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Tie Dye is not just a fun activity--it can also be a learning activity. Here are some possibilities.


Color and pigment are the obvious connections--this is the science of light (aka physics).

Here is a pdf with some experiments kids can do--it includes a neat one using Power Point:

Here is a website that lets you experiment with color and light. Remember, if you put all the colors together with light you get white. If you put all the colors together with pigment, you get black. This website covers light:

The following website has demonstrations using materials you can easily find. You may want to obtain the materials so that students can examine these ideas for themselves:

Flash demonstration of light and color, interactive:

Flash demonstration of pigment (create a football uniform):

BTW Flash is an adobe product that is an addon for most web browsers in most Operating Systems (it's a little primitive in Linux...). Your web browser will prompt you to get Flash if you do not already have it.

High quality interactive demonstration of some aspects of color.

Soda Ash

Soda Ash is added to fabrics so they soak up the color more readily. Here is how to make soda ash as well as the chemistry behind this procedure.


Dye: use the kind of dye that actually soaks in to the fabric rather than sitting on top of the fibers like Rit. Here is a good type of dye that comes in all sorts of colors:

Soda ash:

Soda ash increases the alkalinity of the fabric, helping the dye to set. You can buy soda ash, or you can have a great chemistry lesson by making sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) into sodium carbonate (soda ash).

Here's a recipe:

Why it works:
When sodium bicarbonate is heated, it gives off carbon dioxide and water, according to Wikipedia ( accessed 7/11/11)
The sodium bicarbonate was then converted to sodium carbonate by heating it, releasing water and carbon dioxide:
2 NaHCO3 → Na2CO3 + H2O + CO2

This becomes sodium carbonate.

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