marrying art and science {Sunprint Kit}

Sunprint Kit reviewTake advantage of the last blazing sun days of summer with a fun art/science project called Sunprints.   I’m always on the lookout for educational projects to do at home, and this one is super fun.  Using the kit and the beautiful sun, you and your children can design one of a kind works of art.  The Sunprint Kit was originally developed as a teaching tool by educators at the Lawrence Hall of Science on the UC Berkeley campus in 1975.  All proceeds from sales “aid their mission to inspire and foster the learning of science and mathematics for all”.  We had a lot of fun through the whole process of Sunprint Kits – from collecting the objects to framing the final products.  Read on to learn how you can as well!

The kit includes Sunprint papers and an acrylic sheet.  All you need to do is find objects you think will make interesting prints (nature has a lot to offer in this category).    The blue molecules embedded in the paper are sensitive to ultra-violet light, so arrange your kit in the shade.  Place an object of choice onto the Sunprint paper, which is resting over a piece of cardboard.  Then place the acrylic sheet on top, pressing to flatten object.  The flatter the object, the crisper your final project will look.  Take the whole set-up outside into direct sunlight.  The exposed sunprint paper will immediately start to fade from blue to white, leaving the space under object blue (2-5 minutes).  If it is cloudy out, simply give it a little more time (can take 5-20 min depending).  The science behind this reaction is –  Two crucial molecules in the paper are interacting, forming a new molecule. Their interaction is initiated by specific wavelengths of ultra-violet light. The new molecule is colorless so that as the blue molecules are converted, the white of the paper base begins to show through.

Once you are satisfied, rinse the Sunprint in a container of water.  Here the white part of the paper (exposed) will turn blue, and the area under your object will now turn from blue to white.  Leave the print in the water until you get a deep blue (1-5 minutes).   The science behind this reaction – There are two exciting things happening to the paper while it is underwater. First, the original blue compound is water soluble, so that when you immerse it in the bath, the water carries it away, leaving only the white paper base in those areas. Second, the colorless compound whose formation was caused by the sun’s energy is not water soluble, so it cannot wash away in the water bath. It is sensitive to the water in another way. Just as the sun’s light stimulated a chemical change in the previous step, the water stimulates another chemical change in this one. The water causes an oxidation reaction that turns the colorless compound into the deep blue of a finished Sunprint.  Now that you are done, lay the Sunprint out flat on something absorbent (and out of the sun).   Now marvel at the beauty of science.

Sunprint offers really fun art and science activities to go along with the kits from origami to magnetic field prints.  Purchase your own Sunprint kits and make an afternoon out of it!  The standard Sunprint kit contains 12 4″x4″ sheets and an acrylic overlay.  The Super Sunprint Kit contains 15 8″x12″ sheets and an acrylic overlay.  Both have refill options.  Have a larger than life idea?  Purchase the 24″ x 36″ Master sheets.

Special thanks to Sunprint for providing samples for review purposes.

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