Color Break-Up

  • paper towels
  • pencils
  • plastic cups (clear)
  • water
  • water-based markers (brown, black, green, purple, orange)
  • chromatography
  • color
  • mix
  • separate

Head Start Outcomes:

Science Knowledge/Scientific Skills and Method: Observes and discusses common properties, differences, and comparisons among objects.

PreK Learning Guidelines:

Mathematics/Patterns and Relations 7: Explore and describe a wide variety of concrete objects by their attributes.

Color Break-Up

© Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Early Education and Care (Jennifer Waddell photographer). All rights reserved.

Skill Focus: Mixing Colors, Vocabulary

Review how children have mixed together colors to create new colors. Explain that now you are going to show them how to separate or break apart a color to find out what colors are that color. Ask,

  • What colors do you think you will find in the color brown? In purple? In orange? Help children recall what colors they mixed to create those colors.

Then follow these steps to model a simple form of chromatography to show what colors were combined to form another color.

  • Tear off a 1-inch strip of paper towel and draw a thick color stripe about 1 inch from the bottom.
  • Tape the strip to the center of a pencil, so the paper hangs with the color stripe at the bottom.
  • Pour about ½-inch of water into a glass.
  • Balance the pencil across the top of the glass so the paper strip hangs down inside, with the bottom of the strip in the water.
  • Watch what happens. As the paper-towel strip sucks up the water, the color stripe changes to show what colors were used to create that color. Ask children to describe what they see. Ask, Why do you think these colors appear?
  • Allow children to continue with other colors.

Adaptation: Challenge children to prove that red, blue, and yellow are primary colors or colors that cannot be made by mixing other colors. Have the children test with a thick red, yellow, or blue stripe of color. Have them discuss their observations. 

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