Here is an example which answers the question: 'why is the sky blue ?' through an imagined conversation between a small girl and a sunbeam, presented as a story for small children (5-9 years old). A multimedia version with an animated story and learning activities is being developed.

A Girl and a Sunbeam

written and illustrated by

Sujata Jagota

for my daughter, Vrinda

Once, a girl and her mother were standing by the sea, watching the sun rise. The sky was turning gold and pink with streams of fluffy, pink clouds all over it. Slowly, it got bluer and bluer.

"Why is the sky blue ?" the girl asked her mother.

"I think the sunbeams somehow paint it blue," her mother replied.

"How can they do that ?" asked the girl.

"Let us find a friendly sunbeam and ask her," her mother suggested.

So they walked on the beach until they found a smiling, golden sunbeam bouncing on some pebbles. The girl ran up to the sunbeam and said,

"Happy sunbeam, can you tell me how you

and the other sunbeams make the sky so blue ?"

"Yes", said the sunbeam, "come with me, I'll show you !"

"Hold on to me tight,"

(the sunbeam said)

"I'm of 7 colors, violet to red,

Cool to warm, always bright

I'll take you up, above the sky,

There, I'll show you

How and why,

We paint the sky

This azure blue."

The girl was excited - she ran up and hugged the sunbeam tight and

W H O O S H .....................................................................

soon, she was above the sky .....

All around her was big, empty space. Earth lay below, a great big ball, rotating slowly. She looked around, amazed at the other rotating balls, bits of things and some flying objects whizzing past.

But then, the sunbeam spoke again, pointing towards Earth-

" See us there, all the sunbeams, as we enter,

Earth's at-mos-phere?"

" What is that?" the girl asked, " this atmosphere?"

" It is a cozy blanket of air around the earth," the sunbeam said,

" That is where the sky begins and where,

Blue begins his painting."

"Blue?" asked the girl,"painting?"

" Yes," said the sunbeam,"look at us - carefully ,

And you'll see,

Of seven colors we are all made,

Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red."

The girl looked, amazed, at the colorful braid,

Each sunbeam made.

'Come,'said the sunbeam, 'let us meet and play,

With each color which makes up a seven-fold ray.'

They jumped into a sunbeam cluster and the girl found herself

in a sea of light, surrounded by streams of red, orange, yellow,

green, blue, indigo and violet.

The sunbeam introduced her, one by one,

To the 7 colors which make up the light of our sun-

Blue and his brothers - Violet and Indigo,

Were full of fun, they bounced to and fro,

"Hello, little girl, " they cried as they,

Bumped her and then ran right away.

She laughed with them, "you're cool," she said,

"In more ways than one."

Green was calm, Yellow too,

Orange and Red though slow were warm.

"Come now," said the sunbeam, after a while

"Let's carry on down, to Earth's atmosphere,

Stopping as we go, at the Air Molecule Fair."

"The Air Molecule Fair ?" asked the girl,

Her head, by now, in a whirl.

"You'll see," said the sunbeam, as they slid to just below

The blanket of air around Earth - its atmosphere.

"The air around your earth," the sunbeam said,

"is made up of very small molecules which you don't see;

They are always there - tiny particles moving everywhere like crazy."

"Can you imagine that, little girl?"

The sunbeam said as she gave her a twirl.

Before she could reply, the girl found herself walking in, with the sunbeam,

into a large fair ground.

'This is it,' the sunbeam said,'the Air Molecule Fair.'

Our favourite spot in Earth's atmosphere.

Let's see what fun we colors have here -

Bump to scatter all over the sky, get absorbed, or pass through,

To Earth below, leaving a sky so blue.'

They walked in with the colors streaming around them. She saw ahead a

large Ferris wheel moving in slow hypnotic circles, a big dome shaped

building, and a long tunnel going down towards Earth.

"That's the Wheel of Absorption," the sunbeam said,

"Visited most by the slow, warm reds.

And look through this tunnel here,

It seems long and dark, but have no fear,

It's the tunnel of transmission, for going right through-

Which all of them like except the Brothers Blue."

"Where are they all, my friends the Blues?" cried the girl

As she looked for her friends, she saw them rush by,

With a bounce, a bump, a hop, and a twirl

Into a dome - large, round, and high-

The Hall of Bump, Scatter and Paint the Sky.

"Come on little girl," the sunbeam called, "let's go in with your friends

the Blues and see how they play with the air molecules in the Hall."

As they walked into the dome, it grew bigger and taller around them.

The girl could see the Blues scattering far and wide, spreading the blue color on the roof high above her.

"That's your blue sky," the sunbeam said, "now do you see why,

Their play with the air molecules can paint the sky,

The wonderful blue you see below ?"

"Yes, I see it now," said the girl looking at the blue sky above her,

"but, what happens to the others - yellow, green, red?"

"Oh, some go on down, some stay in the air," the beam replied.

"Look for them in the sky at sunset and sunrise !

And now, you too must hurry on down - your mother looks worried.

She's probably wondering if you've gone off to paint the sky yourself !"

So, she slid down the beam, onto the beach, ran to her mother and said,

"Mother, the sunbeam took me to the Air Molecule Fair and we saw the

Blue brothers paint the sky in the Hall of Bump, Scatter and Paint the Sky.

It was exciting."

"Oh?" said her mother,"that does sound like fun-you must tell me more

in the car. But now we must go home before the sun goes down with all

its sunbeams and the sky turns black."

They hurried back to their car and started off for home, just as the sun started

its journey to below the horizon. As they drove back towards home, the sun

was setting, painting the sky bright orange and red. Slowly, it got darker -

orange to dusky pink to purple, grey and then deep blue.

"Why does the sky become so dark at night?" the girl asked her mother.

"Oh dear," said her mother,"who can we ask now, to tell us about that?"