The Diamond Discovery Day

Using rainbow Slinkys to explore wavelengths …

On 14th December 2017 30 Year 7 & 8 pupils from Rawmarsh Community School visited the University of Sheffield’s iconic Diamond building to spend a day exploring colour through science and art activities.

After brief introductions by lead artist Paul Evans and Dr Andrew Parnell – and a lively icebreaker in which everyone developed a collaborative ‘Isaac Newton’ drawing using techniques derived from the surrealist pal our game Exquisite Corpse – the young people spent time in groups exploring wavelengths using rainbow slinky’s.

After this they made cartoon representations of the pathway that wavelengths of light take from the sun, reflecting off objects into the retina and then along the optic nerve into the areas of the brain that process colour.

Professor Richard Jones asks questions about colour …

The young people were then asked a series of challenging questions by Professor Richard Jones about the nature of colour and how we perceive it – questions that provoked a range of energetic and thought-provoking responses from the young people.

After a short break we then mapped out our subjective responses to colour, adding our favourite colours to a template and describing how these colours make us feel.


Working on colour wheels to map subjective responses to colour …

After lunch in the Diamond atrium we returned to the lab for a fascinating talk about cutting edge research into structural colour at the ESRF by Stephanie Berg.


The young people then returned to their groups to take part in a series of quick-fire activities: handling biological specimens featuring structural colour; viewing specimens through an optical microscope; blindfold drawing of massively enlarged ‘colour structures’ and an exercise matching colour structures to organisms.

All of the participants went home with a specially designed ‘Structural Colouring Book’.

Here are some thoughts on the day, from the young people themselves and from their teacher:

Today really helped fulfil my scientific knowledge on colours and insects. I absolutely loved experimentation and experiencing a day at Sheffield Uni. Thank you!

It was amazing to talk to the scientists and to experience different experiments.

I think today was awesome. Everything worked well for me.

I have had a really good day and it has been amazing.

This was an excellent day and a fantastic opportunity for the students. Please do more.