Studying the color blue

One morning we brought the students into the art studio to examine all fo the blue objects that they brought from home. Our goal was to simply have them examine, explore, wonder, describe, encourage curiosity, and open their eyes to the value of color. The world is not compromised of the basic colors in a crayon box and we wanted them to discover that.

On the first day, the only way they could describe the different colors of the objects was by saying it’s either “dark blue” or “light blue.” However, after describing an object as light blue, we introduced them to an even lighter blue object and they immediately were confused on what to say. Acting upon this confusion, our studio teacher gave each child a petal from a blue hydrangea bouquet that one of the students brought to the classroom. At first glance, the children claimed the petal appeared “white.” One by one, all of the students said, “my petal is white!!” Then Mrs. Marjon placed another provocation in front of them by giving each child another petal to compare to their white petal. The new petal was light blue at the top and softly faded to a cool white towards the bottom. The white petal instantly appeared much more warm and yellow in nature after comparing the two side-by-side.

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The children were so excited to explain to their friends that their first petal is now yellow! We wanted them to further explore and explain their observation, so we asked if it was the same color of yellow as the sun and they responded with, “No, it’s a soft yellow.”

Opening up their eyes to subtle differences in color values changed how they perceived the rest of the objects on the table. Immediately their descriptions began to change.

Some of the new names for their objects:
“shampoo blue”
“soft blue”
“hard dark blue”
“white blue”
One student even said, “at night it gets dark blue.”

They were using more descriptive and detailed adjectives. Even associating it to life moments and what the material is made of. For example, the “hard blue” was for a metal bracelet!

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The blue tortilla chip was particularly amazing. Just like the flower petals we had to show the chip in relation to a true black color (one of the teacher’s car keys). Initially, the children said the tortilla chip was black. Then we compared the color of the tortilla chip to the car keys and all of a sudden it turned into dark blue and they saw “specks of colors” throughout it. The children were describing how they saw green, yellow, and orange colors in the dark blue chip. Their end analysis is that a full spectrum of colors were “secretly” speckled throughout the chip!

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It was amazing to see children create hypotheses about colors, test them, reanalyze their previous notions, and communicate their newfound understanding. This activity focused on the language development in the children and encouraged the children to have a relationship and explore the material items in the world (a core principle in the Reggio Emilia philosophy). We encouraged the children to think, revise, construct, negotiate, and develop a wider understanding of colors and descriptions. Instead of staring at the different shades on a piece of paper, the children were encouraged to learn about varying shades of color by working together to compare/contrast the colors, holding and feeling the objects in their hands, and through natural materials and resources.

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.”
–Mark Van Doren

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