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How Are Rainbows Formed? Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:17 The Colors of the Rainbow
  • 1:12 How Does a Rainbow Form?
  • 2:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: April DeBord

April has taught Spanish and English as a Second Language and she has her Ed. S. in Foreign Language Education.

Can you really find the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow? How many colors are in a rainbow? How is a rainbow formed? Let's find out in this lesson!

The Colors of the Rainbow

Chances are, you've seen a rainbow at some time in your life. If not, don't worry, you likely will at some point! This lesson will teach you how rainbows are formed. First, let's take a look at the colors of the rainbow.

One of the first things you probably notice about rainbows is the fact that they have a lot of colors. A quick way to remember the colors of the rainbow is the name 'ROY G. BIV.' The letters stand for the colors that make up the rainbow.

R-ed

O-range

Y-ellow

G-reen

B-lue

I-ndigo

V-iolet

When you see rainbows in nature, a few things are happening:

  • Your back is to the sun
  • It is most likely before 9 AM or after 4 PM
  • It is probably in the summer (winter rainbows are not very common)
  • It has recently rained or is still raining, but the sun is shining

When you see a rainbow formed in nature, it will often have a fainter rainbow right above it. This is called a double rainbow. Sometimes this is easy to see, and sometimes it's not very easy to see.

How Does a Rainbow Form?

The sun plays an important part in forming rainbows. The sun shines through the water particles and the water particles act like prisms. A prism is an object that is transparent, or see-through, and when light passes through it, it gets 'bent' or spread out into a bunch of different colors. When white light, which contains all of the colors, gets bent or spread out by a prism, you can see the colors separated out from the white light. Pretty cool, huh? The raindrops work like prisms to bend the light. Then, you can see a rainbow.

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