One of my favorite STEAM programs is tie-dye. This can be presented as a family drop-in event, perhaps on the library’s front lawn, or as a grade specific program. For the last Be the Scientist, we featured tie-dye as a hands-on spring event for participants in grades 3-5. While the program is inherently entertaining, we focused on a few STEM concepts for a more enriching experience. Here’s what we did.
We provided all the supplies for this program and advertised as such. Since this is a more expensive offering, we limited to 16 participants and provided one white t-shirt to each child, purchasing one size: youth large. We also limited the dye colors to red, blue, and yellow, and filled plastic spray bottles to encourage a combination of spraying and dipping. Using primary colors encouraged mindful mixing to create secondary colors and fun designs by the participants. In addition, we had marbles of varying sizes, rubber bands, plastic gloves, and plastic bags to take the shirts home in.
We began the program indoors by discussing the methodology of tie-dying, after asking if any participants had done this activity before. Few had, so we talked about what the shirts are made of, how to mix the dye, and the capillary action of cotton. We then moved onto design suggestions like folding, rubber banding, and marbling before participants prepared their own shirts.
The tie-dye portion of the program was held in a small courtyard space a short walk from the program room. We had participants go out in groups of 4. While they waited, participants worked on smaller drawing activities inside though some watched their friends through the glass window that connects the program room to the courtyard. Staff hung up shirts to dry a bit on a clothesline and when participants were ready to leave, we placed the shirts in gallon plastic bags.
Because this program was out in the open, it drew a lot of attention from people who were in the library for other reasons. We could only accommodate those kids who signed up so have decided for future events, we’ll keep tie-dye as a drop-in where people can bring their own items to use.