How to Make a Kaleidoscope

Supply List

  • PVC cement
  • Transparent tape
    About one roll for every five kaleidoscopes
  • Labels
    With the name of your school or organization
  • Permanent markers
    In various colors
  • Small pieces of sandpaper
    About 100 grit

Before Class: Prepare the Materials

  1. Cut the acrylic mirror into strips. Vacuum the mirrors.
  2. Cut the PVC pipe into 7 7/8-inch tubes. Clean the tubes.
  3. Drill holes in the center of the PVC end caps
  4. Cut the adhesive-backed foam weather stripping into one-inch pieces.
  5. Cut the foam rope into one-inch pieces.
  6. Glue the bottoms of the petri dishes onto the PVC tubes.

In Class: Make the Kaleidoscopes

  1. For each kaleidoscope, remove the protective film from the faces of three mirrors.
  2. Gather the mirrors in your hands, long edges together.
  3. Gently and carefully fold the mirrors into a triangle, shiny sides in.  
  4. Line up the corners to form an equilateral triangle.  
  5. Wind transparent tape around the triangle, approximately 1/2 inch from each end. Students may want to work in pairs for this, one student to hold the mirrors and another student to wind the tape. When securely and neatly taped, the mirror triangle will not wobble.  
     
  6. Remove the backing from a piece of weather stripping and place it on one side of the triangle, approximately one inch from one end.   
  7. Add two more pieces of weather stripping, one to each empty side of the triangle. The three pieces of weather stripping should present a uniform appearance when placed correctly.  
  8. Insert the mirrors, weather stripping down, into the PVC tube.  
  9. Compress the weather stripping slightly to make it fit. 
  10. Insert a one-inch piece of foam cord into the empty place between two points of the triangle.  
  11. Insert two more pieces into the remaining spaces in exactly the same manner.   
  12. Place the PVC end cap onto the PVC tube.  
  13. The PVC end cap will fit the tube tightly, so hit the end cap with the flat of your hand to be sure the end cap is completely on the tube.  
  14. Add the self-stick label. Your kaleidoscope has no colors in it, but reflects the world via the mirrors, so we call it a WorldView Kaleidoscope.
       
  15. Enjoy the view. 

To Add Colors to Your Kaleidoscope Using Permanent Markers

  1. Use the remaining (larger) half of the petri dish to create a kaleidoscope with colors. With a few colored permanent markers, draw lines on the inside face of the dish. Fewer lines work better than more.
  2. To prevent the world from being seen, lightly sand the outside face of the petri dish.
  3.   To operate the kaleidoscope, hold the colored petri dish half onto the end of the kaleidoscope, with the colored side toward the kaleidoscope and the sanded side toward the world, and then rotate the petri dish by hand.
  4. Enjoy the view.