UNTIED-UNITED: Stronger Together

FLY’s weekend was inspiring and magical.  We made a web of interconnectedness at DIYpsi, which we titled “Untied-United.”  It’s now hanging on our wall but the process was interactive and thoughtful. About 100 visitors contributed to the yarn-bomb over the two day event, and many many others peered in the door.

Given the divisive climate in our country this year, we wanted to do something special to help kids feel connected to our community, and when presented with the opportunity to take over a classroom during DIYpsi, I thought a lot about how to do that.  Could we use blocks, cardboard, and insulation to build a village and play in it?  Could we do a large scale painting or drawing with all the guests?

One of the things that has always drawn me to Fiber Art is the way that from lines of just thread, there forms a structure.  The interlacing of threads in knitting, weaving, and crochet tie together into a variety of bonds creating different properties and making different kinds of fabrics, which in turn have their own properties of texture and flow.

In addition to choosing colors that resonated, each of the 100 or so people (mostly kids) who interlaced yarn had a different way of experiencing the yarn. Some were playfully tossing; others consciously created patterns of wrapping and weaving; still others decided to poke balls of yarn or thread through and make windows. These different approaches contribute to the structure, but because they happened over and around each other, the resulting fabric is still fully interwoven.

Our community is like that, we are all different and we all make different choices, but because each one of us is part of the community, the choices that we make affect all of us. Pulling one thread in the web moves the whole cloth.

In part Untied United was inspired by my Fiber background, but also by a fun project by Polyglot Theatre that happened at A2SF in 2014. We modified the project because we were using different materials, but it was important to us to have an artifact to share with kids who come to FLY so they can see a tangible result of their collaboration as it warms our office space.  It is currently stretched on a PVC frame hanging near our office.

I’m paraphrasing, but, at the end of Sunday, one family was talking about the project together and the dad said, “What do you notice about the yarn?”
Kid said, “it’s like a trampoline.
“What else do you see?”
“There’s a lot of it, about a million colors!”
“The interesting thing… how strong do you think one piece of this yarn is?”
“Not very strong”
“But wow, the first people to come through wouldn’t really get this, but we are lucky to be here towards the end. All those different pieces of yarn are stronger together.”

Thank you to all of you who helped us create tangible evidence that our community is stronger together: To the participants; To DIYpsi and the Riverside Arts Center who allowed us to share the space with them; To everyone who has given us financial and volunteer support this year; and especially for the generous donations of yarn in the last two years from Ruth Boeder, Monique Bourdage, Mel Drumm, The Ypsilanti Heritage Festival, and a few other smaller individual yarn donations.

Mad Science: Calder; Mobiles and Paper

What do you think of kinetic art?  Does it sound complicated and hard?  It’s not, it is just a fancy way of saying “Art that moves.”  2014-06-07 17.44.38

This last week at Mad Science Saturday we explored motion and balance looking at the kinetic art of Alexander Calder.
To make this project, our young renaissance artists danced to some music and drew pictures of each other.They were not allowed to look at their pictures while they drew.

We cut and scored their paper sketches along curves. The resulting forms do unexpected things. They curve around themselves and stick out at weird angles. They really look like dancers in motion!

dancer mobile

Once we had our forms, we began the mobile portion of the exercise. Dancing again, this time in slow motion, I showed them how the center of their body always remained in a vertical line from their neck down. They applied this sensation to their mobiles, and the mobiles turned out balanced.

A few weeks ago, FLY teachers were honored to be invited to a seminar with Matt Shlian, a local artist and one of a very few Paper Engineers in the country. He told us about various aspects of his work, including the curved score method of paper-folding.

We were excited that we’d have an opportunity to share this technique with the kids so soon. This project was already scheduled, but hearing how grown-up scientists and engineers apply techniques that our young artists can learn is really inspiring.

2014-06-07 18.00.05 HDR

Itsy Bitsy Spider Projects

This is a lesson which I prepared to teach EFL students in Spain.  In it they practice numbers, learn to indicate up and down, practice the weather, and learn how to ask some questions.  This project was done with children between six and nine years of age.

[Coming Soon, more videos as well as clear step-by-step explanations.]
The Itsy-Bitsy Spider Puppet
The Itsy-Bitsy Spider Book

ABC Segovia

This project was done with three little girls, a family with whom I went on a vacation.  They had been my students for a little over a year, and the younger girls were in kindergarten, and the older girl in third grade.  Through prior lessons, we’d studied the alphabet.  We’d begun to make an alphabet book , which I’d also done that year with a kindergarten group that I saw four days a week.  With the full-class, the alphabet books were easier, because each kid had to find only one letter’s worth of things.

Anyway, my small group and I took pictures as we went along.  Mostly, they were things that the girls knew already like zipper, tree and fountain, but in some cases I would point to things and say, “Ok, that’s an aqueduct, what letter do you think it begins with?”  either because the object was too perfect a tourist attraction, or because they were stumped for a letter.
That evening, we edited together the video, with all three singing the song and naming objects into my laptop, and then with the older girl helping me to put the names onto the images.  I later made the poster version which you see above.
This lesson would work with larger groups of children on field trips too.  They could be given the mission to find things (with their adult chaperones) that began with certain letters.  As most class sizes are somewhere around 20-30 students, it’s perfect.  Either more advanced students could be paired with less advanced ones, or the more advanced students could be given extra letters, depending upon how many actual students are in each class.
The editing would not be as easy to do, since each kid would want to participate, but given the way the alphabet books worked, it could be done, on a day by day basis.  Once we had the photos on the computer, each child could go up to the teacher in computer time, record his word, and paste the word into the image in photoshop.
The poster can be printed large, up to 20″x30″ although I’ve never printed it bigger than A4.  It could be hung in the classroom to allow the students extra time to look at and remember each letter.
This kind of reinforcement worked with my small group and their poster, as well as with the kindergarten and their alphabet books.  When they finished lessons, or had a free moment, students went to the poster, or to their book, and started looking at each object and trying to remember what it was called.
When I was able to be present, I scaffolded by mumbling the first sound in words that they couldn’t remember: “bas” for “basket.”
That same kind of reinforcement is the logic behind making a DVD that the children can use at home:  they think it’s really cool that they themselves are on the TV, even if it is a DVD that they made themselves.  It also can trigger deeper parent participation in the children’s learning.  This supportive culture is created simply by making an object that the child wants to share, be it a book, a dvd, or any drawing that the child takes home.

*Video and images reproduced with assent of children and the consent their mother.  Names kept secret to preserve the privacy.