Teaching STEM through arts: Light Play

3 min read

Light Table and Light Play
The first time I saw a light table, it was at KidsSTOP™, Science Centre Singapore. I was intrigued by the display of colourful blocks of different shapes and sizes. If you are wondering what a light table is, it is a table or a box that emits light.

Light Table

There are many different activities that children can explore using the light table. One such activity is light play. I was drawn to how easy it was to obtain resources to plan a light play activity for toddlers and preschoolers using the light table. Transparent products such as coloured cups or blocks were perfect for the light table. Since the cups or blocks were colourful and stackable, it was ideal to use them to teach children more about colour mixing. 

Stackable cups on a light table

The exploration of light can be a fascinating topic for children. Learning about translucency and shadows are possible extensions to light play. 

Teach STEM through arts using light play 
You might be wondering what exactly STEM is and if it is appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers. STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. A newer educational term we frequently see now is STEAM. STEAM represents teaching STEM through the Arts. The integration of the Arts into STEM learning allows educators to promote creativity and curiosity in education. STEAM is appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers, since children are born curious. STEAM also develops and sustains this innate curiosity through their growing years.

The Arts in STEAM may not be clearly expressed, but it is easy to identify it. For example, when we get our children to learn about light through light play, we also inherently teaching Art. As children learn about colour mixing through stacking the cups, they also use their creativity to create artwork. The Arts in STEAM can engage children who may not be motivated by STEM topics alone. Besides learning about colour mixing, children also learn the concepts of light and shadows, how light tables works, as well as scientific principles when they design and build structures. They can even acquire numeracy skills like addition and subtraction, when they add more or remove cups from the light source.

In STEAM learning, children will gain additional skills such as problem-solving, creative and analytical thinking skills other than science concepts. These are critical 21st-century skills every child will need in a changing world that is developing so rapidly. 

If you are thinking about ways to teach STEM through the Arts, light play is one activity you can consider exploring. Light play moves beyond and focuses on developing higher-level thinking skills by connecting classroom learning to the real world. 

Suggested activities to teach STEM through arts during light play:
1. Provide children with only coloured cups in primary colours. Challenge them to find ways to build a purple tower using the cups given.

2. Provide children with products that are transparent, translucent or opaque. Get them to create shadows with these objects and tell a story using they have created. 

To find out more about the amalgamation of art and STEM, visit Da Vinci, The Exhibition at Science Centre Singapore! The exhibition features more than 50 fully built, life-size inventions and over 15 fine art studies and dozens of stunning displays. Click here to find out more.

Written by Michelle Ng
Illustrations by Lim Daphne


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