Rainbow Chips

One of the very first lessons I lead with almost every grade level is a back-pocket activity I learned from the Life Lab Science Program on the UCSC Campus known as “Rainbow Chips”.  The lesson begins with a story (usually suitable to younger age groups…)…..

” A long time ago in a place not too far from here there was a big storm…  Huge grey clouds rushed in over the mountains and covered the land in darkness… all of the colors were sucked up into the clouds and the whole land turned into different shades of grey… The clouds swelled bigger, and became so full that they looked as if they would burst! Which is exactly what they did, the clouds burst open and it began to rain harder than it had ever rained before.  As it rained the clouds began to part and the sun started to peak through.  And you know what happens when it rains and is sunny at the same time…. (kids: a Rainbow!!) That’s right- the biggest Rainbow anyone had ever seen.  It stretched across the sky and as it stretched and stretched the colors got longer and tighter until SMASH – the rainbow cracked and all of the pieces fell down to the ground!  I was lucky enough to pick up some of the pieces and I brought them here for you all today”

The amazing “Rainbow Chips” are paint chips that you can get for free from any hardware store and the students begin their search around the garden- trying to match the colors they find in nature as perfectly as possible.  If the students find a color on a plant that has 10 or more of the same thing (leaves, flowers, etc…) or if it is already off the plant (fallen tomatoes, pumpkins, etc…) they can bring their item with them and create a rainbow as a class.

I have done this activity with preschool and I have done this activity with fourth grade but the kindergarten class I recently had in the garden amazed me with their color-matching abilities!  It was as if the paint chips from Ace Hardware had been created by taking pictures of our garden!

This lesson is a great way to introduce children to the garden and to allow them to explore freely.  I have had students find the most vibrant yellow on a crab spider, or the stripes of a monarch caterpillar.  Hundreds of Harding Students have explored the garden using their eyesight and the beautiful colors found everywhere in nature!

A great book to introduce this lesson (better for older children than the rainbow chips story) is “Living Color” by Steve Jenkins.

Even on Miss Emma's sweater!


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