Light lab helps children learn

Cathy Spaulding, Muskogee Phoenix, Okla.
·2 min read

Apr. 16—"I'm upside-down" an Early Childhood Center pupil exclaimed as he poked his head inside a triangle of mirrors.

Children can see all sorts of reflections, colors and shadows inside Early Childhood Center's light lab.

An ECC classroom features different stations where pupils can cast shadows, make things glow when they put them together, see themselves reflected ad infinitum. Classes visit for 30 minutes.

"They don't know what they're learning, but they're learning a lot," ECC teacher Michelle Wise said. "They don't realize it. They're just having fun."

Much of the learning occurs when the overhead classroom light goes out.

Each station focuses on a different aspect of light, color or reflection, ECC Principal Malinda Lindsey said.

"You'll see mirrors, you'll see things on the ceiling that reflect down," she said.

Children can draw on an illumine board and see their art glow and change colors.

When light casts silhouettes on a white sheet, Wise asked, "What is the big shadow?"

"That's me," a pupil answered.

Wise said she sees children exploring and learning about color, light, magnification.

"Their vocabulary is amazing in here," she said. "They're using descriptive words."

Lindsey said the light lab uses "some of nature's magic to help children understand real things such as illumination and shadows, light, transparency and reflection."

"Obviously, there is a lot of science, there's some physics involved," she said. "Obviously, we tie everything to literacy and vocabulary. There are words on the wall. As teachers explore with children, we're encouraging them to talk about the spectrum, we're encouraging to talk about the prism, what glow means, what colors are in the rainbow."

Children might learn multi-syllable words such as magnetism or illumination.

"Children at this age attach very easily to larger, unusual words," Lindsey said. "The larger vocabulary the older kids use, we don't spare that from the younger kids at this point. This is the vocabulary they'll hear later on in school."

Most of the stations and tools were funded by a grant from the Education Foundation of Muskogee, Lindsey said. Other funds paid for other parts of the lab.

She said the light lab fits the school's Reggio-inspired learning. ECC adopted Reggio's non-traditional learning environment several years ago.

"We try to use nature as much as possible to help children understand what they're learning in the real world around them," she said. "Developmentally, that's what they understand best, things they can see that are concrete, hands-on and in real life in their own environment."