Exploring Materials: Stained-Glass Windows

Our kits are currently being reviewed and updated by a team of collaborative, innovative and interdisciplinary educators who wish to enhance the educational opportunities for students. These dedicated teachers are members of CRISP Collaborative Science for All (CCSA) as well as local educators.

Click to see the SCSU CRISP Module Template used by CCSA for improving and updating the CRISP demos and kits. Each kit page offers a CRISP developed teacher module and CRISP aligned standards (both NGSS and CCSS)

Kit Request form

Medieval stained-­‐glass windows are an early example of nanotechnology. The artists didn’t know it at the time, but a material can act differently when it’s nanometer sized. (A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.)

Many nano materials behave differently as they change size. This seems odd because it doesn’t happen at the macro-­‐scale. For example, we can’t change the flavor of ice cream just by changing the scoop size. No matter what the size, vanilla ice cream always tastes like vanilla ice cream. A big scoop of vanilla ice cream and a small scoop still taste the same. But at the nanoscale, properties can change when the size changes. For example, as particles of gold get smaller, their color changes. This is like the flavor suddenly changing from vanilla to chocolate, just because the scoop got smaller!

Adapted from NanoDays Toolkits originally created for NISEnet via the NanoDays project
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Award Numbers 0532536 and 0940143. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.



Nanometer, Properties at the Nanoscale, Optics


Students will understand how when particles of gold get smaller, their color changes. At the nanoscale, properties can change when the size changes.

Materials in this kit:

  • Samples of nanogold stained glass (2)
  • Sample of gold flakes
  • Precut pieces of clear contact paper
  • Small pieces of multicolored tissue paper
  • Precut strips of black construction paper
  • Scissors
  • “Stained-glass Art” Image Sheet

Suggestions for the Teacher:

This activity has some advanced preparation

Before you begin: have small pieces of multicolored tissue paper available. Pre-cut the contact paper to the desired size and cut strips of black construction paper for the boarders.
Peeling off the backing of the contact paper can be challenging. Sometimes it is hard to get the peel started. One tip is the bend and crease one of the corners. This sometimes helps to get the peeling started. During slow times, or before the activity begins, you may want to peel the corner of the backing off some pieces of contact paper to aid students who might have difficulty doing it themselves.


Additional Resources:

Stained Glass Student Sheet
Stained Glass Slides from NanoDays
Stained Glass guide from NanoDays

STEM Careers:

Materials Scientist


NGSS: Disciplinary Core Ideas

HS-ETS1 - Engineering Design
HS-PS1 - Matter and its interactions
HS-PS4 - Waves and their applications in technologies for information transfer

NGSS: Cross-Cutting Concepts

Concept 2 - Cause and Effect. Mechanism and Explanation.
Concept 3 - Scale, proportion, and quantity

NGSS: Science and Engineering Practices

Practice 4 - Analyzing and Interpreting Data.
Practice 8 - Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Suggested Video(s):