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Elementary School Class Activities for Making Telescopes

By Carissa Lawrence ; Updated September 26, 2017
Spyglass telescopes are fun to play with.

Kids learn a lot about space in elementary school. While teaching information about the stars and planets, offer kids a way to explore space themselves. Making a telescope can be an activity for elementary school students to complete individually or with a partner. Types of telescopes kids can make include spyglass telescopes, upside down telescopes and tubeless telescopes.

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Spyglass Telescope

Making a small handheld telescope can allow students to get used to viewing objects through one eye. This simple activity involves a paper towel or gift wrap roll, construction paper, clear tape and plastic wrap. Cut a small square of plastic wrap and tape it to one end of the tube to make a lens. Use tape to cover the whole roll with construction paper. To make it look like a traditional spyglass, cover the end near the lens with a small strip of yellow paper.

Upside Down Telescope

This telescope is called an upside down telescope because it uses two magnifying glasses to allow you to view objects that are far away. To complete the activity, students will need a pencil, scissors, a nontoxic school glue, two magnifying glasses that are the same size and a 24-inch piece of corrugated paper. Measure the size of a magnifying glass by wrapping the paper around and drawing a line to mark the diameter. Add 1 1/2 inches to allow space to close the tube, and then cut the paper lengthwise. Next, cut the width of the paper in half, making two 12-inch pieces. Wrap a piece of paper around each magnifying glass to make a tube and glue each tube securely. The second tube should be a bit wider than the first to make adjusting the telescope easier. Put the smaller tube inside the larger tube with the magnifying glasses on either end. Kids can decorate their telescopes with markers or felt pens.

Tubeless Telescope: Objective Lens

This activity is a way to help kids understand how a telescope works. Materials needed are a pair of “weak” reading glasses (like the glasses you can buy at a drug store), a magnifying glass, a flashlight, tape and a piece of wax paper. Students will need to work in pairs during this activity. Tape the reading glasses to a stationary object such as a pole or chair, ensuring that one lens sticks out. Set the flashlight on a table or chair at least 13 feet away from the glasses with the light directed at the lens.

Tubeless Telescope: Eyepiece

Once the objective lens is set up, hold the wax paper in the beam of light behind the glasses and walk backward until a small image of the flashlight is visible. One student should hold the paper in this spot while the other looks at the image of the flashlight through the magnifying glass and makes adjustments until there is a magnified image. Once the paper is removed, students will be able to see magnified images of objects close to the flashlight by slightly moving the magnifying glass.

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About the Author

Based in Gainesville, Carissa Lawrence is an experienced teacher who has been writing education related articles since 2013. Lawrence holds a master's degree in early childhood education from the University of Florida.

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