Problem Solvers

Light up the dark

Light up the dark

A creative construction task which asks your class to make a skylight using a range of different materials.

Activity overview

30 mins+
Ages 7 – 9

Science topics:

Light , Climate challenge

You will need:

Recycled plastic bottles (1-2 litres), water and large cardboard boxes to represent homes. You could prepare the boxes so that the insides are painted black and there is a small viewing hole cut where children could find out how much light can be seen inside, or provide each group with the materials to do this themselves.

Sometimes you have to solve a problem on the spot. Explain that today the class will need to make a skylight using just the materials provided. 

Run the activity

In this activity, the italic sections marked with the polar bear explain how you can link the children's learning to the Climate Challenge, and support the children to take positive action.

1. Working in teams, look at the equipment and think about how you might approach this task. Are there any questions you’d like answered about how to make the light? 

2. Watch this short video about how Liter of Light in Niger installed a Solar Bottle Light. Can you find the answers to any of your questions? Then spend a few minutes making a plan about what you need to do. You could record this to help you remember it. 

3. Improving: Discuss your plan with another group. Feedback your ideas to each other, making sure you balance positive remarks and suggestions for improvement. What have you learned from swapping ideas? How can both group improve their plans? 

4. Allow the children to make their light and test how well it works. 

Background science

When teaching children about the Climate Challenge, it is important that we give them the facts (age appropriately and sensitively). During your discussion, allow time for children to express their thoughts and feelings and have them validated.

In 2011 the founder of Liter of Light (see Light in a bottle) was looking for ways to address plastic pollution and provide light for people living in homes with no windows to let light in. His solution was to install a two-litre plastic bottle filled with water in a hole on the roof of houses. Sunlight is refracted from the bottle filled with water, acting as a lightbulb and increasing the amount of light able to get into the home. Plastic bottles were recycled and homes were brighter, saving energy used during the day. 

The inventor went on to include solar panels in his design so that the lights could be used when it was dark. Solar is a renewable energy source which does not contribute greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

Take it further

After giving children the information they need about Climate Challenge issues, give them time to express how they feel, empathising with them and validating their feelings before taking it further.  


Can the children think of other uses for these creations? Explore the project further to understand how this simple solution has changed lives. 

This Primary Science webquest is an excellent way for the children to explore who invented electric light bulbs and how scientific ideas change over time. 


Watch this short video summarising the aims of the charity Solar Aid who install solar panels to bring light to African communities. 

If you are going to encourage children to invent something, watch some of  Wallace and Gromit’s Cracking contraptions for inspiration. 

Discuss with the children what could be done to help and if there is a positive action they can take themselves. Explain that when lots of people carry out small positive changes, it can have a big impact overall.

Positive action

If inventing inspires your class, give them the opportunity to invent something that promotes climate justice. The YouTube channel Kidsinventstuff sets monthly challenges for children to design their own invention. You can download the worksheets, submit their designs and the winner’s design gets made by the YouTube channel. Alternatively, you might want to try ‘If you were an Engineer, what would you do?’ Children can interview an engineer, identify a common problem and design a solution. For more ideas on small positive steps to help the planet, read our article on The Climate Challenge.

Image credit: geralt via Pixabay