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Animation Activity: Electromagnetic Spectrum Mark as Favorite (34 Favorites)

ACTIVITY in Interdisciplinary, Electromagnetic Spectrum. Last updated December 12, 2023.


In this activity, students will view an animation that explores the electromagnetic spectrum, with a focus on the visible spectrum. The animation addresses the relationship between color, wavelength, frequency, and energy of light waves, as well as how an object absorbs and reflects certain wavelengths of light to contribute to the color we perceive.

Grade Level

Elementary School, Middle School, High School

NGSS Alignment

This activity will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • HS-PS4-4: Evaluate the validity and reliability of claims in published materials of the effects that different frequencies of electromagnetic radiation have when absorbed by matter.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Developing and Using Models
    • Engaging in Argument from Evidence


By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

  • Explain that white light is made of a combination of the colors of the rainbow that can be separated by a prism.
  • Describe light as a wave.
  • Describe the relationship between wavelength, frequency, and energy.
  • List the different types of electromagnetic radiation.

Chemistry Topics

This activity supports students’ understanding of:

  • Electromagnetic spectrum


Teacher Preparation: minimal

Lesson: 10-30 minutes



  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • All of the animations that make up the AACT Animation collection are designed for teachers to incorporate into their classroom lessons. Intentionally, these animations do not have any spoken explanations (although this animation does have music), so that a teacher can speak while the animation is playing, and stop the animation as needed to instruct.
  • If you assign this to students outside of class time, you can create a Student Pass that will allow students to view the animation (or any other video or ChemMatters article on the AACT website).
  • We suggest that a teacher pause this animation at several points, including when questions are posed before the answers are revealed, or watch it more than once to give students the opportunity to make notes, ask questions, and test their understanding of the concepts presented. The student activity sheet can help activate students’ prior knowledge, guide them through the animation, and provide a chance for after-viewing reflection and optional extension questions.
    • For the “After watching the video” questions, you may want to pause the animation on the final graphic of the full electromagnetic spectrum or have another image of the electromagnetic spectrum for them to reference.
  • This animation is a good introduction to the visible spectrum and only briefly references the other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and is appropriate for students in late elementary school and up. A good discussion to have after viewing the animation might be to ask students if they’ve heard of the other types of electromagnetic radiation, in what context, etc. You could also discuss which parts of the spectrum are high energy vs. low energy in more detail and use that to identify what types of radiation are most harmful.Some of the post-viewing/extension questions could be used to start these discussions.
  • Discussion of the electromagnetic spectrum often occurs at the middle or high school levels when learning about atomic structure, the Bohr model/quantum mechanical model of the atom, and atomic emissions spectra, which could be a good time to incorporate this animation.
  • Related classroom resources from the AACT Library that may be used to further teach this topic:

For the Student


Before watching the video:

  1. Take about 2 minutes to do a quick write/quick draw of the first things that come to your mind when you hear the words “color” and “light.” Then turn to a neighbor and share what you wrote/drew.

As you watch the video:

Write T for true or F for false next to each statement. If it is false, write a correct statement underneath.

  1. _____ White light is a combination of all colors of the rainbow.
  2. _____ Different colors of light all have the same wavelength.
  3. _____ Longer wavelengths of light have more energy.
  4. _____ Longer wavelengths of light have lower frequency.
  5. _____ Red light has the most energy.
  6. _____ Red light has the longest wavelength.
  7. _____ Red light has the highest frequency.
  8. _____ The colors we see are the wavelengths that are absorbed by an object.
  9. _____ The visible spectrum is a very small part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
  10. _____ Microwaves have less energy than visible light.

After watching the video:

  1. Besides visible light, what are the other sections of the electromagnetic spectrum?
  2. Which sections are higher in energy than visible light? Which section are lower in energy?
  3. Based on your answer to the previous question, which parts of the spectrum might pose a danger to living things? Why?
  4. Write two substantive questions you have that the video did not answer about light, color, and/or the electromagnetic spectrum.

Extension Questions:

  1. Do some research to answer one or both of your questions listed in #15. Write at least one paragraph about what you learned. List the sources you used.
  2. Choose one of the sections of the electromagnetic spectrum (other than visible light) and research at least two ways humans use that part of the spectrum. List the sources you used.
  3. The “visible spectrum” is given its name because it includes the wavelengths of light that can be perceived by most humans with normal vision.
    1. Research medical conditions that would cause a person to be unable to see some or all colors and possible solutions to help those people see color. List the sources you used.
    2. Human color vision is different from other animals’. Find at least one animal that can see fewer colors than humans and at least one that can see more colors than humans, and explain why their color vision is different. List the sources you used.