Sunglasses Experiment #1139


Where does this lesson fit in with your curriculum (if the lesson is not a fit for the class you teach, how could the lesson be modified so that it is applicable to your curriculum)?

I was having difficulty trying to figure how to make this anything, but a science experiment. If it was just this, I don’t see how it would fit my curriculum.

However, I teach a flight and space unit, so I thought about how I could turn this into an engineering challenge. What about trying to designing visors and looking at what materials would make a good visor. You would have to have samples of dozens to types lenses, but students could combine/layer to develop a lens or system that would work.

I don’t really know what the values were supposed to be. My luminescence reading never really changed, but the UV did. Not sure if I was doing something wrong, bad sensor, or should no difference. It was a partly cloudy day, so I had to keep waiting until the clouds did not obscure the sun. Tried to import a table, but was unsuccessful. My data is below:

Glasses, Lens, Luminescence (LUX), Ultraviolet (UV)

Ambient, None, 5343, 7.6

Green Frame, Dark-Constant, 5343, .52

Blue Frame, Dark-Gradient, 5343, .71

Oakley M Frame, Dark-Constant, 5343, .63

Wiley X, Brown-Polarized, 5343, .43

There was some variability with the data, so I attempted to determine the average. I was just using the OLED display and not using the computer to data log. I would have been able to obtain specific values if the computer could be used for data logging.

The polarized lens gave the best UV numbers next to the cheap green frame glasses. I was a bit surprised the Oakley M Frames did not have better performance numbers.

Which part or parts of the lesson would your students need extra support in order to be successful?

Assuming there were several kits, the number of sunglasses required would be costly. I would probably take the lenses out of the frames and mark them to lower costs. This would also help with the layering for the helmet visor engineering project. There would need to be a discussion about the electromagnetic spectrum, visible vs invisible, and what is damaging to humans and why. This activity should also be done after one of the simpler activities using the LUX and UV meters.

If you were to teach this lesson to your class, describe your role during the class. What does a successful teacher actively do during this lesson?

I definitely would have to do some direct instruction with this activity. I think I would also have to do some research to understand the electromagnetic spectrum…I am not a science teacher. I would have to monitor/remind students to keep at lenses at same angle and clean. The paper tube in the video might be a good option.

If you were to teach this lesson to your class, describe your student’s role during the class. What does “student success” look like?

My courses are mostly project-based learning (PBL), so students are in charge of their own learning. Success would be a student being able to complete activity, understand the electromagnet spectrum, explain different lens performances, and be able to apply what was learned to future lessons.


I agree a demo should be part of the lesson…if not, the video should be played and the process described. We forget that not every classroom has access to computers.


Good thing you had another board…what do we call this? A self-teachable moment?


I was also surprised some of the cheap give-a-way sunglasses did not have any better properties than the expensive $100 glasses. There are other considerations, impact, quality, etc. but they were not part of the experiment.


Oh, the lenses were completely different colors. The lum reading was different, but UV was the same.

One was nearly black, one was blue and the third was a bronze color.


Well, I did get slammed so hard in the face by a ball at my son’s (14 year-old boys, so they can KICK) soccer game that I got knocked out of my chair… I was wearing the Ray-bans, and I’m happy to share they didn’t shatter!


Thank you for the details on the experiment!! The luminosity readings are very suspect, it should be hard to get exactly the same readings? If you have a chance, I would be interested to see if the sketch on quickstart that has luminosity is giving you values that change when shading the light with your hand?:


I recreated the Quick Start experiment and saw the LUX values vary from 0 to 222 (indoors). I was using the OLED outside, so I am not sure if it was an issue there, or I just did not do something correct. If I get time, I try to repeat the experiment.


Thanks for checking! Those values look like what we should expect.


I have a pair in my school but it is closed. I hope I can retrieve them pretty soon and give them a try.


I really loved this activity and will definitely be added/adapted to our curriculum. We talk a lot about UV rays from 3rd-5th grades and how the impact the Earth and living creatures. This activity can definitely fit either with 4th grade (the explore quality of production and ad claims for products), or 5th grade where they can dive more into the science of optics.

Students will need support with reviewing the science behind it and also better explaining to them the scientific terms. I would begin the project with students using the luminosity sensor on their iPads to get an idea of how the project will work. Then we would work on the kit sensors and explanation of the code.

My role would be to remind them to label and record the sunglasses they will be using in terms of company, cost, and optics, while also making sure that they repeat the experiment in order to get valid results.

Success will be measured by having students explain what they did and wha did they want to show with the experiment. Other than the the previous, students will be free to further explore interests and adapt the activity to their needs.


Sunscreen! Now that is a great idea. We have debates at school about their effectiveness! We might also be able to test our school windows, which supposedly limit UV rays.


True. It is a topic and issue that should be explored and discussed, especially when students are outdoors for a long time.


This was a fun experiment! I could see doing this as part of a curriculum on light. I would have said this probably wouldn’t work for me as I teach at night (so no sun). But right now everything is moving virtual so it could be a fun assignment to give.

Here’s what I tested: cheap sunglasses, expensive designer sunglasses (my everyday pair), glacier glasses (my husbands even more expensive everyday pair), homemade solar filter for my backpacking telescope (mylar). Prediction: the cheap and fashion would be the same. Glacier would block more. Solar filter would be the best.

The prediction on glacier glasses and the solar filter were true! Glacier glasses are really great protection. And yes, a solar filter does block significant light.

I was surprised to find out my everyday pair is significantly worse than the cheap, uncomfortable drug store glasses. To be totally honest… this experiment probably won’t make me change what I wear. I get so many complements on them and love how they look. vanity > science LOL



Now that we have had to go full virtual for my school I think this is an experiment I’m going to video and make my students write a lab report based on the data I collect.

We have previously talked about light and waves and students have already learned about UV light and impacts on living tissue.

I will be completing this lab on camera and giving my students a research question to write a report on. I anticipate students may have some difficulty graphing the data in Google sheets (even though we do it nearly every week, doing it at home is different). I will let students work on this for a day or two then offer a homework help stream and record the video so students who miss it can still get help.

Success for this experiment will be based on a completed lab report using my chosen format and analysis of the data.


Testing the school windows would be really cool, I also have some hiking shirts that limit UV so it would be cool to compare that to a normal shirt. Also I wonder if spreading sunscreen a glass plate would be a good enough analog to test sunscreen effectiveness.


This was really interesting, this would be great to do with different color lenses. You could connect it to space education by finding the one that would block out the most UV light, but still allow the astronaut to see. Could use eclipse glasses, welding helmet, eye dr glasses (like the one after they dilate your eyes), cheap ones, expensive ones, colors, etc. They could come up with the ultimate visor for the astronaut.


Awesome idea to connect this to a space concept!


Let me know how it goes with your students! Curious to know if this project is successful with going to full virtual. Would love to know how we can improve the lesson in this environment. Thanks!


I hear you! I’m definitely guilty of buying sunglasses for fashion then practical use. :grinning: