Exploring Ultraviolet (UV) light from the Sun

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In this outdoor activity, learners explore UV rays from the Sun and ways to protect against these potentially harmful rays. Learners use "detectors" (UV beads) at five different stations, including sunscreen, water, sunglasses, shade and full sun, to explore what conditions block UV rays. Learners will observe that different materials block UV rays to different extents. After the activity, learners can use pipe-cleaners or strings to attach the "UV detectors" to a purse or shoelace and continue detecting UV wherever they go (optional). This activity can be conducted indoors by using an opened sunny window or a UV light bulb/blacklight to imitate the Sun.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 4 - 18

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • "UV detectors" a.k.a. UV beads
  • container or covering to prevent the Sun from hitting the detectors prior to the activity (black film canisters work very well, so does a closed fist or a pocket!)
  • a cup with water
  • sunscreen and a zip-lock bag
  • sunglasses
  • Sun and shade (When doing this activity indoor, you can use a UV lightbulb / blacklight or an opened sunny window – the glass in the window might block out most of the UV rays!)
  • pipecleaners or strings to hold the “UV detectors” if distributing beads to participants to take away (optional)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
    • Earth Structure
      • Atmosphere
    • Earth, Moon and Sun
    • Solar System
      • The Sun
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Technology
      • Medical Technology
  • Life Sciences
    • Human Body
      • Muscles and Skin
      • Health and Nutrition
  • Physical Sciences
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
    • Light and Optics
      • Sunlight and Color
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Outdoor Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities