This lesson guides students to build a spectroscope, use it as tool, and interpret their observations by applying concepts of conservation of energy and properties of matter.Students will observe all three kinds of spectra: continuous, emission, and absorption.

What Students Do

Students make a spetroscope out of common classroom materials and a transmission grating. The spectroscope includes an adjustable slit that students make out of index cards.

Materials You Will Need

Whole Class

  • Incandescent light bulb (60-100 watt frosted) and base.
  • Optional: String of clear holiday lights.
  • Fluorescent light (single bulb).
  • Transmission grating slides (35mm slide).
  • Manila folders
  • Black construction paper (9 x 11 inches)
  • Optional: Glo-Doodler (by Colorforms) — a toy writing tablet with a hot pink plastic sheet that “glows” when you write on it. It also strongly absorbs green light and emits yellow, orange and red.

Per Spectroscope

  • Half of a manila folder: cut a whole manila folder along the fold to produce two 8 x 11 sheets.
  • 1 sheet of black construction paper.
  • 2 small (20 mm or 3/4 inch) binder clips.
  • 2 index cards (3 by 5 inch size) to make the adjustable slit.
  • Clear tape and 2 rubber bands.
  • 1 Transmission grating slide (35mm slide).


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