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Geometric Optic Spinner

Investigate how the eyes and brain work together then create an optical illusion.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Our brain is always trying to make sense of what we see. Students research the process of sight. Examine the path that light rays travel as they are reflected from an object and reach the lens in your eyes. Learn more about the flexibility of the eye's lens that enables you to focus on things near and far, as well as to see things that you are not focusing on. Study how light hits the screen-like retina, and how that message is sent to the brain via the optic nerve.
    2. This elaborate system of seeing can be tricked and manipulated by optical illusions. Students find information about the role of the brain in optical illusions.
    3. Students create their own optical illusion. Cut a plate-size circle from a sheet of acetate with Crayola® Scissors. Trace the circle on construction paper.
    4. Using Crayola Gel Markers, draw a geometric pattern on one side of the acetate. Use a straight edge to draw precise lines. The lines may be filled in or thicker, curved or straight, but they must all be part of a set pattern.
    5. Within the traced circle on the construction paper, draw a different geometric, repeating pattern with the same precision.
    6. Align the two circles, with the acetate on top. Poke a brass paper fastener through the middle of both sheets. Twist the acetate and watch for the optical distortions.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

    LA: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    MATH: Draw polygons in the coordinate plane given coordinates for the vertices.

    SCI: Ask questions about the natural and human-built worlds.

    SCI: Offer causal explanations appropriate to level of scientific knowledge.

    SCI: Construct drawings or diagrams as representations of events or systems.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Students investigate human vision and the workings of the human eye. Students create a diagram of the eye, labeling the significant parts. A summary paragraph accompanies each student diagram, including how light enters the eye, how the brain interprets the light, and how that translates into what a human sees.

    Students exchange Optic Spinners with classmates. Discuss which designs they feel are most effective and which are less dazzling. Determine why.

    Students research the Zollner Effect and/or the Moire Effect. Organize research into an electronic format for classmates to view.

    Who was M. C. Escher? Identify the many optical tricks he used in his woodblock prints.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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