Shadowplay - Discovery Through Play

Submitted by Jan Adams/Brenda Williams, Winston-Salem/Forsyth Schools

Artists and teachers operate on a similar premise: one of the richest grounds for discovery is through PLAY. In Dance and Physical Education, this is especially true. By playing around with ideas and discussing and documenting their discoveries, students can gain knowledge and make decisions based on their findings.

To explore the properties of light, we will follow a process much like the scientific process:

  1. Pose questions

  2. Explore ideas through independent play and structured games

  3. Discuss and document discoveries

  4. Augment knowledge through research

  5. Create choreography or devise new games based on findings

Several centers will be set up. At each center, play with the materials and try to answer the questions posed. For students, these answers can be discussed or documented on data sheets.

  1. Flashlight Investigation: What materials are transparent, translucent, or opaque? What causes light to change colors? What other properties do you discover?

  2. Shadow Study: What makes shadows? What components do you need? What affects the size of a shadow? Can shadows be created on either side of the shadow screen? What else can you learn about shadows?

  3. Light in a Bag: Can light pass through the sculpture bag? What lighting effects can you create with the flashlights in and out of the bag?

  4. Laser Play: Does this light radiate? Can it bend? What can block or interrupt this light? How far can it go? Can you draw with it?

Student discoveries can be connected to other knowledge or properties of light through research. These discoveries can lead to rich possibilities for choreography. They can also lead to numerous structured games. The best games will be the ones devised by the students themselves from their own discoveries playing with the various materials. Here are some we came up with:

  1. Laser Ray Obstacle Course:

    1. Equipment: ropes or elastic bands, flashlights, suspenseful music

    2. Create a maze of extended ropes held nad lit on each end at oblique angles in dark space. Have students go through the maze without touching and being "burned" by a laser.

  2. Laser Tag:

    1. Equipment: laser pens, reflector shields

    2. Begin with one person armed with a laser pen. Others in class are divided into players and observers. Players try to avoid being "zapped" in the reflector shield by the laser while observers call out those who have been eliminated. Gradually, increase the difficulty by adding more lasers to the game.

  3. Partner Laser Tag/Shadow Shield

    1. Equipment: laser pens, reflector shields

    2. In this version, students work in partners. One tries to protect the other with his/her shadow from being hit by the laser beam.

Science Terms and Vocabulary:

Draw Conclusions
Create Models
Analyze Data
Properties of Light


SHADOWPLAY Data Sheet #1


Description of Material: Is this material transparent, translucent, or opaque? What other observations can you make?


SHADOW PLAY Data Sheet #2


What makes shadows? What can you learn about them? Document your discoveries below:


SHADOW PLAY Data Sheet #3


In your play with the lights and the sculpture bag, what properties did you observe? List below:



Describe a way you might use this bag in choreography. Specifically include the use of light.



SHADOW PLAY Data Sheet #4


In your play with the laser pen lights, what properties did you observe? List below:



Describe and name a game that you would make up using laser pen lights:




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