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Now You See It, Now You Don't!

About the Activity: 

Peripheral vision is important in our everyday lives because it allows us to gather a visual sense of our surroundings—without it, we would see the world through "tunnel vision." The survival of our ancient ancestors depended on their ability to use peripheral vision to find prey and to avoid predators. Almost everything we do—from riding a bike, to dribbling a basketball, to reading a book depends on peripheral vision. In this human biology project, you will test the limits of peripheral vision and learn how to understand your results based on the anatomy of the human eye.

This activity is designed to be worked in groups of 3.

Supplies Needed:

  • Constructed protractor

  • Pushpin

  • strings

  • Pencil

  • Scissors or X-ACTO® knife

  • Ruler

  • Clear tape

  • Protractor

  • Small disposable paper or plastic cup

  • Elmer's® glue

  • Colored markers, several different colors

  • Cut out shapes

  • Popsicle® sticks (about 12)

  • Volunteer

  • Findings sheet - attached


  1. Start with the constructed ½ circle vision protractor from the supply box.  Now stick the pushpin in at the edge of the half-circle, directly across from the nose hole. This will be your focus point. See Figure 1. Again, be sure it is not poking anything important underneath. You might want to use a piece of clear tape over top of it to secure it to the foam board so it does not fall out.

  2. Use glue to attach the plastic cup to the bottom of the foam board. The cup will serve as a handle, so should be glued somewhere near the center of the foam board. Now that you have made the vision protractor, it is time to make some colored objects to test your peripheral vision.


1. Now you are ready to start the experiments. Using the cup as a handle, hold the foam board base up to your face and put your nose in the center hole.


2. Have your volunteer partner the popsicle stick with the attached shape so that it is perpendicular against the curved side of the base, starting at 0°. See Figure 2



3. Have your volunteer move the object slowly and evenly from the edge toward the middle while you keep your eyes on the focus point.


4. Have your volunteer stop moving the object when you can first detect it, but both of you should stay where you are. Be sure to note the angle at which you first detected the object.


5. It might be helpful to have a second volunteer write the angles down so that you don't have to stop the experiment to make notes in your lab notebook.


6. Now have your volunteer keep moving the object toward the center of the foam board.


7. This time, have your volunteer stop moving the object when you can first detect the color of the object. Again, note the angle at which you first detect the color of the object in your Findings sheet.


8. Have your volunteer continue moving the object and note the angle at which you first can make out the shape of the object.


9.Repeat steps 1-10 two more times with the first object. Then repeat steps 1-10 three times for each additional object.  You should end up with at least three readings for each trial.


10. Here are some questions you might want to focus on:

        a. What color does your peripheral vision respond to best? (What color did you expect to be the easiest to detect?)

        b. What color was the hardest to see using peripheral vision?


What are your findings?:

1. At what angle did everyone in your group see the each colored object?

  1. Trial 1

    1. Person 1​

    2. Person 2

    3. Person 3

  2. Trial 2

    1. Person 1​

    2. Person 2

    3. Person 3

  3. Trial 3

    1. Person 1​

    2. Person 2

    3. Person 3

2. At what conditions was for each person during each trial for the each colored piece?



Figure 1.jpg

Figure 1

Vision protractor with plastic cup handle. Look at the focus point as a volunteer moves the colored object toward the center of your vision. Record the angle at which the object was first observed.

Figure 2.jpg

Figure 2

Person looking at the focus point of a vision protractor while a volunteer moves an object slowly along the edge.

About the Presenters


Dr. Tamara Mathsion

Dr. Tamara Mathison enjoys the challenge of finding the best solution for each individual patient’s visual demands. Having “perfect” 20/20 vision as a child and yet needing vision therapy to correct an eye muscle imbalance, Tamara understands that prescribing glasses to give clear vision is just one aspect of vision correction. Her goal is to help each patient achieve the best comfort and clarity of their vision while making sure their eyes stay as healthy as possible. 

Tamara grew up in Bismarck, ND. After graduation, she attended Concordia College to pursue an undecided career in health or education. She found her niche while finishing her secondary life science teaching degree when she worked with a student with learning and vision disabilities. Optometry offered the opportunity to work with both interests, healthcare, and education! She earned her Doctor of Optometry degree from Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR. Tamara made Jamestown her home in 1990 when she joined the practice of Dr. Keith Prentice and Dr. Don Caine. She has continued in that same practice which is now Lifetime Vision. 

Outside the office, Tamara’s passion is spending time in the kitchen, discovering and cooking new food for family and friends. She also enjoys reading, gardening, and camping at Lake Williams.


Dr. Briana Bohn

Dr. Briana Bohn grew up in Hazelton, ND. She graduated from Minnesota State University-Moorhead with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology. She then received her Doctor of Optometry degree from Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago, IL. She began her career with Dakota Eye Institute before joining Lifetime Vision at the end of 2017. 

Dr. Briana is passionate about not only improving the eye health of her patients but also getting to know them and their families. Having worn glasses and contacts a majority of her life, she appreciates how vision affects all areas of a person’s daily activities and strives to give her patients the highest quality of care. Dr. Briana has special interests in myopia control, specialty contact lenses, urgent care visits, and primary care optometry. 

Briana resides in Jamestown, ND with her husband and their son. Her interests outside of the office include spending time with friends and family, baking, reading, gardening, and enjoying the outdoors. 

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