Rainbows are beautiful, bright and special. It takes the right conditions for one to appear. So, when it does, we are given a rare and wonderful gift. April is a cheerful Spring month full of growth and life. It is also the month where we pay homage to the magic of nature and celebrate National Rainbow Month. Let’s get colorful!
No one “invented” rainbows, obviously, but the discovery of the science surrounding them has a rich history. In 1304, a German monk named Theodoric of Freiberg did discover the science behind their formation. Theodoric measured the angles of light entering and exiting spheres of water in an effort to mimic raindrops. Using the best technology and geometrical understanding of this early century, Theodoric was able to comprehend the basics of the physics of the rainbow’s formation. Later, in the mid 1600s, Sir Isaac Newton developed his prism theory. He noted that sun rays are divided into two- the rainbow colors and white light. His experiments took the scientific discoveries of Theodoric to new levels of understanding.
I’m not a scientist like Theodoric or Newton, so I’ll leave the complex explanations to the more qualified folks of past and present. (There’s a lot of math, I’ll just say that.) Simply put, though, rainbows form when the sun’s rays connect with falling raindrops. Typically, the raindrops are from clouds much further away from where the rainbow appears to have formed. The most common time to see one is during the morning or later afternoon/ early evening. This is because rainbows form in the part of the sky that is opposite to the sun! The more you know, right?!
Magic in the sky
I know that rainbows are formed by science, but the pure magic of them is exhilarating. As a kid, I was just fascinated by them. When it would rain in the afternoons, I would run outside to see if one had appeared. Picture upon picture of rainbows fill my tween year photo albums. Middle school me thought I was a photographer for sure. I would take pictures of them from my yard, at the beach, anywhere I saw one and had a camera with me- you know, *cough, cough*thedaysbeforecellphones*cough, cough.
What I loved about rainbows was the unexpected nature of them. You didn’t know exactly when you would get one. A rainy day isn’t a given. It has to be just right for one to arch it’s path across the horizon. I think about the spontaneity of rainbows in the same way I do when I see dolphins at the beach. I am stunned by the beauty in front of me and unable to look away until the last fin slices through the water. Some things in nature just utterly delight me and as a former tween girl, dolphins and rainbows still do it for me. Lisa Frank was most definitely on to something. IYKYK.
As a product of the 80s, I was raised on Sesame Street. Old Kermie is near and dear to my heart. My brother and I loved The Muppet Movie. Thinking about that sweet little frog singing the timeless classic, “The Rainbow Connection” makes my heart grow three sizes. Whether you were a Sesame Street fan or not, chances are you have heard this magical song somewhere along the way. I always loved it. It takes the focus off the science of rainbows and simplifies them. Instead, the spotlight is on the magic and the joy rainbows bring people. The way they bring people together is, in fact, the rainbow connection itself.
Kermit sings, “Why are there so many songs about rainbows?” I love that question! Why, indeed? Right now, I am listening to Isreal Kamakawiwo’ole’s beautiful ukulele “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/ What a Wonderful World” medley. This is one of the most gorgeous, happy songs. Judy Garland’s earlier version is a classic, but the simplicity of Kamakawiwo’ole’s ukulele makes his rendition nearly transcendent.
I actually Googled, “Why are there so many songs about rainbows?” just to see what would happen. Interestingly, though Kermit was an immediate hit, a 2012 article from Psychology Today appeared as well. Author Ben Michaelis, Ph.D writes in his tagline, “We all need hope. We all need horizons.” Well. Dang. Yes, Ben, yes. Nailed it. Though this article is from 2012, that tagline hits the spot. In the wake of the COVID era- shutdowns, working from home, uncertainty- hope and horizons are NEEDED.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take the time to work in some rainbow activities and learning opportunities. I can’t just talk about magical rainbows all day…or can I? I won’t. Ok, maybe just a little. It is always fun, though, to take some time to ask your kids rainbow questions. They are going to have ALL kinds of thoughts.
I started with my 7 year old and asking him where did rainbows come from and what he knows about them. Sometimes, if he doesn’t know something, he’ll throw out a silly answer, but he knows a lot for a little guy. He voraciously consumes history documentaries and science shows like parents digging into Halloween candy after bedtime. So, he told me, “Oh, that’s easy, rainbows are the sun’s rays reflecting through water droplets to create the array of colors.” Sometimes he tells me things and I have to look it up on the sly, so I am generally prone to taking him at his word. He knows things.
Be the rainbow
The following activities allow your children and students to use rainbow colors to represent themselves, practice their sight words and writing skills.
- All About Me
- Kindergarten Sight World Challenge
- Kindergarten Sight Word Writing
- 1st Grade Sight World Challenge
- 1st Grade Sight Word Writing
- 2nd Grade Sight World Challenge
- 2nd Grade Sight World Writing
These activities are geared mainly toward our younger learners, but take some time this Easter weekend to talk with your kiddos of all ages about rainbows. Ask them what they know about rainbows- you might be surprised! Check your weather reports to see if there are any days coming up good for rainbow spotting. If you can’t find a rainbow of your own, have a weekend rainbow party by listening to your favorite songs about them! See if you and your families can answer Kermit’s question.
Let us know in the comments what you find out! Happy Easter weekend.
Courtney is an MTT tutor, academic coach, and blog contributor for MTTES. If you check out our FB and Instagram pages, you might see her giving a storytime with her son Jack through the company’s Facebook Live service. Courtney’s love of the English language, learning, and creative writing inspired her to contribute relevant content to teachers, tutors, parents, and homeschoolers seeking support across an array of trending topics. She and her teacher husband have two small children and reside in Baltimore, MD with their dog Lottie May.