Friday, April 24, 2015

Exploring Color-Mixing

This week, Cohort 7 & 9 has been extraordinarily fascinated with color-mixing.  We have been observing the children's ideas and observations about colors for some time, but their interest seemed particularly sparked by a painting provocation I set up early in the week.  On the table were transparent, colored blocks arranged so that a few colors could be seen from every seat.  Where blocks of different colors overlapped, new colors came into view, providing an open-ended, visual representation of color-mixing.  I gave each child a palette with red, yellow, and blue paint separated between the wells, handed them a brush and piece of paper, and sat back to observe.

First, I was struck by a few of the children who waited a full minute or two before even picking up their brush.  I often observe the children begin painting right away, so I was interested to note this pause.  After a little while, LC announced: "I'm picking colors!"  LT, sitting beside her, said "Oh! Me too."  LC, LT, LP, and NA counted the colors multiple times: "1, 2, 3! yay!" 

Across the table, AJ and LS had already begun to paint.  LS worked with one color at a time, transferring a large amount of paint to her paper before moving on to the next color, layering it on top of what was already on the paper.  AJ was using the very tip of her paintbrush to pick up just a little bit of paint, and then working with short, brisk strokes on the paper, creating a pattern of color that eventually faded before moving on to another color and trying out longer, circular strokes.

LP began painting next, making large circles of color across her paper, and then mixing new colors on top of each area: "It's green in there!"  NA, LT, and LC were still observing others and closely investigating their palettes.  LT carefully picked up her palette to bring it closer to her face, bringing it gently back to the table, and finally dipping her brush in each color, creating a green color with hints of red on her paper.  LC appreciated LT's work right away: "Look!  L's paintin'!"

NA set her brush down at this point, and dipped her fingers into two of the wells.  She held up her hands in wonder, her left fingertips covered in red, her right in blue.  She began to paint the paper using her hands, growing more and more excited as the colors changed on her skin: "Look Na-nee hands!"   LC began her work, focusing on mixing the paints while they were still in the palette.  "I'm tradin' colors!" she exclaimed, as each movement changed the colors in the wells.  The children stayed at the table for quite some time before moving on to wash hands and explore the classroom.

The children showed so much wonder and appreciation with their careful handling of the paints that afternoon, finding joy in their individual ways of engaging with the colors.  As each child explored the different paints, they fulfilled their interest in ordering the world, the work they are constantly engaged in everyday:  counting and labeling the colors, putting them together, keeping them separate, or moving through each color one at a time.

We continued to explore color-mixing throughout the rest of the week, working with tempera paint both in the studio and classroom and mixing wet chalk on the pavement outside.  Each time, the children who were present brought the same excitement and focus to their work, labeling the colors and noticing how they changed when mixed together through words or gestures.  We are excited to continue supporting this interest; stay tuned for where it takes us next!

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