Homemade Kaleidoscope

Have you ever wondered how a mirror shows your reflection? Or how when you look at an angle, you can see objects that aren’t directly in front of the mirror? This activity will help you understand both.

Materials

  • Empty toilet paper roll
  • Mylar sheets (thicker sheets, not rolls of thin paper) or mirrored sheets
  • Scissors and/or paper cutter
  • Tape
  • White cardstock
  • Bendy straw
  • Markers, stickers, or other materials for decorating your spinning circle
  • paint

Directions

  1. If you are planning on decorating your kaleidoscope, do that first! Take your empty toilet paper roll and use the paint to decorate it.
  2. Cut your Mylar sheets or mirrored sheets into three equally sized rectangles. They should be about as long as the toilet paper roll and wide enough to fit all three in when formed into a triangular prism. 9.7cm x 3.5 cm is a good estimation for their size.
  3. Line the three strips next to each other and leave a tiny amount of space between them. Connect the strips by putting tape over the spaces.
  4. Fold the strips into a triangular prism and tape along the top to hold its shape.
  5. Slide your triangular prism into the toilet paper roll (make sure the paint is dry!). It should fit snuggly.
  6. Cut off the bendy end of a bendy straw and tape it to your toilet paper toll. Make sure that the bendy end is hanging off of the edge of the roll.
  7. Take your cardstock and cut a circle about 3.75 inches long and poke a hole in the center (a sharp pencil can be used to do this).
  8. Decorate your circle! Divide the circle into three or more sections and put a different design in each one.
  9. Slide the circle onto the straw with the pictures facing the kaleidoscope. Make sure the circle is on the bendy part of the straw, it will make it easier to turn.
  10. Look into your kaleidoscope and notice how the mirrors reflect your drawings even though they aren’t directly in front of them. Think about why

Explanation

Light does one of three things; it reflects, gets absorbed, or transmits (goes through objects). Since a mirror is very smooth, light reflects off of it very easily. In fact, the reason why you can see trees, your hands, or even this computer screen is because light is reflecting off of it.

 The way light bounces off mirrors is very much like the way a ball bounces against a hard surface. You can throw a ball straight down, and it will bounce straight back at you. Or, you can bounce a ball at an angle and it will bounce off the floor at the same angle away from you. Light reflects the same way off of a mirror. In other words, light reflects from a mirror at the same angle as it arrives.