Optional Teaching Supplies

Materials for this Unit

Many EiE lessons use materials that are commonly available at grocery, hardware, or craft stores. To obtain kit materials, either visit our EiE store to purchase a kit that includes materials for up to 30 students, or create your own kit based on the materials list printed in the teacher guide or the downloadable list below.

Each unit includes a letter to send home with student for materials donation for the unit. Click here to download a copy of this letter in Spanish.

Additional Storybooks for Classroom Use

Storybooks introduce each unit with the tale of a child somewhere around the world who solves a problem through engineering. The books integrate literacy and social studies into the unit and illustrate for students the relevance of STEM subjects. 

Explore the Lessons

Students think about what technology is and are introduced to the idea that engineers design technologies.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

What is Technology? / Grade 4 / Worcester, MA

Students think about what technology is and are introduced to the idea that engineers design technologies.

Extension Lessons

What are Extension Lessons?

Extension Lessons use EiE activities as a springboard to more directly reinforce other curricular concepts.

View all Extension Lessons »

The school dance performance is a few days away, and Omar is discouraged. He has such a small role! Just once, he’d like to be the star. Meanwhile, he gets a chance to visit Egypt’s famous Valley of the Kings with his brother, an optical engineer who’s helping archaeologists protect antiquities from damaging light. At the tombs, Omar meets some documentary filmmakers who show him how their lighting systems take advantage of light’s properties of reflection and absorption. On the night of the dance performance, there’s a power brownout—no stage lights! Can Omar use what he’s learned about optical engineering to save the show?

Download a PDF of our storybook illustrations.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Lighting Storybook / Grade 5 / Fall River, MA
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EiE - Lighten Up: Designing Lighting Systems, L1

Reflection Questions

What Reading Workshop methods do you see Jessica using as she reads the Omar story?

Jessica structures the session as an interactive read aloud, activates prior knowledge (schema) before reading, and incorporates word study.

  • Jessica asks for students to predict what the book will be about based on its cover and title. (0:41–1:25)
  • Jessica collects and records prior knowledge her students have about light (4:44) and about ancient Egypt. (5:30)
  • Jessica has her students derive the meaning of the word "optical" based on textual cues (such as the use of the word "shine"). (4:10)

How does Jessica connect the book to the students’ personal experiences?

At several points in the story, Jessica has her students relate events in the story to things that have happened to them in real life.

  • Jessica asks students  to share memories of performances they have been in. (1:36–2:25)
  • Jessica asks her students whether they would want to be the star of a performance, based on their own personalities. (2:27)
  • Jessica has students to share any experience they have with items being faded by sunlight. (7:04)


Lighting Storybook / Grade 3 / Fairfax, VT
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EiE - Lighten Up: Designing Lighting Systems, L1

Reflection Questions

What do you notice about Sandy’s use of chart paper?

Sandy uses written charts as a tool for highlighting, reviewing, and preserving student and teacher ideas over the course of time.

  • At the beginning of the lesson, we see a chart to Sandy’s right with written definitions of the terms "engineering" and "technology." (0:55)
  • After reading the first section of the book, Sandy stops and turns to a prepared chart page titled “What We Know About Light” so that she can record student ideas. (3:49)

How does Sandy weave the content of the book into her lessons about the science of light?

When asking about science facts or concepts, Sandy connects her questions to the context of the storybook to help students generate ideas. 

  • Sandy has students use the story to confirm what they think they know about light. After reading a short section, she asks, “Did you hear anything about light in there?” (3:20)
  • On the worksheet, Sandy has students recall and record where in the book they a saw light being reflected. (6:06)
  • When asking children to define optical engineering, Sandy says, “It has something to do with Zane and what he does for a job.” (8:33) 

Students think like optical engineers as they explore how light interacts with a variety of materials.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Think Like an Optical Engineer / Grade 3 / Fairfax, VT
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EiE - Lighten Up: Designing Lighting Systems, L2

Reflection Questions

What types of visual aids does Sandy use to help communicate with the class?

Sandy creates handwritten charts to highlight, preserve, and connect ideas over time. She also displays pages from the guide with the overhead projector and enlarges and modifies Lesson 2 worksheets.

  • At the beginning of the lesson, we see Sandy reviewing a chart that lists ideas about light that students had generated in a previous discussion. (0:24)
  • When demonstrating how students should set up their light investigations, Sandy projects photos from the teacher’s guide as a background for her demo. (1:32)
  • Sandy attaches a small sample of each material the students tested onto a very enlarged version of the lesson worksheet so that students can observe their properties as they discuss results. (4:02)

What do you notice about how Sandy presents the setup for the material-testing procedure?

Anticipating confusion over the materials testing, Sandy prepares illustrations and actual demonstrations to make the process clear to students.

  • Sandy first introduces the binder clips. She has labeled the index cards “Wall #1” and “Wall #2” and shows students how to use the binder clips as wall holders. (1:20)
  • Sandy sets up her demonstration right in front of the overhead, which is showing the setup illustration from the Teacher’s Guide. (1:30)
  • Sandy uses tissue paper as a sample material to demonstrate how to look in front, in back, and on the wall for reflected light. (1:48)
Think Like an Optical Engineer / Grade 5 / Fall River, MA
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EiE - Lighten Up: Designing Lighting Systems, L2

Reflection Questions

Before introducing vocabulary words, how does Jessica lay the foundation for student understanding of the terms reflection, absorption, and transmission?

Before formally introducing and defining vocabulary, Jessica listens to student ideas, then sprinkles use of the vocabulary words within the context of her teaching.

  • Jessica starts the lesson with a turn and talk, having students share what they already know (schema) about “how light interacts with materials,” and acknowledges any vocabulary words she hears. (1:40)
  • When modeling how to describe the properties of an overhead transparency sheet, Jessica uses many different terms to describe how light interacts with it, including “passes through,” “bounces off,” “reflects,” “gets sucked into,” and  “absorbs.” Providing multiple descriptions, including new vocabulary words, helps students construct meaning for the terms. (3:54)
  • Not until students have conducted experiments and reported results does Jessica explicitly define the vocabulary when she asks, “Does reflection go with “light goes through the material,” “light bounces off the material” or “light stops at the material?” (8:16–8:47)
  • Finally, Jessica has them add the terms to the glossaries in their science notebooks and provide an example of each. (9:10)

Students experiment with reflecting light using mirrors and learn about light intensity.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Shedding Light on It (1) / Grade 5 / Fall River, MA
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EiE - Lighten Up: Designing Lighting Systems , L3P1

Reflection Questions

What do you notice about the way Jessica structures the Light Path activity?

Rather than just reporting on what happens when the light passes through cards A and B, Jessica has students engage more deeply with the content by predicting and discussing results in small groups.

  • Before any testing is done, Jessica has students share their predictions about how the light will travel. (4:50)
  • Instead of having one student report out about the results, Jessica has all groups turn and talk with each other about what they observe. (5:15)
  • Jessica then summarizes the student comments, clarifying important points such as whether the paths are straight or parallel. (5:36)

What challenges do you see students facing in the Angle of Reflection activity?

The activity requires careful setup, precise measuring, and mastery of certain vocabulary.

  • The difficult vocabulary, like "angle of incidence" and "angle of reflection," might be off-putting for some students. (6:51)
  • To get a clear light path, the the setup of the mirror, slotted card, and worksheet has to be exact. We see some groups tinkering to achieve the correct placement. (7:46)
  • Measuring with a protractor might be a skill that requires practice. (8:20)
Shedding Light on It (2) / Grade 5 / Fall River, MA
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EiE - Lighten Up: Designing Lighting Systems , L3P2

Reflection Questions

What evidence do you see that Jessica spent time preparing for the lesson?

Jessica has assembled a tomb box for each group and has prepared viewing tools. To avoid confusion later, she also spends time demonstrating and discussing details on the vulture hieroglyph.

  • Copy-paper boxes with viewing holes cut, hieroglyphs mounted on the walls, and grids laid out on the floor and ceiling have been prepared for each group. (0:37)
  • Jessica enlarges a copy of the vulture hieroglyph on the overhead and explains what it means to be able “see detail.” This discussion is preparation for understanding how to use the intensity meter. (0:52)
  • As outlined in the preparation section of the guide, Jessica has printed and cut up light intensity meters (on transparency film) for each group. (3:26)

What evidence do you see that students are having trouble using the light intensity meters? How does Jessica address this?

Some students are reading the light meter properly, but some have trouble with the inverse relationship between darkness of the hieroglyph and darkness of the square on the meter.

  • Group 2 seems to be judging the amount of “shade” that each hieroglyph is in and then comparing that with the boxes on the meter. (4:48)
  • When Jessica collects class data, the scores for each hieroglyph range from 0 to 3. (6:41)
  • In her interview at the end of Lesson 4, Part 2, Jessica explains how one of her students had “flipped” the meter scale because it was counterintuitive to her that the hieroglyphs that were the hardest to see in the tomb would score zero, the clearest block on the light meter. (10:47)
Shedding Light on It (1) / Grade 3 / Fairfax, VT
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EiE - Lighten Up: Designing Lighting System, L3.1

Reflection Questions

Lesson 3 requires careful setup of materials for light path and reflection testing. What strategies do you see Sandy using to help students visualize and understand expectations?

Sandy makes use of the overhead document viewer as a tool for demonstrating setup and sharing results. 

  • Using the overhead document viewer, Sandy is able to demonstrate the placement of Card A (with two slits cut out) and the flashlight so that students can observe the light path. (1:59)
  • To share what they observed, Sandy has students manipulate materials under the document viewer. (3:27)
  • Sandy projects the image of the protractor from the guide so that students can follow her discussion of angles of reflection and “see” the symmetry of the angles. (10:28)

How do you see Sandy and her students using math in this lesson?

The light unit provides an opportunity for students to apply what they know about geometry. Students explore angles, measure them, and consider their symmetry.

  • In their free exploration of mirrors, students repeatedly describe how they had “to angle” the mirror to get the reflection to bounce off in a certain direction. (1:07)
  • When investigating the angles of incidence and reflection, students use gestures to demonstrate their knowledge of rays and angles. (6:21, 7:49, 8:04, and 8:26)
  • When Sandy introduces the protractor, students measure light ray angles in degrees for the first time. (8:34, 8:50)
  • One student explains that the incidence and reflection rays have "their own line of symmetry down the middle." (9:59)
Shedding Light on It (2) / Grade 3 / Fairfax, VT
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EiE - Lighten Up: Designing Lighting Systems, L3.2

Reflection Questions

What does Sandy say that helps her students identify themselves as scientists and engineers?

During the lesson, Sandy refers to her students as optical engineers and expects them to behave like scientists when they are observing. 

  • Sandy tells the students that they are “going to be optical engineers” as they try to figure out how to light up the hieroglyphs. (2:32)
  • When discussing the importance of being honest in their observations, Sandy reminds the students that, “As scientists, we can’t report what we want to see, we have to report what we do see.” (6:00)

What do you notice about the way Sandy introduces the intensity meter tool to her students?

Sandy allows time for her students to freely explore the meter before she givens instructions. This makes her own demonstrations more meaningful and clear to the students. Later, she interprets the scale readings in terms of light intensity.

  • First, Sandy passes out the intensity meters with no explanation and tells groups to, “look them over for a minute.” (4:33)
  • Students ask themselves how the tool might be used and theorize about what the number scale might be. (4:42)
  • Finally, after every student is familiar with the meter, she demonstrates how she can use the meter to evaluate the intensity of the light hitting the hieroglyphs. (5:30)
  • Eventually, we see students using the meter appropriately and demonstrating that they truly understand how it is to be used. (6:42)
  • After students have tested and recorded their scores for each hieroglyph, Sandy helps them interpret the scores in terms of intensity of light. (7:28)

Students apply their knowledge of light and optical engineering as they imagine, plan, create, test, and improve their own lighting systems.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Designing a Lighting System / Grade 3 / Fairfax, VT
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EiE - Lighten Up: Designing Lighting Systems, L4

Reflection Questions

What do you notice about the way Sandy has students think about the constraints of the design challenge?

Sandy works with students to develop an understanding of constraints and to create a list of specific limitations.

  • Rather than providing a definition, Sandy asks her students to share what they think the term constraint might mean. (0:41)
  • She refers to the constraints as “boundaries for the project,” hoping that her students’ familiarity with boundaries will help them construct a definition for constraint. (0:56)
  • Rather than present the list of constraints as outlined in the guide, Sandy has her students come up with “things that cannot change.” (1:13)
  • She creates a chart of all the questions students have about the project before they start, helping them identify the constraints. (2:10)
  • Sandy introduces the cost constraint as the very last part of her introduction to the challenge. (3:12)

What do you notice about the cooperative learning skills that Sandy’s students exhibit?

Sandy’s students show evidence of training and practice with teamwork. They cooperate and collaborate well on this project. 

  • During the Plan stage, one student acknowledges the other’s thinking by saying, “That’s a pretty good idea to put a mirror right near it.” (7:09)
  • All members of the groups seem to be equally invested in the plan, which shows that no one is being left out of the design process. (8:28)
  • Before recording how well each hieroglyph can be seen, groups compare observations and listen to each other’s thoughts about how well they could see. (9:48) 
Designing a Lighting System (1) / Grade 5 / Fall River, MA
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EiE - Lighten Up: Designing Lighting Systems , L4P1

Reflection Questions

What evidence do you see that Jessica has spent time building and reinforcing the norms and expectations for group work?

Jessica’s students cooperate well on tasks and give each other constructive feedback when disagreeing.

  • When filling out Ask! {4-3} in groups, all students contribute ideas, share, and listen to each other with respect. (3:32)
  • Each group seems to rotate which member will be the recorder. (3:44, 3:50, and 3:58)
  • Students disagree respectfully when discussing what to buy and where to place mirrors within the tomb. (5:08-5:47, 6:32-7:20)

Jessica includes the cost variable in her final scoring sheet (Version A). How does this variable add value to the design challenge?

Inclusion of the cost variable adds a new constraint to the task, making it more challenging in several ways. 

  • Inclusion of the cost variable provides a very concrete indicator of success. (4:16)
  • Adding the cost variable provides added incentive for students to consider how they can use the fewest number of materials to achieve the goal. (5:21)
  • When calculating cost, students are given additional opportunities to practice mathematics and computational thinking. (5:30)
Designing a Lighting System (2) / Grade 5 / Fall River, MA
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EiE - Lighten Up: Designing Lighting Systems , L4P2

Reflection Questions

Jessica encourages her students to reflect on their own learning. Where do you notice her explicitly referencing the learning process as she teaches?

Jessica explicitly breaks down the engineering process with one group, and reminds the whole class how sharing data helps learners make sense of what they have done. 

  • While interacting with one group, Jessica says, “You are so advanced in your engineering brain that you are actually improving and testing at the same time!” (2:33)
  • As an introduction to data sharing, Jessica says, “Each time that we do small-group work, it always helps us to make sense out of what was done by sharing out what happened.” (4:42)

What evidence do you see that Jessica has worked with her students on norms for providing positive feedback?

Student comments are thoughtful and delivered in a respectful manner.

  • One child starts his comments with, “You did a pretty good job. Who helped you?” and then listens to a classmate explain his group’s design. (7:45)
  • Another student starts her comments with, “I see how you were doing it, and yes, that’s a good idea.” (8:18)
  • Rather than pointing out what is wrong with a design, one student says, “If you guys improve it, maybe what you should do is have a mirror right here.” (8:30)