Lesson Plan Title : Natural Dyes

Age Range: Grade 3 through Grade 5 (Elementary)

Overview and Purpose: This is a lesson to DYE for! Students will learn about the history of natural dyes used to color fabric during the Colonial era.

Objective: The student will be able to

*name three foods the colonial Americans would have used to dye fabric.

*make a dye from food.

*color a piece of fabric using a dye made from food.


Hot water

Shredded beets

Yellow Onions


Three containers


Pieces of cotton or wool fabric or string

Pieces of nylon and polyester

Chart paper


Start the activity by asking the students to tell you what they know about the clothes they wear. Write their answers on a piece of chart paper. Talk about the clothes that were made and worn in Colonial America. Point out that people had to dye their own fabric and yarn. Tell the students that they are going to get to make their own dye. Ask students to tell you what fruits or vegetables they would use to make yellow, pink, and red.

Pour hot-to-boiling water over a container of the onion skins, one filled with the strawberries, and a third full of beets. Let them soak overnight. Ask the students to help you strain the mixture and throw away the fruits and vegetables. They can then take a piece of cotton or wool, wet it with water, and let it soak in one of the dyes. The longer it soaks, the darker the color will be. Explain to the students that the colors will be muted and not vibrant and bold like they are today.

Soak some polyester and nylon also and have the students note that the material does not absorb the dye very well.

The pieces of fabric should be run under cold water to help the color to set and then they can be hung up to dry.

Wrap Up:

The fabric squares can be decorated and put together in a quilt. This activity should be done outside and you should encourage your students to wear clothes that can get dirty or stained.