Learning Resource Type

Learning Activity

Out of this World Suncatchers

Subject Area

Arts Education




This is an art activity to reinforce which materials allow light to pass through. This activity should be completed after teaching a lesson on opaque, translucent, and transparent. Students can complete this project individually, with a partner, or in a group.

This activity was created as a result of the Arts COS Resource Development Summit.

    Science (2015) Grade(s): 1


    Investigate materials to determine which types allow light to pass through (e.g., transparent materials such as clear plastic wrap), allow only partial light to pass through (e.g., translucent materials such as wax paper), block light (e.g., opaque materials such as construction paper), or reflect light (e.g., shiny materials such as aluminum foil).

    Unpacked Content



    • transparent
    • translucent
    • opaque
    • reflect
    • investigate
    • observe
    • light
    • partial
    • block
    • material
    • record
    • data
    • shiny


    Students know:
    • Some materials allow all light to pass through.
    • Some materials allow partial light to pass through.
    • Some materials block all the light from passing through.
    • Some materials reflect light, which changes its direction.


    Students are able to:
    • Investigate to determine the effect of placing objects made of different materials in a beam of light.


    Students understand that:
    • Simple tests can gather evidence to determine that placing different materials in a beam of light will cause light to either: pass through, partially pass through, block, or reflect.

    Scientific and Engineering Practices

    Planning and Carrying out Investigations

    Crosscutting Concepts

    Cause and Effect
    Arts Education (2017) Grade(s): 1 - Visual Arts


    Explore and experiment with a range of art materials.

    Unpacked Content



    • Complementary colors
    • Contrast
    • Curator
    • Elements of Art
      • Texture
    • Landscapes
    • Portrait
    • Positive/ negative space and shape
    • Principles of design
      • Repetition
      • Variety
    • Secondary colors
    • Still life
    • Technique
    • Venue

    Essential Questions

    EU: Artists and designers shape artistic investigations, following or breaking with traditions in pursuit of creative artmaking goals.
    EQ: How does knowing the contexts, histories, and traditions of art forms help create works of art and design? Why do artists follow or break from established traditions? How do artists determine what resources and criteria are needed to formulate artistic investigations?

    Skills Examples

    • Work with a partner or small group to create an artwork.
    • Use the book Perfect Square by Michael Hall to help "thinking outside the box" skills.
    • Create two-dimensional artworks using a variety of gadgets for printmaking.
    • Use paint media to create paintings of family portraits or a favorite memory.
    • Create three-dimensional artworks such as clay pinch pots or found-object sculptures.
    • View a step-by-step demonstration of an artistic technique.
    • Properly clean and store art materials.
    • Use Mouse Paint book by Helen Walsh to teach color mixing of primary to achieve secondary colors.
    • Create a painting inspired by Piet Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie.
    • Create a "Pop Art" inspired artwork of positive and negative spaces and shapes by using colored paper cut-outs and gluing to different background squares.
    • Make a color wheel and identify the complimentary colors (red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple).
    • Draw different forms in the school environment: cones in the gym, cubes in math center, and sphere used for a globe.
    • Create texture rubbings by placing paper over different surfaces and rubbing with a crayon or oil pastel. Use a rough brick wall, a smooth table, bumpy bubble wrap, or soft felt shapes.
    • Use repetition in art by looking at the designs on a shell or the stripes of a zebra for inspiration.

    Anchor Standards

    Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.


    Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    The students will create a three-dimensional suncatcher. The students will identify materials in their three-dimensional suncatcher as either transparent, opaque, or translucent.  

    The students will create a work of art using a range of materials.

    Activity Details

    Briefly review transparent, translucent, and opaque with students. 

    Explain that students will be making three-dimensional suncatchers to hang in a window and "catch" the light.  Suncatchers are typically made of transparent or translucent objects that "catch" or reflect light, similar to a wind chime but for light.

    Students may work individually, with a partner, or in a small group. 

    You might want to cover tables in newspapers as this project can become pretty messy. 

    Students will squeeze a generous amount of white glue into a plastic lid and swish it around to cover the entire inner surface. 

    Students put one or two drops of each color of food coloring around the glue. Use a toothpick to swirl the colors around in the glue.  Stop swirling before the colors get too combined or the final result will be muddy and brown. Let the suncatcher dry. 

    As the colors settle they will continue to expand and create a dyed psychedelic effect. The suncatchers could take one to three days to fully dry depending on how much glue was used. It will be ready when the edges start to peel off the lid. 

    After the suncatcher has fully dried, peel it off the lid, punch a hole through the top, add a string, and hang in a sunny spot.  

    Students should complete an exit ticket with the following question:

    Circle the correct response.

    My suncatcher is made out of materials that are transparent, translucent, or opaque.

    Assessment Strategies

    Assessment Strategies

    Students will be assessed by answering the following question on an exit ticket:

    Circle the correct response.

    My suncatcher is made out of materials that are transparent, translucent, or opaque. 

    Students will be assessed by observing if they created a three-dimensional object.

    Variation Tips

    You can also substitute liquid watercolors for the food coloring.

    Try clear gel glue and discuss the difference.

    Background and Preparation

    Background / Preparation


    white glue 

    food coloring 


    plastic lids (from tubs of yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, etc.)

    hole punch