: Twenty Years of Projects from High Tech High. You can learn more about the book and the projects within by visiting the official website.
Students wrote journal entries about all of their scientific wonderings and light experiments. The many drafts and final writing products were used as assessments.
The exhibition featured shadow puppet plays written by each group. Darkened hallways were lit with the lanterns they had created. Students created investigation stations that their parents could visit, teaching them about electricity and how light interacts with matter.