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In this hands-on activity, learners build their own kaleidoscopes and explore how light can reflect of off surfaces such as mirrors, to produce beautiful patterns. By changing different aspects of the kaleidoscope's design, participants also learn about variables, predictions and outcomes, all part of the scientific process. Leaders can link this activity to other lessons on color, optics and the electromagnetic spectrum.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 11

Resource Type:

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • paper towel tubes, 1 per kaleidoscope
  • 8"x11" transparency film (for overhead projectors), cut into strips 1 1/4" wide and 11" long
  • ruler
  • clear tape
  • scissors
  • sharpened pencil
  • small 3 oz. paper cups (unwaxed)
  • colored markers
  • small mirrors, large mirror, paper, pencil (optional - for Dig Deeper activities)


  • Life Sciences
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Vision
      • Perception
  • Physical Sciences
    • Light and Optics
      • Lenses and Mirrors
      • Reflection and Refraction
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Toys


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • 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


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