I saw this wonderful idea for a sharpie fireworks t-shirts on a blog I read, just found out it was a link at Our Nifty Notebook (thanks Christy for sharing that on your blog). Now, I could have just made this into an art lesson and been done with it, but I remember seeing a couple of science lessons about Chromatography on Almost Unschoolers and All Things Beautiful, so I thought, here’s our science lesson for the week. Or at least the bloggable one. My oh-so-scientific explanation of what happens to food after it enters our body is probably not a great blog post. So our Sharpie Fireworks shirt became a small chemistry lesson.
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Sharpies Fireworks shirt SUPPLIES:
Making our Fireworks t-shirts
First, after nearly grabbing the markers out of overly eager hands I explained how to draw them. Lots of dots, like we’re pointillists. Okay, I didn’t say that part, just thought it.
Then after they’d drawn their amazing pictures I had them guess what would happen when we dropped the rubbing alcohol on it. They mostly got the idea, it would spread out. Then we theorized what would happen with smaller dots or what would happen with fewer drops of alcohol.
Now comes the rewarding part, watching the colors spread out. My kids were quite eager to apply lots and lots of the rubbing alcohol, I had to refill the bottle a couple of times. Their dots bloomed quite admirably, and it was declared a success. If not necessarily the patriotic shirts I was going for.
From left to right, Superman with a skeleton, Batman with a bat shirt, and Princess with flowers……….. But, we did learn a little about some fun science.
And there’s a truly awful shot of my shirt. Which looks much better in reality, but I wasn’t particularly trying for a great shot, just a picture.
Future Ticia 2020 says that is a truly terrible shot of my 4th of July shirt.
The science behind Sharpie chromatography
Chromatography is where the ink is broken down into its component colors. Traditionally this is done on paper with a water-based ink.
In this case, Sharpies don’t break down with water, but rubbing alcohol will break down the inks causing the ink to spread out more.
You don’t get the same breakdown of colors as you do with traditional chromatography, but you do get the cool ink spread out effect that looks like fireworks.
For a bit more of a scientific explanation: