Color My World

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, October 5, 2006

Grade Level

  • PreK-1


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Science

Lesson Time

Two fifty-minute class periods


In this lesson, students will use the scientific method to explore how to make different colors with paint. Then, they will use the paint that they make to create a "Colors of the Season" book.

National Standards

Standard 8. Level I. Understands the structure and properties of matter
2. Knows that things can be done to materials to change some of their properties (e.g., heating, freezing, mixing, cutting, dissolving, bending), but not all materials respond the same way to what is done to them
Standard 12. Level I. Understands the nature of scientific inquiry
1. Knows that learning can come from careful observations and simple experiments 
Language Arts
Standard 1. Level I. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
7. Writes in a variety of forms or genres (e.g., picture books, friendly letters, stories, poems, information pieces, invitations, personal experience narratives, messages, responses to literature)
8. Writes for different purposes (e.g., to entertain, inform, learn, communicate ideas) 
Art Connections Standard 1. Level II. Understands connections among the various art forms and other disciplines
4. Knows ways in which the principles and subject matter of other disciplines taught in the school are interrelated with those of the arts (e.g., pattern in the arts and in science)
Visual Arts Standard 1. Level II. Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts
3. Knows how different media (e.g., oil, watercolor, stone, metal), techniques, and processes are used to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories


Students will do the following:

  • identify colors created by mixing primary colors
  • describe the process used to create new colors
  • design a book using the colors of a given season


  • A book about color (suggestions listed under procedures)
  • "Make New Colors" worksheet


  • small plastic or glass containers for paint (each group will need three containers)
  • paint brushes or cotton swabs
  • paper
  • measuring spoons
  • paper towels to clean spoons between experiments


Primary Colors
Secondary Colors


Building Background
Seeing Colors 

The purpose of this activity is to activate students' background knowledge about color.

1. Read your students a book about color.

The following is a list of suggested book titles:

  • A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni
  • Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert
  • Vincent's Colors by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg

2. Involve students in a discussion about color. The following is a list of questions to get your discussion started:

  • What is your favorite color?
  • What color is your room at home? Do you like that color? Why or why not?
  • What is your least favorite color?
  • What is the color of your favorite piece of clothing?
  • If a banana, the sky, asphalt, etc., could be another color, what should it be?
  • Do you like black and white photographs and movies?


Steps for Learning
Exploring Color 

In this activity, students will use hypothesis formation, experimentation, and trial and error to create colors.

1. Divide the class into small groups. Pass out the "Make New Colors" worksheet.

2. Give each group a set of three cups containing the primary colors of red, yellow and blue. Also, give them a measuring spoon such as a quarter or half teaspoon. Explain to students that all of the colors can be created using these three colors. Tell students that these three colors are called primary colors.

3. Tell students that they are going to mix equal amounts of two colors to create a new color.

4. After students have finished experimenting, have them share their process and results with the rest of the class. Explain to students that the green, orange, and purple colors they created are called secondary colors.

Teachers Note: If you are using this lesson with younger students, you may choose to complete it as a whole-class activity.


Write or draw three things that you learned today.
What colors did you mix together to make the prettiest color?
What colors did you mix together to make the ugliest color?

Enrichment Extension Activities

Color of the Seasons Book 
Explain to students that they are going to make a "Colors of the Season" book. Have each group pick a season, and create a book that uses the colors that are associated with that particular season.

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