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Summer of Science Activity Series: Thaumatropes!

Welcome to the second installment of our Summer of Science activity series!

We’re issuing a challenge to make your family’s summer the best one yet – by making it a Summer of Science. To help make it a science-filled summer, we’ll post a new science activity on our blog weekly, from now until August 6. Give each activity we post a try and take a photo of what you create – or whatever you discover in the process! For each photo you post and tag #CuriOdysseySummerSci on Flickr or Twitter, you’ll be entered into a drawing for CuriOdyssey passes.


For our second Summer of Science activity, you’ll create a thaumatrope. Thaumatropes are made by mounting two images on either side of a disc. For example, a bird on one side of the disc and a cage on the other, or a fish and a bowl. When you rotate the disc, the images from the two sides appear to come together into one image.

You’ll need:
Sturdy straws or sticks
File folder or cardstock paper (also sturdy) cut into large circles/discs
Markers or crayons

What to do:
1. Draw a complimentary image in the center of either side of the disc (fish on one side, bowl on the other).
2. Other examples are a cloud and thunderbolt, bird in flight (wings in opposition), face and hair.
3. Tape or staple the straw or stick on one side of the disk so that it is strong enough to be spun without bending.
4. Roll the straw between your palms to spin the straw and images back and forth rapidly. This should create the illusion that the two images are merging.

What’s happening here?
This is called an illusion of apparent motion. You perceive this amazing illusion every time you watch cartoons or a movie. You perceive that the characters on the screen are moving around, but in fact you are seeing many still pictures flashing before your eyes. Your brain puts all of the pieces together and fills in the blanks to make it look like fluid movement.

Tag your photos on Flickr or Twitter with #CuriOdysseySummerSci and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a chance to win CuriOdyssey passes. The more photos you post, the more times you’ll be entered. We want to see your inventive thaumatrope!

Be sure to check back next week for a new Summer of Science activity – until then!

– The CuriOdyssey Team

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