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Crayon Mind Reading

In this activity, students see someone “feel” colours and learn the importance of careful observation.

Magicians use a technique called misdirection to deceive their audience. By guiding the audience’s attention to something irrelevant, they can secretly perform the “trick”. With a few bits of knowledge and careful observation, your students can solve this magic trick.

Remember to practice your “schtick” for full effect!

Schtick: "a gimmick, comic routine, style of performance, etc. associated with a particular person."

Objectives

  • Explain the importance of observation when doing science.

Materials

  • Several crayons of different colours, preferably not in “perfect condition”

Key Questions

  • How do you think this trick is performed?
  • Why is it important to carefully observe the world around us when doing science?

What To Do

Preparation:
Set up the room so that students can easily come up and choose a crayon to give you, without you seeing the crayon, and without students being able to see behind your back.

Instructions:

  1. Tell the students that you can feel colour and will prove it with their help.
  2. Have a student select a crayon from a selection of crayons which you are holding behind your back or are otherwise out of your view. Have the student let you hold it behind your back for a moment.
  3. Hand it back to them after you’ve scraped some of the crayon under your fingernail.
  4. Pretend to think about it for a few moments, secretly look at what colour is under your nail and amaze them when you get it right every time!
  5. After the class has been impressed, ask for a volunteer to come forward to examine your hands. You should have some crayon residue still under your nails. Tell them to use their top super science observation skills to try and figure out how you performed the trick. Give them hints if necessary.
  6. When they do figure how you performed the trick, emphasize the importance of observation in science.
  7. Have the students practice the trick. Encourage them to try it on their parents later!