Exploding Rainbows

Leonie Briggs offers an explosive combination of science and creativity

Looking to get creative and capture the imagination of young people? Then have a go at experimenting with exploding rainbows! This will generate fantastic conversations not only in science and experimentation but also colour.

To create your very own exploding rainbows you will need:

  • 7 x small clear containers
  • Food colouring
  • A jug
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • A spoon

How to create your exploding rainbows

  1. Prepare your clear containers – ideally do this outside on a good day or make sure to use a protective sheet as it’s a bit messy!
  2. You are going to create a new product that was not there before by causing a reaction between the baking soda and the vinegar to make a gas that causes the rainbows to explode. To do this, add a small spoonful of baking soda to each container.
  3. Next, add two drops of food colouring to each container – red food colouring to your first container, orange to the second, yellow to the third, green to the fourth, blue to the fifth, indigo to the sixth and violet to the seventh, or the closest colours you have.
  4. Pour the vinegar into the container. The reaction will happen quickly so be sure to watch carefully and enjoy your exploding rainbows!

Understanding the Science

Baking soda and vinegar form a chemical reaction. This chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide gas which causes the rainbows to explode! The carbon dioxide gas escapes causing it to overflow the container.

Making curriculum links

Nursery: Communication and language, physical development, mathematics, expressive art.

Early years foundation stage (EYFS): Active learning, playing and exploring, creating and thinking critically, creating with materials, experimenting with colour, explaining processors, fine motor skills, building relationships, managing self, speaking skills, listening, attention and understanding.

Primary: Reading and following instructions, maths skills, working scientifically, materials, light, art and design.

Secondary: Working scientifically, particular nature of matter, atoms, elements and compounds, chemical reactions, gas tests, pressure, colour, chemical changes, chemical analysis.

Home learning: Safe, simple but effective practical that would be great to be completed at home to demonstrate creativity with chemical reactions.

STEAM Club: Turn exploding rainbows into a full investigation that can be completed at home as part of a remote STEM/STEAM club or in the classroom. What combinations of vinegar and baking soda produce the largest volume of gas and most impression explosion? You would be able to simply measure the volume of gas with a ruler to measure the amount of bubbles! Create different colour combinations investigating primary and secondary colours. Challenge students to investigate rainbows in light and nature.

Science as a way of developing creativity

Scientists can be just as creative as artists and great scientific discoveries almost always involve great creativity. One minute there are some innocent-looking ingredients and the next second it explodes! Creative thinking, like scientific experimentation is a process through which knowledge, intuition and skills are applied to make something novel. Explicitly using pedagogies that stimulate curiosity can cultivate everyday creativity in everyday science.

Leonie Briggs is a science teacher, STEAM lead, CREST Assessor, STEM Ambassador and director of Amazelab. She has been nominated for three awards at the STEM Learning Inspiration Awards and for the Global Teacher prize.

Amazelab is a STEAM educational resource provider putting a fun and creative take on all things STEAM. Click the link below to find out more or follow Amazelab on Twitter.

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