It was wonderful to have local artist Ray Keyleigh speak to my grade 9 and 12 art students on Friday. Ray shared his artistic process with them, and chronicled the evolution of his works, explaining some of the narratives embedded in his paintings, prints, and drawings as he leafed through his extensive portfolio. Additionally, Ray spoke about his involvement in creating large scale murals, which was timely since Warman High’s grade 12 art students are working on a large mural that will be permanently installed on the exterior of Route 11’s building. An Indigenous artist, Ray’s artist's talk will no doubt prove inspiring for grade 9 art students who are currently creating their own works of art regarding issues of concern to Indigenous peoples. Those students’ works will eventually be displayed in Warman's City Hall, Warman High School, and Prairie Spirit School Division’s main foyer.
I wanted a place to collect interesting articles about STEAM so am making a post about it. Lots of people who hear that I'm trying STEAM projects are curious what that means.
Colour Changing Markers
The science behind it (academic report)
Chromatography: Be a Color Detective
YouTube video about the science of colour change
Jix straw buildings
Banana DNA - this would be neat with an art project about DNA
Where does magnetism come from? (article)
Magna Doodle toy and how it works (wikipedia)
Air Bonsai Levitation
How to build a magnetic levitating top
Dipolar Soft matter video
Magnetic Art (cool links for educators too)
Goobi magnets (here's the instruction booklet)
Electronic cheat sheet with formulas
Kahoot - an Interactive quiz game
RBC's Report: Human's Wanted: How Canadian Youth can Thrive in the Age of Disruption
There's nothing like infusing STEAM into my art lessons to illustrate Prairie Spirit School Division's "My Prairie Spirit Classroom" (MPSC) at work. Teachers tend to like to be masters of their subjects' content, but the STEAM perspective that I'm teaching from this year means that I am nowhere close to master; instead, I often find myself planted squarely in the learner camp. Sometimes my ideas can be pulled off (the UV light paintings were pretty cool by all accounts), and sometimes they can't (I wondered if levitating a sculpture with certain magnets was possible - it is - but Mr. Bardall confirmed that the magnets I had in mind were not safe for students).
This weekend I was watching YouTube videos and reading website posts to try and understand the difference between series circuits and a parallel circuits. I was researching this for an Art 20 project where students are going to create artworks that convey messages about global warming and then wire LEDs into their paintings - the idea being that LEDs will light up via paper circuits when a button is pressed. Ms. Bitner's Science 9 students are going to help them with creating the paper circuits. There are all kinds of tutorials online that show a person how to create specific paper circuits, but almost none that explain the math in simpleton terms so that yours truly knows how many LEDs can be powered by one 3 volt battery. Today a few students who finished their global warming sketches early were helping me create various paper circuits so we could experiment with powering the LEDs - it was definitely side-by-side learning and I'm pretty sure that students were teaching me more than I was teaching them. In the end we managed to make both a series circuit and parallel circuit each light up ONE lonely LED from a 3 volt battery, but we could not get more LEDs to light up. Today I will experiment with replacing the copper foil with aluminum foil and wire in the hopes that I can make more LEDs light up. Perseverance and problem-solving are the name of the STEAM game.
**** Several hours later ****
I am pleased to report that I have had success with my paper circuits! Mr. Perry pointed out that wire conducts electricity much more efficiently than copper foil tape, and we successfully lit up 2 LEDs from the 3 volt battery using wire. One visit each with Ms. Lebiszczak, Mr. Bardal, and Ms. Sadoway, and I was equipped with alligator clips and aluminum foil to see if they would conduct electricity better tahn copper foil. This morning I lit up 5 LEDs from one 3 volt battery using parallel circuits. Phewf! Success feels good. I have a little more experimenting to do, but I feel much more ready for Tuesday's Science 9/Art 20 collaboration since I feel we will be able to problem solve a bit better together.
Ms. Lebiszczak shared her "The Benefit of Plants" weebly assignment with me (you can access her blog here). Some of her students will be researching the positive impact of plants in public spaces and Art 30 students will help to create some prototypes. Eventually Ms. Lebiszczak's students will be pitching the idea of creating a green space in Warman High School to Mr. Broughton.
In other plant news, I started germinating some chia seeds last night because I want to see if they can grow on clay (or on recycled kitchen cabinets). Here are some pictures of the process. #1 chia seeds before I added water, #2 a couple hours after I added water, and #3 12 hours after I added water. I plan to try mixing the chia into the moss mixture in addition to just applying the chia alone to various surfaces, to see how it does. I touched it this morning, and it feels a bit like gelatin.
After seeing a few online tutorials (like this one), I realized that I could turn my smartphone into a digital microscope for the small cost of $1. I ordered 30 for $30 from Aixiz (you can get them here) and attached the lens over my phone's camera lens with blue sticky tack. Here are some of the results of zooming in on moss (from the moss project) and biology slides. I'm currently reading the book The Hidden Life of Trees (you can view the trailer below) and plan to craft an art assignment that meshes information from the book with the technology of the microscope...
Today our Art 20 class had a guest speaker - Mr. Brandt. We are learning about global warming because it relates to our next artwork, and I want students to have some background knowledge about the topic before they start creating art about it. Mr. Brandt explained that while our planet has always gone through various phases of warming and cooling, it has never done so at such a fast rate. Historically, the earth has all kinds of ways that it seeks to balance change in its biosphere; but in today's fast-paced modern world, it can't keep up to the changes at play. One of the effects of global warming is the melting of the polar ice caps. They are deteriorating at a much faster rate than they ever have before. Mr. Brandt shared how he was one of five teachers selected to go to the arctic this summer and saw the polar ice caps up close - you can read more about that program here. Thanks to the smart board in my room, we zoomed in on some of the places he was talking about via Google Earth and then turned on the document camera so that he could walk students through photographs he had taken on his trip. Finally, Mr. Brandt took students' questions - they were fascinated by all things arctic. It was an engaging, informative, lesson and I loved how both of our subjects are interconnected through this topic.
My Art 30 students have finished their paintings with narratives about water. The UV light has worked better than expected, with students frequently coming up to myself or Ms. Moe and asking us to take a look at their artworks. Today their paintings were installed in the Warman High hallway along with UV lights so viewers can explore the various layers of their paintings. They will be up for a couple weeks, and all are invited to come check out their exhibition. Ms. Lebiszczak's class came by after my art students had critiqued it and I heard comments like "These are beautiful" and "I wish school wasn't always so academic so that we could learn about subjects this way".
Water Narratives: An Art 30 & Environmental Science 20 Collaboration
“For many of us, clean water is so plentiful and readily available that we rarely, if ever, pause to consider what life would be like without it.” - Marcus Samuelsson
Water is essential to life as we know it; indeed, the human body is constructed of 60% water. There is a limited amount of clean water on earth and human beings do not have equal access to it.
This project was a collaboration between Ms. Lebiszczak's Environmental Science 20 class and Ms. Gerrard's Art 30 class. Warman High School received 2 water testing kits from the Safe Drinking Water Foundation (SDWF) this fall. SDWF is an organization "which was founded in 1997 by five international scientists (from Canada, Russia, Scotland and Japan) in order to assist rural communities in developing countries with their water treatment issues. However, it was soon discovered that there are many issues in terms of drinking water quality right here in Canada, primarily in rural and First Nations communities, so SDWF focused on those issues. SDWF became a registered Canadian charity in January 1998" (Hancock, 2018, personal communication).
Science students tested a variety of Warman's water and presented their results to Ms. Gerrard's art students. The tests revealed that the waters in and around Warman were very clean. Some of the main chemicals students examined were nitrates, which can promote eutrophication or massive algae blooms in freshwater ecosystems, arsenic, which is extremely toxic, hard water, which affects tastes and scaling on pipes, and copper and other heavy metals which can create health problems.
The Science Students tested Warman tap water, local water from Prairie Oasis pond, rural treated water and rural untreated water. They found that all of the water samples were very safe. They expected the rural untreated water would have higher nitrate levels in it because it comes from a farming area. However, it was lower than the required amount. Students found that all of the samples tested high for hard water, but that is to be expected given that there is a large amount of calcium in the bedrock in Saskatchewan. Students did notice that the Warman tap water was higher in copper than we expected, but they realized that this was likely due to experimental error or that copper pipes can leach copper into the water. To remedy this, it's recommended that people with copper plumbing run their water to flush the copper before they drink it.
Both the science and art classes spent time discussing water availability in Saskatchewan and read that many First Nations communities have been under boil water advisories, some for years. Science students discussed how people often think about how they need to address water scarcity in developing areas, but forget to look within our own province or country to address the needs here. Students talked about water treatment and what could be done to ensure all Saskatchewanians have easy access to clean, safe water.
Subsequently, students from the science class shared their findings and various facts about water with the art students, and they teamed up to discuss what messages about water should be communicated to Warman High Students in each of the artwork. Ms. Gerrard read the picturebook "The Water Walker" by Joanne Robertson to the collective group, so as to include an Indigenous perspective about the value of water. Art 30 students subsequently studied various artworks by Luba Lukova, and emulated her style by limiting their colour palette to three colours and employing clip-art style symbols to convey meaning. Finally, art students applied special invisible phosphorous markers and/or paint to their artworks that only show up when ultraviolet light illuminates them - in doing they are able to convey a double narrative within their artworks.
In art, media is sometimes important to the artist's message. This is true in this exhibit: the use of UV is symbolic in that UV light systems are one way that water is disinfected by water treatment plants since UV light kills bacteria. Next to this sign are several UV lights that can be switched on to explore the hidden messages in the artwork. Please return the UV light at the end of the exhibit. A safety reminder never to point UV light in people's eyes.
Thanks to some local moss donors, today after school we began experimenting with moss paint. We whipped up several variations and painted them onto an up-cycled wood cabinet and will begin spraying them several times a week to see if we can generate some growth. I've read more about moss paint and I'm cautiously optimistic, since some bloggers note that it can take upwards of 2 months to grow moss. We also discovered that chia seed requires little soil to grow, and so we are going to experiment with wall/clay art and chia seed as well (like this person’s instructables).
Today we learned about the proportions of the body (adult humans are typically 8 heads tall) and practiced blind contour, contour, and gesture drawings. Everyone took turns posing, which is always lots of fun. Then I rolled out our new skeleton - students named it Alex - and our manikins and womanikins (my made-up word for the female forms) and we practiced drawing the human body by breaking it down into basic shapes. It was amazing to see students' growth in just one class. We even had time to watch a quick blurb on Cirque De Soleil performers and understand through MRI scans how contortionists' bodies differ from the average humans.
Before I learned about Arduinos I had read about Makey-Makey boards. I had read about this project in SchoolArts magazine. It was the lightbulb moment that, for me, made me think we could create interactive art at Warman High. I loaned a kit from the Saskatoon Public Library to try out with my daughter so I could better understand how it works (they have awesome tech kits that they loan for 3 weeks at a time). The library kit came with a starter "how to" guide that led us to this website so that we could make our own piano out of celery sticks. We had to do a little bit of trouble shooting (the tinfoil needed to be tighter against her wrist to ensure contact) but what I loved was that she naturally problem-solved and figured out solutions as we went. After the celery experiment we tried the same thing but with pencil around the edges of a paper. We found that we had to draw pretty dark lines with a pencil (a 6B would probably create a much stronger connection than our household HB pencil). We also experimented with silver and gold sharpie, but there was no conductivity with those mediums.
Up for a challenge? Try downloading the Scratch program developed by users at MIT, and navigate to this pre-coded Piano. Follow step-by-step instructions from project 12 in 20 Make Makey Projects for the Evil Genius.
Sarah Gerrard teaches Visual Arts 9-12 at Warman High School. She recently received a grant from the Prairie Spirit Schools Foundation to infuse her courses with STEAM.