Shades of Green

May and June are amazing months! There is no greener time of the year! Here in Ohio I look outside every day and see an ever changing palette of green on the landscape. It’s breathtaking to see the gentle green of tender buds DSC02980change quickly into leaves that almost shimmer with dozens of shades of iridescent green.

This is a great activity to help children focus on the green around them. The task is simple– students collect small samples of a color in nature and then place them in order from lightest to darkest. You will need: strips of cardboard or oak tag approximately 3 inches wide and 18–24 inches long (I cut up old manila file folders), masking tape

The Details

Working in pairs, students collect small samples (about thumbnail size) of differing shades of green they find in the schoolyard. Usually, I ask pairs to bring in twelve to fifteen samples. As the groups return, give each a cardboard strip that has a piece of masking tape fastened sticky side up along the entire length. The group’s task then is to look carefully at the samples collected and arrange them from lightest to darkest on the cardboard strip. After the strips are completed, I have students lay them on the ground and we have a color gallery for all to see.

I like this activity for two reasons. It challenges students to discriminate among many shades of the same color and it also gets kids outside taking a very careful micro look at their surroundings.

The activity is wonderful for developing an attention to detail and works especially well if you limit the “search area” to a small space. The nearest green space right outside the schoolhouse door works just fine. The grasses and weeds in an average lawn work just fine for this activity. Be sure to emphasize that only a sample the size of a thumbnail is needed. Help students see that many leaves have different shades of green on the top and bottom.

I once took a sixth-grade class outside on one of those perfect spring days, paired up the kids and explained “shades of green.” The goal was to find at least twelve different shades of green. Without really thinking, I added that a group last year had found twenty items. One pair of boys quickly came back with their dozen tiny samples and boasted that they could find at least ten more different shades (breaking last year’s “record”). Another pair overheard the conversation and said that they also could find more than twenty examples.

The end result was that we had two pairs that needed three cardboard strips to display their findings! Of course, a person from a group that stuck with the original task smugly pointed out that several of the samples really looked the same. That probably was true—I’m sure that upon careful examination there most certainly were duplicates. On the other hand, so what! The eager beavers had a great time exploring the outdoors with an intensity that they probably had never experienced before.

Now, I’m not advocating that you turn “shades of green” into a competition. It just so happened that this class had some kids who really enjoyed creating their own challenges. This experience reinforced for me the energy and enthusiasm that can build in an outdoor setting. Kids who normally turned to video games for excitement were getting a kick out of looking at leaves and stems!

This is an activity that guarantees success. Everyone ends up with a spectrum of green that looks pretty cool!


Copyright © 2015 by Herb Broda