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The Eyes Have It!

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than 100,000 people incur eye injuries each year and more than half of the victims of those injuries are children. September is Children's Eye and Health Safety Month, the perfect time to begin teaching your students about the importance of taking care of their eyes.

Invite your students to close their eyes and to imagine a world without sight. How different would such a world be? What sights would you miss the most? What activities would be more difficult? Which would be impossible? and Just how does the eye help us see anyway?

In honor of Children's Eye and Health Safety Month, Education World has searched the Web for information and activities that will help your students learn about, and learn to appreciate the value of, their eyes. The activities below will help you incorporate that information into your entire curriculum.

You might start your "eye-xploration" with a simple activity that will provide students with both a basic understanding of how the eye works and with an immediate curriculum link. Choose the activity below that is appropriate for the grade you teach:

Create a glossary. Invite students in the elementary grades to explore How The Eye Works. Then, on chart paper, list the parts of the eye and ask students to provide a brief definition of each part. Display the resulting Eye Glossary Chart on a classroom bulletin board.

Create a diagram. Have students in middle school and above explore the Diagram of the Eye and the Glossary of Vision Terms provided by the National Institutes of Health and the National Eye Institute. Then ask them to create their own diagrams showing how the eye works.


Art -- match the eyes. As a follow up to the previous activities, ask each student to create a drawing of his or her own eyes. Number the drawings and display them on a classroom or hallway bulletin board. Encourage students to guess whom each pair of eyes belongs to and award a small prize to the student who correctly identifies the greatest number of eyes.

Health and safety -- create a coloring book. Invite your youngest students to explore the safety tips at Seymour Safely Says and then have them take the Safe Eyes Quiz. Print the eye safety tips coloring book pages provided with the quiz and distribute copies to each student. Ask students to create one or two additional coloring book pages, combine all the pages into a coloring book, and encourage students to take their books home and share them with their families.

Health and safety -- create a poster. Explain to older students that many eye injuries occur during sports or recreational events and encourage them to explore Eye Safety for Children to learn how those injuries could be prevented. Then arrange students into small groups and ask each group to create a poster about eye safety during play.

Computer skills -- take an eye quiz. Invite students in middle school and above to take the Lens Trivia Challenge at the Optima Web site. Point out that all the answers can be found on other pages of the site and encourage students to scroll to the bottom of the page, read the table of contents, and explore the site to find the answers.

Language arts -- picture reading. Encourage students to read the Eye Care Quiz or Reusable Puzzles rhesus message and then create their own rhesus messages.

Health -- exercise your eyes. Invite younger students to read Wizzy Interviews Doctor Marc Grossman About 3D Exercises For The Eyes to learn about eye health and then have them exercise their own eyes with Magic Eye/Vision Therapy. Encourage older students to explore the site to learn more about 3D viewing and how it works. Then provide them with the directions for drawing their own stereograms, found at Newton's Apple. (See more Online Optical Illusions below and don't miss the week's Education World BOOKS IN EDUCATION story, Walter Wick Reaches Deep Into His Bag of (Optical) Tricks.)

Math -- calculate speed and distance. Explain to students that light travels at about 186,000 miles per second and ask them to find out how fast other things, such as sound, an airplane, an automobile, and a snail, travel. Then have students calculate how long it would take each of those to travel various distances.

Research and writing -- write a report. Provide students in the elementary grades with the following fascinating facts about animals' eyes:

  • Clams have a row of eyes around their shells.
  • Fly eyes are made of hundreds of separate little eyes.
  • An eagle can see a rabbit about 1 mile away.
  • A camel's eyelashes can be as long as 4 inches to protect its eyes from all of that sand!
  • An owl can see a mouse moving over 150 feet away with light no brighter than a candle!
  • A cat's eyes glow in the dark because of silvery "mirrors" that reflect light and make it easier for them to see in the dark.
  • Predatory animals generally have eyes on the front of their heads so they can track prey. Animals of prey have eyes at the sides of their heads so they can see predators sneaking up on them.
Then ask students to research one of the animals discussed, or another animal of their choice, to learn more about it. Have students prepare an illustrated report about the animal and invite them to present their reports to the class. Older students might prefer to explore B Eye, Cow's Eye Dissection, and other sites about animals' eyes and prepare a report comparing the structure of the various eyes.

Science -- conduct an experiment. You Can: Magnifying Glasses, a page from the Beakman's World Web site, answers the question How do magnifying glasses make things bigger? Conduct the experiments on light and then answer the question What does light have to do with vision?

Science -- make a camera. As a follow-up to the previous activity, encourage students to explore How the Eye Uses Light and then make a pinhole camera.

Games -- complete a crossword puzzle. Print the What is Your "EYE Q"? Crossword Puzzle or, for older students, the Vision Crossword Puzzle, and encourage students to complete it.

Diversity -- learn the Braille alphabet. Invite students to explore The English Braille Alphabet and encourage them to write Braille messages to one another. Then discuss ways in which people can overcome, or compensate for, various disabilities. Students might also visit the Braille It! Web site to have Braille messages created for them!

Writing -- write a biography. As a follow-up to the previous activity, invite students to use library and online resources to find out about someone who has overcome a particular disability and have them write a biography of that person.

Science -- learn about light. Invite students in middle school and above to accompany you on Bob Miller's Light Walk.

Creative writing -- write a poem. Read a story such as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (by Bill Martin), to younger students and then invite them on a nature walk. Have each student make as list of descriptive words they think of while on the walk and ask them to use the words in a story or poem.

Research -- suggestions for high school students. Invite high school students to explore one of the following sites about recent scientific research into vision and encourage them to further explore the research or to create a scientific experiment of their own.

  • Vision, Hearing, and Smell: The Best-Known Senses presents reports from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Scroll down to Seeing the World and explore the articles on sight.
  • The Vent Glow and Blind Shrimp explores deep-sea shrimp living in the perpetual darkness of hypothermal vents. Instead of ordinary eyes, they have an organ on their backs, connected to their brains by a nerve-fiber bundle much like an optic nerve. What does it mean?

Related Resources


Don't miss the week's Education World BOOKS IN EDUCATION story, Walter Wick Reaches Deep Into His Bag of (Optical) Tricks. Then check out these online resources:

  • You Can: Illusions A great site for younger students to explore illusions and learn why we sometimes see things that aren't really there.
  • Discover Your Eye-Q! A brief discussion of optical illusions, which includes two simple illusions.
  • Optical Illusions Provides four illusions for younger students, from the American Optometric Association.
  • Illusion Works Offers a huge selection of interactive demonstrations and scientific explanations, illusion artwork, interactive puzzles, 3D graphics, and much more. Sheer size makes this site hard to navigate page by page, but the site map is clear and well organized. From the main page, click Advanced Level and then click Site Map to access it. An Introductory Level of the site is currently under construction.

Related Sites


  • Your Sense of Sight, from Think Quest Junior, Sense of Sight, at The Yuckiest Site on the Internet, The Eyeball, from Bill Nye the Science Guy, and You Can: Glasses, all provide clear explanations of how vision works that are appropriate for younger elementary students. You can also find vision-related experiments and links at these sites.
  • VISION: A School Program for Grades 4-8 VISION, a 16-page teaching guide provided by the National Eye Institute and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, provides lesson plans and handouts on the structure of the eye, eye problems, and eye safety. The program can be viewed and ordered at this site.
  • About Your Eyes The American Optometric Association's Teachers' Center offers activities and teaching masters for classroom use.
  • The Eye and How We See From Prevent Blindness America, this site provides information on vision and the eye. The site's Eye Tests for Children can be printed and shared with parents or guardians.
  • Optics for Kids Lots of information and activities about light, including topics such as lenses and lasers, for students in upper elementary grades and above.

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 1998 Education World

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