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::: turning the arrow – experiment


We found a science experiment we thought was pretty cool and decided to try it with the children (to amaze them with our cleverness!).

However we’re not scientists … just very curious!

We drew an arrow on a piece of paper and placed it behind an empty glass – pointing to the right. Then the children filled the glass with water.  The idea of this experiment is to show the children how the refraction of light through water changes things.

We experimented with many glasses before we found the ideal shape for this experiment.

When we checked out the arrow this time through the water, the arrow was pointing in the opposite direction.

One of the boys wondered if this experiment only worked with arrows so we invited him to write something on a piece of paper to see.

He wrote his intial on the paper and we repeated the experiment.

Taadaa! The letter faced the other way!

It is an optical illusion of course! It’s called refraction – Light only bends when it passes from a substance of one density into a substance of a different density. In this case from air to water.

Next we showed the children how the concave (turning inwards) surface of a spoon reflects the image upside down. This happens because being a concave surface the light waves hit the different parts of the spoon at different angles, so they’re all bent a little bit differently. By the time they come back to you, they’ve all bent differently in such a way that they end up making things look upside down.

Check out this Youtube video … it’s pretty darn cool!

Not only were these super cool science experiments but they provided us with plenty of opportunities to introduce new language to the children such as – refraction, concave, angles, substance, density and optical illusion!!!


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16 Responses to “turning the arrow – experiment”


  1. Now that IS cool!

    ::: We couldn’t agree more Phyllis! 🙂 🙂

  2. avatar Leptir says:

    I love your experiment 🙂

    ::: Thanks Leptir … It’s a beauty isn’t it?! 🙂 🙂

  3. avatar jeanne says:

    Well done – I love learning something fantastically wonderful early on a Sunday morning!! Thank you!

    ::: Good Jeanne … Now you’ll have all day to find the perfect glass! 🙂 🙂

  4. avatar LeeanneA says:

    Wonderful activity – a must do – I want to share this one!

    ::: Share away Leeanne … and have fun! 🙂 🙂

  5. avatar Natalie says:

    I have never seen this experiment before. It is REALLY cool! Thanks for sharing!

    ::: It is new to us too Natalie … Oh the wonders of the world wide web hey! 🙂 🙂

  6. avatar Tom says:

    I would imagine you could add a little fun to the experiment by filling the glass partially and then moving the arrow up and down behind the glass to make it keep switching. Can you get it so half the arrow is pointing one way and the other half the other way? Oh what fun!

    ::: Actually Tom if you move your position and look slightly to one side of the glass, or alter your distance from the glass, you will change the direction of the arrow … You will even see it pointing both ways at once! The curve in the glass causes the light refraction to alter. The challenge then is to reposition yourself so you can see the arrow in reverse again. 🙂 🙂

  7. avatar quinny72 says:

    I know our Preschoolers will love this. It is so cool. thank you again. xoxo

    ::: We hope you all have fun with the ‘magic’ of it quinny72. 🙂 🙂

  8. avatar Bianca says:

    I love that you aren’t afraid of introducing children to, and using ‘real’ scientific terms. I’ve always advocated for children to understand and use correct mathematical terms and having a metalanguage about what we do when we read. I can’t believe that many people try to dumb language down. Children are clever and looooooovvvve being able to use big important words! Well done! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    ::: It’s true Bianca and while the children may not always pronounce the words correctly, use them in context or even fully understand them, it’s all about exposing them to the new language … The CORRECT language. After all how many times have we heard a young child come out with a sophisticated word and wonder where on earth they learnt that from … exposure, exposure, exposure! 🙂 🙂


  9. I love this – thank you for a great post!

    ::: Thanks BPC … We reckon it’s pretty cool too! 🙂 🙂


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  11. Wow, in all my years of teaching (actually it is not that many as I felt quite quickly after qualifying) I have never seen that, but I am definitely going to use it! A brilliant example. Thank you for linking up to fun sparks. 🙂

    ::: It’s a real ripper isn’t it Science Sparks! AND you’re welcome. We love being a part of science link ups! 🙂 🙂


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  15. Whoa, that’s really cool! I can’t wait to try it with the kiddo.

    ::: Have fun Jessica! 🙂 🙂


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