watercolor diagram of eyes


This exploration is for all ages, as the colored smilies show. You can learn about eyes, label a diagram of an eye, and do an eye dissection with your whole family together!

1st thru 4th grades
5th thru 8th grades
9th thru 12th grades

Human Body

The eyes experiment is a Biology lesson from the Layers of Learning Human Body unit. Layers of Learning has hands-on explorations in every unit of this family-friendly curriculum. Learn more about Layers of Learning.

Eyes are some of the most complex structures of the body.  They use light and electrical impulses to allow our brains to see our surroundings.

Human eyesight is our strongest of the senses.  Our eyes have a lens that focuses light onto the back of the eye, a curved screen of light-sensing nerve cells.  When the image hits the back of the eye it is upside down and our brain turns it back right side up.  

We can see color because we have specialized cones (those nerve cells) that allow us to see color.  We also have rods, the black and white vision cells.

Step 1: Library Research

Before you begin exploring, read a book or two about eyes. Here are some suggestions, but if you can’t find these, look for books at your library about eyes, vision, or human anatomy. The colored smilies above each book tell you what age level they’re recommended for.

As Amazon affiliates, the recommended books and products below kick back a tiny percentage of your purchase to us. It doesn’t affect your cost and it helps us run our website. We thank you!

Eye: How It Works

by David Macaulay

Lots of detailed information about eyes, but still at a level for younger kids.

Eyes and Ears

by Seymour Simon

A fair amount of text and lots of detailed pictures including illustrations and dissection photographs of the actual human eye and ear parts.

Eyes to See

by Michael Land

Discusses in depth the huge variety of eye structures in the animal world. This is a step way beyond simply studying human eye sight. The book is readable but detailed, save it for your very interested student. Includes lots of evolutionary material.

Step 2: Eye Dissection

WARNING: This experiment uses sharp tools. Also, the specimen has been preserved in chemicals that can be damaging to skin and eyes. Closely supervise children and always wear gloves and goggles when doing dissections. Children younger than 10 should have a parent or older child doing most of the dissection while the younger ones observe.

For this experiment you will need a cow eyeball, dissection kit, gloves, goggles, and a printable of the parts of the eye.

We recommend getting the cow eye dissection kit from Home Science Tools. You can buy one for your kids to share or get one for each child. Click on the image to go to the place where you can buy this.
Pay attention to the size of the gloves, you’ll want small if you are doing this with kids younger than 12, medium for kids from 12 to 14 and women, and large or x-large for many young men.
Pay attention to size with eye protection too. Eye protection comes in child sizes and adult sizes.
A worksheet about the human eye to label.
Click on the image of the worksheet to get the pdf to print.
Here is the diagram of the eye colored and with answers.

Start by labeling the diagram of the human eye. Use the books you got from the library to find the answers. Color the diagram.

Now use the guide that came with your cow eye dissection kit to dissect the cow eyeball. Remember to wear gloves and googles to protect your skin and eyes from the preservatives the eye has been in.

Cow eyes are similar to human eyes because cows and humans are both mammals. The cow eye is a good substitute for a human eye.

If you’re a more visual person, you will want to follow along with this cow eye dissection video below.

Step 3: Show What You Know

As you are dissecting the eye, make a detailed drawing in your science notebook of the things you see. Label the drawing. Use the drawing to explain or teach another person abut the parts of the eye and how they work.

Additional Layers

Additional Layers are extra activities you can do or tangents you can take off on. You will find them in the sidebars of each Layers of Learning unit. They are optional, so just choose what interests you.

Additional Layer

Go to your library and find some books on optical illusions. They are fun and fascinating.

This is “Optical Illusions” from DK.

Additional Layer

Did you know that just as you are right or left handed, you are also right or left eyed?  Try this to find out which is your dominant eye.

  1. Form your fingers into a triangle with your thumbs and pointer fingers overlapping each other. 
  2. Stretch your hands out in front of you and pick a target at least ten feet away. 
  3. Sight the target through the triangle of your fingers. 
  4. Now close one eye and then the other without moving your hands or your head. With one eye you will still see the target perfectly. This is your dominant eye. With the other eye, the target will disappear from the triangle of your fingers.   

Additional Layer

There are many kinds of eyes in the natural world. Animals range from light sensing to the ability to see in the dark.

This is the eye of a cuttlefish.

Read Animal Eyes from the Museum of Vision to learn more.

Free Samples

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