Primary School (K-2)
Objects can be seen if light is available to illuminate them or if they give off their own light.
Some materials allow light to pass through them, others allow only some light through and others block all the light and create a dark shadow on any surface beyond them, where the light cannot reach. Mirrors can be used to redirect a light beam. (Boundary: The idea that light travels from place to place is developed through experiences
with light sources, mirrors, and shadows, but no attempt is made
to discuss the speed of light.)
Elementary School (3-5)
An object can be seen when light reflected from its surface enters the eyes.
Middle School (6-8)
When light shines on an object, it is reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through the object, depending on the object’s material and the frequency (color) of the light.
The path that light travels can be traced as straight lines, except at surfaces between different transparent materials (e.g., air and water, air and glass) where the light path bends.
A wave model of light is useful for explaining brightness, color, and the frequency-dependent bending of light at a surface between media.
However, because light can travel through space, it cannot be a matter wave, like sound or water waves.
High School (9-12)
Electromagnetic radiation (e.g., radio, microwaves, light) can be modeled as a wave of changing electric and magnetic fields or as particles called photons. The wave model is useful for explaining many features of electromagnetic radiation, and the particle model explains other features.
When light or longer wavelength electromagnetic radiation is absorbed in matter, it is generally converted into thermal energy (heat). Shorter wavelength electromagnetic radiation (ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays) can ionize atoms and cause damage to living cells.
Photoelectric materials emit electrons when they absorb light of a high-enough frequency.
Atoms of each element emit and absorb characteristic frequencies of light. These characteristics allow identification of the presence of an element, even in microscopic quantities.