Sunrises, Science, Coffee Filters, and Art

Thank you, librarian Jonelle Hamou, for contributing this project. 3rd and 4th grade students at Frederick Douglass Elementary, in Winchester, VA, investigated science and art in connection with STARS BENEATH YOUR BED: the Surprising Story of Dust. 

Students use ink pens to color parts of coffee filters, then fold each filter into a pie-piece shape.They dip the end of the “pie piece” into water. The water will travel up the filter and spread ink pigments to the far edges. Unfold the filter and find a beautiful sunrise or sunset color pattern with rays of color. Let the paper dry, and you have art!

If you want to tie in even more science, use this activity to introduce a wonderful scientific lab technique: paper chromatography. Many chemicals can be identified by placing a colored sample (a dot) of the substance on filter paper, then dipping the end of the paper in a solvent. The solvent moves through the paper and carries the chemical (the dot) a certain distance, based on its structure. By seeing how far the color travels, a scientist can figure out what chemicals are in the sample. This process is paper chromatography. (Check Wikipedia to see the entry on this.) Some inks can be separated into their component colors in this way.

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