Jell-O® Optics

Alia Davis

Curtis High School, Staten Island

Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

August 2009


Time: 1 Hour

Level: Regents/AP/IB Physics


Teacher Instructions:

Make each color of Jell-O according to directions but add a packet of Knox gelatin to make it extra firm. Pour into the 9x13 pans and let solidify. You will need to cut the Jell-O into squares for this activity (make them small enough that you will have enough for each lab group). To ease removal of the Jell-O squares from the pans, dip the pans in warm water for a few seconds.

Prior Knowledge:

Students must have basic knowledge of the following vocabulary:

Normal line, incident ray, refraction, index of refraction, speed of light in a vacuum, Snell’s Law

Lab Activity:

Students will use handout to investigate the index of refraction and speed of light in Jell-O.


New York State Standards

STANDARD 1 - Analysis, Inquiry, and Design


Key Idea 1:

Abstraction and symbolic representation are used to communicate mathematically.

M1.1 Use algebraic and geometric representations to describe and compare data.


Key Idea 1:

The central purpose of scientific inquiry is to develop explanations of natural phenomena in a continuing, creative process.


STANDARD 4 - The Physical Setting

Key Idea 4: Energy exists in many forms, and when these forms change energy is conserved.

4.3 Explain variations in wavelength and frequency in terms of the source of the vibrations that produce them, e.g., molecules, electrons, and nuclear particles.

vii. observe, sketch, and interpret the behavior of wave fronts as they reflect, refract, and diffract

viii. draw ray diagrams to represent the reflection and refraction of waves

ix. determine empirically the index of refraction of a transparent medium


STANDARD 6 - Interconnectedness: Common Themes


Key Idea 2:

Models are simplified representations of objects, structures, or systems used in analysis, explanation, interpretation, or design.


STANDARD 7 – Interdisciplinary Problem Solving


Key Idea 2:

Solving interdisciplinary problems involves a variety of skills and strategies, including effective work habits; gathering and processing information; generating and analyzing

ideas; realizing ideas; making connections among the common themes of mathematics, science, and technology; and presenting results.