| Teacher Version
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Table of Contents | Student
Looking Without Seeing
The following California State Science
Standards are relevant to this Pathway:
Investigation and Experimentation
||Investigation and Experimentation
* Grade 7 Focus on
will use exhibits to investigate how we see
things. Some exhibits, like Seeing Details or
Peripheral Vision, address the physical parts
of the eye. Other exhibits, Subjective Colors
or Count the Bounces, demonstrate the power
of your brain to transform what your eyes see.
However, there are still many things we don't
understand about what we see or don't see, as
demonstrated in the exhibit Disappearer.
This Pathway deliberately
asks students to do more thinking and experiencing
than writing while they are at the museum. Your
students' time at the Exploratorium is limited
and distinct from classroom time, when they
can engage in more polished writing.
|Before Your Visit
Is it possible to look at something and not see it?
The motivation behind this
question is to get students to identify their
current beliefs. You can choose to complete this
part in a way that works best for your class.
You can brainstorm ideas as a whole class and
make notes on a large sheet of paper. You can
split students up to groups of three or four to
brainstorm ideas and questions. You may assign
this as homework and ask students to write a small
essay on what they already know. You may even
ask students to spend five minutes quietly making
notes or discussing this question with their chaperone
before they enter the Exploratorium.
What do you think? Discuss or write your ideas or questions.
|During Your Visit
Tips for Teachers:
- Within reason, answers to most of these
questions can and should vary. This Pathway
asks visitors to see things in new ways and
that's often difficult at first.
- Consider assigning only 8 of the 10 exhibits listed here and allowing
students to choose which 8 they will complete. Not all exhibits work
well for all people.
- You could ask your students to choose
another exhibit not on this list and describe
how it relates to the idea of "looking
- Please plan for unstructured time during your field trip. Leaving
about half of your total field trip visit unstructured allows students
to follow their own interests while exploring the museum.
- It may help to work with a partner or two.
- Find the exhibits. You may work with the exhibits in any order.
- Play with the exhibit before you do any writing.
- Have patience. Everyone sees things differently and that's normal.
- Try this exhibit.
Hint: Spin the disk at a slow to medium speed. Be sure to look only
at the yellow dot in the center.
- Experiment with this exhibit in other ways.
Try staring at another object instead of the
yellow dot, stand on another side, place something
from your pocket on the Plexiglas, or doing
What did you try?
Answers vary. There are many things you can try.
Answers vary. The effect will work no matter
what side you stand on although different
people may get different results. Three-dimensional
objects, including keys, will disappear, although
it is hard to make objects larger than three
inches disappear. Objects as close to the
center as two inches may disappear.
- Repeat your experiment. Does the same thing happen every time?
Trials are rarely identical.
Sometimes an object will disappear immediately.
Sometimes it will take a while to disappear.
- Did you see something new the second time you watched the video?
Most people do not see the gorilla the first time
they try to count the bounces. (It is rare that you can trick yourself
into missing the gorilla a second time.)
- Do you think your parents are right that
you can't concentrate on what they are telling
you while you watch TV? Why?
Answers will vary but this is a good example of
how you can be distracted from things around you when you are focusing
on something else.
- Which panel surprised you the most in this exhibit? Why?
Answers vary. For me, the first panel is the most
surprising. I feel like I can see through the trick because it looks
gray from the beginning but then I am blown away by the fact that the
first panel is really black.
- Cover the light shining from below. What changed?
The first panel looks black from the beginning.
The color of all of the panels stay the same no matter what panel is
put next to them.
|The Edge Makes the Difference
- Try this exhibit.
- Although it may look like one uniform color, each of these halves
actually changes from lighter on the left to darker on the right. Can
you see this?
Some people can see
this; others can't. It's very subtle.
- Cover the border between the two halves with something very thin,
like a hair. What did you use? Can you see the difference between the
For me, the panels look identical with no border
even when using a strand of hair.
The fovea is a spot in the center of your retina that
has a great concentration of cone cells, allowing your eye to see fine
details. The bright flash of light at this exhibit temporarily blinds
your fovea but not the rest of your eye.
- What does the blinded spot look like?
It is a round bright spot that you can't see through.
Over time, it changes color from white to blue to red in my eyes.
- Is it hard to read words when you blind your fovea? Yes.
- What else is affected? (Color? Seeing movement? Seeing shapes?)
I can see most things out of the side of my eye,
but I can't see fine details.
- Try this exhibit with a group of people. Record which circles match
for different members of the group.
Most people find a match
somewhere between the 2 o'clock to the 4 o'clock
positions. The exhibit designer who created
this piece thought that the color at 12 o'clock
matched the best. Everyone's eyes are different.
- Stand back about 20 or 30 steps. From this distance, do you still
think the same circle matches the center?
For most people, it looks different from a distance.
A spot with more green in it seems to match.
- There is no right answer to which circle matches the center. How do
you feel about that?
Answers vary. Many people find it frustrating
at first but it can also provoke an interesting discussion about whether
anybody sees things the same way.
- Try this exhibit.
Hint: Have patience. Sometimes the tracker won't work for people with
- When the eye tracker is playing back the movement of your eye, look
for patterns in what you looked at or didn't look at in the photos.
What patterns did you find?
Answers vary. Many people
tend to look first at the people in the pictures
rather than the surroundings. Bright colors
and objects that have a special connection
to the viewer also attract attention.
- When can you first begin to see the color?
Answers vary. I can see the color until about
- When can you first begin to read the word?
Answers vary. I can see the word until about 25
- When can you first begin to see the block itself?
Answers vary. I can see the block until about
- Try this exhibit.
- The same effect happens when you look at the lightly colored parts
of Colored Shadows (on the wall by the elevator) and Visual Uncertainty
(a painting near the Light Demo table.) Describe what happens after
staring for a while at one of these two.
The colors fade to white as long as you don't
move your eyes around.
- Try this exhibit.
Hint: Sometimes one eye works better than the other. Try putting your
dominant or stronger eye towards the side.
- Describe what it looks like when part of your friend's face disappears.
I see a white streak
following my hand, taking the place of my
friend's face momentarily. Sometimes the smile
will linger even if the rest of the face is
|After Your Visit
Putting It Together:
Is it possible to look at something and not see
What are some of the limitations of your vision?
Discuss or write your ideas based on your experiences with at least
two exhibits at the Exploratorium.
If you had the chance, what
other type of seeing would you test?
Discuss or write your ideas.
your comments & suggestions