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Every Color in the Rainbow

You can make a rainbow with crayons, watercolors, prisms, and mirrors!

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Discuss rainbows with students: What colors are in rainbows? Do all rainbows have the same colors? Are the colors always in the same order? What order do you think they are in? Students draw rainbows-based on this discussion only-using Crayola® Crayons, Watercolors, and Brushes.
    2. Look for natural rainbows, which occur whenever white light is split into the spectrum. Rainbows can form on CD-ROMs, soap bubbles, rain drops, fish tanks, and glass as light hits them. Although the sun's rays appear colorless, the rays contain all the colors of the rainbow mixed together. This mixture is known as white light. When white light strikes a white crayon, it appears white because the crayon absorbs no color and reflects all colors equally. A black crayon absorbs all colors equally and reflects none, so it looks black. Artists consider black a color, but scientists do not, because black is the absence of all color. Students create black and white designs with crayons or watercolors and discuss the reflection and absorption of colors.
    3. Create rainbows, indoors or outside, using a light source such as the sun, and a prism or mirror and water. Record each experiment with drawings of the objects and the spectrum created. To use a prism, hold it between the light source and a plain surface such as a ceiling, wall, or white paper. To use a mirror and water to create a rainbow, place a clear shallow glass or plastic pan in sunlight. Fill the container with water. Rest the mirror on the bottom of the pan, with its top edge leaning out of the water. Light will be bent (refracted) and separate into colors as it enters the water. As the light leaves the water, it will bend again and further separate the colors, making the spectrum more visible on a plain surface.
    4. Students compare rainbows drawn in step 1 with those represented during the experiments in step 3. How are they similar? How are they different?
    5. Students research the science of rainbows. Each of the colors in white light bends at a slightly different angle because it has a different wave length. Colors split into the same spectrum every time. Red has the longest wave length and violet the shortest. All other rainbow colors fall in between, in a definite order-ROY G BIV for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
    6. Students draw colorful wavelengths to portray their relative sizes. Ultraviolet has an even shorter wavelength than violet. Humans cannot see it, but some birds and bees can.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of aspects of a topic.

    LA: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

    SCI: Ask questions about the natural and human-built worlds.

    SCI: Construct drawings or diagrams as representations of events or systems.

    SCI: Offer causal explanations appropriate to level of knowledge.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Encourage students to create a rainbow watercolor with crayon resist. This is done by drawing rainbows on paper, pressing firmly with crayon. Then brush the entire paper with watercolors diluted with water. The paint resists the crayon wax and results in a post rainstorm effect. Have students compose a written description of what they see and display the writing with their visual art piece.

    Set up several classroom centers that focus on simple science experiments involving refracting light or reflecting light. Provide students with a simple set of directions for each experiment, the equipment needed, and follow-up questions for each experiment. Students collaborate in teams of two or small groups.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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