In the summertime, when school is not in session, I’m on my own in terms of deciding on what kinds of projects that I want to teach in workshops. Last week I taught for five days at the local community center. My sessions with the kids were 40 minutes long, and although I prepared for 30 rising third and fourth graders, there was no telling how many students would attend each day. I had originally thought I would make a plan for the week, but quickly realized that it was more satisfying to create projects each day based on what I found interesting in the children’s work from the day before.
My own goal for the week was to do explorations with shapes and symmetry. On Day 1 we made a four-page accordion book and did some cut-&-fold to make pop-ups. The students were amazing paper engineers; With impressive ease, they created inventive structures.
There were plenty of counselors in the room, and from this very first project, these counselors joined right in with creating their own projects.
I was so impressed with the students’ folding skills that the next day I helped them create an origami pamphlet that contained more pop-ups, as well as some interesting other cut-outs. What turned out to be the most interesting work on Day 2 was how much the kids liked the little bit of rotational symmetry that I encouraged them to do: I gave them each a square of paper, asked them to trace it on to the cover of their book, then rotate it and trace again.
These students like the shapes created by shapes, so the next day I brought in a collections of shapes and asked them to arrange tracings of these shapes on a piece of heavy weight paper, which was folded in half.
Students seemed to enjoy creating these images.
After they created the outlines they added color.
When the coloring was done we folded the paper, and attached some pagesto the fold so that the students had a nice book to take home. The kids seemed to like this project and made some lovely books, but I ended up feeling like there wasn’t anything particularly interesting going on with this project in terms of explorations of building with shapes. So …
…the next day I brought in colored papers that were printed with rhombuses, as well as some white paper printed with a hexagon shape. Each student filled in their own hexagon with 12 rhombuses.
My plan for this project was to have each student make their own individual hexagon then put them all together on a wall so that it would be reminiscent of a quilt.
Here’s our paper quilt made from 22 hexagons!
The next day, Day 5, was my last day at this program. I liked the engagement with and results of how the students worked with shapes when they were given structure. There’s a balance that I try to honor of providing structure while allowing individual choices. For my last day, then, I decided to give the students a page that I created that is based on the geometry that uses intersecting circles and lines to create patterns.
If you look closely at the photo above you’ll see many different lines and curves overlapping and crisscrossing.
I asked students to look for shapes that they liked, to use the lines that they wanted to use, and to ignore the lines that they did not want. It was interesting to watch how the students worked; I was particularly interested in seeing how some children chose to start looking at designs starting in the center, while other children gravitated to the outside edges first.
Some students filled areas with color, while others were happy to make colorful outlines of shapes.
Some drawings were delicate and detailed.
I think that every one of the teenage counselors sat and made their own designs, right alongside of the students. Actually, I think that my favorite unexpected outcome of the week was how involved the teenagers got with the projects.
This last project of the week was my own personal favorite (though the quilt project runs a really close second). I had never done anything quite like this before with students, and was really surprised to see how much they enjoyed this work, and how differently they each interacted with the lines and curves. This kind of surprise is what’s so great about summertime projects.