Sunday, September 11, 2011

Beginning the year with media exploration

We offered some new classes this year and apparently the course descriptions were so enticing that they filled quickly and have waiting lists.  That’s great, but that also means many more students than expected or planned for with less money for supplies.  So I’ve been working to create art lessons on a shoe string that are still engaging and teach the same concepts that I had envisioned.
I’m taking a different approach this year in my teaching of studio classes.  In the past I have jumped right in to the first project and all that goes along with it.  This year I decided to take some time to let students explore different media.  This serves two purposes.  First it gets the students excited about art and creating.  Second, it gives students some background knowledge of media that will help them when they are designing works later.  I have been able to implement some of the techniques that I learned this summer at University of Florida’s studio intensive program.  On the first day, after all the introductions to the class, rules, procedures, and technical details, I jumped right in to an activity we did the very first day of summer studio.

Sculpture With Spaghetti
Class: 3D Design
Class size:  25 = 5 groups of 5 students each
Task: Build a structure that has the marshmallow on top and that can stand unassisted for 1.5 minutes.  The tallest structure still standing after 1.5 minutes wins a prize.
Materials for each group – 1 brown paper lunch bag with 25 dry spaghetti noodles, 1 marshmallow, and 1 3ft long piece of string inside it, +  1 3ft long piece of tape.
Time for construction: 20 minutes
Instructions:   Using only the materials given, create the tallest structure with the marshmallow on top that stands unsupported for 1.5 minutes.
This was a fun activity for all.  The students became very competitive and really worked hard to make the tallest structure.  I really enjoyed watching them and listening to their banter as they tried to figure out how spaghetti could hold up a marshmallow.  Four of the five teams created very tall structures, but none of them stood for longer than 30 seconds.  The team that finished first had the shortest structure.  It was short, but it was strong and stood longer than 5 minutes.  If fact it probably would still be standing if I hadn’t made them “clean up” at the end of class.  Their prize? The rest of the bag of marshmallows. 
When all was said and done we regrouped and discussed the activity.  I asked simply, what did you learn from this activity?  Of course there were a few sarcastic, yet humorous, statements but one student hit the nail on the head.  He said, “If the base isn’t strong it won’t stand” Exactly!  If you don’t have a strong base it doesn’t matter how tall you make the structure.  It will fall down.  “What else did you learn?” I asked the group.  Here are some of their responses.  “The thin noodles are much stronger when you join them together.”  “When we talked about how to build it we figured out that we didn’t have enough noodles to go too high and still stand.”  “Balance is the key.”  “Breaking pieces can help make something stronger.”  “This was more than just creating a structure wasn’t it?”  I agreed with that statement.  I told the students that in this class we are stronger when we work together.  Sometimes things need to get broken so that we can learn and grow stronger.  We need a strong foundation and balance in our work in order to create great art that is both stable, and visually powerful.  I went on to tell the class that this course was all about visual problem solving and creative exploration.  The students left class buzzing with excitement.  I did too.

The Winning Sculpture - May not be so tall, but it was strong.

 The winning sculpture:  It wasn’t as tall as the others, but it was strong enough to stand the longest.

Day 2 of 3D Design was even more fun than day 1. Students again worked in groups to build a sculpture out of flat pieces of card and mat board. The objective: Create the tallest sculpture that will stand on its own for more than 1.5 minutes without using any adhesive.
Most Creative Group Sculpture

Working together to create height

Best Angles Different Views

3D Design Students Working on Their Sculptures

Winning Group - Tallest Sculpture that stood longer than 1.5 minutes

Most Creative Group - Using all the supplies they created a house and yard.

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