Archive for March 15th, 2013

March 15, 2013

Home Connections: Color Observers

by Melissa Harding

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It may not feel like it, but spring is almost here. Daffodils and tulips are shooting tentative leaves up above the ground and the small, nodding heads of snowdrops are becoming a common sight. Soon, the world will be awash in the bright colors and scents of early spring and winter will seem like a distant memory. This time of year is muddy, warm and just asking to explored! One way to make the most of this time and to promote increased attention to nature is by using a color observer. Color observers are easy to make and incredibly effective at encouraging children of all ages to stop and really look at the world around them.

A color observer is a simple device that children can use to compare the colors they see in the world around them. We make them out of paint chips from the home improvement store; we gather different shades of one or several colors, punch a large hole in each and then bind them together with a ring. Children hold the color observer up to leaves, tree bark, flowers, and even the sky, trying to match what they see through the hole with a colored paint chip. The more choices you put in your color observer, the more closely it will match something in nature. For older children, we use paint chips with multiple colors per chip and make sure there are plenty of options. For younger children, a simple of rainbow of colors can be enough. It is up to you how simple or complex you would like to make your observer.

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Using this tool encourages children to look closely at objects in nature. They begin to notice not just colors, but nuances in shading and texture. This is a great technique to develop observation skills, which are important skills to have. Scientists are great at observing and so are artists; children are naturally curious and tools like color observers help them to see both the science and the art in nature. Closely observing the natural world (and the man-made one, too!) helps children to better appreciate and understand it. It also shows them the beauty of nature, which creates a sense of place. As Rachel Carson wrote in A Sense of Wonder, “If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which seeds must grow.”

Using a color observer is a fun activity to do together; make two and compare your guess with your child’s. You can also work together to create fun color-based art projects that use objects from nature. Find items that match all of the colors in your observer and then use them to make a nature weaving or a diorama. Create monochromatic display jars or match your paint chips to water colors and paint a nature picture. The options are endless!

For some more fun activities to do with paint chips, check out these links:
Paint Chip Matching GameInner Child Life (this is where we got the idea for our own color observers)
Fairy LoomsMoment to Moment
Paint Sample StoryEducation.com
Paint Chip GarlandChocolate Muffin Tree

The above pictures were taken by Christie Lawry.

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