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Summer of Science Activity Series: DIY Sunprints

Welcome to the next installment of our Summer of Science activity series!

We’re issuing a challenge to make your family’s summer the best one yet – by making it a Summer of Science. To help make it a science-filled summer, we’ll post a new science activity on our blog, from now until August. Give each activity we post a try and take a photo of what you create – or whatever you discover in the process! For each photo you post and tag #CuriOdysseySummerSci on Flickr or Twitter, you’ll be entered into a drawing for CuriOdyssey passes.

Use the sun’s power to create whimsical, artistic pictures on construction paper! It’s the perfect blend of art and science.

You’ll need:
solid objects with interesting shapes that you can trace around (leaves, buttons, coins, and toys work well)
a pencil
lightly colored scrap paper to cut shapes out of
dark colored construction paper
a soft glue stick
a window that gets lots of sunlight

What to do:
– Trace around your objects on construction paper and cut out each shape. You can also draw your own shapes and cut them out. Be creative! You could even draw letters to spell your name.
– Arrange the paper shapes onto a new sheet of dark colored construction paper to make a nice design.
– Use the glue to adhere each paper shape to your picture. Don’t use much glue though, or it will be hard to peel your shapes off later.
– Turn the shapes towards the window and tape the corners of your picture to the window to hold it in place.
– Leave your picture in the window for a couple days or until you notice that the color of the construction paper has started to fade (you can compare it to a new piece of the same color of paper to see if it has changed).
– When it is quite a bit lighter than it was when you started (it might take up to a week to get light enough; it depends on how many sunny days you have!), remove the picture from the window and peel off the tape. The tape should come off fairly easily; just make sure to do it slowly so the paper doesn’t tear.


What’s happening here?
Have you ever left an art project made from construction paper in the sun for too long? If so, you probably noticed that the color started to fade and the paper ended up a lot lighter than it once was. In this project, you covered parts of the paper with paper shapes, then when you left your picture in the sunlight, it started to fade. Since the shapes blocked sunlight from hitting the parts of the paper that they covered, you could see the original color of the paper after you peeled off the shapes. The extra layer of paper from the shapes protected those parts of the paper from the sun’s rays that faded the color from the rest of the sheet of paper.

Sunlight contains ultraviolet (or UV) rays. These are the same rays that will give you a sunburn if you are in the sun for too long without sunscreen. Those rays cause chemical reactions in the dye that gives construction paper its color. When the paper absorbs the rays of light, a chemical reaction breaks down the dyes so they aren’t as bright. UV rays can lighten a lot of things. Some people’s hair turns a lighter color when they are in a lot of sunlight. Hanging white laundry outside in the sun to dry can make it look whiter also.

Tag your photos on Flickr or Twitter with #CuriOdysseySummerSci and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a chance to win CuriOdyssey passes. The more photos you post, the more times you’ll be entered.

Check back soon for the next Summer of Science activity!

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