Many questions come from the minds of curious children. And sometimes as adults we need to do a little research before we can answer! Use your children’s questions as an opportunity to learn together! Let’s start by examining one common question a child might ask: Why is the sky blue?
If you don’t know the answer, it might be easy to say,
“Well, it would look rather silly as the color green! It would blend right in to the trees and grass!”
Instead, do a little research for yourself if you don’t know the answer well enough to explain it. In the meantime, I find it fascinating to turn the question back to the child. “Why do you think the sky is blue?” Sometimes you will be surprised at how close to the truth their answers can be!
Aside from aesthetic, there is a scientific explanation for the color of the sky. Before explaining the answer to your child, try to let them find the answer through an activity or experiment.
Try the activity below.
SKY IN A JAR
1. Fill the clear container with water. Leave about two inches of space at the top. The water represents air around the earth - or our atmosphere.
2. Use the tablespoon to pour 2-3 tbs. of milk into the water. Screw the lid on the jar and let your child shake it up. Our atmosphere is made up of a variety of gases: nitrogen, oxygen, argon, and more. It also contains water vapor, ice crystals, dust, and chemical pollutants. All of these components are floating around throughout the atmosphere. The milk will be suspended throughout the water after shaking the jar. It represents all of the atmosphere’s components floating around.
3. Take your flashlight. It represents the light of the sun shining down through our atmosphere. Shine the “sun” (flashlight) on the “atmosphere” (jar of milky water). Experiment with the flashlight, shining it through the jar at different angles. Try both the sides of the jar as well as the bottom of the jar. You may want dim the lights in the room to observe more clearly. The cloudy water should appear blue as the light shines through it.
- It is important to understand that white light is made up of a rainbow of colors. If you shine a flashlight through a prism, you will see a rainbow.
- Light travels in a straight line unless it is interrupted and redirected by something like a prism or a particle in the air. Each color of light energy travels in a different wave. Some waves are short, some are long.
- As sunlight passes through our atmosphere, most of the colors in light pass through to earth uninterrupted. They appear to us as white light.
- Blue light travels in very short waves. Because it travels in these short waves, it does not pass through all the tiny particles in the atmosphere (all the atoms of gas, water vapor, ice crystals, dust, pollutants, etc.).
- The blue light from the sun is absorbed by the zillions of tiny particles and re-emitted. It bounces back and forth between particles until it reaches our eyes as the color blue!