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Art and Science: Making Watercolours with Vegetables

 Posted on 16th of June 2017

Art and science can be considered the cornerstones of our cultural society, the complexity and juxtaposition that these two ideas constantly challenge us with are what help us create meaning and understanding of the world around us.

Simone Myskiw, Educational Leader at the wonderful Guardian Early Learning – Richmond shares a story about a recent art and science project they undertook at the centre.

Vegetable water colours Richmond childcare centre

The most beautiful thing we can experience, both in our teaching and interactions with children, and in our lives as adults, is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. When we have the opportunity to bring these ideas together in a relationship of beauty and harmony, the mysteries of life, nature, art and science come together and reveal new life.

When we look at the environments that we work in at the centre, the food atelier provides an opportunity to combine art and science through the food that we would normally discard. Food scraps can be reused and repurposed in to water colours to paint with, leaving even less waste behind. In order to create paint to be used in the artistic process, we must first engage in the scientific process of transformation.

Using the pulp of unused carrots, beetroots, onions and cabbage, mixed with catalysts such as lemon, vinegar, bicarb soda and water – the former waste was transformed and suddenly reveals a new life and a new purpose.

The pulp and catalyst, squeezed through muslin, yet another scientific and transformational process, gives the gift of coloured water – each one different, brought back to life through the subtleties and nuance that is art and science coming together.

On Thursday afternoon, a small group of children along with Simone explored the world of the food atelier – a place where children, our chefs and teachers can explore new possibilities with a new language – the language of food. The table was set with an inviting proposal for the children. In front of them were the foods that we eat every day, broken down in to pulp and juice. Alongside these re-imagined foods were the catalysts.

Together we discussed what a catalyst is and experimented with how these substances changed the colours, the intensity and the viscosity of the liquid that was squeezed out of the vegetables. The purple cabbage turning blue with the help of lemon and bicarb soda was the most discussed transformation!

Vegetable water colours Richmond childcare centre

Once we had made our paints, with several versions of each colour, the children were ready to experiment – I ordered the group different types of paper and card, and we were interested to see how the proposals of different paper and cards would be received by the group as usually there is only one type available. While we were painting, the children were observing how different paper was acting as a catalyst as some papers sucked the colours out of the paint, and other papers made the paint vibrant and bright.

Working in this way with children is so revealing of how nature, science and intuition sit side by side in our lives. I marvelled at how alight the children’s eyes were with the results of their experimenting and the hypothesis they were coming up with. The lemon and the bicarb soda were the most popular because of the zzzing effect it had on the liquid from the vegetables, and the lemon was the best at changing the colours the most dramatically.

After only a few attempts, the children were very confident in experimenting themselves. And the experimenting didn’t stop with making the paint! It was also a time to experiment with the paint itself as this was a new medium for many of the children to paint with. Continued experimentation in this space will be interesting as the conversation grows and we experiment more broadly with a diverse range of foods and vegetables. It will also be interesting to see which foods fail the tests and do not become paints.

Thank you to Harper, Cole, Kaden, Lukas and Raphael for being so open minded and experimenting with me.

Learn more about Guardian Early Learning – Richmond

Guardian Early Learning – Richmond is a beautiful, new childcare centre in Melbourne. With spacious outdoor areas, kitchen garden, art studio and piazza, this centre provides an inspiring environment for children to grow and develop. To explore the centre, book yourself in for a tour here.



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