Investigating Color

In New York State the countryside will soon be filled with color as the deciduous trees prepare to shed their leaves for winter conditions. What a great time to explore color.

Color Wheel

You can make many colors by mixing different amounts of the three primary colors, red, blue and yellow. Learn more by visiting the KidZone.

Plants and Light

What color light does a green plant use for making food through photosynthesis? How can you find out? One way would be to grow plants in a dark box with a window cut into it. Cover the window with colored acetate. Try different colors, red, blue and green for example. Record what happens. Grow plants in boxes with clear acetate and no windows as controls. How can you tell if a plant is growing well - does it have a lot of leaves, is it tall?

Fun With Rainbows

See if you can get a prism to experiment with. A glass crystal can act as a prism. Ask an adult if there is crystal or a prism you can use. Hold the prism in sunlight. Change the angle at which light hits the prism. When you get a nice rainbow of color coming out of the prism, write down the order of the colors.

The light coming into the prism is spread out into different colors because the glass of the prism bends some colors more than others. Which color is bent the most? Which color is bent the least?

Raindrops in the sky can act as a prism to form a rainbow when the sun shines during or after a rain. You can make your own rainbow with a garden hose. On a sunny day, use the nozzle or your thumb over the end of the hose to make a fine mist spray into the air. Where is the sun when you see your homemade rainbow, behind, in front or to your side? If you are lucky enough to see a natural rainbow, notice where the sun is.

If you hold your fist out at arm's length you can measure how high the sun is above the horizon. Every fist height is about 10 degrees. How high is the sun when there is a natural rainbow?

Draw a circle about 6 inches in diameter. 

Use colored markers or crayons to color the circle with equal sized pie wedges of the colors of the rainbow. Paste the circle onto cardboard and cut it out to make a disk. Stick a pencil through the center. Hold the pencil between the palms of your hands. Move your hands to make the disk spin. What colors do you see? Does the color change as you spin the disk faster?

For more on optics (the study of light) visit Optics for Kids.
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