Sunday, December 1, 2013

Water, Light, and Rainbows Part I

The interplay of our two scientific investigations (re: the life cycle of seeds/plants and the water cycle) allowed children to see the interconnectivity between two natural processes.  Beyond this, they began to see new connections to other observable natural phenomena.  A.C. took our data from our microwave tests home and wrote down what she observed in her shower at home, both with warm and cold water running:

A.L. took her ideas home and started thinking about something else - rainbows. 

We had briefly touched upon the subject in class in our larger discussion about the water cycle:

N.S.:  Raindrops can make a rainbow.
J:  When it rains and the sun it out while it's still raining, it forms a rainbow.
C:  Really a rainbow is a reflection of the sun.
M: Sometimes when it's hot outside, I take the hose and put it in a sunny place and it makes a rainbow. 
T:  It's rain that is made into mist with sun.

R. depicts how a rainbow is created
I:  [A rainbow] needs sun to go through the water, reflects back and forth, and presents colors. 
E.K.: I've seen rainbows in cars' oil on the concrete.
N.S.:  [Once when it wasn't raining] a rainbow shined through the window.
A.L.:  [A rainbow] can be made by really clear crystals. 
N.S.:  Sun can shine through anything to make a rainbow as long as it is shiny and clear (but not mirrors, not gold).
E.K.:  It has to be clear. 
I:  Clear and bumpy would make a bumpy rainbow.
T:  They are not made out of clothes because clothes are not shiny and clear.
W:  Glass is made out of sand, so really skinny sand can make a rainbow. 
A.L.:  It rains and then sun shines and it only creates rainbows in some parts of where it rains.  Rainbows always have the same colors. 

With this idea in mind, she came back to class the next day with a picture she had created at home, which became our springboard for a larger discussion about rainbows:  what is a rainbow?  How is it made?  Do you need water to make a rainbow?

(Above): A.L:  Rainbows are only made when sunlight passes through water in certain parts of the areas.  They don’t happen everywhere when it rains.  The rainbow can only land in one place.  The colors are always the same:  red, yellow, orange, green, blue, indigo, and violet too.
Giving the children the freedom to generate their own theories and pursue answers in authentic ways deepens their understanding far more than if the answer is simply provided for them.  The answers need to come from them.  While there are some children who will come to a query with solid background information gleaned from outside sources, together as a class we must figure the problem out.  We must think of ourselves as investigators developing a shared understanding predicated upon personal, testable, and observable experience.  The explanation of what a rainbow is and how it made - what the variables, mediums, and conditions could be to produce one, how the colors in the spectrum will always indeed be the same - can be arrived at with experimentation, but beyond the scientific inquiry is another essential ingredient to help drive the children's imagination and wonder.  In truth, the magical beauty of seeing a rainbow as an experience should not be underestimated in the eye, mind, and heart of a child.  

After our initial brainstorming, we reached out to Anna Golden, Sabot's Atelierista, to help us think more deeply about rainbows and how they're made.  It seemed to be providential that Anna was preparing to set up an art and light experience for RVA's In Light Event, and so she had many materials on hand to create an impromptu light studio for the first graders in Founder's Hall. 
We discussed our predictions with Anna:
I:  I think rainbows can go through clear windows and water drops.
T:  I want to see if a rainbow can go through anything.
J: Can rainbows form without water?
Anna offered up the following tools and materials as provocations to stimulate our thinking:  light projectors, disco balls, lights, plastic colored shapes, transparent and opaque materials, as well as rainbow blocks:

The children tried stacking up the rainbow blocks and clear colored geometric shapes, one on top of the other, on top of the projector and in front of the projector, to try and playfully create a rainbow on their own. 

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