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.

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.