Today we had our global warming paper circuit painting critique. We would turn off all the classroom lights and see the painting light up when the button was pressed and the LEDs were activated, and then we would turn the lights on and see it in daylight, and there were lots of ooohs and ahhhs. I was really impressed with my art students' willingness to problem solve and engineer different circuits and designs in order to pull of their artworks. Some students had to try upwards of 3 different wires and redo their circuits, but the overall feeling was that it was worth it in the end. Here are some of their paintings by daylight in contrast with their paintings glowing in the dark. I've also included a few shots of the various circuits that back their paintings.
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.
These are some of the key STEAM projects we will be focusing on this year:
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.