Week Sixty-Two: Color Science


June 28, 2017 by WittyLibrarian

Program Title: Color Science

Target Age Range: Grades 1-3

Program Length: 60 minutes

Brief Description: Explore the science behind color.


2 clear glass containers, where one can fit inside the other

Dish soap


4 binder clips

Plastic Cups

Food coloring

Eye droppers

Cut out cardstock Color Wheel Templates or create Color Wheel templates out of cardboard

Blue, Red and Yellow Markers



Handkerchiefs or small squares of white cloth

Colored Sharpies

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubber bands

Computer with access to a projector and internet

Cost: $$-$$$

Advanced preparation:

Print and cut out Color Wheel Templates on cardstock, or create your own Color Wheels out of cardboard. The cardboard is sturdier, but harder to cut, and the interior circles will need to be traced onto the cardboard and outlined in black.

If you choose to purchase lengths of cloth, rather than handkerchiefs, the cloth will need to be cut into pieces for the kids to use.

Program Outline:

Introduction to the concept of color. Annenberg Lerner’s wesbite has two excellent resources for explaining the science of color: The Science of  The Science of Light  and The Science of Light: Light in Color

Online color mixing activity from Annenbery Lerner’s Science Mad of Dots  

Create a demo Laminar Flow, from Steve Spangler Science, and use it to discuss additional color mixing. 

Create color mixing wheels, as described on Steve Spangler Science

Tie Dye activity based on Steve Spangler Science


Online Color Mixing Activity

As a group, we went through the activity several times, attempting to create the correct colors. The game also provides an excellent introduction as to how this particular color mixing activity works.

Laminar Flow Project

While discussing the science behind the Laminar Flow project, we created one in front of the group as a demo. Because it is a relatively small demonstration, we had the kids gather around the demonstration table to see the activity up close.

Color Mixing Wheels

We provided the children with a cut out Color Wheel Template, and they colored their wheels themselves. To poke holes in the wheels, we used pencils to push a small hole into the circle. 

Tie Dye Activity

Each child was given a handkerchief to color. We went around with eye droppers and dropped rubbing alcohol on the marker under the supervision of the kids.

Resources Used:

Annenberg Lerner’s Teachers’ Lab: The Science of Light

Annenberg Lerner’s Teachers’ Lab: The Science of Light: Light in Color

Annenberg Lerner’s Teachers’ Lab: Science Mad of Dots

Steve Spangler Science’s Twist in Time – Laminar Flow

Steve Spangler Science’s Color Mixing Wheel – SICK Science!

Steve Spangler Science’s Sharpie Pen Color Science – SICK Science.


Color Wheel Templates

What we would do differently:

The Laminar Flow project is wonderful in theory, but we had difficulty in making a working model. We had some success, but it was a very frustrating process. The program can stand on its own without this project. If filling time is needed, an additional tie-dye project would be an ample filler, or even a second color wheel using different colors. We also could have spent 20 minutes alone on the Online Color Mixing Activity. The kids were fascinated in how just three colors could essentially create a rainbow.

Adaptation for older/younger audience:

For a younger audience, both the color wheel and the tie-dye project would work well in an environment where caregivers are present. The color wheel is fun and relatively simple, but tying and threading the string requires a dexterity that some children younger than the 2nd graders we originally planned this for- might have. The tie-dye aspect would be very popular, but again, an adult should handle the eyedropper filled with rubbing alcohol.

All the activities would work for an older, tween audience, but we would definitely recommend having more than just a handkerchief for the tweens to color. While we had trouble with the Laminar Flow project, using it with an older crowd would allow them an interesting opportunity to help troubleshoot any potential issues you might encounter when trying to make the demo.

One thought on “Week Sixty-Two: Color Science

  1. How come some of your activities I can print out, but others I can’t! All great ideas by the way.

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