What Makes these Stars on the Floor?

Delivery Method: 

A faceted mirror ball sprays rays of light throughout the room, radiating outward from the ball, but only when the ball is placed in the path of sunlight one sees as a bright panel on the floor. Carter created this effect just before the clip began. The action picks up with Carter saying, “Where’d go?” holding his palms up in a questioning gesture. He holds the mirror ball and has stepped out of the path of sunlight. The question itself indicates that Carter wonders if these delightful spots of light will return. He searches with his eyes, sees a single spot, and points to it. Again his behavior suggests he understands this event to be repeatable, not a one time pop.


He cradles the mirror ball to his shoulder, more to stabilize the weight of it than to extend it into the light. As his torso moves, so does the ball. His movements to look for the light fortuitously move the ball into the sun. Reflected spots zoom about him in a synchronized pattern for a split second. This display excites him and confirms his belief that these spots do return. Then in a flash they are again nowhere to be seen.


This short video clip captures interesting teacher-child interactions. The teacher scaffolds Carter’s curiosity by being his audience, by asking him to solve a problem, by affirming his discovery, by adjusting to simpler questions when a more difficult question did not connect, by using the word “it” when she notices he points to single spots, and by maximizing the display of the effect when she moves the ball into the patch of sun. This video also shows what a young child has to do to isolate the cause of an event and how to test that hypothesis. He finally thought that the appearance of the lights could be controlled by his movements and then by degrees he isolated the source to the ball. To test this theory he moved the ball on the floor, independent of his body movements. We do not yet know if he has any idea that the stars are reflected sunlight. That will come later. But he does know that moving the ball moves the spots, and he may have some idea that this movement has to be near that patch of light on the floor. It is too much to expect him to know that “light” is everywhere a beam that passes invisibly through the air. It takes a while to understand the geometry of optics.


Runtime: 1 minute 7 seconds