The idea of reflection has a long history, as far as myths and fairy tales are concerned, with Narcissus falling in love with his reflection and killing himself, Perseus killing Medusa using a polished shield as a distraction not to look at Medusa directly. There’s Snow White and Beauty and the Beast, Alice through the Looking Glass, and stories of Bloody Mary or vampires. Some cultures make sure mirrors are covered at certain times, as mirrors are linked to the soul. A Japanese shaman Queen had a bronze mirror in AD239, where decoration on the reverse was used to create reflections of mythological creatures, as part of sun-worshipping ceremonies.
Early people will have seen their reflections in areas of still water, then, having discovered metals, began to polish flat surfaces to become mirrors.
The idea of breaking a mirror dates back to Roman times, where it was believed that the soul renewed itself every seven years, and that breaking a mirror would damage the soul of the owner for the seven years.
Making a collection of shiny surfaced objects has always been a staple of infant classrooms; perhaps teachers are inveterate magpies. Plastic mirrors, flat, concave and convex, are easily available and further extend investigative opportunities.
Investigations from mirrors.
1. Make a broad collection of shiny objects. Which ones reflect, which don’t?
2. What do you look like in a mirror? Draw and describe.
3. Using a bendy mirror, what does bending the mirror in different ways do to your reflection?
4. Using convex/concave mirrors, or the two sides of a shiny spoon, what do you look like?
5. Put an object in front of a mirror. Try to put an object on the spot where the reflection appears to be. Measure the distance from the mirror of each object.
6. Explore mirrors and symmetry.
7. Hinge a pair of mirrors. Put an object in the middle. What can you see in the reflections? Alter the angle between the mirrors, what do you notice?
8. Explore 3 hinged mirrors, as a triangle, or in different formations.
9. Explore parallel mirrors.
10. How does a kaleidoscope or a periscope work? Try to make a working model.
In PE/drama, children can partner together to coordinate mirror movements, as small sequences.