To bring attention to the shapes of leaves, flowers, and the types of fruit a plant produces is a fairly straightforward process. The usual approach is to point, name and label.
But how do you teach people to see color?
This week we look at an activity that goes beyond asking, “What color is it?”
The key question today is, “Can you find this color?”
In Nature’s Palette, authors and educators, Brooke B. McBride and Carol A. Brewer describe how they turn students into explorers in search of color.
Using the color cards readily available in the paint aisle at home improvement stores, McBride and Brewer (2010) create field cards for students to use in outdoor investigations. With these cards in hand, students are assigned the task of looking for natural objects matching the colors on their respective cards.
What makes this activity more than one requiring students look for green, red and yellow, is that McBride and Brewer (2010) do not create cards with predictable color schemes. Instead, they collect a broad range of colors from the paint aisle. To make sure they collect a broad selection, they pull “every fifth or tenth paint chip” as they work their way down the aisle. When they pull a chip containing many shades of color, McBride and Brewer (2010) simply cut the cards to separate the shades.
To make the reference cards their students use in the field, McBride and Brewer (2010) cut the poster board down to a size that is easily transported. They then paste 5-10 colors on each sheet of poster board. One board is then given to each group of 2-4 students. To get students excited about their investigation, McBride & Brewer (2010) engage students in conversations about where they may find the range of colors before them and encourage students to match the colors as best they can. They also remind students to collect only natural items, not manmade items, and remind students that what they collect has to fit on their piece of poster board. The reason for this is that when their investigation ends, students must present their posters and their observations to their classmates.
McBride and Brewer (2010) have found that students need only 25 minutes to conduct successful color searches and to collect specimens matching the colors on their assigned color card. They go on to say the number of natural objects students find in 25 minutes has been “mind-boggling and far surpassed” their expectations.
During the poster presentations, McBride & Brewer (2010) ask the following types of questions to help guide student discussions:
- Which color did you observe the most? Which color did you observe the least often? What was the most unusual color you found?
- Which of your senses did you have to rely on during your search? How did you find the objects you collected?
- What is the most interesting object your group found? What makes it so interesting? What do you think it is?
The authors have found these questions, and this activity, helps students “focus and observe with a purpose” (McBride & Brewer, 2010).
Readers, how do you help others see nature’s colors?
Share your stories in the Comment box below.
McBride, Brooke B. and Carol A. Brewer. 2010. Nature’s palette. Science and Children. 48(2): 40-43.