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Notes for the Instructor

Color is a wonderful and enriching part of our world! Just open a box of crayons, admire a stained glass window, look through a kaleidoscope or at a field of wildflowers. Colors are plentiful! It is thought that the human eye can distinguish millions of different colors.

One of the most fascinating things about colors is how they mix together. In fact, all colors originate from three primary colors. The primary colors in additive mixing of pigments are red, yellow and blue. Two primary colors mixed together create secondary colors: purple, green, and orange. Adding a tint (white) or a shade (black) can make more variations of each color.

In this activity, students will figure out which suspect was most likely to have left behind orange paint smudges by mixing together different primary colors of paint. Students will be challenged to follow a procedure in the correct order. They will need to measure volume accurately using the standard unit of milliliters. They will record their process and findings by dabbing each color of paint onto color mixing equations in their student books. Students will discover that:

  • red + blue = purple
  • yellow + blue = green
  • red + yellow = orange
  • red + yellow + blue = brown (maybe)

This activity is a lot of fun for students as they mix two or three colors to make a completely new color. It also demonstrates how properties of an object, in this case color, can change.