Saturday, April 22, 2017

Rainbows, Prisms and Clouds: A Kindergarten Sky Inquiry

The kids had been showing interest in clouds so I asked them if they wanted to investigate the sky. They did so I found out what they knew and wondered so that I could see what direction this inquiry could go.  For the past two years, our sky inquiries led to the sun, moon, stars and planets, but this year the kids went in a different direction.

Most of our initial discussion seemed to revolve around the colors of the sky, clouds and rainbows. I started out by putting out invitations to explore sky colors in our art area.  We read "Sky Colors" by Peter Reynolds and I put out pictures of the sky around them for inspiration.  They created some beautiful Sky Colored art!

Each day, one of the kids gets to look at the sky and mix paint to try to match it. They then paint a stripe on our canvas to show the color of the sky that day.  This art piece will be titled "April Sky."  At the end of the month, we will use it to figure out which color the sky was the most during the month of April. This is a perfect mix of art, science and math.

The kids started talking about how rainbows were made, but were not satisfied with the answer of rain and sun.  Some started wondering how rain and sun created rainbows.  We watched a video on youtube that told us the sun's white light is made up of all the colors mixed together.  When they all mix they look like white light.  A prism will bend the light and separate it into its separate colors.  The kids thought this was pretty cool, but I could tell they wanted to explore this further. I set out a prism, box, CD, and flashlight for them to explore and see what they noticed.  They loved exploring with these materials.  They were fascinated and made the connection about the raindrop being a prism and bending the light!

We also saw an experiment where if you painted all the colors on a circle and then spun it really fast the colors would blend into white to show that all the colors mixed together make white.

We created one, but could not get it to work.  This was a good lesson to show us that not all experiments go as planned!

Of course they wanted to paint rainbows so some friends helped set out all the colors and we invited friends to come paint.  Our room became a very colorful place!

After we learned all that we could about how rainbows were made, I took them outside to see what they noticed about the clouds.  We laid down and discussed what we saw and noticed.  Some kids from other classes playing outside laid down with us and joined in on our discussion.

Through the week, we observed the sky and the clouds and learned that there are three main types of clouds: Cirrus, Cumulus, and Stratus.  We did an activity where each child created each of the three types of clouds and showed which were the highest and which were the lowest.  We started to discus the project for this inquiry and came up with a teaching mural in the hallway to show what they had learned.

Part of our group wanted to show the order of the colors in all rainbows.

We found material from a cloud a previous class made and used that for the our raincloud. A couple friends decided to paint raindrops directly on our mural while others wanted to make some that were more three dimensional so they strung blue beads onto yarn and hung them to our cloud along with some blue fabric and ribbon we found in our fabric drawer.

Some wanted to show the raindrop acting as prism and bending the white light into the colors of the rainbow.

The kids were noticing the different types of clouds as we watched the sky each day. We explored them through some books and the internet and showed what we learned by making the three main types of clouds.

Some kids wanted to show the three main kinds of clouds on our mural so we found some materials and they got to work!

We made some and added them to the top. Here is the finished teaching mural!

I wonder what they will explore next?


  1. Brilliant! This is such an excellently presented cloud theme. I will use many of the ideas. Thank you so much!


  2. Hello! My name is Mili, I am from Argentina. I am writing this comment to tell you what inspiration you are to me! I admire how you center your teaching on children, and how you let them play a leading role in their learning. In the schools where I work, that's not the case at all.
    That's why reading your post (so well explained) about everything that happens in "your room" is so refreshing for me, since I can see how that kind of teaching (which in my opinion is the most significant and effective) Can be carried out.
    Thank you very much for making the time to write and tell us everything about what your children discover

  3. Thanks for your wonderful posts! I am a kindy teacher and several children in my group have expressed an interest in having a "weather studio." They want to be able to make it light/dark, as well as explore different types of weather (rain, sun, lightning etc) in an experiential way- through their explanation "we want to be able to make the weather." I'm at a bit of a loss about how to create this studio, any thoughts or ideas you can offer will be gratefully accepted! Kind regards, Lindsay

    1. There is that experiment where you put shaving cream on top of water and drip food coloring into it until it falls through like rain. I have had a group of kids create a rainstorm in our room by making clouds with lightning and rain hanging down from them and hanging them in our room. We circle weaved a sun, blew objects with "wind" from a fan to see what would blow the furthest. That is the closest I can come to making weather, lol! Sorry this took so long for me to respond. It is probably too late for your past inquiry but might give you ideas for next time!