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In The Classroom

May 15, 2007

The Age of Aquarius dawned recently at Newport Harbor High School — during fourth period, anyway.

Chemistry teacher Julie Karjala, in the midst of a unit on how chemical reactions impact color change, led her students in an exercise that would make any Jerry Garcia fan proud. Karjala's students brought white garments from home and tie-dyed them in the lab, then wore them to school on Friday to give Newport Harbor its most colorful day in recent memory.

"There really are no mistakes in tie-dye," Karjala told the students as they laid out their clothing items on May 8. "Whatever you get, it's a happy accident."

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Tie-dye is created by soaking garments in water, then tying them into segments with rubber bands and dying each portion a different color. The color sticks to the cloth because the cellulose fiber in cotton bonds with the chlorine in the dye — meaning that tie-dye remains tie-dye even after dozens of washes.

Karjala provided her students with bottles of green, pink, red, yellow, blue and black dye, along with the caution not to get any on their regular clothes. Students rummaged through their wardrobes at home to find white clothes that they could afford to color in.

Junior Katie Calligori, 16, brought the "Smart Wars" T-shirt that she had received last year for being on the school's honor roll. She counted herself a fan of the style.

"My friend made me a tie-dye shirt in the eighth grade, and I wear it all the time," Katie said. "It makes me happy."

Sophomore Sean Mueller, 16, brought a white pair of pants from home. He had to wear them on Friday for a grade, he said, but planned to retire them after that.

"I don't think I plan on wearing it," he said. "But these pants were stained anyway."

After dying their clothes, the students brought them home and let them sit for 24 hours, then washed them twice before wearing them. Junior Will Kelly, 17, said he expected hippie shirts to be a short-lived phenomenon on campus — or, then again, maybe not.

"We may be starting a new fashion here," he said.


  • MICHAEL MILLER may be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at michael.miller@latimes.com.

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