Chasing Rainbows


One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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45 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    Way to push the gay agenda on vulnerable preschoolers.Report

  2. J@m3z Aitch says:

    And though the color was not as expected, it still served a purpose: one child, a dark skinned African-American…cherished the opportunity to play with “Michael play dough*”.

    Very cool, but that’s not the only purpose served. The children learned a lesson about empirical testing, too.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      Well, yea, James, if you want to be really obvious about it! The whole damn thing was about empirical testing, problem solving, inquiry skills, and the scientific method. BUT CAN’T WE JUST TALK ABOUT THE WONDER OF MAKING PLAY DOUGH?!?!Report

      • greginak in reply to Kazzy says:

        but what does a black and white guinea pig or whatever it is have to do with it. You are sending mixed messages. a good photo either makes or breaks a post.Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to greginak says:

          The guinea pig is staring in astonishment at the brightness of the rainbow he sees, a rainbow created with the hands of Kazzy’s students.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

          I believe the image is a play of the “double rainbow” meme.

          Really what happened was I did a Google image search for “quadruple rainbow” and that popped up and I thought it was cute and funny.

          “I liked the kitty.”Report

  3. BlaiseP says:

    Apropos to nothing else, see if you can demonstrate an actual rainbow to your kids, with a prism. I remember when I was first shown a prism rainbow. Magical moment in my life.Report

    • Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to zic says:

      “We as a nation have got to ask ourselves: What the hell is going on? What is oozing out of our ground?”


  4. Boegiboe says:

    My favorite color happens to be brown. I look good in it (or I did when I was younger, anyway), it goes with pretty much any other color, chocolate is brown, yadda yadda. When my daughter asked me what my favorite color was a few months ago, I answered “Brown.” She made a funny face, like she thought I was pulling her leg, but I insisted. After a little bit of arguing over whether brown even qualifies as a favorite color, she finally accepted it. However, the resistance did surprise me a little. Maybe her school environment is part of the reason for that.

    By the way, do you use some kind of play dough mix, or is there a simple recipe you follow?Report

    • Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to Boegiboe says:

      I appreciate what you’re saying, but I’m not so sure I’d want to play with brown Play-Doh…Report

      • Kimsie in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

        Brown modeling clay (shinier) might do the trick.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark says:


        And I think that is totally cool. I wouldn’t force a child to play with brown play dough or admonish them for not wanting to. But I will have words with a teacher who says to an African-American child (or within earshot of one or, really, to any child), “Don’t use so much black in your painting! Use the pretty colors!” And, yes, I have heard that.

        I will say that the kids who did elect to play with it (and it was popular) took their pretend cooking play to a new level. The fact that it probably more closely represented real food items than the neon colored varieties surely helped. Brown chicken strips and brown chocolate ice cream scoops add an element of realism that bright green play dough doesn’t.

        But, yea, to each his own. If brown ain’t for ya, it ain’t for ya. But if you’ve been conditioned to look negatively upon black and brown things because of how adults around you during your formative years discussed those colors… I’d be upset… with them.Report

        • Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to Kazzy says:

          I don’t think I would object to brown Play-Doh because of how adults discussed the color brown in my formative years. It would just too much resemble “processed food,” if you know what I mean…Report

        • Kimsie in reply to Kazzy says:

          Let alone the 5-yr old who are fascinated with death
          (and thus want to use dark colors).
          (okay, they’re few, but they do exist).Report

        • j@m3z Aitch. in reply to Kazzy says:

          “Don’t use so much black in your painting! Use the pretty colors!”

          My dad was an amateur painter of middling talent. His best painting, and not just in my opinion, was one he did when he couldn’t afford to buy any paint or canvas, so he used the only remaining paint he had, black and white, and painted on a board. It’s a beautiful monochrome landscape, all blacks and grays. Those teachers might need to take themselves a field trip to a good art museum.Report

  5. Kazzy says:

    3 cups flour
    1 1/2 cups table salt
    6 tablespoons cream of tartar (look in the spice aisle)
    3 tablespoons oil
    3 cups water
    food coloring
    Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly
    Once it’s cooled a bit, hand knead it; if it’s sticky, sprinkle a bit of flour on it

    Be sure to keep it air tight. If you do, it’ll last you a few weeks. This recipe will make a big batch, enough for a class. If you’re doing it at home, you can scale down accordingly. It’s a ton of fun to make with kids and, while I wouldn’t encourage them to do so, is entirely safe to eat should they end up doing so.

    There are other recipes you can find online, which I’ve used with varying success. There are also variations that change the texture (e.g., sand dough), simplify the recipe (no cook recipes, though I find these sub-par), or add scent (Kool Aid play dough will tempt even adults to take a bite). Regardless, it’s pennies on the dollar compared to what you buy and just as good.

    Regarding color, often the messages are sent subconsciously. Factor in that poop and mud (two substances many children are taught to fear) are brown, and it is understandable when kids have the response that your daughter did. And I’m sure there is some scientific stuff relating to eye cones and wavelengths and the like that might actually make sure preferences biological. But we should do our best to not demonize a particular color which most of our world identifies as their skin.

    In my eyes, few color combinations work as well as pink and brown. If she is a pink fan, showing her some such looks might change her mind on the topic.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

      (This was meant as a reply to Boegiboe.)Report

    • Boegiboe in reply to Kazzy says:

      Now that she accepts it’s my favorite color, she’s more willing to wear it, color with it, etc. She also, perhaps only coincidentally, talks more about what color people’s skin is. “Some of my friends have brown skin.” That kind of thing.

      Thanks for the recipe! Now we can play with the expensive play dough more often, because I know I can make more of whatever color we run out of.Report

      • zic in reply to Boegiboe says:

        A few years ago, a three-year old friend asked me to knit her a hat. I asked what color she’d like, and she said, “Pink. For me. And brown, because Daddy likes it.”Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Boegiboe says:

        How old is she now? Noticing skin color is very normal as kids approach 4. And it’s a good thing! Just help structure those conversations in a healthy way. Enjoy the play dough!Report

        • Boegiboe in reply to Kazzy says:

          She’ll be 4 in September. It helps that she brings the topic up, because I can ask her what she thinks, why she says this or that, etc. I find it interesting that some of her teachers and friends are “brown,” but the ones who aren’t are “white.” When I had a bit of a sunburn, I asked her what color I was. At first she said white, but when I asked “Am I not more pink?” she thought about it and said I was a “whitish-red.”

          It’s so fun to talk to kids this age.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Boegiboe says:

            When kids do this, they are usually doing exactly what we want them to do.
            “This shape is a square. That one’s a circle.” “Great job!”
            “Skippy is a cat. Fido is a dog.” “Correct!”
            “Mr. Johnson has white skin. Mrs. Johnson has brown skin.” “Errr…”

            We want kids to classify, observe, sort, and categorize the world around them. It’s how they make sense of it. The problem is, we often give them bad info on race (and gender and class and other identifiers). We wouldn’t tell them a square has three sides. But we let them learn via media or our own teaching that brown people are bad guys or women have to cook or whathaveyou. Much of this is beyond our control, which is why we must actively challenge it. Being neutral is not enough. Most importantly is the tone of our reaction. Kids will quickly discern if they’ve wanders into a minefield based on adult reactions. If we shush them when they mention skin color (which should not be conflated with race for kids… They are literally talking about the color of skin), they’ll learn not to talk about it. But they won’t stop seeing it, or thinking about it, or drawing generalizations (another skill we want fo them!), but they will do it without positive guidance.

            Asking her about it is a great start. It tells her its okay to talk about these things in a respectful, constructive way.Report

  6. Michael Cain says:

    And I’m sure there is some scientific stuff relating to eye cones and wavelengths and the like that might actually make sure preferences biological. But we should do our best to not demonize a particular color which most of our world identifies as their skin.

    Back at the time that I was interested in the human visual system (video compression algorithms are heavily tailored to how well we see different colors, among other things), the working hypothesis was that at the point in the evolutionary tree where our color sensitivities got pinned down, the main concerns were oriented towards food from plants. We’re best at distinguishing between shades of green, then red, and don’t see blue worth a damn. That prioritization tends to do well at answering questions like “Is this fruit ripe enough yet?” and “Are these the berries that are good to eat, or the ones that make me sick?”Report

    • Kimsie in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Orange. it all comes down to orange. We’re extremely adept at understanding the differences in hues between Yellow and Red. We even have normal color words for it.

      Green’s sharp to the eye, but we can’t distinguish shades of it very well.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to Kimsie says:

        We do now. But it was one of the last color words to develop.

        The reason we’re so adept at distiguishing between various shades of orange through yellow green is due to the similarity of the red and green cones, which are actually just mutations of eachother. The the “red” cone is actually keyed to just a slightly yellower shade of green than the green cone is keyed to. Since the two are so close, and color vision is basically just triangulation, we have an incredible ability to distinguish colors that lie close to the yellow-green range.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Kimsie says:

        I’ll qualify my statement: for the three colors used to display video (phosphors in CRTs, filters in LCDs), humans can resolve more shades of that green, then that red, then that blue. In a ratio of about 10:8:6, IIRC. At the time — 20 years ago now — I was less concerned about color than about other things. When I started, running small video windows at the same time other software was active, and given the generally severe limits on colors available on the deployed PCs/Macs/Unix boxes, generally required doing black-and-white video — with just black and white dots, not even grayscale. You could pass an astounding amount of information even within that limit. I was more interested in frame rate, rate jitter, how to exploit the fact that we can see detail or rapid motion, but not both at the same time, etc.

        I heard an interesting story from a couple of Stanford researchers at that time. They worked on what kinds of things made TV ads ineffective. As it turns out, when something is rushing at your face — eg, a video image of something moving rapidly directly at the camera — your brain turns off audio processing while it decides if you need to move. They had a whole set of examples where they could say, “Under these conditions, viewers simply will not hear the voice over, because their brains are deciding if they need to duck.”Report

        • The Stanford researchers also had a great cultural story. Some place — I want to say some part of Eastern Europe, but could easily be wrong — had strong traditions about evil/mischievous little people who hid in homes and other places. People who had grown up in those areas — and mind, this is 20 years ago — really thought that pop-up video windows with little faces offering advice was a bad idea.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Michael Cain says:

      I’ve read that this is gendered, too, somewhat. Going back to hunter/gatherer days, certain colors were more important for men and others moreso for women and this explains (some of) the color divides we see there. Boys and girls eyes develop very differently, which you see play out in their art work and play skills even at a young age. There is still a HUGE amount of socialization, but the evolutionary/biology explanation seems very plausible to me.Report

  7. John Howard Griffin says:

    The power of this experience for Michael cannot be overstated.


    • Kazzy in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

      Yea, I let him take it home once we were done. I don’t normally do things like that, but it was amazing how it resonated with him. I should probably find more ways to do similar things for all students.Report

  8. Miss Mary says:

    We made play-doh in like 6th grade during science class. I’ve never tried for rainbow before. Perhaps that is what Junior is doing when he insists on mixing all of the store bought colors at home. I’ve got bits of brown play-doh in my carpet :(.Report

  9. Michael Cain says:

    If it wasn’t clear from any comments I left, this was a really cool post.Report