Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students make a rainbow in the classroom using a glass of water and the sunshine.

These Snappy Science resources have been created to boost science education in primary schools across Australia. Each lesson is designed to support teachers with the scientific knowledge, ideas and resources to stimulate a sense of wonder and curiosity in their students. Many of the big issues that Australian society will face in the future are around technology, energy, resources and climate change. All of these require students to engage with science – but most of all to enjoy science!

Science at Home: These Snappy Science resources can also be used to engage families in fun science and learning for life. You can download a student friendly version of this activity here and you can also check out the Snappy Science Digital Library.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking.

Australian Curriculum content description: This activity is relevant to Science Inquiry Skills across all primary year levels of the Australian Curriculum.

Year 1 Science

  • Observable changes occur in the sky and landscape (ACSSU019)
  • Light and sound are produced by a range of sources and can be sensed (ACSSU020)

Year 5 Science

  • Light from a source forms shadows and can be absorbed, reflected and refracted (ACSSU080)

Syllabus OutcomesST1-8ES, ST1-6PW, ST3-6PW.

Time required: 5 – 10 minutes.

Resources required: A glass of water (about three quarters full), white paper, sunshine.

Safety advice: None.

Keywords: Rainbow, refraction, light.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher preparation: 

Brief summary:

Students make a rainbow in the classroom using a glass of water and sunshine.

Students can use the Predict, Observe, Explain table on the Student Worksheet to describe and reflect upon this experiment.

You will need:

  • A glass of water (about three quarters full)
  • White paper
  • A sunny day

What to do:

Step 1. Take the glass of water and paper to a part of the room with sunlight (near a window is good).

Step 2. Hold the glass of water (being careful not to spill it) above the paper and watch as sunlight passes through the glass of water, refracts (bends) and forms a rainbow of colours on your sheet of paper.

Step 3. Try holding the glass of water at different heights and angles to see if it has a different effect.

How does it work?

Rainbows form in the sky when sunlight refracts (bends) as it passes through raindrops: sunlight passing through your glass of water acts in the same way. The sunlight refracts and separates it into the co

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Student Worksheet

In this activity you will try to make a rainbow!


Explain what you think will happen:


Explain what happened:


Explain why you think this happened:

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