The Magic of Color

Our world is brought to life by the colors we see. Nature provides an amazing array of colors, whether we’re looking at red and yellow leaves falling, a brilliant pink sunset, the ocean’s deep blue water or a lush green field dotted with purple wildflowers. And we use colors for more than painting pretty pictures or choosing the best outfit. Colors can actually help us communicate, change the way we feel, or even bring back memories. Who doesn’t feel just a little bit happier when they open a brand new big box of crayons?

A landscape with purple wildflowers in a green field with trees in the distance.  The sun is rising and the clouds are pinks and purples in a blue sky.
Dawn breaks over a field of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes near Fredericksburg, TX

Where does color come from?

Have you ever heard of Sir Isaac Newton? You might have heard a story about how a very long time ago, he watched an apple fall from a tree, and that’s how we all came to know about gravity. But another of his most important accomplishments was his experiments with a prism, which is a three-dimensional triangular glass—to figure out where color comes from. In 1666, Newton figured out that white light is actually made up of all the colors in the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet (ROYGBIV). He observed and compared the colors, and concluded that they all worked together in harmony. He placed each color in the order he saw them from his prism experiments onto a circular disc, creating the first color wheel. If you spin the color wheel really fast, you’ll only see white as the colors blend together. Give it a whirl!

The Color Wheel

Here’s where the color wheel gets really fun. From mixing combinations of the three primary colors–red, yellow and blue—you actually can make every color in the rainbow. If you think about the color wheel like a pie, the primary colors will make up three slices of the pie an equal distance apart from each other. When you combine two primary colors, you will make a slice of a new color that fits right between those two colors, called a secondary color. And if you combine a primary color with a secondary color next to it on the wheel, you’ll make a tertiary color, completing your rainbow wheel. All you need is a piece of paper, some paintbrushes and red, yellow, and blue paint to create your own color wheel and see what happens for yourself!

An animation of a color wheel.

The Way Color Makes Us Feel

Different colors in the wheel can affect the way we feel or make certain spaces seem larger or smaller. Warm colors, such as reds and oranges, might make us think of sitting by a fire on a chilly day. If you’re “seeing red,” that might mean you’re feeling mad. Shades of blue and green tend to make us feel calm, or remind us of cool water or ice. Complementary colors are ones that are opposite on the color wheel, and when used in combination, make each other more vivid and appealing because of the way our eyes perceive them against each other. Whether you’re choosing an outfit or painting the walls of a house, using complementary colors together makes each color pop.

Think of all the amazing things you can create with different colors, and pay attention to how you feel about different color combinations you might see every day! 

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For more challenging play try a monthly-themed Groovy Lab in a BoxThere is no better way to educate your STEMists than to keep their minds screen-free, design learning to create and solve, through the engineering design process and STEM-related activities. Furthermore, our monthly box activates thinking, questioning, inquiring and original creation as we guide children through scientific inquiry and engineering design process.

For more about color and crystals and how you can make crystals yourself check out our “Rock On” box for a Lesson in Crystals. During your ENGINEERING DESIGN CHALLENGE you will investigate crystals, solubility, evaporation, and much, much, more.

A groovy approach to hands-on Next Generation Science Standards,  design based learning… Groovy Lab in a Box!

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