Illuminating Luminescence

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In this activity, learners compare and contrast different forms of luminescence by observing how chemiluminescence, phosphorescence, and fluorescence produce or emit light. Learners also compare these forms of luminescence to bioluminescence.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • light sticks
  • objects that glow in the dark, such as stickers or plastic stars
  • paper bag
  • flashlights
  • laundry detergent that contains whitening agents
  • small transparent plastic cups
  • black light (UV light)
  • a sample of a fluorescent mineral (optional)


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Classification
    • Ecology
      • Biodiversity
    • Evolution
      • Mechanisms of Evolution
  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electromagnetic Fields
    • Energy
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
    • Light and Optics
      • Electromagnetic Spectrum
      • Sunlight and Color
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Formulating Explanations

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Education, Science Friday


  • All rights reserved, Science Friday, 2011