Seeing in the Dark

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In this activity (17th on the page), learners investigate why you cannot see colors in dim light. With five pieces of paper of different colors in front of them, learners sit in the dark for about 10 minutes. Then, they try to correctly label each piece of paper by color. After the lights are turned on, learners check for mistakes and compare with other learners. Use this activity to introduce learners to how photoreceptors, particularly rods and cones, in the eye work.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 4 - 18

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Pencils or pens
  • Colored paper (about five different colors)


  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
      • Cell Structure and Function
    • Evolution
      • Mechanisms of Evolution
    • Human Body
      • The Brain and Nervous System
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Vision
      • Perception
  • Physical Sciences
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
    • Light and Optics
      • Sunlight and Color
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Chudler, Ph.D., Eric H.


  • All rights reserved, Eric H. Chudler, 2009