Showing Your True Colors

Scripture: Genesis 37

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will experiment with chromatography to see the primary colors.
  • Students will discover how new colors are created from primary colors?
  • Students will review how Joseph’s father favored him and gave him a coat of many colors.

Guiding Question: How do colors blend together to create new colors?

Washable Markers
Spray bottles filled with water
Coffee filter for each student and 1-3 additional pre-cut strips of coffee filters
Isopropyl Alcohol
Shallow container

Procedure: Review the story of Joseph. Discuss how sibling rivalry between Joseph and his brothers was a strain on the family that was intensified by their father’s favoritism for Joseph. Joseph’s coat of many colors symbolized the favoritism. Colorful dyes were not common in Joseph’s time and were often derived from berries, shellfish, bugs, and spices. This made the coat very valuable. There are three main colors that create all the other colors. These are called primary colors. Chromatography can be used to show the colors that make up the secondary colors.

Take a strip of coffee filter paper and place a thick line of black or another secondary color several inches from the bottom using a washable marker. Dip the bottom of the paper in the container of alcohol so that the alcohol does not touch the marker line. Have students hypothesize what will happen. The paper will absorb the alcohol. As the paper absorbs the alcohol, it will pass the marker line and the colors will separate. (Purple seemed to work the best because the blue came out from it easily, but the red was pale and difficult to spot.) You may also want to try other colors to experiment.

Next, give each student a coffee filter and markers. Allow them to make designs and then spray the coffee filter with water. Watch as the colors spread and blend. Allow them to air dry. Discuss what colors were made as they blended together.

Additional Questions:

  • What are the primary colors?
  • Which new colors were made as the water blended the coffee filter?
  • Hypothesize how to make certain colors and test them.

Supplemental Activity: Consider the order of the rainbow: Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Think about where the primary colors are in the list. Why do you think the order is this way? Have students try to make a rainbow with as few colors as possible by blending markers or mixing primary paints.

Written by: Savannah Negas