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Fieldwork: Colour in the environment

colour in the environment


Colour is an important part of our lives whether it is in the natural environment or in the built landscape. Our places would be very dull and depressing without colour, but we mostly take it for granted until it has been removed.

Colour can also be used as a marketing tool for shops and businesses, so this activity asks pupils to look not only at the impact of colour in their local area but how it is used to brand goods and businesses.

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Length of time

Any length of time. Can also be completed as a homework exercise.


Suitable locations

Any local area where there are examples of colour – would be useful to have buildings and some vegetation for a contrast.


Equipment needed

  • a camera or phone to take pictures
  • strips of paint graded colour samples found in paint shops.



  • Identify the various ways in which colour appears in the environment.
  • Recognise the impact of colour in the environment.
  • Understand how the removal of colour would change the nature of a location.


Key skills

  • observation
  • identification
  • consideration of the use of colour as a marketing tool
  • links to art and design curriculum.


Suggested delivery

Primary colours are red, blue and yellow whilst secondary colours are orange, green and purple. Other colours are a blend of these two sets. In nature colours are important for camouflage, attraction, protection or warning. In the built landscape colours can be used for signs, logos, giving messages or just making the place look clean and interesting.

In the local area ask pupils to investigate the following:

  • How many different colours can they see at any given location? (Don’t forget the sky!)
  • Can the signs be grouped into colours? What are these groups – Messages? Warnings? Information?
  • Which colours do shops or businesses use? Which colours tend to be attractive to customers?
  • How many variations and uses of one colour can they find?
  • How much colour can they find in the buildings?
  • Take one colour (brown, green etc.) and using the paint colour strips try to identify how many shades of one colour they can find. This works very well, for example, in a wooded area where they might identify many shades of green.
  • What would happen if one colour were to be removed from the place? This works well if you select a colour which has impact in the area for example red (traffic lights, shops, signs etc.)
  • Make a list of colours which have a function in the area (white zig- zag parking lines, traffic lights, advertising, decorated buildings, graffiti etc.)
  • Yellow is recognised as one of the best colours for visibility – where can they find examples? (clothing/ car number plates/ traffic – pedestrian signs etc.)


Potential risks to consider

Working in the local area and finding a good position to identify and record evidence of colour. Could be an activity for smaller groups based in different areas rather than a large class all in one place.


Possible follow up activities

  • Discuss how the place would look if most of the colours were to be removed. How do they feel about different colours?
  • How was colour used by the various shopping outlets? (For example, some fast-food outlets use red or yellow to be noticed)
  • If the place lacks colour, what suggestions do they have to improve the area?


Useful links

Color in the Built Environment: Past, Present, and Future’ – an interesting paper for background reading about colour in the environment.


This collection of Fieldwork activities were created by Paula Richardson and the Fieldwork and Outdoor Learning Special Interest Group (FOLSIG) for the National Festival of Fieldwork, the GA invites everyone to take part during the summer term.

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