Eye Spy

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This fun activity uses simple materials such as milk cartons and mirrors to introduce the ideas of optics and visual perception. The project is easy to do, however adult assistance may be needed to help learners cut out the cartons. Once they build their periscopes, participants can have fun looking over, under and around things. This activity can also be linked to other spy themed projects or a discussion on submarines and underwater exploration.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 11

Resource Types:
Activity, Model

English, Spanish

Materials List (per student)

  • 1 milk carton (quart size, thoroughly washed and dried)
  • 2 small rectangular mirrors 2 1/2" x 3 1/2"
  • scissors
  • duct tape
  • aluminum foil or plastic wrap box with serrated edge removed (for optional additional activity)


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Mechanical Engineering
  • Life Sciences
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Vision
      • Perception
  • Physical Sciences
    • Vibration and Waves
    • Light and Optics
      • Lenses and Mirrors
      • Reflection and Refraction
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Model Building
  • Toys
  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • WGBH

Source Collection

  • Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman


  • All rights reserved, WGBH Educational Foundation, 2009

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0813513
  • Public television viewers