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Spinning Color Wheels

Create cool color tricks while learning about primary and secondary colors and color blending.

  • Grade 2
    Grade 3
    Grade 4
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. On thin white cardboard or poster board, students use a compass, or trace around an object, to make circles 5 inches (12 cm) in diameter. Cut out the circles with Crayola® Scissors. If students struggle with creating the circles, templates can be provided as asssistance. Adult help should also be available as needed.
    2. Students divide the circle into six equal, pie-like sections. This can be accomplished by measuring six equal angles inside the 360° circle with a straight edge and a protractor.
    3. Color the sections with Crayola Crayons. Experiment with varying color patterns on different wheels and predict the results. Poke a small hole in the center of the circle with scissors. An adult can assist as needed. Pull about 18 inches (45 cm) of yarn or string halfway through the hole.
    4. Hold one end of the string in each hand. Swing the string and circle until the entire length of string is twisted. Then give the string a firm, brisk pull. As the wheel spins, watch the colors appear to mix.
    5. Complementary colors such as yellow and purple, red and green, or blue and orange will appear muddy brown. Alternating two primary colors will result in the secondary color that those two colors create. For example, when alternating sections are blue and yellow, the spinning wheel will appear to be green. Why does this occur? The wheel spins so fast that instead of seeing each color separately, the eyes and brain see the visual illusion of a mixture.
  • Standards

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Consult reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation and determine or clarify the precise meaning of key words and phrases.

    MATH: Know relative sizes of measurement units within one system of units including km, m, cm; kg, g; lb, oz.; l, ml; hr, min, sec. Within a single system of measurement, express measurements in a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit. Record measurement equivalents in a two column table.

    MATH: Solve word problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions referring to the same whole and having like denominators, e.g., by using visual fraction models and equations to represent the problem.

    SCI: Provide explanations of how sense receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain to be processed for immediate behavior or stored as information.

    SCI: Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

    VA: Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Color Dance by Ann Jonas; Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh; White Rabbit's Color Book by Allan Baker

    Invite the school's art teacher to visit with the class to discuss primary colors, complementary colors, etc. Prior to the visit, students write questions for the art expert. After the meeting, students post learning to a class blog.

    Encourage interested students to investigate the roll of both the eye and brain in seeing color. Examine how visual perception is affected by the eyes, the optic nerve, and sections of the brain. Students diagram the human eye, labeling each of its significant parts. Students explain how human vision works and use Crayola Colored Pencils to illustrate their findings.

    Students dissect a cow's eye. An online dissection is available at


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