Friday, 29 July 2016

Catching Rainbows

"The magic of rainbows inspires those who are fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of one." 
M. van Heugten

Rainbows certainly inspired our little learners and I am excited to share with you their investigations into nature's own paint palette. 

On a beautiful sunny day the children were offered this invitation in the art studio. On the golden mirror was placed crystal facets of various sizes and the triangular prisms. Around the mirror I placed sheets of white paper as a work surface. This invitation was created in response to the children's interest and previous investigations into light. 

Prisms and Rainbows Oh My!

Several children came to investigate with the prisms and facets. They picked the prisms up and began to manipulate them in the sunlight. Ella, Colby and Jacob were so excited to find rainbows. They shared their enthusiasm with each other. Ella shared, "The sun is really bright." I wondered what the children would think about the colour of the sun. After I asked them to think about this Ella replied, "Yellow and it comes off the sun and comes inside." Then she glanced out the window.

Colby points to his rainbow. He manipulated the prism in the sunlight to create brightest rainbow he could.

Dancing Sunlight

Emma worked in the art studio at the table with the prisms and crystal facets. She placed the crystal facets on top of the prisms. Then she held up the crystals by the strings and watched as they danced in the sunlight. Emma worked quietly observing the effects of her actions with the crystal facets. She moved the facets in a variety of positions and noticed how the pattern of reflected light changed with her movements.

Christopher used the prisms and crystal facets to create this transient art piece. He surrounded the large crystal with the smaller ones and framed them with the prisms. 

Keira began her exploration of the crystal facets by placing them in the sunlight. Then she picked up the facets that were strung with a string. Keira watched as the facet twirled in the sunlight. She observed, "The sun is shining at the crystal. It is going through the crystal to make it's own shadow. It's shadow is spinning too." Next she used the big crystal facet and observed as she moved the refracted light from the crystal.

The children concluded their initial work with the prisms and facets by discovering rainbows on Jacob's face. Then they used several of the prisms to reflect multiple rainbows on his face. I couldn't wait to see how they would extend their ideas the following day and they asked if I would set the invitation out again.

Coloured Sunlight

The following day I moved the invitation to one of the tables in the other room. I set the prisms and crystal facets up for further exploration. William and Keegan began by placing the prisms on the edge of the table. As they were moving the prisms around they made a wonderful discovery. The sunlight coming through the window created a rainbow on the floor as it passed through the prism. They extended this discovery further by manipulating multiple prisms. You can see the progression of their efforts as they experiment and problem solve with these materials. Their focus was unwavering as they tried to create as many rainbows as they could on the floor. I was so impressed with how they handled the materials competently with a clear vision in mind. I did not interrupt them and just observed and documented their learning. 

They manipulated the prisms to blend the colours of the rainbow to create new colours where the rainbows overlapped each other discovering the colour purple.

Catching a Rainbow

The children sustained this interest in rainbows and working with the prisms for several weeks. Of course they could only work with the sunlight when the weather allowed on a sunny day. On cloudy days they focused on using the flashlights or continued other investigations in their play. However each sunny day they would return this interest. After several days of working with the prisms investigating sunlight and rainbows, William and Keegan decided to create a space for their rainbows. By this point in the investigation several other children became interested and drawn into the work as well. They used stools to block off an area and set the prisms on the stools. They created several rainbows on the floor. Colby assisted them with their construction and Ethan became interested in rainbows as well. They created signs with arrows and placed them throughout their space. This was because they were working in the space between the two classrooms which is a high traffic area. The arrows where to direct people the go around their investigation area. 

Clear bottles filled with water were also added to the materials for this exploration. They created beautiful arching rainbows in contrast to the straight rainbows created by the prisms.

When I asked this group to share what they were doing William answered, "We are trapping rainbows."

Looking at the sky!

As the children continued their rainbow investigations we were noticing an interest in where rainbows come from. William came to me during play block and wanted me to go to the window. He said, "Look there is a hole in the sky." It was a cloudy day and there was not enough sunlight for the children to continue their rainbow work with the prisms. I documented the sky for William. He quickly noticed that the shape of the hole in the sky was changing. He also described the hole as really bright sunlight. I asked William if he would like to research rainbows on the iPad to help extend his ideas. He readily agreed and we moved to the table bringing paper and pencils along with the iPad. I asked William what he wanted to look up. He decided he wanted to see how he could make a rainbow. We found a YouTube video that showed several ways to create rainbows. Then William and Keegan watched and discussed the video. I look forward to their shared learning presentation of their research to the class.

The following day I offered the picture of the sky to William. I encouraged him to record thinking from the previous day. He printed on the white board first and then transferred his writing to the paper. 

"I notisb that the sun is shining out the clads."

 We now felt that it was time to bring this learning and investigations to the larger group of children. During our shared learning time we presented the photos that I had documented and asked the children to share their ideas. Here is the my writing about this experience.

After sharing with the children their initial work with the prisms and sunlight we discussed their initial theories on rainbows. Jacob had worked with the prism during our first invitation. He shared, "The rainbow reflected on me and went on my face. The rainbow was going right through the prisms and reflecting off of them and going through them. Then they landed on my face." Ella also worked with the facets and prisms that day. She said, "There is a little shadow that's dark and the little rainbow can light up really good. The rainbow showed up better in the shadow." Then we discussed how a rainbow comes with rain and in the sun outside. Next to speak was Colby he shared, "The sun reflects off the prism and shows a rainbow. The sunlight is yellow." William remembered his research on the iPad on the sun. He said, "The sun is black the coal of it." Keira said, "The sun is shining through the prism to make the rainbow. It's coming from being wet outside to make the rainbow. The wet part is inside the sun because it rained." Then Emma L. shared, "The sun goes into it and then it's see through and then when the light comes out the colours mix together in the light." I asked the children to share why it was interesting to catch rainbows? William said, "We are trying to catch the rainbows. The rainbows have lots of different colours and patterns." Cassidy commented, "They all look different and they have lots of lines." Eliana added, "They rainbow is mixing up to red and green, red and green." Keira remembered from her work with the prisms that, "Some are bright and some aren't because some are in the sun." She was referring to how the rainbows were brighter in the shadows than in direct sunlight. Eden concluded our discussion by asking, "How does the rain make rainbows colours?" We looked forward to our continued investigations of this interest.

Inquiry Spaces
Creating a space to WONDER!

William's observations were placed at the inquiry table with the book "Sky Color" by Peter H. Reynolds. I also added a CD based on the children's research on the iPad.

Also included were materials focusing on colour and the question box papers for recording any new wonderings.

Emma records her question and explores the paint chips with the Wikki Stixs.

These rainbow beans are one of my favourite sensory bin bases and after four years they are still going strong. 

I always love how the children take ownership over their own environment. Here are the stylings of one child after clean up. It also shows us their understanding of one to one correspondence and colour matching. 

This loose parts rainbow tray was perhaps my favourite of the year. The children began to add their own items to the tray as well. The coloured tops to their squeezable applesauce were included.

Jacob and Ben worked together at the light panel. I had added the loose parts tray based on the children's interest in rainbows. This tray included loose parts sorted by colour. Jacob began by placing the Hape rainbow on top of the circular mirror. Then they began to place the colourful pieces on the light panel. I observed their play and noticed that once the panel was mostly covered Jacob began to stack the pieces. He perservered at balancing several pieces on top of each other to make several towers. Then Jacob said to Ben, "Let's use all the pieces in the tray." They continued their work until the tray was empty. Then I asked if they could talk about their creation. Jacob shared, "It's a colourful garden. Plants are growing in the garden. We wanted to use all of the pieces from the tray."

The children explored with the loose parts tray for several weeks. Here we see how as we offered them other materials they began to bring them to the light panel and include them in their thinking. 

Making Connections

I had been posting some of the children's investigations and discoveries on Instagram and through this social media medium we were fortunate to make an across the world connection. After posting one of the children's photos Jess Lam of on Instagram asked if we could collaborate with her students in her Reggio-inspired creative arts programme in Malaysia. The children in her class were asking how to create rainbows on their faces as part of their photography work. Jess suggested that I ask our students if they would show them how using the prisms. I asked the children and they were thrilled. I took a video of the children demonstrating how to use the prism to shine a rainbow on their hand. I sent the video to Jess and she shared it with her students. After watching the video her students used a CD and a flashlight to create a rainbow on their faces. Jess sent me the photos and I shared them with the children. How amazing it was for them to witness how their learning affected the learning of children all the way across the globe. Next our children tried using the CD and flashlight to make rainbows on themselves just like the children in Malaysia. Then one of our students was inspired to record her learning in her journal. Documenting the photo from Jess's programme of the girl with the rainbow on her face. I felt so blessed to have been able to share this learning with both groups of children. Thank you Jess once again for your amazing and inspiring participation in our rainbow investigations. To see Jess' amazing program visit her blog:

At this point in our investigations we began to read to the children the books we had placed throughout the learning space on rainbows. We felt that they had worked through some of their initial thinking and were now ready for new challenges and extensions to their ideas. Here are some of the books we shared with the children: "A rainbow of my own" by Don Freeman and "Rainbows never end and other fun facts" by Laura Lyn DiSiena and Hannah Eliot.

The two books we used the most were: "All the Colors of the Rainbow" by Allan Fowler and "Rainbows" by David Whitfield. These books were often carried around the classroom and referred to as the children investigated. I will have a photo of the covers of these two books at the end of this blog post.

We offered the children several experiences that focused on colours. The first was a colour mixing experiment using milk, food colouring and dish soap. After filling a pie plate with milk we dropped a few drops of the primary colours of food colouring in the milk. Then the children dipped the end of a cotton bud into dish soap. Next they placed the tip into the milk and experimented. They loved this experience and asked to have it repeated several times. How exciting it was to see the colours mix together to make the secondary colours. It was painting, movement and colour theory all in one invitation.

Next I wanted to extend on their fascination with colour by extending their knowledge of colour theory. The children were pretty confident at knowing that red and yellow mixed together would create orange and so forth. But I wanted to give them the chance to explore tints and shades by adding white and black to the primary colours. In the art studio I had placed a ring of paint chips for the children to investigate. However no one seemed to be interested. I picked up a new set of paint chip cards and created this invitation to explore colour for the children. Below is the investigations of two separate groups over two days. The children that chose to explore the paint here never left this invitation the entire play block. Their discussion was rich with how the paint blended together and each day was a completely different exploration. I hope you enjoy seeing how they used the paint chips for inspiration and how they guided their learning about colour and paint. 

This next invitation combined science and art. It is always very popular with the children as it activates several of their senses. It is the baking soda and coloured vinegar experiment. Before inviting the children to the table to explore we gathered on the carpet to read the text, "Mouse Paint" by Ellen Stoll Walsh. The children enjoyed listening to the story and the illustrations were lovely. Next they were given the instructions for the colour invitation. I set up two trays one on each end of the long rectangular tables. Soon they was a flurry of interest in investigating here. We repeated this invitation for several days. When one tray was completed I set in the art studio to dry. After several days we had four colourful trays. I offered the trays back to the children for investigation. They could not believe how hard the baking soda had become. Immediately they began to bang with their fist to break it apart and remove it from the tray. How lovely it was to find the beautiful rainbow coloured paper underneath. I offered them a shallow dishpan to collect the baking soda pieces in. Over the next few days they continued to play with the baking soda until it had returned to it's original powdery state. Their investigation had come full circle. 

Supporting an interest with the art!

We created for the children an opportunity for them to work collaboratively together on two different art invitations. The first involved using clear sticky tack paper and collage materials from the art studio. Our hope was to further their ideas about colour and light by creating a piece which we could hang in the window. Several children created together using the materials offered and we celebrated their ideas and efforts by proudly displaying their art piece.

The children cut page dividers into shapes and placed them on the contact paper.

Our finished collage piece hangs in the art studio window.

The rainbow mural was completed over several days. The children were encouraged to show us their understanding of rainbows. Several children included the sun and rain with their rainbows displaying their knowledge of how rainbows are formed.  Other children were very specific about the order of the colours in the rainbow. Still other children drew about their experiences with seeing rainbows.

When the children had completed the rainbow mural we hung it on the classroom board to celebrate all that they had learned about rainbows. 

It seems fitting to conclude this blog post with the three children who began this investigation into rainbows. Here they are working on the floor drawing rainbows during their play. The children drew several pages of rainbows before deciding on which ones to include in the art studio. They placed their finished papers in the art studio with prisms carefully sitting by their hand drawn rainbows. A beautiful conclusion to their learning.

Spreading Kindness

We were also inspired by and her daughter's @rainbowrockproject on Instagram to make our own rainbow rocks. How wonderful it was to take the children's interest and relate it to something so meaningful and important. We first painted the rocks and then printed words of encouragement on the back. The children delivered their rainbow rocks around the school to each classroom. We were so inspired by Agnes and her daughter Alia and their journey to spread kindness. I encourage you to check out this wonderful project and pass on your own kindness.

I leave you with this Irish blessing: 

"May flowers always line your path 
and sunshine light your day.
May song birds serenade you 
every step along the way.
May a rainbow run beside you 
in a sky that's always blue.
And may happiness fill your heart 
each day your whole life through."