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.


Painting and Planting Ice Balls


It's winter here, though just barely above freezing, and I was thinking of ways we could be making art outdoors in a fun and interesting way. Unfortunately, were hampered by the lack of snow and ice. Fortunately, however, I was able to talk my way into using the school cafeteria's giant walk-in freezer to make some large balls of ice (frozen water balloons).

We made about 60 ice balls and brought groups of students out to paint them with watercolors. It was a really engaging activity and the students enjoyed the thrill of painting on a strange substance. We then "planted" the ice balls around the large tree. It was quite beautiful with the ice hitting the ice and highlighting the colors. The balls lasted for about a day before they melted away.

For the next round, I think we will experiment with placing objects in the ice, or doing this at a time of year when the temperature stays below zero for longer.

Jasper Johns and Our Favourite Number

Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.
— Jasper Johns

With the grade 1s and 2s, we often talk about the subjects of artworks and why an artist might choose a particular subject. They're really interested in the backstory behind artists and their artworks. We've been looking at a lot of abstract expressionist artworks lately, and they've really engaged with the opportunity to interpret artworks. However, when it comes to creating their own works, students often gravitate towards depicting scenes or objects. For this painting unit, I wanted us to move away from representational subjects and towards depicting abstract ideas.

0 Through 9, Jasper Johns

0 Through 9, Jasper Johns

Using the quote above as a jumping off point, we looked at his works and talked about how we could use the idea of an every-day object, like a number, as a way to make art. Students then created their own compositions with numbers using watercolors and explored they could create a feeling or emotion with their composition.