This unit introduces students to plant dyes and their history and highlights invesitgative skills as they explore variables in their own plant dyeing.
Science is more meaningful for most students when it is learned in some context which is relevant to something else they have learned or to real life. This unit was designed to do both by building on a science unit on plants that discusses flowers, roots, leaves, bark, seeds and other plant parts. The integration of plant science with stories from history gives a human touch. It connects the learning to previous learning of colonial or world history, for example. Anecdotes bring in drama, economics and geography as well. Students practice numerous scientific methods as they carry out controlled experiments and trial-and-error experiments. Connections with art are made as the students use the results of their dyeing experiments to make some handcrafted items, a real-life application. Because students are involved in gathering supplies and producing displays and handcrafted objects, they take ownership of their work. All materials are low cost.
Level: Grades 5-8
Time Frame: One day to endless
Materials are all low cost. Old kitchen supplies may be used: crockpots or steel pans and hotplates. Items hay be donated or found at Goodwill other places where used items are sold. Plant materials may be gathered and brought in by students.
Rationale: Curiosity can be aroused with a simple awareness raising exercise which can lead to further investigation as well as an understanding of how simply scientific discoveries may begin.
Context: Introductory hands-on activity into a study of plant dyes as part of plant unit in science.
Wear plastic or rubber gloves when handling mordants, afterbaths or wet, mordanted fibers.
Cover the pots while mordanting.
Clean it up spills right away.
Add chemicals to the water, not water to the chemicals, to avoid splashing or quick reactions.
Never eat or drink when working with chemicals.