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Optical Delusion

Design an optical illusion! Discover a scientific principle called the Moiré Effect. Trick your eyes and brain with lines.

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

    1. Invite students to fool their brains into thinking they’re seeing an oscillating pattern. By superimposing one grid of lines over another pattern of lines, one can create an optical puzzle. The scientific principle behind this optical manipulation is called the Moiré Effect. Challenge student groups to investigate this principle. Provide groups with a variety of text and electronic resources for this research.
    2. When research is complete, groups organize a presentation for classmates in a format of the team's choosing. To accompany the presentation, teams will create an optical illusion. Suggestions follow.
    3. On white posterboard, mark two 8-inch long (20.32 cm) strips, one 2 inches (5.08 cm) wide and the other 4 1/2 inches (11.43 cm) wide using a Crayola® Erasable Colored Pencil. Cut out the strips with Crayola Scissors.
    4. Slotted sleeve: Mark the edges of the wider piece at 2 inches (A) on one long side and 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) (B) on the other. Fold the edges toward each other. The narrower edge folds over the wider edge to make a sleeve.
    5. Using a straight edge, starting from the (A) edge, draw narrow, even slits. Draw the slits from within one-half inch of the fold to the edge of the paper. Leave an inch of uncut paper on either end of the sleeve. Cut out every other slit, so you have what looks like a stiff grille or fringe. Erase any pencil marks that were not cut away.
    6. With a Crayola Glue Stick, carefully glue the (B) edge over the (A) edge to hold the fringe in place. The 2-inch strip will slide through this sleeve. Air-dry the sleeve.
    7. Parallel-line pattern strip: Using Crayola Fine Tip Markers and a straight edge, draw a pattern of parallel lines on the 2-inch strip of paper. For added interest, draw a line down the center of the strip and have the lines radiate out. Create a different pattern on the other side of the strip.
    8. Carefully insert the decorated strip into the sleeve. Slowly move the design inside it. Watch the patterns appear to move and distort. Flip over the decorated strip to see your second Optical Delusion.
    9. Student groups present their new learning focused on the Moiré Effect. Encourage students to integrate their original optical illusions into the presentations.
  • Standards

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grade level text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

    LA: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    MATH: Know relative sizes of measurement units within one system of units including km, m, cm; kg, g; lb, oz.; l, ml; hr, min, sec. Within a single system of measurement, express measurements in a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit.

    MATH: Draw points, lines, line segments, rays, angles (right, acute, obtuse), and perpendicular and parallel lines. Identify these in two-dimensional figures.

    SCI: Carry out investigations to provide evidence that energy is transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, electric currents, interacting magnets, and moving or colliding objects.

    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

    Possible classroom resources include: Optical Illusions by DK Publishing; Masters of Deception: Escher, Dali & the Artists of Optical Illusion by Alan Seckel; Amazing Optical Illusions by IllusionWorks

    Students investigate how human vision works. Encourage students to sketch visual illustrations to accompany their research. Be prepared to present to classmates.

    Investigate how animals such as cows see. How is their vision similar to humans? How is it different? If possible, obtain several preserved cows' eyes for students to dissect. A helpful website for this dissection was developed by Exploratorium, located at:

    Encourage students to experiment with various colors and combinations of colors. Use different types of lines (straight, wavy, zigzag, diagonal) to see what happens.

    Organize a filed trip to a contemporary art museum to find artists who use optical tricks in their art. Op Artists are known for their optical experimentation.

    Students research the scientific principles found in other optical illusions such as the Zollner Effect. Match these principles with the examples found in optic al illusion books. Extend this investigation by sketching your own optical illusion.


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