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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Electromagnetic Spectral Activities

The Electromagnetic Spectrum


The purpose of this activity is to give the students an understanding of the different wavelengths of energy entering the atmosphere from the sun. The graphic will also demonstrate the approximate atmospheric penetration of each type of wave.


  • hand-out on the electromagnetic spectrum
  • prism
  • radiometer
  • overhead projector

About this Activity

This activity involves teacher demonstrations and class discussions.


  1. Pass out hand-out on the electromagnetic spectrum. Review each part of the spectrum with your students.
  2. Use a radiometer to illustrate that infrared radiation is invisible to the naked eye. Have students figure out how the radiometer works, then discuss their responses.
  3. Use the prism and the overhead projector to show the visible spectrum. Turn off the lights in the classroom. Turn on the overhead projector with the light projecting onto the ceiling or upper wall. Hold the prism near the projecting surface so the light can pass through the prism. The visible light spectrum should appear on the wall or on a screen.
  4. Discuss the visible spectrum with the students emphasizing that each color has its own characteristic wavelength.