Today I’m happy to have Daisy of Compost Happens share instructions for doing simple paper chromatography that doubles as art art project. After all, some people like a little STEAM with their STEM. I think this project would go over especially well with girls who like to make flowers and butterflies. (I say that as a mom of boys who favor flames, throwable objects and weapons. Your mileage may vary; please share your views in the comments below.)
The words that follow belong to Daisy, but the photos are mine as we tried this ourselves.
chroma – color
-graphy – writing
chromotagraphy = color writing, or color drawing.
I’ve always been a proponent of integrating the arts into curriculum whenever possible. This activity is an example of art and science merging very well. It’s easy enough to do at home with a few simple materials and tools, and doesn’t make (much) of a mess.
There are two options: permanent markers + rubbing alcohol or water-color markers + water. Both options use filter paper or coffee filters and small glasses or cups. I’ve used average size filters and the larger, commercial size. Both yield good results.
Gather your materials: filters, markers, alcohol or water, cups or glasses (these will wash out just fine later).
Draw a heavy circle in the middle of each filter with one color.
Pour a small amount of water or alcohol into each glass or cup. Place each filter in a glass so the filter is wet, but the entire filter is not underwater.
Allow time for the liquid to wick up through the entire filter, separating the colors of ink from the marker.
Take filters out to dry.
Art extension: Examine the filter when dry. Using your imagination, what do you see in the filter? Does the design suggest a picture, a design, a drawing? Infinite possibilities exist.
I’ve seen students create rainbows, tacos, comets, flowers, and many other works of art based on colorful coffee filters.
Language extension: Find other words based on chroma- or -graphy. Define. For example, autograph, biography, and more.
Another fun extension: Solve a mystery! Use a black marker to write “I stole the treasure!” on a coffee filter. Use chromatography to examine the colors in the marker used by the guilty party. Then send students to other teachers (or kids to your neighbors!) to gather sample black markers. After separating the colors for each marker and examining the results, compare with the marker on the note found at the “crime scene.” Who is the guilty one? What was the treasure? What now? You decide.
My daughter remembers when I was her sixth grade teacher and we did this in science class. I dropped her off at a friend’s house one day, and as the other mom and I chatted, both girls ran up and asked for a coffee filter. “Why?” asked the other mom. “I’m out of here!” I exclaimed, and ran for my minivan, grinning. I love it when science class comes home with my students.
My daughter, by the way, is now 25. She uses art, science, and language in her work. She is a photographer – journalist.
Daisy’s BIO: I began blogging as a way to express myself and deal with everyday stresses. I continue to blog because it’s cheaper than therapy and an outlet for the creative writer in me that still raises its hand now and then and says, “Me! Call on me!”
In real life, I have a great job: I teach online. This virtual form of schooling continues to evolve as education and technology grow and develop. I enjoy continually learning new ways of mixing technology with the personal touch to help my students reach their greatest potential.
For a chromatography experiment with a seasonal twist, check this post from The Kitchen Pantry Scientist.
We put a small blue LED under one of the dried filters and snapped this ghostly shot.