Playing With Light

Discover how light is essential to our daily lives and uncover the remarkable science behind its behavior.

Now Open

Level 1
Included with Admission
All Ages
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Light is fundamental to our everyday lives. It provides the basis for much of our technology and our view of the world. Play is a means to ignite the imagination for people of all ages and it enables learning through experimentation.

Playing With Light combines both into an experience like no other. Using basic physics principles, innovative interactive experiences and a sense of fun, the exhibition offers the opportunity to explore our world and how it is illuminated through 22 exhibits with a multitude of outcomes.

Playing With Light is included with Science Museum admission and is open February 11 - August 20, 2023. The exhibition was developed by Scitech in Perth, Australia and produced by Imagine Exhibitions.

Are you visiting the Science Museum of Virginia on a field trip during Playing with Light? This exhibition addresses many of the Virginia Standards of Learning! Download the Playing With Light Educator's Guide today to enhance your visit!

This touring exhibition corresponds with the following SOLs:

  • Kindergarten: 1 and 8
  • 1st Grade: 1, 3 and 7
  • 2nd Grade: 1
  • 5th Grade: 1 and 6
  • Physical Science: 1, 6 and 7
  • Physics: 1, 5 and 6
Group walks through led tunnel that follows their motion in the exhibit Playing With Light

About the Exhibition

Step into an illuminating tunnel of light where 20,000 individual LED lights move in perfect harmony with your every whim.

In Playing With Light, full-body interactive exhibits will encourage you to engage in an array of exciting and amazing light, laser and lens-based experiences. Try to reach your destination without activating an alarm by successfully dodging a series of laser beams. Make yourself shorter, taller, wider and more with the adjustable bendy mirror. Watch your shadow freeze before fading away, experiment with colored lights and find out what happens when one or more color is blocked, make a laser beam bounce down a stream of water and more!

You'll leave with a deeper appreciation of how light plays a vital role in your daily life and how science helps us to describe and explain the behavior of light.

View of a graphic panel in Playing With Light showing the exhibition logo.

Additional Programing

During the run of the touring exhibition, we’ll feature a wide variety of enlightening programming to expand upon themes in Playing With Light.

  • We’re shining light on discovery with a special live demo showing how light is always blocking, bending and bouncing. Make sure you check the schedule for Illuminating Light to explore the mysterious, wondrous and remarkable world of light.
  • Science After Dark: GLOW on March 3 is packed with fun hands-on STEM activities that let you sip in the science, step up your accessory game, write secret UV messages, build glowing geometric structures and more.
  • You won’t believe your eyes when you see how we explore if cows can see color. That’s right, we’re moo-ving other demos off the schedule to add live cow eye dissections so you can learn about different parts and functions of eyes, how they change over time and the connectedness of the eye-brain system by comparing human eyes to cow eyes.
  • Thanks to generous support from the Virginia Eye Institute, Science Museum educators will be offering science à la cart … yes, we meant cart! These mobile STEM stations feature hands-on educational lessons about diffracting colors that make up visible light and using light filters to make text disappear. Look for them throughout the building.
  • It’s time to get crafty with color! In the Art Lab, design your own color wheel to investigate what wavelengths make up white light.
  • Explore what it takes to grow plants in space in our Eco Lab. View plants in a terrarium and learn how astronauts grow plants using special lights and other features on spacecraft, like the International Space Station.
  • Catch a silly, music-filled performance of Shine Bright Speed Light. We’re opening our usually group-only theater presentation for the general public to help you learn how visible light travels at the same, finite, constant speed, no matter what the source.
  • Plus, don’t miss the chance to see stars sparkle and the cosmos shine! Add one of our astronomy shows in The Dome onto your visit. Ultra-high-definition projectors and a nearly quarter-acre screen put you at the helm for an interactive space adventure like no other.
Explore Playing With Light
Guest enters dark room with a green laser maze in the exhibition Playing With Light.jpg
Girl looking through a spectroscope
Three young boys making shadows in front of a blank wall.
Young boy playing with an exhibit in Playing With Light
Two young children looking at their reflection in a distorting mirror.
Young girl standing in a room of mirrors with lights overhead.
Woman standing close to and looking at a wall of lights

Educational cart activities sponsored locally by:

Abstract image of green laser beams