Turning Arrow (Refraction Experiment)

Wow your family and friends with this amazing refraction experiment. Make the arrow flip over right before your eyes! Of course, it’s not really magic – it’s science! It is called refraction of light and read on at the end of this post to see how it works. refraction experiment equipment

You will need:

  • A pen
  • Paper
  • 2 glasses
  • Water


  • Draw an arrow pointing left or right on the paper and rest it against something so it is standing up.
  • Place a transparent (clear) glass in front of the picture so you can clearly see the arrow through the glass.
  • Fill another glass with water and pour it into the first glass.
  • Watch your arrow change direction!

refraction experiment beforerefraction experiment after

The science bit:

The arrow looks like it has changed direction because of something called refraction. Refraction happens when light passes through one transparent (clear) thing into another, in this case, from air through the glass and water. This is sometimes called the bending of light. So the light bends when it enters the water and then bends again when it leaves the water, which is why the image ends up looking flipped!

Did you know? Refraction is why glasses help us to see better. The light refracts through the lenses and into our eye which makes the image more focused.

Now try:

  • Drawing a different picture and seeing what it looks like when it is refracted!
  • Make this refraction experiment even better by trying different liquids – does it look different when using oil, or vinegar (for example)?