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Rainbow in the Room

Author(s): Nancy P. Moreno, PhD, Barbara Z. Tharp, MS, and Judith Dresden, MS.

Colors of a Rainbow

A rainbow forms when white light passes at an angle from one transparent material (such as air) into another (such as water or glass). The waves corresponding to different colors of light travel at different frequencies, so they are dispersed differently by the second material.

Begin the activity by asking students, When do you usually see rainbows outside? Remind students that rainbows are normally seen just after a rainstorm. Continue the class discussion by asking students why they think rainbows form after rain and what they think rainbows are made of. Encourage students to consider what the sky around a rainbow usually looks like. (Typically, there are both clouds and sunlight.) 

Ask students, What are the colors of the rainbow? Do those colors always appear in the same order?

The colors of the rainbow always appear in the same order, because they correspond to different wavelengths of light. You may have learned the acronym, “ROY G. BIV,” to help you remember the colors of the rainbow from longest to shortest wavelengths: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.


Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

My Health My World: National Dissemination
Grant Number: 5R25ES009259
The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Number: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932


Houston Endowment Inc.

Foundations for the Future: Capitalizing on Technology to Promote Equity, Access and Quality in Elementary Science Education