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How to Create a Simple Spectrum

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit
An educational and fun activity. This is a simple science class experiment. It requires access to prisms, which may be available in your science room cupboard.


  1. Assemble materials.
  2. Create a prism box. Ensure that the box is enclosed on all sides except for the top. On one side of the box, cut a small rectangular hole. This hole should sit near the bottom of the box and be about 5 mm in width.
  3. Lay a sheet of dark paper (black, navy blue etc.) inside the base of the box.
  4. Darken the room. It will be difficult to see the spectrum of light unless the room is dark enough. Try to cover up any light sources other than the one you are going to be using.
  5. Place the prism in the box, sitting on the dark paper.
  6. Shine the flashlight through the hole of the box. Rotate the prism slightly until a prismatic effect shows up on the paper.
  7. Note the effects. There should be an instant rainbow spectrum effect appearing on the white paper. Using pencils that match the colors of the prism light effects, trace the light patterns as best you can.
  8. Discuss the effects in class. Ask such questions as:
    • What colors were the individual bands of light reflecting?
    • Was there an order to the colors? If so, name it.
    • Decide in the class how you can all best remember the order of colors in prismatic light.


  • If it is raining and the sun is shining through clouds, turn your back to the sun and look around. You will see a natural rainbow as the light is reflected through the rain in just the same way as the prism.
  • Make sure you are all huddled around the experiment before the room is darkened, so that you don't trip over one another.
  • If you have two prisms, cross their light patterns to see what effects are created.


  • Do not look directly into the light, and even more so, do not look directly into sunlight.

Things You'll Need

  • Cardboard box (a large shoe box or slightly larger sized box - there needs to be enough space to fit the prism in, as well as room for young hands to move the prism about)
  • Glass triangular prism
  • Flashlight (or other light source)
  • Piece of white paper
  • Dark room

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Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Create a Simple Spectrum. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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Simple Spectrum
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