Bright idea

23rd May 2008 at 01:00
Colours never fail to excite and inspire. Take your class outside this summer and mix things up, suggests Paula Richardson
Colours never fail to excite and inspire. Take your class outside this summer and mix things up, suggests Paula Richardson

Colour is a major influence on our landscape, either by its absence or presence, so this key stage 3 lesson aims to explore its importance.

Start the activity in class by looking at different photographs of a range of places. Ask pupils what they see or notice about each of the pictures.

Chances are you will receive lots of information about the physical and human characteristics found in there.

Change tack and ask them to discuss the question: "How important is colour in this place?" This will provide an interesting discussion. Follow it up with further questions, such as: "Is there a dominant colour? What would the place be like if the colour green was to be removed?" and so on.

If it is possible, choose two contrasting areas for study in your locality that offer a range of colours in the environment.

Using a busy street, for example, will allow you to ask about the number and range of colours that can be found naturally and artificially. Road works offer a superb opportunity to identify colours that warn or inform.

Colours are not only found in static features such as buildings, signs or street furniture but also on people who constantly move through the landscape.

Ask questions about how colour is used to give information; to create cool, quiet places or vibrant, cheerful ones. Which is the most visible colour? How many signs or forms of public transport use the colour yellow?

Complete the exercise in a contrasting location or as a homework task. This will allow them to explore a range of colours that they may not have thought about before: it also allows reflection about the impact of introducing a colour to an area.

Add some photographs and all these results can be displayed on a wall map of the local area.

Paula Richardson is an independent geography consultant from Redhill in Surrey.


Materials needed?

Photos of the local area. To help pupils identify the subtleties of particular colours, use the paint strip charts that can be found in DIY shops and show varying shades of each colour. Youngsters find it amazing that they can identify 10 shades of green in one particular location.

What will you achieve?

Asking your class to work in a more abstract way allows a range of thinking skills and emotional responses to surface. You can move the debate on to look at how people with limited sight, or colour blindness, cope. Is it possible to describe the colour green to someone who cannot see it? How are traffic lights adapted for pedestrians who cannot see the colour telling them to cross?

You know the lesson is going well when you're rewarded with a comment such as: "We've never done anything like this before."


A good book that would help is Exploring Colour in the Environment by Anne and John Bebbington, published by the Field Studies Council (2001). www.field-studies-council.orgpublications.

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