Scan the World

One of the fabulous things about 3d printing is that so many files are open source and freely available on the internet. You can download the .stl, put it through whatever your preferred slicing software is (such as Cura or the one that came with your 3d printer), and you have your own version. Now, you have access to 18,000 .stl files for ancient sculptures and artifacts through the “Scan the World” project. This was no small task. “Scan the World” partnered with Google Arts and Culture and museums around the world to get scans of their treasures – sometimes using drones to take pictures of larger sculptures on exhibit. You can read more about the project here. View the extensive archive hosted by MiniFactory here.

Roman Marble Head – one of the many artifacts you can now 3d print, thanks to Scan the World

Art Together Now

I’ve written about the OK Go Sandbox before on this blog. For STEM and STEAM teachers, this is a fabulous website provided by the incredibly creative and gifted band, OK Go, to suggest lessons inspired by their music videos. Those videos – masterpieces of science, music, and cinematography – are fascinating to listen to and watch in and of themselves. But combine them with hands-on activities designed to explore topics such as physics and color theory, and you have lessons that are sure to engage your students.

Somehow I missed the band’s release, last year, of their “All Together Now” video, produced near the beginning of the pandemic as each of the members remained isolated in their own homes. They dedicated it to the healthcare workers on the frontlines, and paired it with a challenge to create collaborative art to express gratitude for someone. Curated under the hashtag, #ArtTogetherNow, the art would be posted to this website gallery.

The lyrics of the song mourn the loss of what we had come to expect in our world, but offer hope in the chorus that we will eventually emerge from this crisis transformed – perhaps for the better.

Your True Colors

You may have noticed that I’ve been playing around with re-designing this website, which has included trying different color schemes. I keep getting sidetracked as I teach myself different tools, and though I’m fairly proficient when it comes to technology, I have a lot more to learn about design. I think my attempts at creativity hurt my husband’s eyes whenever I ask for his opinion so my drafts range from rebelling against his traditional perspective with crazy rule-breaking combinations to realizing that it’s not really my goal to blind my readers.

I’ve done different units on color with various age groups, from investigating the science behind it and writing poetry with my 5th graders as we read The Giver, to teaching about Color Theory in my Principles of Arts high school class. Along the way, I learned about Canva’s free Color Wheel tool, how to assess my color IQ, and Color Theory for Noobs. We examined websites like this one to see how different colors can evoke different emotions.

Since then, I’ve learned about Adobe’s Color tool, which can extract color themes from a photo you upload, or allow you to choose colors and find pleasing additions to create your own theme. If you subscribe to the Creative Cloud, you can even save those palettes in your libraries to access from your Adobe products.

I also learned about Coolors, where you can explore palettes that are trending, or generate your own. On any of these sites – Canva, Coolors, Adobe – you can copy the hex code of any color and paste it as a custom color in presentations you are making.

So, teachers and students can use these tools to improve their designs. But you can also use them for introspection. @WickedDecent shares a Slides activity to use with students where they identify their own Personal Color Palettes. This would go well with another activity my students used to do where they designed their own “Character Strength Floorplans.” Or, you could extend the idea by having students design color palettes for historical figures or book characters, justifying their answers with researched evidence.

Another way to go (especially if you are using yesterday’s post about dining traditions) is to explore what colors mean in different cultures. The Kid Should See This has a great collections of videos on this topic. And if you really want to delve deep into all things colorful, this 5-Minute Film Festival includes videos and multiple resources.

Photo by Steve Johnson on

Ekphrastic Poetry

I hope everyone had a great Pi Day yesterday! In case you want to do a celebration with your students a day or two late, here is my collection of Pi Day Resources. And, with St. Patrick’s Day coming up in a couple of days, feel free to peruse my recently updated group of links for that topic.

If you’re a plan-ahead kind of person, you might be glad to know that this week will be devoted to all things poetic in preparation for National Poetry Month in April. I’m in the process of gathering resources here. After Amanda Gorman’s inspiring recitation at the Inauguration in January, 2020, I have a feeling many more students will be motivated to pen some verses of their own.

Today I want to give you some ideas for using ekphrastic poetry in your classroom. If, like me, you have no idea what that is, don’t feel ashamed. I’m half a century old and just found out when I saw this Tweet for an Ekphrastic Poetry Contest in San Antonio, and looked up the word. You can read the detailed definition here, but it is basically poetry written in response to art. You can see some examples, pairing quotes from the poems with the artworks, in this collection from Google Arts and Culture. (I must admit that my favorite is #6, “Stealing The Scream.”)

If you want to read full poems accompanied by their visual art muses, this site has four examples. For a wonderful list of books of ekphrastic poetry, Dr. Patricia Stohr-Hunt has compiled this review.

Once you see models of this type of poetry, you may wonder how to go about encouraging your students to begin writing it. Here are a few lesson plans to help you:

Once your students finish their poetry, you may want to try something I did nine years ago – create an interactive bulletin board. Though the original assignment was for students to draw artwork to go with their poetry, you could easily turn this around. With even more tools available these days, such as Flipgrid and mobile devices that scan QR codes instantly with their cameras, this would be a breeze.

One more note: I derived the idea for that interactive bulletin board from a post on the Langwitches blog. I am sad to say that the incredible author of that blog, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano passed away at the beginning of March this year. Here is a tribute to this beautiful educator, eloquently written by Jon Mitzmacher (@Jon_Mitzmacher). So many of us owe a debt of gratitude for Silvia’s generosity and innovation. She will be deeply missed.

Oh Say, Can you See That Sound?

Synesthesia, a biological phenomenon that causes some people to sense objects and experiences in a different way, always fascinated my students. People who associate colors with different numbers or scents with specific sounds might be accused of making up these unusual perceptions, but scientists have proved that this genetic trait does exist. In fact, some famous musical and visual artists may have had the benefit of synesthesia in their creative endeavors.

In this lesson plan from Google Arts and Culture, “Seeing Sound with Kandinsky,” students can learn about the painter Wassily Kandinsky’s relationship with music and its affect on his art. (Slide 8 specifically refers to Kandinsky’s synesthesia and offers links that elaborate on it.)

According to the TED Ed video, “What Color is Tuesday?” around 4% of the population are synesthetes. Students will, of course, want to know if they are possible synesthetes. They can take a quick test like this one, but I always caution them that this is just for fun and not at all scientific. For a simple paper and pencil task, there is a fun example on the Neuroscience for Kids site.

This lesson plan from The Art of Education includes several more activities and links, including one to a site where you can type in your name to find out the color palette one synesthete, Bernadette Sheridan, would visualize. And, way back in 2015, I wrote about a site where you can type in your own message and generate music with the letters. (It still works!)

If you’re interested in literature for children in which characters have synesthesia, here is a good list. One of the choices is The Noisy Paint Box, a book about – you guessed it – Kandinsky as a young boy.

Whether studying neuroscience, art, music, or gifts that make us different, you will find that synesthesia is an intriguing topic for any age level.

Photo by Moose Photos on

Little Free Art Gallery

By now most of us are familiar with the “Little Free Libraries” that have popped up all over. Often located in structures that look similar to large birdhouses, these publicly accessible boxes provide books to anyone interested. Their motto is, “Take a book, share a book,” and the organization began as one solution to combat illiteracy.

Stacy Milrany of Seattle, Washington, decided to adapt that concept to art. You can read the details of her story in this article by Cathy Free at The Washington Post. Her miniature gallery, complete with tiny art patrons, is set up in front of her home, and people are encouraged to add art and take what they love.

Imagine applying this idea at a school! Students love to create for authentic audiences, and this would be a joyful way for the community to celebrate and and encourage creative endeavors. It is similar to the concept of an Art Drop that I described in this post, but would be isolated to one spot 365 days a year. And, of course, there would be the added constraint of diminutive canvases.

Let me know if you try this, or have tried this, in the comments below!