When I was teaching I always made my kids a little something for Valentines Day! I knew that for many of my children, the handmade card they got from me would be the only card they would get! Many of my children just could not afford to buy cards to share.

Last year I shared with you how you could use coffee filters and a little science to make cards for your students or even have your kiddos make cards for their parents. As I was thinking about this year, I thought, hey-why not do a different version of the same idea. But this time, how about making some cute things for mom and dad!!

Here is what you need:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Dropper Bottle
  • Sharpie Markers
  • Bowl
  • Lots of space to work!

I actually found these really cool 80’s sharpies at Walmart!! I really liked the bright, bold colors!

IMG_2203Once you have all your materials ready, the next step is you draw! Think about using shapes, or patterns with spaces between them, or even dots. In terms of colors, remember what you learned in elementary school-which colors are primary and which are secondary? Primary colors are only made of one color. When the liquid is added, all you will have spreading will be that color.

If you want to have multiple colors spreading out, then you need to go with a secondary color. For example, if you use green, you will see yellow and blue colors bleed out.  For more on this process, check out my lesson plan What is Black-Looking at Color from a Different Perspective. This lesson plan has kids learn this process by using washable markers.

Here are the shapes and patterns I used:







The materials I used consisted of a bandana from Walmart and a polyester hat from Michaels. I thought of the bandana because I knew I could cut out squares and have my kids make make handkerchiefs.

Really you can’t go wrong with this project. The key is to remember the more space, the more the colors will have a chance to run. Sometimes if they run into each other, they make their own colors!!

Here is a great connection to math! Kids have to learn to recognize patterns. Instead of doing patterns on paper, why not reinforce them with this project! Check out this again-do you see the pattern I made?


If you look closely, you will see the bottom row reflects the ABAB pattern. The second row is ABBABBA, the third row is ABA, and the last row is back to ABAB!! What better way to have your kiddos show you they understand how to build a specific pattern by making them! And if the can make them into gifts for someone special, even better!!! To me, I would rather spend my instructional time assessing students on their understandings through activities like this instead of paper/pencil any day!

IMG_2207Okay-so once you have your design done, all you do then is just drop drops of alcohol onto the colors!! The reason we are using alcohol for this project and not water, has to do with the make up of the pens. Because they are permanent markers, they are made with colors that are not soluble in water. In other words, water is not strong enough to separate them out. Remember, chromatography is a process used to separate different compounds.  The origin of the word is from greek-chromatos meaning color and graphein-to write.  In essence, the process involves separating chemicals and identifying them by color!

In case you want to know what it is used for-here you go! The process has many uses. Commonly it is used to isolate new compounds, analyze differences between samples of objects, and it is even used in sequencing of DNA! Really all you need to do the process is a material (hat and bandana in this activity) and the “sample” (in this case the pen color) that is applied to the material. How the material is made will determine the rate of flow of the breaking apart of the sample. In other words, if you use a material that is very porous-like cotton, then you will be able to get the colors to bleed really well. That is why paper towels or coffee filters work so well!

Enough of the science, are you curious about how my projects turned out?? I think they all turned out really cute!!


Get out there and get your students making something special with science this year!

Please come back and share with me what you did this year!! GO Science!






Published by Jenny Sue