Seeing beyond red

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I had an interesting discussion with my online colleagues this week about colour themes.

It used to be fashionable in kindergarten to adopt a single colour theme.  “Tomorrow we will have everything red.  Wear something red to kinder.”  And then there would be red paint, and red pasting, and red pencils and red everywhere.

I have not done it for a while.  It does not seem to sit particularly well with current emergent approaches, or a view of kindergarten education that runs at a more conceptual level than ‘learning their colours’.

But I remember those sessions fondly.  I learnt some valuable lessons.

The most striking lesson was that when you make everything one colour, the last thing you can talk about is colour.  A single colour scheme is not a way to learn about colour, at least not through language.

A single colour scheme put the emphasis on everything but.

When I selected only the red bits of all my sorting sets, we had to sort them by their other attributes: into insects, vehicles and teddy bears; into flies, dragonflies, spiders and caterpillars.  Where the children had tended to sort the sets mostly by colour, when colour was gone as a distinguishing feature they started to notice other attributes and groupings, and I started to use other language. 

When I provided only red paint at the easel, I provided different types of red paint; acrylic and powder paint and watercolour and dyed glue.  Each behaved differently on the paper.  Each had its own shade.  Each had its own texture. 

When I provided only red materials for collage, the emphasis moved to shade, and texture.  Different red drawing media had different weights and required differing strokes and effort to transfer to the paper.

Making everything red did not make us focus on red.  It removed red – and every other colour – from our conversation. It made us focus instead on other characteristics and attributes.  

Making everything red pushed us to more subtle colour perception.  We noticed shades and gradations of red.

Finally, making the whole room red was a strong sensory experience.  Being surrounded by red made it harder to talk about red for long.  But the experience of redness was dramatic.

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