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Wednesday, May 18, 2011



Why didn’t I think of this when I wrote the other post? When I taught second grade, I was lucky to have had many student teachers: One wrote a terrific color unit and out of that came this great thing to do with my students. It was so great, that the next year and several years after that, I continued doing this to show primary, secondary and tertiary colors.

If you try this, let me warn you that kids get really excited at first and then by the end—not so much! But it is hands on learning.

Here’s what you need: Many containers of Cool Whip [I kept a lot in the cafeteria’s refrigerator at school for this]

Food coloring ---many little boxes that have all colors

Graham crackers---many boxes [generic works fine!]

Plastic spoons

Plastic plates or bowls [the small ones]

Napkins or paper towels or both

I sat at a big table up front with several containers of cool whip, a box of food coloring and two boxes of graham crackers—and yes, bowls for me to mix and spoons and napkins for the kids. Called a group of children to come up and watch as I mixed red food coloring into some cool whip that had been put into a separate bowl. [You have to use many drops of red coloring or you’ll wind up with pink.]

Then I gave each child a plop of red cool whip on a graham cracker—and they ate it! Takes a while, as you want to only let about five or six children at once come to the table. All I heard was “Can I have a lot of Cool Whip?”

Proceeded onto blue and then yellow. All of the children were liking the eating part well!

The next step was to show them secondary colors. I held up a new bowl of Cool Whip and mixed blue with yellow to get green. And repeated calling children up to the front table so that they could eat the green Cool Whip on graham crackers. By the time I had finished mixing each secondary color into a new bowl of Cool Whip and the children had eaten those, they were not liking eating it at all. This time they had eaten not only green Cool Whip on graham crackers but also orange and purple Cool Whip on them.

Came the final showing of colors: Tertiary. And again, I had to use more new bowls of Cool Whip. I was on the second or third box of food coloring and had opened more boxes of graham crackers by this time!

I mixed the first bowl of Cool Whip with a tertiary color—yellowish-green and called up the first group of students to have their graham crackers laden with Cool Whip. By this time, not many children wanted to eat it much less look at it. [I could fully understand!] The repetition went on until all tertiary colors had been mixed by me and hardly eaten by the children. They were definitely not liking it by now—the eating part that is.

After the lesson of teaching primary, secondary and tertiary colors was finished by using cool whip, food coloring and graham crackers, there wasn’t one child who wanted any leftovers at all—nor did I.

A brave child in my room [there is always one you know!] wanted to know what it would look like to mix all of the leftover colors together. And I let him do it. The color that appeared was puce—that’s the color of an Easter egg that has been dipped into every color: You know, the one that is sort of purplish with black?

Every child in my classroom went “Ew!” I told them that the color name “puce” was a very fitting name for it is similar to another name for throwing up!

After all was cleaned up by my student teacher and me, the children were in a Cool Whip coma of sorts as well as one of graham crackers. Soon afterwards, the dismissal bell rang and did the children scramble to get their things and go home? Of course they did.

The next day was such a successful day in that there was not one single child in my classroom who did not know primary, secondary and tertiary colors! Why? It was literally intrinsic and they never forgot.

If you are a teacher or a parent, this is a great way to introduce and show primary, secondary and tertiary colors. But remember one thing: At first children will want a lot of colored Cool Whip and by the time you finish mixing and distributing more and more, they will want less and less.

I am a firm believer in “learning by doing:” This was a great way to demonstrate and let the children participate. And they learned. And they rebuked at Cool Whip when I happened to bring some into class one day for a different experiment all together—wonder why?

Sherry Hill

*No disrespect to Cool Whip whatsoever: I love it and it was a great teaching tool.

Special thanks to my student teacher at that time who wrote such a great unit on “Color”—Angie Hebb! [She has been teaching quite a while now and is one terrific teacher!]

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