IT ALL STARTED ONE DAY AS A RAINSTORM SUBSIDED. WE'D HAD nonstop heavy rain for four days, and the children had been stuck inside. Suddenly a few children ran to the window, calling out, "Rainbow! Rainbow!" At that moment, the lesson plan for the day went "out the window!"

Children Lead the Way!

Projects can spring from the most interesting places, including the sky. The key ingredients are children's interest and desire to explore and find out more. The rainbow sighting was a perfect opportunity for children to investigate light and color.

Your group meeting is good place to launch new projects and to inspire children's interest in a new topic. The following open-ended group-time activities take children's interest in rainbows a few steps further and involve them in the planning of a project.

Ask a Question

When children were asked "Where do rainbows come from?" and "What makes a rainbow?" they had varied responses. One child was very literal and said: "Rainbows are in the sky because the trees blow." She may have and allowed the light to shine through the noticed the trees blowing in the wind when clouds parted and people blow bubbles. the light to shine through the rain Another child responded: "Rainbows go up in the sky when people blow bubbles. The rainbows in the bubbles hide in the clouds and then come out after it rains!" Open-ended questions allow children to use their imaginations and give you insight into their thought processes.

Try and Experming

Read Don Freeman's A Rainbow of My Own (Viking Press, 1978; $5.99) as a starting point for discussions and experiments with Light, water, and rainbows. Encourage children to think about what they see in the sky when a rainbow appears, including clouds, rain, sunlight, and colors. Ask: "How can we make a rainbow in the classroom? Let's see what we can do with containers of water and flashlights."

Perform a simple experiment :

  • Set out different-size glass containers of water.
  • Place white paper on the floor under and around the water containers to help to show the colors of the rainbows clearly.
  • Invite children to take turns using flashlights to represent the sun shining on, over and through the water.
  • Later, children can place the containers in different places around the room to catch the sunlight.

Have a Group Art Exerience

Does light shine through paper? What happens when light shines through different-color papers at the same time? Bring out your overhead projector. Invite children to collect different colors and types of paper from around the classroom. (Be sure to have some colored cellophane or plastic wrap available.) Ask them to predict if the overhead light will shine through the papers. What will appear on the wall or screen? What will happen when two colors are placed on top of each other?

Expanding the Project

Ask: "How can we learn more about rainbows and light?" Children might like to go outdoors and experiment with making "rain" with a hose in the sunlight.

A bubble factory, with different types of blowers and bubble solutions, can be created on the playground to explore the "rainbow effect." (One class put a shade of food coloring in each of the bubble dishes to see if it changed the color of the rainbows inside the bubbles!)

Back in the classroom, children can explore light with prisms and investigate color with paint and color-mixing activities. (For art ideas with color and light, see Learning Centers 50.)

Invite an Expert Visitor

A local meteorologist can be a good choice for a visiting "expert." Perhaps she has photos of rainbows to share and can give additional information about how they are created. Also, check out information on these weather Web sites: and www.unidata.ucar. edu/staff/blynds-tnbw.html.

Celebrate With a Sidewalk Art Show!

Gather children together at group time to discuss what they have learned. You might ask: "What do we know about rainbows that we didn't know before?" Invite children to suggest ways they would like to celebrate the end of the project. One class decided to have a sidewalk art show to display their rainbow art. They invited

parents, sang a rainbow song they composed (see box, page 49), and danced with colored streamers.