Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fish Mobile

I am working on an introductory art project to conduct in K-3 classes. This mobile project can be scaled for various grades and it engages problem solving (identify balancing points for shapes and for resulting hanging form). It is inspired by Alexander Calder's work.
Elements of art addressed:
white line sketch on black paper.
shape 2-D paper cut outs
3-D forms in space created by final assembled paper suspended shapes.
One could also discuss focal point created by a small colored shape and one can discuss negative space created by the spaces between the floating elements.
Artists to inspire
: Calder and Matisse.
Good prep for future more elaborate projects such as a very inspiring High School collaborative kinetic art project on Edutopia
Materials: white pencil, black paper, colored paper scraps, scissors, push pins, beads, floral wire or pipe cleaners, pliers (optional), tape and heavy weight quilting thread (the mono filament pictured here I discovered was too difficult for K-3 to work with and pieces would not hang straight from it so don't us it).

Step 1: Sketch fish with white pencil o
n black paper.
Revision to lesson: student can draw a second fish in extra space on paper.

Step 2: Cut out shape of fis
Revision to lesson: second fish is also cut out as above but does not go through step 3 and 4.
Step 3: Sketch dividing lines vertically through fish.
Step 4: Cut through dividing lines to create segments.
Step 5: Cut out smaller shapes: What does your fish ea
t? What is in its environment? What food chain is it a part of? (can use colored pieces of paper or cut from scraps)
Step 6: Poke holes into top of each fish piece and each piece you want to hang. The trick is to experiment and find out where the balancing point is. You can do this by pushing the push pin all the way through and then letting the piece pivot on the pin and see if the piece hangs in the balanced way you want it to.
Step 7: Lay out your fish pieces in order on a piece of paper. Be sure the tops are facing up. Take a piece of floral wire or pipe cleaner and make a kink in the wire at each spot you will tie the shape to. Also be sure to make a twisted loop towards the middle through which to attach the next hanging wire. Tape wire down on background paper Tie a short string (five inches) through each hole on the black shapes. Adjust string length and tie the loose end to each corresponding kink in the wire. Remove tape from wire.
Step 8: pass another wire through the center hanging loop. make a kink and then attach a bead a the far end of one end. Experiment on length of wire arm to see how the mobile changes.

Quickly before I forget, here is some of feedback I got today. I am going to first post the negative and if I have time later will post the positive.

Student Feedback:
First Graders: "I didn't like having to cut up my fish." Two students felt this way. During the class one child was crying that she had to cut up her fish. I suggested that she could trace her fish and cut out only the second fish, but she was too upset to continue. In the wrap up, a boy suggested that the kids be able to suspend one fish that is cut up and one that is whole. Awesome suggestion!! I will make that an option for this workshop here on out.

Kinder: Lots of frustration with tying string knots. This was way out of their skill set range. One student decided to hole punched holes and strung his parts along the pipe cleaner. Seeing that great alternative, we switched mid lesson and had all the students do the same. It was much easier. We also did this modified construction in the First Grade class. (I will added the step by step images of this modified version soon.)

Second Graders: I was surprised that even in Second Grade many students had difficulty in tying a knot in thread (I have more experience teaching 4-5 and up, so this was eye opening). They enjoyed using the floral wire instead of the pipe cleaners. A few students offered to help other students needing help on various steps. I was so impressed.

Teacher feedback:
Have a detailed process board!I will be sure to have one by tomorrow.
Have students draw in the air fish shapes....model the form before they even put pencil to the black paper.
Have materials set up in one spot that is easily accessible to children returning the supplies.

My own observations:
In the Kinder class I handed out some materials too soon. ...beads make awesome rattles in cups! Best to wait and have students come and get their counter weight bead at the end of the project! The kinder teacher jumped in and used a simple small chalkboard to quickly sketch shapes of fish for the children. Loved it!

I had an hour in each class. The Kinders completed despite the mid course modification. About half of the Second Grade class completed in an hour and wished to continue on it next week. In the First Grade class I believe half completed their project. This was a challenging art exercise for the children. The next class will be a simpler project...watercolor studies of leaves.

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