Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Integrating the Arts: Art, Science & The Persistence of Vision

Monday night I had the pleasure of volunteering at Amherst PTA's Math & Science Night at Wilkin's Elementary School in Amherst, NH. The Math & Science night is a free non-commercial event where families can come together and enjoy playing with math and science concepts. There were all sorts of good things there: games, voting & graphing, fishing for fractions, using microscopes, learning about sound waves and more--all in a fun & relaxed setting.

I asked if I could come and set up a table where art and science were used together. Combining science and art is probably one of the most fun things to do (I often tell my husband that if this art teacher thing doesn't work out I am becoming an earth science teacher. To which he replies with raised eyebrows!).

Anyhow, I needed to create a project that would entice children to stop at my table, stay a couple minutes, have a high success rate, and be cheap (hey, I'm paying for this and I didn't know if I was going to have 100 or 300 kids at this event!). So, I chose a basic animation "machine" called the Thaumatrope. Here's my original post here with the "how to."I used plastic drinking straws instead of skewers because they were safer.

Here are some of the examples of Thaumatropes I brought to the event.
Compare the two images to see the front and the back of each...

Here are some photos from the event...
My display explaining lenticular animation & optical illusions (top portion)
and animation and the persistence of vision (bottom portion).
The work area before the kids arrived. I had all the supplies they needed
in each tray and directions in case I wasn't able to get to the right away.
These Thaumatropes cost about 2 cents each to make (not including the colored pencils).
And just to prove I actually had children visit me, here's a photo of a few
girls working at my table. This was at the end of the night. At one point it was
standing room only at my table! Visitors ended up making 100 Thaumatropes that night!

How it went:

Great! I tried to think of some great hook to get children to stop and do my project—I was worried it would seem like too much work. So I would say—“Hey, do you want to make a magic picture?—It only takes a minute!” and then I’d show them a couple of examples. My favorite was one that I created that has an image of a top hat on one side. I showed this to the children and said “I can make a rabbit come out of this hat—want to see?” And then, when I spun it, the rabbit (image from the other side) appears. It was really fun seeing the look of awe on some of the kids’ faces when they saw the two images come together!

The Lesson:
Because I had about 30 seconds per child to explain the concept, I tried to be pretty descriptive when showing them the examples. I’d say the following:
  • See how there is one picture on this side and one on the other side?
  • When you draw your two pictures, they will come together when you spin your thaumatrope—so think about that when you draw—use pencil first so we can try it out.
  • Don’t worry if it doesn’t work at first—this is tricky! I made mistakes too (I had one of my mistakes on hand to show them)—if you make a mistake, you can erase, or make another one—I have more!
I had all sorts of creative Thaumatropes made: a cheetah leaping into a tree, a sugar glider leaping from a tree, a Star Wars light saber battle, all sorts of sports balls going into goals, hoops, nets, etc., kittens lounging in cat beds or eating food, and so much more! Students of all ages were successful with this craft—K-4th, I’d say. 

I noticed the older they were, the more complicated they tried to make their animations and therefore the more thought needed to go into them (and then they sometimes needed to make some adjustments). But I tried to work with the students so that everyone went away with a successful Thaumatrope.

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