Science Storytime: Mouse Colors

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe theme for this week was supposed to be Leaves, accompanied by a nature walk to enjoy the resplendent fall foliage on display…but the weather failed to check my calendar and it was a rainy miserable day, so we had to switch gears and go with a backup program of color mixing.

The obvious choice of a book on the topic is the classic Mouse Colors by Ellen Stohl Walsh. We read the book and talked about colors. All of the children appeared to be familiar with the idea that mixing two colors together will produce a third color, but most did not seem to have internalized that specific colors will always produce others, that red and blue will always create purple and not green. So although the concept was not alien, the direct experience with color mixing was still of value.

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For an activity, I simply provided various colors of paint and let the kids go nuts. I had smocks available, and I did offer some small paintbrushes for children who might be reluctant to get the paint on their hands. The original intention had been to do some process art where you smear the paint together on something smooth (saran-wrap when I did it at home with my toddler, the plastic tablecloth here at the library), then run your fingers through the paint, leaving paint-free tracks, then place a piece of paper over the paint and create a print of the image, where the paint-free tracks show up white on the paper. My son loves this activity, but, perhaps because we had just finished talking about color mixing, this particular group was more interested in just mixing the paint together than in creating anything. Others seemed a bit confused and just wanted to paint directly on the paper, which shouldn’t have surprised me, as I’m sure that “only paint on paper” is a mantra at home. Since the whole point of process art is that you can’t do it wrong – and since the focus here was on the math/science behind color – I didn’t try to redirect anyone. Several of the children spent a surprisingly long time actively engaged with spreading and mixing paint together. It was not my most efficient and cost-effective use of paint, but there was a lot of learning going on, and definitely a lot of fun to be had.

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