Happy New Year! I’m going to start off 2016 with a Fun Friday post about bubble wrap. Although it’s not used quite as often to cushion packages, you might have acquired some during recent gift exchanges. Here are some alternatives to adding it to the landfills.
Michael Fischler demonstrates his artistic process of creating bubble wrap art in this video. The completed portrait is of musician Beth Thornley, whose music accompanies the video. Georges Seurat would be impressed!
To create a more edible work of art, this video demonstrates the use of bubble wrap and chocolate for creating a cake decoration that is beautiful and impressive.
New to the world of bubble wrap art? You might want to start out by combining your bubble wrap with a rolling pin and paint for your first project.
One of the apps that I recommend frequently is Hopscotch. This free iOS app has been one of my all-time favorite creation tools ever since we tried it a few years ago during Hour of Code. Using block programming that is similar to Scratch, Hopscotch allows users to create works of art, games, and even presentations. (One of my 5th graders chose to use Hopscotch to present his Genius Hour information last year – much more interesting than PowerPoint!)
If you want to take your students beyond this year’s Hour of Code, you might want to try a Hopscotch tutorial, and then see how they can “remix” it to make it their own. One that is great for this time of year is the Snowflake Tutorial. Students can learn about symmetry, angles, and many other mathematical skills while they also obtain basic programming skills. To top it all off, they can create digital works of art, and every single one will be different.
Hopscotch is an app that my students often mention they use at home on their own, a great example of using technology to create rather than merely to consume.
I would advise walking through any Hopscotch tutorial you assign so you can familiarize yourself with the tools. Also, beware that earlier tutorials (before 2015) may look a bit different as the app has been updated since then.
For more ideas for using using coding in the classroom, check out my Programming for Kids Pinterest Board here.
Last year, Colossal did a story on artist Hannah Rothstein’s “Thanksgiving Special” series. Rothstein imagined the Thanksgiving plates of 10 famous artists. It would be fun to show students one or two examples, and then have them choose an artist to represent in their own Thanksgiving plate art. This activity would not only amp up creativity, but also be a lesson in art history and in seeing things from another perspective. You could also use it to teach about parody.
String art fascinated me as a child. Creating circles out of straight lines of thread seemed so delightfully oxymoronic that I would mesmerize myself for hours doing it over and over again. Since the only string art projects I did came from kits bought at the local hobby store, there wasn’t a lot of creativity embedded into my “art.” Like most people, I confined myself to following instructions, and never considered constructing my own designs.
In the last week, however, I’ve found articles about three different artists who would scoff at my string art portfolio.
Now I realize just how unimaginative I’ve been all of these years.
If I was really creative, I would have made a wall-sized owl with big lips using fluorescent string.
For Phun Phriday this week I want to share with you an artist who is, quite simply, incredible. I love the work she does on both of her blogs – Nicole Smeltzer and The Middlest Sister. She meticulously cuts paper to make amazing scenes and tell stories.
One of her latest projects is to make a book for her daughter’s kindergarten teacher. The picture below is the “setting.”
When I saw the above picture, I couldn’t wait to see how it would look once she added the students. It already looks perfect. Can’t you just smell the crayons and Elmer’s Glue?
However, she blew me away when she posted the completed image. I won’t give it away – you will have to visit her blog to see for yourself. And this is only the first page! What an incredible gift this will be for her daughter’s teacher.
If you need to brighten your day, I strongly urge you to check out the amazing art of Nicole Smeltzer on both of her blogs. You will simultaneously laugh at her family and marvel at her talent.
A couple of weeks ago I stumbled on a #makered Twitter chat and somehow the conversation turned to using the Sphero robots to paint. I was hoping to do this with my 4th graders because we are studying mathematical art and I thought it would be a good way to tie it in with the programming they have learned – but I had no idea how to go about it.
My colleagues on Twitter immediately offered fabulous suggestions: use tempera paint, try it with the “nubby” to give it texture, and buy a cheap plastic swimming pool to contain the mess. One teacher offered to try it the next day with her students and, as promised, sent me pictures of the results. Claire (@pritchclaire) also gave me the suggestion to stay away from red paint as it kind of stains the Sphero.
After receiving all of this great advice, I introduced the topic to my 4th graders. Then we set about coming up with a plan. First, they learned how to program the Sphero to make polygons using the Macrolab app. (We used the free 2D Geometry lesson from Sphero offered on this page.) There is an app that allows you to drive the Sphero free-hand, but it’s difficult to make exact shapes that way. Macrolab gave us the tools to be more precise.
The students needed a good 90 minutes to practice making different polygons. The next step was to sketch a design. I absolutely loved listening to the conversations about the math involved as they tried to figure out the angle degrees for each command. Despite their experience with the complexities of Sphero programming, the students started out with grand, complicated sketches. After doing dry runs, however, they realized they needed to scale things down a bit. Sketching and practicing took about another 90 minutes.
After many practices, each group came to our improvised drawing board. Although I loved the plastic pool idea, I realized that the bottom wouldn’t be flat enough to keep the Sphero in control. I brought a piece of drywall to school that had been sitting in our garage. We used some extra cardboard to add some sides to it.
With disposable gloves on, the students manually rolled the Sphero around in a puddle of paint, then set it up on the “canvas” and started their program. I should mention here that I was describing my day to my husband and he said, “You should have just put the paint in a plastic baggie and rolled the Sphero in that.” Hopefully I will remember that idea next year…
As you can see, the results of using a programmed Sphero were a bit different than the above photo. Personally, either method looks fabulous to me. The students agreed. As soon as they were done, one of them immediately said, “We should find out if we can hang these in the front foyer!”
Can you identify when they used the nubby for their lines?
You can see some video of our “technique” below.
After the experience we got into some good discussions about what art is and why the Sphero might not have always acted according to their expectations. Although this probably isn’t a lesson that could happen in the regular classroom due to time and equipment constraints, I think it worked well for my little group of 6 students!
I usually strive to keep my Phun Phriday posts free and clear of lesson plan suggestions, but wouldn’t it be fun to see the “brunchcity” ideas your students might come up with for your specific geographic location?
By the way, if you should happen to show these pics to students, I would steer clear of the Dublin example, even though most elementary school students probably can’t identify Guinness unless it’s a book about world records :)