Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Discovery: A Summer Learning Story

We’re reflecting on the incredible contributions of our 2012-13 AmeriCorps Museum Educators as their service year comes to a close. Leah Taradash shared this story about facilitating play-based summer enrichment activities to support school readiness for rising kindergartners.

The day that Michael learned that red and blue makes purple was a magical day at Asa Messer Elementary School.

As we planned the curriculum for our summer as part of Kid's Bridge, a kindergarten prep program for low-income children, we knew that we wanted to provide the children with new experiences that would inspire their creativity and inquisitive nature while getting them ready for school. Color mixing with paints was the perfect activity – it introduced materials such as paint and paintbrushes, allowed for creativity, incorporated scientific principles, and is just plain fun. After listening to the book Mouse Paint, the kids were excited to learn that they would use paints to mix colors, just like the mice did. I couldn't help but smile as they mixed different combinations of red, blue and yellow to make green, orange and purple and shouted their discoveries with glee.
When it was Michael's turn, he pointed to a cup that a previous child had mixed and said, "I want the purple paint!" He looked skeptical when I told him that to make purple he would have to use red and blue.  "I have to put them together? With this?" he asked as he picked up the paintbrush, making it clear that he had probably never used painting materials before. I watched him ever so slowly pick up the brush and dip it into the red paint. "I put it in there?" he asked, pointing to the blue. I nodded and he placed the paintbrush inside the cup of blue. "It's not working. Where's the purple?" "You have to mix it together," I said, and moved my hand in a stirring motion. "And maybe add some more red." He began to stir the paint together, adding a bit more red to the mixture, until suddenly flecks of a deep purple began to appear. Michael looked up at me with such wonder in his eyes and yelled, "It did it! It made purple! It really happened!" He spent the next five minutes experimenting with adding different amounts of red and blue to his paper and seeing how he could make different shades of purple.

Watching Michael and the other children's joyful reactions to discovering the science behind color mixing made me proud to  give them the opportunity to make discoveries about things that adults often take for granted.

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