“Trailing strands of cascading colour” is a very romantic way to describe fibre optics, but the effect is visually stunning. The colour changing tubes transmit no heat or electricity, which makes them very safe to handle. They are a great alternative to any mains-powered lighting, which is unsafe to touch. This is the key to the success of fibre optics.
Although a stunning visual effect, the tactile nature of fibre optics is an essential experience for students of any age and ability. For most, it is a natural reaction to want to touch something when you see it. Touching an object will give you much more information about its tactile content: rough; smooth, hard, soft, warm and so on. Touching the object also allows you to manipulate it to gain an understanding in a three-dimensional sense, you will also experience pressure, weight and force. Fibre optics are not just for visual effect, but also a tool that can give a student a wider multi-modal sensory experience.
The overriding impression is the visual effect, so they are best presented in a space that is darkened to create a visual preference. They will also appear brighter when used against a dark floor surface, e.g. a dark blue carpet.
Although they are a great tool for early skills, they are also excellent for children’s education and creative play. I use fibre optics to complement a Harry Potter scenario and the children have to ‘Guess the colours in the magic stream and see them light as if a dream’. Awareness, recognising and matching the colours is a fun activity. Many adults simply find the gentle changing colours tranquil and comforting, an experience which for some is hard to achieve.
Fibre optics can be laid over the floor and kept portable to be used all around a school or centre. They can be draped down the wall to create stunning colour changing curtain or dramatic entrance. Try threading them through holes in umbrellas or large cardboard boxes!
Fibre optics, a unique and extraordinary effect: a wonderful tool for relaxation, imagination and learning.