Post-it Note Mandalas

Our current unit of inquiry in grade 4 is looking at self expression. We are investigating mandalas and their uses and histories from around the world. We are also looking at the principle of radial balance and how this is embodied in mandalas.

To get students engaged with the idea of a mandala and what radial symmetry is, we created Post-it mandalas using post-it notes, markers, an iPad and Keynote. This was a great introduction to the summative project where students will design a larger mandala that represents aspects of themselves and use a similar approach and technology to create it.

Students began by drawing a simple design beginning in the corner of the post it note. Every few minutes, they took a picture with their iPad and pasted, copied, and rotated the design in Keynote to create a Mandala. After each iteration in their design, students assessed how it was developing and made changes to better unify it. There has been some great visual problem solving going on as students deal with parts of their design not lining up as they expected--instead of starting over, they are working to incorporate the "error" into their design. 

As students worked through their designs, it was really interesting to see the evolution of the design as they challenged themselves develop their design.

Dome Discovery

In my Making/Building/Creating co-curricular, I'm working with Grade 3-5s on small construction projects. Our first project was the construction of a small geodesic dome out of corrugated plastic sheets. We used Make-do snap rivets to assemble the dome. 

We started off by looking at geodesic structures and discussing how structures are formed. Students learned about Buckminster Fuller and his work with domes. Making use of a surplus of corrugated plastic, we calculated how many sheets we had and how we could use them to build a dome. Using a dome calculator, we were able to determine the size of our dome, as well as the measurements for the triangles. We decided to create a 2-factor dome (using one isosceles triangle and one equilateral triangle) We cut templates for the triangles and then began the process of cutting out all the pieces.

Next, we used the Make-do rivets to assemble the pieces. These rivets are reusable and super easy to use with kids. They just need to punch a hole, using a tool provided, and then snap the two pieces together around the material.

Then, we assembled the pentagons, which we then connected using the equilateral triangles.  It was lots of fun trying to figure out how to keep the structure stable while we put the pieces together. 

The dome structure wasn't stable until we put the last piece into place.  This was a surprise for the students because many thought the structure would remain flimsy. Finally we finished the dome.

In our next class, we looked at the shapes, angles, and forms of the dome.

We used the Parts-Purposes-Complexities thinking routine to look at the components of the dome and how they work together to give it structure. Our next step is to design an entrance for the dome and to consider how we can use it around the school.

This was a great project to get students engaged with construction on a large scale, and to also connect learning about angles and geometry with a real-world application. Since I will run another iteration of this co-curricular in a few months, I'm thinking about new ways to incorporate design thinking into this project. 


Tessellating Egg Cartons

In this unit, we were exploring how color can give the illusion of space. I was also looking for an activity that would give the children a chance to explore a new material in a new way. 

Our school cafeteria uses about 60 flats of eggs a day. I've collected a number of these cartons and was wondering how I could incorporate them into some kind of art activity or exploration. In this unit with the grade twos, we've been exploring tessellating shapes as well as perspective. We started to explore how we could use these cartons to show different perspectives, as well as tessellate shapes and patterns over a surface. The result was these interesting artworks. 

Next time, I think we might look at how these pieces fit together to create a whole--this would be an interesting way for these young students to explore the gestalt concept (the whole is greater than the sum of the parts). Another idea I've had is to take these forms and use them as way fo showing two images, but from different points of view.

Draw-Bots, Version 2.0

After the great success of the previous lesson, we started to look at ways of creating drawbots using materials in the classroom. Here's a video of the results. 


This project also introduced students to using a design process journal that followed a process similar to the MYP Design cycle. Using the Notability app, students documented their design process, experimentation, and reflection about their second drawbot on the iPad. I'm starting to move in this direction with regards to recording process because I'm seeing greater student engagement with the process, and more learner autonomy as they work through the steps at their own pace. I'm also looking at how students can use these documents as part of their learning portfolio during student-led conferences.

Woven Portraits

We've been looking at emotions and expressions in artworks, how artists express feelings, and how we interpret the emotions of others. One of the interesting discussions to come out of the Grade 2s was how a single artwork can be interpreted differently by viewers. This realization is connected to the PYP key concept of perspective, and how our view of the world can differ from that of others.

In this project, students depicted two emotions, which were then woven together. The background of each image was created with texture rubbings and colors which the students selected to represent each emotion. After the pieces were woven together, we discussed and reflected on how well we communicated these emotions--it was interesting to discuss how what we communicate can be different from what is understood by the receiver.

Diatoms and the Diatomist

This video kicked it all off for the Grade 1s. Their current UOI is How The World Works, and they are looking at the different states of water. Following on from our adventure in painting ice balls, we were looking at what was inside water.

I remember seeing this documentary about Klaus Kemp, one of the only people in the world who creates intricate artworks out of diatoms.

After looking at the video and discussing the shapes (we've been looking at different types of symmetry in art and nature) we discussed what kinds of lives these creatures must have. Students drew their interpretation of a diatom design, which we then cut out to show as if we were looking through a magnifying glass.

Gallery of student works

Draw, Draw-bots! Draw!

Quite possibly the most fun I've ever had with an art project.

This unit tied in with the grade 4's unit on How The World Works. We were looking at electricity.

Presented with a pile of switches, wires, DC motors and coffee cups, students worked in pairs to design, build and "release" a drawbot. Each one ended up having its own character.


Painting with Pendulums

The grade threes are engaged in a transdisciplinary unit on simple machines.  In visual arts we have been looking at the complex, and not so simple, machines of Rube Goldberg.

 We looked at some of his drawings as well as the OK Go video This To Shall Pass. Their culminating task will be to design and build a Rube Goldberg-like machine that links up with other machines.  

After watching the video and looking at the drawings and then doing some drawing, I wanted to get students thinking about how machines could create art. We built 5 pendulums with paint bottles, artists' easels, and string. Students experimented with different weights and directions for setting the pendulum in motion. When they were ready, we set them in motion. It was very messy, but produced some wonderful results. 

Students experimented with how the length of strings and different weights affected the pendulums arc. Our next step in this unit of inquiry is to translate their knowledge of different machines and the excitement of pendulum painting into artistic creations that have a whimsical element, in much the way Goldberg's drawings did.