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Ingenious: What Birds Know About Color that You Don't Video Questions Mark as Favorite (2 Favorites)

ACTIVITY in Molecular Structure, Electromagnetic Spectrum, Molecular Structure , Chemical Bond. Last updated October 01, 2021.


In this activity, students will answer questions while watching the video, What Birds Know about Color that You Don’t, from the Ingenious series produced by the American Chemical Society. Each episode investigates a different topic related to how leading-edge chemistry is taking on the world’s most urgent issues to advance everyone’s quality of life and secure our shared future. This episode investigates structural color, its complexities as well as how it differs from pigments and dyes.  

Grade Level

High School


By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

  • Describe how structural color differs from pigments and dyes.  
  • Give a basic explanation of how we see different colors.
  • Understand how research and development at the molecular level can make an impact in the world.

Chemistry Topics

This activity supports students’ understanding of:

  • Energy
  • Electromagnetic Spectrum
  • Molecular Structure


Teacher Preparation: minimal
Lesson: 10-20 minutes



  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • The Ingenious video series spotlights stories from the frontlines of chemistry research and development, where passionate innovators are stepping up to confront problems like, pollution, overfishing, sustainability and personal safety.
  • This video, What Birds Know about Color that You Don’t, is focused on investigating structural colors, which is different than the use of pigments and dyes that students may be familiar with. Structural color occurs when the tiny nanostructures interact with light waves, amplifying certain colors and canceling others. Structural color is everywhere in the natural world, and researchers have tried for years to harness this incredible natural phenomenon in a useful way. Because these colors are so small and complex, and therefore hard to copy, their efforts have been met with little success. Novel research using a computer model based in repeated random sampling, the “Monte Carlo” model is showing promise.
  • The running time of this video is about 6 minutes and 30 seconds minutes. As it is a short video and it moves quickly, you may want to show it twice, or instruct students to pause the video as needed on their own devices to ensure that they can record answers to all of the questions.
  • The student questions/answers are presented in sequential order in the video.
  • An answer key has also been provided for teacher reference.
  • The final questions are reflection based and might be helpful in prompting a class discussion after students have a few minutes to answer them independently.
  • For more AACT teaching resources related to color, please take a look at the 21 resources, including videos, lessons, labs and more in the Chemistry of Color collection.

For the Student



While watching the video, answer the following questions:

  1. The focus of this video is on color, but not so much on dyes or pigments. Instead the focus is on a topic you may not have heard of before called, ______________ color.
  2. What colors are contain in white light from the sun?
  3. Molecules ____________ some wavelengths of light, and ___________ others based on their _________________ structures.
  4. When light breaks down the chemical bonds in pigment molecules, what happens to the color that we see?
  5. What factor determines the brightness of a color?
  6. What does it mean is a color is “angle independent”?
  7. What is the purpose of the Monte Carlo Model?
  8. What does the acronym JND mean?
  9. According to color scientists, how many possible colors can we see?
  10. What are some potential real-world benefits of using structural colors?

After you watch the video, reflect on the following questions:

  1. Can you think of any additional real-world improvements that could benefit from structural color?
  2. What questions would you have for a scientist in this field? What more do you want to know?