This activity sequence is one of several that focus on the thinking skills connecting artists and scientists, and was originally piloted with upper elementary students who had little prior experience setting up their own investigations. As such, the below procedure is quite guided. If you've already been working on helping your students make systematic investigations, consider introducing them to more advanced aspects of the scientific practice of Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (see NSTA Summary), such as controlling variables, determining how measurements will be recorded, and deciding how much evidence needs to be collected by the class to back up claims.
Part 1. Light Investigation: How do different amounts of light affect paper?
In this activity, students will discuss the role of conservators in protecting objects in museums. They measure the light levels in their classroom and test if construction paper is affected differently if placed in different locations for a week.
Teacher tip: Let the construction paper sheets remain in their spots for at least one week to allow sunlight to fade the material. We recommend selecting a single color to make comparison easy, and to keep a vivid copy in a dark drawer!
Part 2. Decomposition Investigation: How can we use other materials to protect paper from fading?
Now that students have discovered that light fades paper, they will set up an investigation to find out how effective different materials are at blocking sunlight and protecting a piece of construction paper from fading.
Teacher tip: Let the construction paper sheets remain in their spots for at least one week before uncovering the results.
Part 3. Art Composition
Students will analyze the results of their decomposition investigation from last week. Then, they will use the knowledge they gained about the materials to create an artistic composition of their own!