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!
I am getting a huge kick out of seeing responses to the Getty Museum Twitter Challenge to recreate a work of art with things you have at home. You can see their invitation to participate in the tweet embedded below.
We challenge you to recreate a work of art with objects (and people) in your home.
🥇 Choose your favorite artwork
🥈 Find three things lying around your house⠀
🥉 Recreate the artwork with those items
The creative responses have been mind-blowing, and another example of how adding a few constraints can often motivate people to be more innovative than leaving things completely open-ended. I’ve added a couple below. Here are some of my favorites (and you can see more by clicking on the above Tweet):
You can learn so much about our culture and the past by comparing these pictures. They are definitely a collection that should become part of the historical archives, allowing future generations to see our ingenuity and sense of humor during this time of crisis.
I also like the: Artful, Global, and Agency by Design Thinking Routines that are included on this page. For example, I’ve added one of the Global cards below. Imagine applying these questions to the current pandemic, and what answers you might receive from your students! Some might find literal beauty in the microscopic image of the virus, while others may see the beauty of human nature being revealed as people jump in to help their communities.
If you are preparing curriculum for distance learning, I hope that you will consider adding some of these to get a more detailed understanding of the thoughts your students are having while they learn.
(You can find out more about Smithsonian’s Learning Lab here.)
Each collection contains images and artwork for the theme, as well as a webinar for each topic. The webinars were done live late last year, but you can watch the archived videos to get ideas for discussion and background information about the assets provided in the collection. “Exploring Women Who Broke Barriers” has a Powerpoint Presentation from the Webinar here. “Persisting and Resisting’s” Powerpoint can be found here. I might have missed it, but I do not see one for “Who Tells Your Story.”
I like how the presentations give ideas for using Visible Thinking Routines from Project Zero in to develop deep discussions about the artwork. (You can see some other posts I’ve done about using a couple of these routines here and here.)
Since it’s Women’s History Month in the United States, you may want to consider adding at least portions of these to your curriculum for March. But I think you will see that there are enough resources to make for enriched learning throughout the year!
I asked a couple of people on Twitter if I could share their projects today. I have been fascinated watching them post pictures of their 3d printed lithophanes. In the past, lithophanes were traditionally etched in thin, translucent porcelain that revealed the artwork when backlit. 3d printing technology, however, allows for lithophanes to be created using filament with very similar results.
Julia Dweck (@GiftedTawk) has been working on 3d printing lithophanes with her students to showcase their individuality. As you can see in the first picture below, the lithophanes are not truly visible without light. The second photo displays her amazing student photos once the lamp has been turned on. Follow Julia if you aren’t already – she is always doing incredibly creative projects!
Rob Morrill (@morill_rob) has also been working with lithophanes. His designs are in honor of Black History Month. You can see his Rosa Parks example below. I also suggest you take a look at his Nina Simone and Shirley Chisholm lithophanes available on Thingiverse.
Rosa Parks (1913-2005) was arrested in 1955 for refusing to yield her bus seat to a white passenger. Her subsequent arrest sparked the successful year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott. 3rd in series of 3d printed lithophanes honoring women in Black History Month. @tinkercad Codeblocks pic.twitter.com/xaw0U4ERvd
Rob has provided step-by-step instructions for creating lithophanes with Tinkercad here.
Most of the lithophane DYI articles, including Rob’s, recommend using this free online lithophane generator to make your photos into an .stl file. Once you have this file, you can use any slicing program, such as Cura, to prepare the file for 3d printing. This Sparkfun article has basic instructions. For more complex “tweaks” that you may want to make in your preferred slicing program, such as setting the layer height and infill, this Instructable may help you out. Most of the sources I looked at recommend using white PLA filament. Other colors may work, but the translucency will not be as consistent.
Let me know if you’ve done a lithophane project! I’d love to see the many applications of these unique form of art.