Creative Universe Summer Series

Today was the first day of our Saturday morning series. Christine did Triangles with Art Play (a class designed for pre-school) from 9:00am to 10:00, and then I came in to do M. C. Escher, patterns and tesselations.

We re-named Mad Science to Creative Universe since we look at the universality of Art to help us understand a variety of things. This time the theme for the series is Pattern, and in the fall we plan on doing Animals.

Anyway, today we did some sketches on paper with letters to talk about how things are reflected (like a mirror), rotated (or turned around), or translated (moved down a line) to create patterns. Then I explained how we could use what we talked about to create a pattern on graph paper. After it was clear everyone understood the general idea, we moved on to cutting out stamps from Scrap Box rubber pads.


We took our stamps and made patterns with them by translation, and rotation. To do reflection you need to cut a separate stamp that faces the opposite way. A p will rotate to become a d, but no matter how you turn it, it doesn’t become a b or a q which would be the reflection.

After some focused stamping and repeating, I opened it up and had them do some really fast stamping with geometric right before clean-up. One student took her line and rotated the stamp while applying pressure, creating a pattern of scumbled monotypes that look like LP records. Scumbling is dragging paint across a surface, usually with a large palette knife or ruler, and a monotype is a kind of print made from a block that is re-inked in an irregular way.

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.