Chalk and Water

by | Mar 10, 2024 | Cafe Chats

It happened without intention with only two simple materials—chalk and water.

The bucket of coloured chalk had always been a reliable and inspirational source of story-making, portraiture, map-making, and so much more on the black pavement canvas. The spray bottle of water had been a source for wetting and washing stones and objects, for tagging friends in a game of chase, and cooling their own skin under the sun’s warm rays. But it wasn’t until these two very different play materials came together that the children were confronted with a new idea.

A squirt of water accidentally landed on chalk lines previously drawn on the pavement. The colour of the chalk on the pavement immediately intensified! How did water (with no colour) make the chalk more vibrant?

The children began their investigations in earnest.

Could the addition of water change the appearance of softer chalk colours like white and yellow too?

What would happen if the canvas was wet instead of dry? Did it matter in which order the chalk and water were layered on the pavement?

Could colour that had been intensified through the addition of water be made lighter again using white chalk?

What colours would emerge when they added water to other colour combinations?

Would anything change if the chalk was sprayed before (rather than after) drawing on the pavement?

The children’s investigations drew a crowd. Clearly this was a child-led inquiry that resonated with others too.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What dispositions and/or strategies are essential for educators to tune into children’s provisional theories?
  2. How could you extend opportunities for these children to deepen their inquiry and thinking about pigment?