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  • STEM at Home

    Discover science and connect to the natural world while staying safe and healthy at home!

    Check out our virtual programming schedule and browse through our list of resources, activities, crafts, videos, and more to help continue to bring science into your world.

  • Summer 2021

    Let our in-person virtual distance learning programs and family experiences provide a COVID-safe educational experience for your school or community group! We have modified some of our most popular programs to address the health and safety of all our community. 

  • Field Trip

    More than 250 interactive science, technology, energy and health exhibits await students of all ages.  We’re experts at making sure that bringing your group to the Museum is smooth sailing all the way. Discounted admission for groups of 15 children or more!

  • ScienceWorks

    Your students become scientists during our ScienceWorks Labs. All programs align with National Science Education Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations and Common Core State Standards. Labs are available year-round for preschool to middle school students and are led by an instructor.

  • Outreach

    Our Outreach staff brings the Museum to you—at schools, libraries, community centers, and festivals—by delivering hands-on programming customized to your schedule and curriculum interests.

  • Distance Learning

    Experience live, interactive Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum programs right in your classroom! Our educators use videoconferencing technology to share science and math activities with your students, engaging them in a dynamic, hands-on learning experience.

  • Scouts

    The best place for Scouts to explore STEAM! 

  • Summer Camp

    Through the Unity in Learning partnership, Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, Leslie Science & Nature Center, and Yankee Air Museum now offer families incredible day camps at two fantastic locations in Ann Arbor and Belleville.

  • Birthday Parties

    We can help you celebrate – virtually! Birthdays are special, no matter where or how we celebrate. We are here to help you have a great time with your friends and family. Meet live animals, make and launch rockets, get slimy and dig deep into an Owl Pellet! Utilize our zoom room for the entire party to make it easy for everyone.

Back to Programs

Standard Lab: Bright Idea (1st-4th)

Students will use tools such as lenses, flashlights and mirrors to investigate how light travels. Several interactive activities make up this exploration! Register today!

Cost: $4 per student 

Standard labs are booked for a minimum of 15 students with a minimum price of $60.

Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations, Science v.1.09

  • Identify light and sound as forms of energy. (P.EN.03.11)
  • Demonstrate that light travels in a straight path and that shadows are made by placing an object in a path of light.(P.EN.03.21)
  • Observe what happens to light when it travels from air to water (a straw half in water and half in the air looks bent) (P.EN.03.22)
  • Explain how we need light to see objects: light from a source reflects off objects and enters our eyes. (P.PM.03.52)

Next Generation Science Standards

Students participating in this program will explore science content as stated in the Disciplinary Core Ideas. They will engage in science and engineering practices as they plan and conduct investigations to answer questions regarding light.

PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer

  • Energy is present whenever there are moving objects, sound, light, or heat. When objects collide, energy can be transferred from one object to another, thereby changing their motion. In such collisions, some energy is typically also transferred to the surrounding air; as a result, the air gets heated and sound is produced.
  • Light also transfers energy from place to place.

PS4.A: Wave Properties

  • Sound can make matter vibrate, and vibrating matter can make sound.
  • Waves of the same type can differ in amplitude (height of the wave) and wavelength (spacing between wave peaks).
  • A sound wave needs a medium through which it is transmitted.

LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms

  • All animals need food in order to live and grow. They obtain their food from plants or from other animals. Plants need water and light to live and grow.

Bright Idea Pre-visit Information

During Your Visit to the ScienceWorks Lab students will be expected to:

  • Sit in tables of 6 students and (at least) 1 adult
  • Students should be prepared to give their attention to the Lab instructors when requested to “Give Me Five”
  • Work cooperatively with one another at the table
  • Follow the hands-on procedures just as the Lab teacher or assistant explains them
  • Handle materials and equipment carefully

It is important that teachers and chaperones:

  • Help to focus the students’ attention
  • Assist students with the hands-on activities and experiments when necessary
  • Turn off cell phones and pagers during the class


Laser: A laser is a focused beam of light.

Lens: A lens is something transparent, such as part of the eye or a piece of glass, hat bends light. Eye glasses and magnifying glasses are lenses that can help us to see clearer.

Light: Light is extra energy that an atom does not need. We use light to see, to keep us warm, to get food and oxygen from plants and to do work.

Opaque: Opaque materials do not let light pass through. Aluminum foil is an example.

Reflect: Reflect means to bounce back. Light is reflected, or bounced off, of things.

Refract: Refract means to bend light. Sometimes light is refracted, or bent, when it passes through transparent materials.

Shadow: A shadow is the dark space made when something blocks light.

Translucent: Translucent materials let some light pass through. Wax paper is one example.

Transparent: Transparent materials let nearly all of the light through. Window glass is one example.

White Light: The light that comes from the sun and most light bulbs is called white light. It is actually made up of seven different colors of light — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

Bright Idea Post-visit Activity: Path of Light

Post-visit activities will help reiterate new concepts and tie the ScienceWorks Lab experience to your classroom curriculum. Below you will find a classroom activity and a list of suggested resources for further information. We hope that you enjoyed your field trip. Visit us again!

Materials (per group of 2)

  • Four 3"x5" or 5"x8" index cards
  • Flashlight
  • Paper punch


  1. Use the paper punch to punch a hole in the center of each card.
  2. Fold the short sides of the card back so it can stand up on the long side.
  3. Place cards about 6 inches apart, with the holes lined up.
  4. Have one student shine the flashlight into the hole in the first card. Have the other student hold their hand behind the 4th card.
  5. Does the light shine on their hand? How did it get there?
  6. Now move one of the cards a little bit to the side. Repeat step 4.
  7. What do you see now? What does this tell you about the path light travels?


Light always travels in a straight line. When the holes in the cards are lined up, the straight line of light can go through them. When you move one card to the side, the light can not pass through the hole.

Suggested Resources

Burnie, David. Eyewitness Books: Light. DK Publishing. 1992.
Doherty, Paul. The Magic Wand and Other Bright Experiments on Light and Color. The Exploratorium Science Snack Book Series. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 1995.
Primarily Physics: Investigations in Sound, Light and Heat Energy Grades K-3. AIMS Education Foundation. 1994.
Tolman, Marvin N. Hands-On Physical Science Activities for Grades 2-8. Parker Publishing Company, Inc., NY. 1995.
Wood, Robert W. Light FUNdamentals: Funtastic Science Activities for Kids. Learning Triangle Press, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 1997.
Zubrowski, Bernie. Mirrors: Finding Out About the Properties of Light. William Morrow and Company. 1992.
Science Made Simple Grades 1-6. Frank Schaffer Productions, CA. 1997.

Science, Optics and You

Standard Lab: Bright Idea (1st-4th)



50 minutes

K-2nd, 3-5th

20, 30, 60, 100

Physical Sciences

Still not sure we have the experience you want?

Visit unityinlearning.org to open a gateway to hands-on discovery, exploration of the natural world, and experiences that take flight.

Through the Unity in Learning partnership with the Ann Arbor Hands-On MuseumLeslie Science and Nature Center, and Yankee Air Museum we provide over 100 different  programs at our facilities, on site at your location, or through interactive video conferencing.