Do Not Migrate

Girl Scouts with their completed t-shirts were, front row from left, Carissa Kautz, Devon Mathews, Veronica Sturman and Lauren Mathews. In the middle row are Emma Gruesbeck, Mary Smith and Claire Spann. In the back row are Makana Carter and Carlee Scott.

Science is fun!

This message was shared with 10 Girl Scouts in a tie dye experiment in one of the Northwestern State University Chemistry laboratories. Carol Chin (Joint Faculty at NSU and NCPTT), Debbie Smith (NCPTT Chief of Historic Landscapes) and Mary Striegel (NCPTT Chief of Materials Conservation) served as the lab instructors. Most of the fourth to sixth grade girls had done some tie dye before, but in this experiment they learned about color and the separation of colors through a technique called chromatography.


The girls prepared their t-shirts and while the colors set, they used chromatography to separate some of the dyes they had used, creating “flower chromatograms” in the process. To do this, they placed a few drops of the chosen dye in the center of a piece of round filter paper, then applied a solvent (in this case alcohol) drop by drop to the center of the filter paper until the dye began to spread toward the edge. As the dye crept toward the edge, it separated into its component colors, in some cases resulting in a rainbow effect. Pipe cleaners were used to fashion a stem for the flower chromatograms.

After the chromatography exercise, the girls rinsed their tie dyed shirts and looked for evidence of chromatography, or the separation of component colors, in the dyes they applied to their shirts. Regardless of whether their shirts had also developed as chromatograms, they were all beautifully groovy!


Girl Scouts Claire Spann and Makana Carter applied a solvent (alcohol) to the center of their filter paper to separate ink into its component colors, resulting in a chromatogram.


National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119