Washington State University professors and students wanted to combine art with chemistry, and decided to use a Pullman elementary school as their laboratory.

On Monday, Kamiak Elementary unveiled four murals painted by WSU students at the school’s outdoor playground.

Two murals depict the school’s mascot, a kestrel, and an abstract image of a molecule was painted on the other two.

“Nobody’s done anything like this, that we can tell, in this environment,” said Amy Nielsen, a WSU assistant professor in the chemistry department.

The murals were created with thermochromic paint that reacts to changes in temperature. The shades of the colors will grow darker or lighter depending on whether they are warm or cold. A Kamiak student can also cause this reaction by touching the painting.

The colors will be a darker shade during the cold months, and a lighter shade during the warmer months.

Nielsen teamed up with WSU Fine Arts assistant professor Joe Hedges and his wife, graphic design student Jiemei Lin, to create what she called an intersection of art and science.

Hedges and Lin approached Kamiak’s parent-teacher association with the idea and Lin said the Kamiak students voted on their favorite designs.

Nielsen said the painting gives the students an early lesson on chemistry by showcasing how molecules react to the environment. She said the images painted by a group of 19 WSU students “take the invisible and make it visible.”

The students celebrated their achievement Monday by braving the rainy, cold weather to show off their finished work at the elementary school.

“We just wanted to do something new,” Hedges said.


Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to akuipers@dnews.com.

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