It’s that time of year when no one feels like concentrating on something serious. So, what better activity can you do in the classroom than study opera? Well, maybe not study it exactly. How about play with it instead? One of the newest Google Arts and Culture experiments is “Blob Opera,” and it’s definitely going to catch your students’ attention if you bring this up on your screen. Your students will entertain themselves to no end as they drag the blobs around to create operatic masterpieces. It feels a bit like you are conducting somewhat refined Muppets. They can even record and share the link of their favorite productions. For those who need a little inspiration, there is a small tree in the bottom right-hand corner so you can switch on to “hear some festive songs.”
For additional artistic adventures, visit the Games page of Google Arts and Culture, where you can solve “Visual Crosswords” or play “Puzzle Party,” or find another amusing diversion!
Math Art Challenge caught my eye the other day when I saw a tweet from its organizer, Annie Perkins (@anniek_p), about the most recent challenge, “Mandalas,” authored by Siddhi Desai (@SiddhiDesai311). Mandala projects used to be a student favorite in my gifted and talented classroom, and we have created them from all sorts of materials, such as the traditional sand ones and 3d printed ones. The students also loved making digital mandalas, especially using words and kaleidoscopes of nature. When I read Desai’s post, I was blown away by a video she included about the extraordinary mandalas that pufferfish make to attract their mates, and wish I could go back in time to show it to my students.
From the tweet from Perkins, I found that she has a page of Math Art Challenges, with 81 on there to this date! I have always been fascinated by the intersection of math and art, so this collection is a goldmine to me. Since I usually try to give specific resources on my posts in order not to overwhelm, I decided to recommend her challenge from Day 53, “Origami Firework From One Piece of Paper.” This seems like an appropriate challenge for this particular holiday weekend, when viewing a real fireworks show is improbable for many due to the pandemic.
In my third article for the NEO Blog, which was published today, I give a detailed look at how S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. instruction can be accomplished remotely. The article has links to many resources, so you will likely find at least one new helpful tool somewhere in the post. You can read, “How to S.T.E.A.M. Up Distance Learning” here.
Next month’s article will be, “Applying Universal Design for Learning in Remote Classrooms.” As always, I would love reader input on this topic. If you have any resources or examples that would be helpful, please comment on this post!
Two Bit Circus is a foundation that describes its mission as follows: “We serve children in all economic situations by creating learning experiences to: inspire entrepreneurship, encourage young inventors, and instill environmental stewardship.” The organization has aimed to achieve these goals through activities such as summer camps, STEAM Carnivals, and workshops. Although many of these programs have had to come to a screaming stop during the last few months due to the pandemic, Two Bit Circus has not faltered in its delivery of quality content. Instead, it has shifted to offering streaming classes during the week on topics that range from creating music to building balloon racers. You can find the archive, already full of informational project videos they have streamed since March, here. Note that Caine Monroy (yes – the charming young man from Caine’s Arcade) makes a special appearance in some of them. He is a member of the foundation’s Junior Advisory Board. In fact, according to the streaming schedule on the home page, Caine will be hosting another live session this Thursday, May 21st.
It’s clear that Two Bit Circus is making a strong effort to offer distance learning projects that are fun, educational, and mostly reliant on household supplies. Some other resources you will currently find on their website home page are their STEAM Carnival Playbooks (currently free downloads thanks to Vans), a Bricks Playbook for Parents, and “Power Lab,” a “Print-At-Home Escape/Story Room Experience.” In addition, parents who are suddenly finding themselves to be educators may learn some helpful advice from the “Teachers for Teachers” series that you can find here.
While the official school year may be winding down for some, the unpredictability of the next few months will probably still leave some gaps in children’s schedules. With these resources from Two Bit Circus you can make that time fly!
Darrell Wakelam (@DarrellWakelam) is an artist who shares his considerable talent by doing workshops with children at schools and museums. During the quarantine I have noticed Wakelam’s tweeting free #ArtJumpStart activities, and I asked him for permission to write about them on this blog. I had no idea that he had so many available on his website!
Each #ArtJumpStart consists of a pair of pictures. The first one shows his completed project, and the second one gives instructions. As you can see, the materials should be fairly easy to find in most households, making these works of art ideal projects for students staying at home. The hope is that these will inspire students to create and innovate no matter where they are.
You can download the full gallery of #ArtJumpStart projects here for free. Also, be sure to check out Wakelam’s photos of his art on this page of his website.
Patrick Benfield (@McLemoreAve), who is the Innovation Director at the Magellan International School in Austin, has created a website called, “i.Make@Home.” The website includes several “Maker Playbooks.”Each playbook has several projects that can be done at home to encourage creativity and innovative thinking. Examples (including some videos) and directions are provided. Many of the projects require basic materials that can usually be found at home, such as cardboard and scissors, or even out in nature, but there are some that call for hand-tools and/or adult supervision.
Currently, there are five Maker Playbooks available on the site, beginning with one from March 30, 2020. You can add your e-mail to a subscription list to be notified when new ones are added. If your children or students make something from one of the playbooks, be sure to post it to social media, and tag it #magellanmakers so Mr. Benfield can see that his hard work in curating these ideas for using design thinking at home is paying off!