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I was working with a group of teachers a while ago and started telling them a story, a story about a beautiful rainbow I had seen a few days before from their school grounds.  We talked about the colours, the shape, and whether there really was a pot of gold at the end of it.  I continued with the story: how a big, black bird hadn’t been looking where it was going and flew straight into it, smashing the rainbow into millions of pieces that crashed to the ground.  A surprising twist, and some of the teachers started to look doubtful.  I’m not sure if there were convinced by the rainbow chips I then drew from a special bag – these were the pieces I managed to gather before they blended into the spot where they fell – but we spent the next 10 minutes or so trying to find where each one landed: the colour on the ground, a wall, a tree, a toy, that matched our own rainbow chip.  

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Some were harder to match than others – was that the right shade of green? – and we started talking about why that was.  How accurate did we want to be?  Was it a natural or man-made colour? Which was easier? Why are there so many colours (and patterns)?  What are they used for? 

This was part of a training day, helping teachers explore how they can use their school grounds to inspire and teach (we had already looked at maths, literacy, science, geography…). We went on to talk about other colour and art related activities, inspired by our rainbow chip/colour matching one.  There are so many…how about collecting different colours and arranging them in different ways, for example by shading or making shapes and patterns?  You can attach your finds to a stick with elastic bands, or create an earthline sticking them onto a piece of paper using double-sided tape

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Of course you don’t have to arrange things in a straight line…

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Or on paper….


Ephemeral art and sculpture is great for exploring colour, as well as shape and texture. Just use what you can find…

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You could also create a mood board for different spaces – are certain colours found together in certain places?  How do you feel when you are in that place?  Or how about creating different colours with natural pigments?

Just be careful about what you choose to collect.  Some plants can be poisonous or bring about allergic reactions.  Also think and talk about why you should or shouldn’t pick different leaves and flowers. 

Exploring colour outdoors is not just about natural materials – think about other things you have access to.  Chalk, water and a paintbrush can be used to create colourful fireworks…

For me, being outdoors awakens all the senses, and exploring colour outdoors enables us to look deeper, to really discover what’s around us.  The outdoors provides inspiration, resources and the biggest of canvases to explore and express ourselves through colour and art.

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