This easy and inexpensive character building object lesson involving refraction teaches optimism. Did you know you can teach yourself to be an optimist? That’s what we are talking about today.
When working on building character with kids, we want to find a variety of ways to instruct. Sometimes we are using our words, appealing to auditory learning. Sometimes we offer hands on experiences (kinesthetic learning). Other times we appeal to visual learners. Today’s lesson on optimism uses all three.
This science experiment object lesson on refraction is the perfect way to help kids understand the power of their own brains in choosing optimism.
If you love the idea of teaching character, here are 104 more engaging character building lessons.
An Introduction of my Character Building Series
If you are new here, you might not be familiar with my character building education series. This series is intended to teach kids moral behaviors that not only benefit the individual but the whole society.
I have character lessons that work on 52 different character traits, one for every week of the year. Each character trait has at least 7 lessons that help teach kids about that trait. Therefore, you could be working on character with your kids every single day of the year.
This character series is perfect for teachers, home school parents, moms, dads, grandparents, Sunday school teachers or anyone working with kids.
This is a Christian character building series, but I believe it is for everyone. If you are a public school teacher, simply skip over the Bible verses and Bible lessons. There is plenty here for all, and everyone is welcome.
This particular lesson focuses on teaching optimism (more lessons found here).
Why Do We Teach Optimism?
As a review, here is the Bible Verse for Optimism – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
While that is the chosen verse on optimism, I want to share with you another scripture that has meant a lot to me this year.
Romans 12:2 says, “And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
I was recently speaking with a PhD psychologist with 40 years of experience. He shared with me that he believes that the high majority of people are not born an optimist or pessimist.
Optimists are born when people either learn or naturally create pathways in their brain that think on positive things. We can become optimists by continually renewing our minds and creating really strong pathways to focus on what is good and right and joyful.
This year I have set out to become an optimist.
I think of the movie Pollyanna and know there is wisdom in her glad game. We can be intentional about teaching our kids to be optimists too. It will take hard work and intentionality, but it is achievable.
Just think of the optimistic people you know. They bring a “can do” attitude and a beautiful outlook on life. We have loads of negativity, so if we and our children can be a voice of optimism, everyone benefits.
Character Building Object Lesson Involving Refraction Teaches Optimism
The point of this character building object lesson is simple: We can choose to see life more optimistically if we are willing to make the changes needed to shift our perspective.
Materials Needed for Character Building Object Lesson
How to Teach About Optimism Using an Object Lesson
- On a sticky note, draw an arrow.
- Fill a glass or plastic water bottle with water.
- Say, “This arrow represents our thoughts. The arrow is pointing one direction. Let’s pretend that it’s a path to negative thoughts. Often times our thoughts can start to dwell on sad, hurtful or negative things. While it’s healthy to have a variety of feelings, we don’t want to let the negative thoughts take over. We can spiral into a pit of only thinking only about the bad. That’s no way to live.”
- Now move the glass slowly in front of the sticky note with the arrow. Kids will note that the arrow appears to face the other direction when viewed through the water.
- Say, “We can learn to shift our perspective so that even while there are hard or bad things happening, we choose hope, joy, and positivity.”
- This verse might be handy at this point too, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5
- Ask, “What are ways we can train our brains to choose the positive rather than the negative?” Some answers might include: a) Just do it. Stop negative thoughts in their tracks and think of what good might come out of the situation. b) Remember our optimism Bible verse that says that God can work all things for good c) Think about how things have turned out OK in the past, even though we spent time worrying and fretting about it. Why not erase the worry? d) List things we ARE grateful for e) Imagine how a situation, although hard, could be used to help others or help us become more compassionate toward others.
By creating this visual reminder of how to choose optimism, because it is a choice, we are teaching our kids that they have the power to choose how they view the world and the situations that come their way.
Yes, some things that come our way are horrible. They just suck. However, they happen any way.
My best friend has been battling breast cancer this year. I sat in the hospital for one of her chemo infusions. She had a smile and was so engaging and thoughtful toward every staff member that came her way.
I took note and said I admired her for that. She responded, “I’m going to have cancer no matter what. I can choose my response to it.”
What a lesson in optimism. This sucks – big time. But I’m going to choose to find the good and be a light.
Hopefully this visual reminder, found in a simple science experiment about light refraction, helps you and your kids learn more about how to become optimistic.
What is the Science Behind Light Refraction?
While you’ve got your kids captivated by the mystery of an arrow that seems to reverse directions when looking through a water glass, let’s learn a bit about the science too.
Here’s how it is described at Love my Science:
“Light travels through the air in straight lines…Light moves more slowly through water than it moves through air. As the beam of light enters the water, it slows down and bends. As it re-enters the air the light beam speeds up and bends back again. This is called refraction.”
Further, “As the light travels through a substance, it becomes concentrated into a focal point, usually near the center. After light passes through the focal point, the rays cross over each other and cause images to appear reversed.” – Look We Are Learning
So interesting! God created such a fascinating world. That said, I’m not a huge science person, so someone please explain to me if there’s a better way to explain this.