Why are some objects easier to see in the dark?

Discover the excitement of science exploration by exploring light and sight.

Are some objects easier to see in the dark? Do you always need light to see? How much light do you need to see? The Michigan State University Extension science team’s goal is to increase science literacy across Michigan. One way we support an increased interest in science is to provide information and ideas for engaging youth in exploring their world. Help youth increase their science literacy by encouraging them to ask questions and discover answers. Exploring light and sight is just one way to engage youth in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Ask youth if they think some objects are easier to see in the dark. Provide youth with a variety of objects and ask them to hypothesize (possible answer to a question) which might be easier to see in the dark. Ask the youth to sort out the ones they think can be seen easier in the dark. Allow time for discussion between youth as they decide.

Next, have the youth put the items into groups according to why they think these will be easier to see in the dark. For example, they might remember seeing a white shirt easier than a dark shirt in a movie theater. Once items are sorted, find a location where most light can be easily blocked; a bathroom might be a good choice. Place at least one item from each group in the room. Turn on a flashlight then turn out the lights and block any light entering the room. Turn out the flashlight and allow time for everyone’s eyes to adjust.

Slowly allow a small amount of light to enter the room until someone can see an object. Slowly continue allowing in more light until all the objects can be seen. Which objects were seen first? Why do youth think they were seen first? Repeat and discuss why youth think some of the items were easier to see. Encourage youth to gather additional objects to test their theories. Continue as time allows. Youth should become better at predicting which items will be easier to see the more they investigate and test objects. Finally, ask youth if some items were easier to see in the dark and why?

The most important part of any scientific investigation is the data analysis. When youth tell you or each other which objects are easier to see in the dark, allow lots of time for them to explain why or why not. You helped them investigate if some objects are easier to see in the dark and placed them on the road to discovering why. Now it is time for them to make their own conclusion based on the information collected and to share their understanding with you and others. This is science in action.

Want to learn more about how human vision works? The American Optometric Association has a How Your Eyes Work website exploring just that!

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success.

To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

To learn more about MSU Extension, visit the MSU Extension website. To learn more about 4-H and Extension opportunities in Alcona County, stop by our Harrisville office at 320 S. State St. Harrisville, MI 48740, or visit us online at our Alcona County MSU Extension Facebook page or Alcona County Extension office page.

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, please explore the MSU Extension Science and Engineering website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office.

Did you find this article useful?