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These Jack-o-Lantern Suncatchers seem like a simple Halloween craft. And that certainly is true.
But there’s actually some science hidden in this activity as well. More specifically, some chromatography science.
This activity also affords children the opportunity to play with negative space.
So don’t miss out on all the learning opportunities this simple Halloween craft affords for your children.
Note: For more kid-friendly Halloween activities, see my Halloween activities for Kids page.
To make these Halloween suncatchers, you will need to gather the following materials:
- coffee filters
- orange markers
- pipettes or a spray bottle
- white chalk
- black construction paper
- kid-friendly scissors
- tape or glue
- optional: tray to contain the mess
Step 1: Scribble orange marker all over your coffee filter. It’s okay to leave plenty of white space as that will get taken care of in the next step.
Step 2: Use a pipette or spray bottle to get the coffee filter wet. You do not need to completely soak the coffee filter. (In fact, doing so will result in most of the orange color disappearing.) Just make sure it gets damp.
This step is where your kids will get to observe a scientific process known as chromatography in action.
Chromatography is the separation of a mixture (e.g., marker ink) by passing it in a solution (e.g., water) through a medium (e.g., coffee filter) in which the components of the mixture (e.g., the various colors that make up the marker color) move at different rates.
(You will need to give the coffee filter some time to dry after this step.)
In the image below you can see how, thanks to chromatography, the orange color spreads out and covers the entire coffee filter in a somewhat-uneven-but-totally-beautiful way.
Step 3: Use white chalk to draw the parts of your jack-o-lantern’s face on black construction paper.
This part can be a bit tricky because kids need to think about things in terms of negative space. Negative space is the empty or open space around the object of interest.
Normally when children do art, they draw the object of interest. With this activity, they may need to remove the object of interest.
Take, for example, the mouth in the image below. To give the jack-o-lantern suncatcher two teeth, the child actually needs to remove the teeth from their cutout. By removing the teeth from the black paper, two orange teeth will be left on the jack-o-lantern suncatcher.
Step 4: Cut out the pieces you will use to make the face of your jack-o-lantern suncatcher.
Step 5: Tape or glue your face pieces on to your dry coffee filter.
Now your jack-o-lantern suncatcher is ready to be displayed!
Step 6: Find a window to display your jack-o-lantern suncatchers.
Observe how the light comes through the orange coffee filter but is blocked by the black construction paper.
(And notice how we used negative space to create both teeth and ears for the jack-o-lantern.)
My kids struggled a bit with the concept of negative space.
My daughter, for example, decided to draw white teeth on to her jack-o-lantern (see the jack-o-lantern on the left in the image below).
But that’s okay.
I can introduce a concept and it may or may not work for my kids at that time. If they get it and can use it, then great! And if they are not yet ready to use a concept – such negative space – I don’t sweat it. I just tuck it away as something to introduce again at a later time.
Art is a process, not a destination. And these jack-o-lantern suncatchers involve several great processes to share with kids.
More Halloween resources
More Halloween posts from Gift of Curiosity:
- Grow a candy jack-o-lantern
- Flying teabag ghosts
- Mason jar jack-o-lantern
- Toilet paper mummies
- Pumpkin decomposition experiment
- Describe a pumpkin using all five senses
- Jack-o-lantern Printables Pack