Activity list | Causes of Color

A page from the "Causes of Color" exhibit...

List of activities and lessons

Causes of Color provides you with a number of activities you can use in the classroom, as well as a variety of lesson plans. You can find more detailed information on each by clicking the links below.

One-day activities

From cabbage juice to mixing paints, check out these hands-on activities that students can do in the classroom or as homework. Each activity includes a materials list, detailed instructions, and an explanation of the scientific principles involved.

  • Make a light bulb – Use copper wire in a jar and produce the incandescence that Edison perfected.
  • Tiny fireworks - When students heat metallic elements in a gas flame, their photons exhibit bright characteristic colors.
  • Triboluminescence - Using Wint-o-Green Life Savers and a hammer, excited electrons give off light that can be seen.
  • Chemiluminescence –Demonstrate the light of glowsticks using three or four chemicals, including luminol, that students mix in a plastic cup.
  • Glowing Hands - Study fluorescence by finding out what happens when you use common petroleum jelly and a black light. The ultraviolet light excites phosphors in the Vaseline.
  • Iodine and starch - The phenomenon of charge transfer is seen in gemstones such as blue sapphires. Students can recreate this process using iodine and starch. Iodine produces a charge-transfer complex with starch, seen as a color change.
  • Chlorophyll Chromatography – Using spinach leaves and isopropyl alcohol, students can separate the mixture that is chlorophyll into carotene and other colored pigments using filter paper.
  • Organic Color Changes with Acids and Bases – Test various household substances with red cabbage juice to determine if they are acids or bases.
  • Sunset in a glass - Experiment with scattering of light using a glass of milk, a colloid, to learn why the sky turns red-gold at sunset and sunrise.
  • Bubbles - Create a super bubble solution and explore the bubbles to determine how they react with light.
  • Spectra - Easily study the spectra of different light sources with a blank CD or DVD and some light bulbs.
  • Colorblindness - A short overview of how the world looks to people who are colorblind, including a vision simulator.
  • Mixing lights – To better understand how human eyes “see” color, exhibit additive mixing of colors by shining lights of three different colors against a white background.
  • Mixing paints - Illustrate this subtractive process of colors while having some fun mixing different colored inks or tempera paints.

Comprehensive lessons

Lesson 1:Explore the causes of color and make nodemaps
Discipline:Science, Art, Language Arts
Grades:6, 7, 8
Time frame:2 - 3 weeks
Why is the grass green and the sky blue? What is a spectrum and a flame test? Your students can get answers to these questions and others by exploring Causes of Color, by doing several hands-on activities, and mind mapping and communicating what they learn using fun, interactive nodemaps.
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Lesson 2:Explore gemstones and make nodemaps
Discipline:Earth Science
Grades:9 - 12
Time frame:1 week
Why are diamonds colorless, rubies red, emeralds green, and sapphires blue? Your students can get answers to these questions by exploring “Gemstones,” a small part of this exhibit, doing hands-on activities, and mind mapping and communicating what they learn using fun, interactive nodemaps.
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