Paper Chromatography: The Art & Science of Color

Ages: 8 - 12Manufacturer: Yellow Scope


Paper Chromatography: The Art & Science of Color kit, intended to encourage STEM skills in girls, contains all the basics for getting started with liquid-based color separation, namely chromatography paper, beakers, small safety goggles, and rods for suspending the paper into the beakers; markers and a tube of food coloring are also included. Parents will need to provide water, salt, and (for later experiments) rubbing alcohol or acetone; kids are encouraged to find many other colored items from nature and in the home for additional experiments.

The centerpiece of the kit is the informative and genuinely interesting manual. This breaks the study of paper chromatography into three labs, each with a few fundamental experiments followed by numerous suggestions for further exploration. In the first lab, kids study the colors in foods; the second focuses on art supplies, and the third, nature and pigments. Girls are encouraged to learn how different mobile phases (liquids) are appropriate for different color bases and to explore the impacts of changing the experiments. The manual never shies away from using the real scientific language, but instead carefully defines terms and later provides quick quizzes to help children hang on to what they’ve learned.

Though “paper chromatography” may seem one-note in its science (every experiment involves suspending paper into a liquid in a beaker) we found that the projects never got old. After trying all the basics, we were eager to test other household materials, including three different black permanent markers (all of which had different underlying color pigments — who knew?) and all kinds of plants and flowers. The manual fills in a lot of background science for understanding not only WHAT the colors are, but WHY — for example, plant pigments, photosynthesis, and leaf colors are all given a basic discussion in the nature unit. This is the ideal science kit: not one that tries to answer every question, but to leave the young scientist asking even more, and eager to find a way to keep learning.

Emily Crawford ©2019 Parents’ Choice


Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a Master’s in computer engineering from Georgia Tech. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, five cats, and thousands of LEGOs in Blacksburg, Virginia. .

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