Recently I decided to bring in a few Peonies to class from my backyard for the students to observe. Some students smelled them, touched them, and a few wanted to sketch and paint them.
After H. S. finished sketching and painting the Peonies, she came to me and asked me a very interesting wonder question...
"I wonder if we can make paint out of flowers?"
"I don't know? What do you think?" Me
She shrugged her shoulders. "Maybe we can find out!" H. S.
The following day I brought in a few more flowers and took some students to our flower garden at school to add to our experiment.
I had no idea if this was going to work. Like many wonders we explore together, it's the process that matters not just the end result. There is always a lot of learning even from experiments that do not turn out as expected. In this case I decided to look on Pinterest to satisfy my own curiosity. It turns out that it was in fact possible to make watercolour paint using flowers. Here is the link in case you are interested!
The information I found supported me in creating the provoccation below. I placed empty jars with the hope that it may lead students to use water. I also placed scissors, rolling pins, and a mortar and pestle which would allow students to investigate various tools and techniques in creating their paints. Lastly I added zip lock bags for them to place their experiment inside. I gave no instructions. I wanted them to feel like scientists and be able to explore what worked and what didn't. I was also curious to see what techniques they used to try and create watercolour paint.
It was interesting to see the many ways that students were attempting to create watercolours. As more students went over, new ideas were explored and discussed with their peers.
It only took one student (J. K.), to shout out that he was going to get water and pour it into his bag for others to become inspired as well.
M. O. and E. E. decided to use warm water and see what would happen.
"I want to try to make burgundy water, I will try and mix the red Gerber with the Peonies that are pink. Burgundy is like dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, red. It is really dark red. I think I can get the colour if I shake it and squish it." W. E.
After several days of investigating and experimenting, we gathered as a group to share some of our findings. I left the discussion open and simply asked students what they noticed or thought was important?
"When I added cold water it had less colour, but I tried warm and hot water and it got more colour." J. K.
"When I put more of the petals in there was more colour." K. W.
"When I put warm water it turned more and got purple." H. S.
"First I cut it (leaf) off the plant, then I put in a container and cut more. Then I smushed it and it made a little paint, then E. E. put the stuff in the bag and then I rolled it. We rolled it and rolled it and then we added hot water and put more cut petals in and kept rolling." M. O. & E. E.
"I think you need to use one colour of petals to make a darker colour or the same colour of petals." O. S.
I told them I would write down some of the ideas they told me were important for their experiment to work.
1. Amount of water (using less water made it more colourful)
2. Temperature of the water (warm or hot water made it more colourful)
3. Using darker coloured petals (made it darker coloured)
4. How much materials you use (using more petals or leaves made more colourful)
5. Giving it time (made more colourful)
6. Squishing, rolling or cutting the petals and leaves into little pieces (made it more colourful)
"Wow it is so green! I wonder if it will keep getting green over night again?" L. B.
"I see pieces inside stayed the same size and colour. I wonder if I add yellow petals to my green water if it will make yellowy green?" K. W.
"Mine is browny yellow, the petals turned moist and they are smushy and the petals turned brown and black but my burgundy one is burgundy that's what I tried. I think I used one flower and one colour of flower that it turns what I want." W. E.
"I think W. E.'s turned brown and black because you mixed all the leaves and petals together instead of only one colour." P. I.
"Because you smushed it up it changed into browny black." O. S.
"Over the weekend mine turned pink and orange, it looks like pink lemonade. The pink petals look rotten and lost it's colour. The colour went into the water!" H. S.
"My petals turned rotten and turned yellow." D. A.
"D. A.'s petals look translucent because he didn't use a lot of petals and that is why the water is yellow and they look translucent." O. S.
"No they look opaque!" K. W.
"The petals turned brown, yuck!" O. M.
"I was trying to make brown. I added petals from the pink flowers and leaves and stems and the leaves are turning brown inside the water." A. F.
"I did a pattern with my paint, I put white, pink, white, pink petals and added cold and hot water. I wanted to make pink and I did but the water looks orange a bit. Some petals are cut and some are not." B. P.
"I think there was so much hot water that turned cold and changed the colours. The leaves are turning blackish brownish in the water." K. E.
"I want to try to make orange today, I will use the Gerber Daisy! I think I need to add more orange to make it darker, oh look it's golden water!" F. D.
"I want to make yellow, I am going to use the pollen of the flower to see if it makes it darker!" E. E.
After a few days the bags were opened and the watercolour was tested using eyedroppers and paintbrushes.
I asked some students what they noticed. Many said that their watercolour was too light and looked more colourful in the bag than on the paper. A few students agreed that their colour did work because they used leaves and the leaves were dark and made a darker colour. One student decided to break pieces of the drying flowers and rub them on her white paper. She told me that this worked better.
It was interesting to me that the process of creating watercolours using plants by means of investigating and experimenting seemed more exciting to the students than actually trying out their paint colours. I wonder why? I wonder if they were more intrigued by developing something unknown which was exciting? Maybe as they watched some of their peers test their colours, they felt it didn't work and lost interest. In the end they learned so much through the process.