Pinhole Magnifier

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In this activity related to light and perception, learners use a pinhole in an index card as a magnifying glass to help their eye focus on a nearby object. Learners will also discover that because this magnifier limits the amount of light that reaches their eye from the object, the pinhole makes the object appear dimmer. Learners are encouraged to explore using pins and needles with different diameters to make different-sized holes in index cards to see how this affects the image. They can also try forming a pinhole by curling their index finger.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • A 3 x 5 inch (8 x 13 cm) file card
  • A straight pin or needle
  • Aluminum foil
  • A lamp with dim (10 to 25 watt) lightbulb
  • Masking tape
  • X-Acto™ knife, matte knife, or scissors
  • Adult help


  • Life Sciences
    • Human Body
      • The Brain and Nervous System
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Vision
  • Physical Sciences
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation
  • California Department of Education
  • NEC Foundation of America