When teaching about the electromagnetic spectrum—encompassing all types of light, including radio waves, visible light, and x-rays—it is important to help students develop two key understandings:
Electromagnetic radiation can be modeled as a wave pattern of changing electric and magnetic fields and alternatively, as particles that transmit energy.
Every object emits a spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, or light, that depends on its temperature.
The Next Generation Science Standards recommend that middle and high school students explore how light travels and how light can be modeled. But because light’s transit is seemingly instantaneous and because light is often invisible in our everyday lives, it can be hard to know how to start to develop those student understandings. Digital media, in the form of authentic interactive experiences and video journeys that take us into the electromagnetic spectrum, can help us move beyond talking about sources of light and into light itself, to help us paint a more concrete and colorful picture of the waves and particles that shape our world.
Here are some questions to consider as you're watching this video or for discussion with your colleagues:
Did this video give you new insights into how to conceptualize light?
What are some ways you can elicit students’ prior knowledge about light? Think in terms of multiple modalities: an essay, a discussion, a fiction narrative journey, or a hands-on drawing or model.
How can you help your students conceptualize light in terms of the crosscutting concepts Scale, Proportion, and Quantity and Energy and Matter?