When I was teaching, I had a lesson plan on chromatography which is just a fancy term for separating the mixtures that is used to make certain colors. Like for example, if you use a black marker, the color is not from one source that is black but rather, it’s a mixture of colors that come together to make black. You can see this by drawing a dot or line with a black marker (not permanent) on a coffee filter, then sticking it in a cup with a shallow amount of water on the bottom and seeing how the dot or line bleeds and shows all the different pigments that are used to make that color. It’s a really colorful sight to behold.
This project is a simple use of chromatography to release some of the beautiful colors in markers as we make flowers. First, get a coffee filter. Most people have those round bowl looking kinds. If you do, then cut the circle from the bottom of them. As for us, luckily, Andy is a coffee snob who roasts his own beans and uses this weird contraption that uses these flat square filters.
With these, I was able to cut one of these filters into 4 pieces. Then, Sean used his markers and made dots all over one of the pieces of the filter. You would think lines or circles around the center would make the best designs but no, dots are the best. If you are doing it with kids, let them try different ways but the secret is big dots. I showed Sean how to make the dots and you can tell mine are the tight dots and Sean’s are the scribbly ones.
Next, wet a pipe cleaner and piece it through the middle of the decorated coffee filter. Then stick the pipe cleaner into a cup of water.
Did I already tell you to wet the pipe cleaner before you pierce the paper and then stick it in the cup? Yeah, I know I did. I am just repeating this again because it’s important. You will have to wait a long time to get a dry pipe cleaner to suck up the water and move to the flower so make sure your pipe cleaner is already wet. I left this part out during a lesson in school and we were sitting there forever.
So then just sit back and watch. Kids love this part. Lots of oohs and aahs from 2nd graders. Sean, on the other hand, was slightly interested.
As the pipe cleaner spreads and pushes the water outwards, the colors at the edge are more vibrant but the middle is somewhat washed out. At this time, you can make some dots in the middle and watch them expand to look like streaks. Or you can just leave it white in the middle. In this example, I added stuff to the middle..
You have to take it out before it reaches the edge of the coffee filter or all the colors will be washed out. Sean glued some red tissue paper and some yellow paper that I had cut out to look like flower pistils but I think they also look great just by themselves.