Sunshine, Rainbows and the Electromagnetic Spectrum

Summer brings us many pleasures: a long break from school, vacations, lots of sunshine, and the occasional rainbow, all against a background of electromagnetic radiation! Despite the negative connotation “radiation” sometimes carries, it’s often more useful to us than harmful. Here are a few resources to enlighten you and your students.

Electromagnetic Spectrum
Students will enjoy the colorful illustrations accompanying the text, which vertically follow the spectrum from radio to gamma rays. Teachers will appreciate the link to related lesson plans that will reinforce the learning.

Electromagnetic Spectrum: Waves of Energy
In this lesson, students will (1) understand that the sun energy is transferred to Earth by electromagnetic waves, which are transverse waves, (2) understand that there are eight main types of electromagnetic waves, classified on the electromagnetic spectrum according to their wavelengths, and (3) understand how each of the types of electromagnetic radiation is used or found in our everyday lives. This would be a suitable activity for small groups.

Sources of Radiation
This interactive activity from the NOVA web site explores sources of radiation, both harmful and beneficial, natural and man-made.

Everyday Radiation
This video clip explains natural sources of radiation, including rocks and food.

Special Frisbees Detect Ultraviolet Light
This experiment helps students understand that ultraviolet (UV) radiation is present in natural outdoor light and that the intensity of the light varies with season and time of day. After completing this activity, students will be able to demonstrate that UV radiation can be blocked or filtered by various substances.

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