Thursday, May 29, 2014

An Exploration of Color and Light

One of my favorite things to share with others is my love of color and how color works. I always start by providing provocations based around color. Maybe a table will focus on only one color, complementary colors, or I'll sort items into primary colors and secondary colors. Most of the time this simply makes the provocation appealing. It calls out "play with me" but it's very subtle in it's design. After a while, though, children will start to notice and comment on it "This table is all blue and orange!" or "Look! Everything here is a different shade of green." When this starts happening, I know they are ready to begin talking about color.


I've always been intrigued by color. My mother was an artist and showed me from a very young age the way that light and color came together in her art. I found it intensely interesting and it was something we could always share together. It can be a challenge to remember to step back and follow rather than teach as my mother did. Every time I start to discuss color with a new group I learn more and develop more patience. The first time we met for group I set up pattern blocks in a circle that represented the color wheel. AS immediately noticed, "Those are rainbow colors!"

I nodded, "AS says these are rainbow colors. I wonder what else you notice?" LC pointed to the red pattern block and exclaimed, "It's red! Look!" This prompted everyone else to notice a color. EF pointed to the yellow, "Yellow!" TUS pointed to the purple, "And this one is purple! Purple has a p in it, but my name doesn't have a p." I nodded, "You all notice different colors! This circle is called a color wheel. In the wheel there is..." I pointed to each color as I said it, "yellow, green, blue, purple, red, and orange."

After we explored the color wheel to everyone's satisfaction, we talked about the idea of how some colors can mix to create other colors. Using water and food color, we mixed red and blue. First, each child took a turn dropping some food coloring into the water. Once everyone felt satisfied with how deep the hues were we spooned a little of each color into a new bowl. As the blue mixed with the red, EF shouted, "It's purple!" I responded, "EF says red and blue are mixing to make purple. I have some purple food coloring. Should we check?" Everyone nodded. We used our fourth bowl of water to drop the purple food coloring in. Though they weren't exactly a match, they were pretty close. AS affirmed this, "It's the same! Look!"

The second time we met we wanted to see what happened if we used shaving cream instead of water. We also tried using our bingo markers, which are filled with liquid color, to see if we'd get similar results. TB worked hard to get some liquid color out of the blue bingo marker. He tried squeezing first but realized that he could press down on the bottom to get the marker to leak color. QM and TUS, who also had bingo markers colored red and purple, copied TB's technique. Soon their bowls were covered in their respective colors. LC, CE, and AS had food coloring. They carefully squeezed out each color into their bowls. We then added shaving cream. Everyone stirred vigorously to mix in the color.

TB noticed a difference right away in how vivid the food coloring was compared to the bingo markers, "Hey! Mine's light blue and that's dark blue." I noted, "Hmm, so the two blues look different." TUS said, "And my red is more like pink." CE said, "White and red made pink!" After all the colors were mixed in to the shaving cream we took spoonfuls of the red and blue shaving creams and mixed them together to compare to the purple from each test group. The original purples were much deeper than our mixed purples, but everyone agreed they were still very close to the same.

At the end as we cleaned up, TB said to me quietly, "I bet if we mixed ALL the colors together we'd get black." TUS said, "I did that once and it was brown." This little peek into their minds and how they are processing color made me feel excited for moving forward in coloring group. Next, we plan to see what happens when blue meets yellow!

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