What Material Makes the Best Lampshade?

The scientific method is a structured way of solving scientific problems. This experiment will allow the students to experience the scientific method first hand in their search for the ideal lampshade material. The process involves: Define the Problem or Question Develop a hypothesis Design an experiment Make observations and collect data Analyze the data Report findings or conclusion



Light source (Low wattage (~25 W) light bulbs on stands)

Opaque lampshade possibilities (heavy black cloth, baking sheet, piece of wood, cardboard, etc.)

Translucent lampshade possibilities (paper, wax paper, light cloth, etc.)

Transparent lampshade possibilities (clear plastic wrap, glass jar, plexi-glass, etc.)

An actual lampshade


What To Do

Prepare work areas for many small groups of students, each including an uncovered low wattage light bulb and a set of opaque, translucent and transparent materials. Be sure that the test material sets are identical for each group. Show students the lamp. Turn on the light then cover the light bulb with the lampshade. Discuss with students the uses and qualities of lampshades. Ask the students to test the variety of materials in front of them to determine what is the best lampshade material. Let them design their own experiments, help them collect (and record) data, and assist them as they clarify their thoughts as drawing to a conclusion, but let them be the active scientists! After each group has tested all the materials and decided upon an ideal lampshade material discuss as a class the findings from each of the small groups. Discuss the students used the scientific method. Help them see the steps they already knew how to do. Remind them that they are indeed real scientists!



1. What did students do to determine which was the ideal lampshade material?

2. Did they test each material before deciding which was the best?

3. Did each group choose the same material? Why or why not?



The scientific method outlines the steps one uses in solving scientific problems. The same process is used to answer many questions, even ones like "What material makes the best lampshade?" Children naturally act as scientists as they explore the world around them, often using the scientific method without even realizing it. As students are presented with the problem of finding the best material for making a lampshade they begin walking through the steps. First, they make a prediction about which material will be the best. They may shout out this thought or simply choose that material to try first. Then, without realizing that they are designing a scientific experiment, they will set up a method for testing the materials. With each test they will collect data, even if they are not recording it in a lab notebook, and that information will be analyzed and used in a conclusion. This activity helps children become more conscious of their scientific abilities.  


© S. Olesik, WOW Project, Ohio State University, 2002.