Summer Projects with Teens

It’s not really possible to express how excited I was to be working with teenagers this summer. I saw a group of 6 thirteen-year olds and along with two 18 year- old assistants, who did most of the projects right along with the younger teens.  We met once a week for six weeks, three hours at a time. I’ve written two posts already about my time with these kids, https://bookzoompa.wordpress.com/2019/07/04/cards-compasses-and-lights-with-teenagers-summer-2019/ and https://bookzoompa.wordpress.com/2019/07/21/hexaflexagons-in-the-summertime/ . It would have been best if I had written something after each session, but since that didn’t happen I’m going write a post that is both way too long and way too brief,  as I want a reminder here about the great projects that I haven’t written about yet.

Just for context, I met students at Salem Art Works, which is an internationally known local  visual arts venue. These classes were organized by a magnificent summer program in our small community. These kids met 5 days a week for six weeks. I was their Wednesday.

This post shows peeks at some of the projects that I haven’t written about yet. We spent a good bit of time on different kinds of patterns. This is about the age where these kids are learning about the equation of the line in algebra. We did a number of projects that referenced this equation. Different equations create different patterns. I wrote about this technique of pattern making a couple of years ago https://bookzoompa.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/line-designs/ I use Dan Anderson;s Linear Mod Open Processing sketch to help students decide which equation they will use to create their designs.

Part math, part art!

We also did some little and big origami. I was really surprised how much this group liked doing origami. Here we’re making doing a group project. Each person made two units, of what is called an Origami Firework.

This bit of modular origami is quite a stunning piece. What’s wild, though, is that it rotates outwards, making kaleidoscopic patterns. Here’s the video of this one:

Another paper folding activity was to show them how to make an accordion folded fan, which was quite handy on this particular day as it was quite hot.


We did other paper folding projects, too. I was excited to show them how to make some pop-ups, but also wanted to show them some more unusual paper folds.

One week we made these tabletop models…

…then the last week we broke out the really big paper….

…did some big folding…

…and made some large models…

…which looked great at the end-of-the-season art show.

But that’s not all we did.

Following instructions from Clarissa Grandi’s Mathematical Art Lesson Page Curves of Pursuit, we created Archimedean Tessellations.

Starting with a regular geometric shape of their own choosing, students would add lines, about a centimeter apart, which would guide them to make slightly rotated scaled down versions of their original shape.

Making these patterns is an iterative process, which is to say that the students repeated a process using a previous result to make the next result.

I think they were surprised by the designs they were able to make.

This was actually the second project we did that was done with an iterative process.

This spiral was done on, I think, our second meeting. They did a measurement between the spokes of this circle using a rectangle, then they’d start from the new mark to make the next mark.

As I said, this was a quick project. Each session that I saw these kids I would plan one short project to start out with. These were always great fun.

Another one of our short projects was to put together a small pamphlet-stitch sewn book.

We did some paper folding, used needle and thread, and used some of the geometric patterned paper that I had made this past winter.

One thing that was so fun about these kids is that they were all in on everything. Nothing was too precious to play with. One of the girls in the group had her whole book filled with quotes and lists and who knows what else before the end of that session.

Actually the most fun I think I’ve ever had with a group of students was doing one of these quick projects,  the one that introduced them to the wonders of a Mobius strip. Please watch this video then do this with kids. It will blow their minds.

As I’ve already written about the hexaflexagons we made I’m not going to write any more about them here, but here’s some photos that I didn’t include last time. This…

..becomes this:

So fun.

I made a PDF of our activities, with links. Here it is, if you’re interested. 8th grader projects for Intersection of Art and Math

Towards the end of the summer I saw a post by Farica Erwin, who did a week long session with teens, also three hours per sessions, also doing math and art.  I’m including a link to her post here https://www.nerdqed.com/post/camp-time-2019 because I was so enchanted by the work she did with her students. Also, it was fun to see that we both leaned on Clarissa Grandi’s work, we both did some Islamic Geometry with the kids, and we both included some bookmaking.

I’m already looking forward to doing this again next summer.


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