Explore Together (indoors): Shades of Red

  • cell phone or camera (optional)
  • "Colors" chart (from Day 1)
  • eyedroppers/pipettes
  • food coloring (red)
  • ice cube trays (white) (1 for each child)
  • plastic bottle
  • plastic cups
  • water
  • color
  • darker
  • lighter
  • red
  • shade

Head Start Outcomes:

Science Knowledge/Scientific Skills and Method: Uses senses and tools, including technology, to gather information, investigate materials, and observe processes and relationships.
Science Knowledge/Scientific Skills and Method: Observes and discusses common properties, differences, and comparisons among objects.
Science Knowledge/Scientific Skills and Method: Participates in simple investigations to form hypotheses, gather observations, draw conclusions, and form generalizations.
Science Knowledge/Scientific Skills and Method: Collects, describes, and records information through discussions, drawings, maps, and charts.
Science Knowledge/Scientific Skills and Method: Describes and discusses predictions, explanations, and generalizations based on past experience.

PreK Learning Guidelines:

Science and Technology/Inquiry Skills 3: Identify and use simple tools appropriately to extend observations.
English Language Arts/Language 2: Participate actively in discussions, listen to the ideas of others, and ask and answer relevant questions.
Science and Technology/Inquiry Skills 4: Record observations and share ideas through simple forms of representation such as drawings.

Explore Together (indoors): Shades of Red

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

STEM Key Concepts: There are many different colors; A color can have many different shades (from very light to very dark)

ELA Focus Skills: Color Recognition, Vocabulary, Listening and Speaking, Follow Directions

Educator Prep: Put several drops of red food coloring in a bottle of water—make sure the color is fairly dark and intense. Prepare an ice cube tray for each child by pouring colored water in the first compartment of each tray. Set each tray out with a pipette and a cup of clear water.

Explain to children that they will be exploring the color red and making shades of red with food coloring and water. Ask children to show you how to use the pipette. If needed, demonstrate for children how to use the tool.

Have children use the pipette to place some colored water into another compartment. Ask, What do you think what will happen if you add a little bit of clear water to the colored water?

  • Have children add a few drops. Ask children to describe the color change. Encourage the use of key terms such as color, darker, lighter, and shade.

Allow time for children to freely explore making shades of red in their trays. Circulate and engage children with questions and ideas such as,

  • What is different about your colors and Marina’s colors? What is the same?
  • Point to two specific shades and ask, How is this shade different from that shade? Which shade is darker? How did you make it darker?
  • What did you do to make that shade? I wonder if you could make the same color again.

Reflect and Share

Invite children to point to shades of color in their trays as they share their observations. Help children document their exploration of colored water by using a cell phone or camera to take photos of their ice cube trays filled with different shades.

Return to the “Colors” chart, and invite children to add new words and ideas to the chart under a subheading “Red.”

Adaptation: For very young children having trouble using the pipettes, give them tools such as basters or baby spoons that they can hold so they can still explore independently.

Adaptation: For groups with older children, as an additional challenge give them two different shades of color. Challenge them to adjust the mix of colored and clear water until the two shades are the same.

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