Bubbles & Connections

August 10, 2017

Sometimes it feels like the universe is conspiring to remind me of connections.

Years ago I played around with decorating papers with colored bubbles.

“Bubble marbling” is a simple technique that can create some really fun images. I’ve hardly ever done this with kids because it can get really messy. I did teach it in an adult workshop at Dieu Donné Papermill, NYC many years ago. It caught the eye of Helen Heibert, and, in 2001, she included an image I made with a brief description of the technique in her book, Paper Illumninated, which is a gorgeous collection of instructions about making paper lanterns.

hey, look, I’m in this picture!

Yesterday I showed this bubble technique to groups of kindergartners. By delightful coincidence, I also heard from Helen Hiebert yesterday.

Helen is still making paper lanterns. With the proliferation of LED light strips and other safer options for illumination, paper lanterns make so much more sense now then they did it 2001. Helen was telling me about the on-line course she is teaching, which sounds fabulous, so I am sharing this info with you, too before going on about bubbles any further.

Helen Hiebert's Shadow Lantern Screen

Helen Hiebert’s Shadow Lantern Screen

While it doesn’t appear that she showing any bubble marbling this time around, she is teaching an impressive array of projects that include paper cutting, tessellations, and pop-ups. I am happy to spread the word about this. You can allow yourself to be inspired by looking a video she made at http://www.helenhiebertstudio.com/classes/

You can learn about the bubble marbling from me. Now.

 

Dressing up to do something special

Dressing up to do something special

While it’s not required, it’s not a bad idea to dress up before making a mess. This sets a mood, but it also protects clothing.

Bubble Marbling in action

Bubble Marbling in action

Here’s what to do: put about a tablespoon of paint (tempra, acrylic, any strong pigment but not ink because you would need too much) in a fairly shallow container, preferably round. Add bubble mixture. I buy this ready made, or make it with Ultra Dawn, water, and a touch of glycerin. Now mix the paint REALLY REALLY well with the bubble solution. Place a straw in the bubble solution, blow gently, like blowing bubbles into milk. Make the bubbles just high enough to be above the rim of your container. Then GENTLY lay a piece of paper onto the bubbles and remove.

Bubble Prints

Bubble Prints

That’s it. They dry fast. You can overlay colors on top of each other. So much fun. But there’s more. There’s something to notice.

Three fold symmetry

Three fold symmetry

Yesterday, doing this with these kids, I reminded them of the three-fold symmetry projects that we did a couple of weeks ago…then

Looking at the symmetry of how the bubbles meet each other

I showed them that the shape we used to make the our three-fold symmetries is the same as the shape that the bubbles make where they meet. And everywhere they meet they make this same shape.

Now that’s a connections worth noticing.

They loved seeing this. Then they said, It looks like a soccer ball!

 

Symnetry like a soccer ball

Symmetry like a soccer ball

I’m learning that anything that looks like hexagons reminds kids of soccer balls. I can live with that.

 

 

…. which includes blowing bubbles with Platonic Solids

Shapes made with cubed potatoes and toothpicks

Shapes made with cubed potatoes and toothpicks

The local program for rising kindergartners has begun, and once again I get to hang out with these kids, once a week for 6 weeks, doing all sorts of explorations that have to do with paper projects, with relationship thinking and with numbers.

This group of kids, about 15 of them, seem to have a good grasp of number recognition so we’ve jumped right into playing with shapes.

Circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles are already part of these kids vocabulary. One boy volunteered the alternate name for diamond is rhombus. I’m going to have to work hard to keep ahead of these young scholars.

Pirate hat

Pirate hat

Since our first project was going to be making a paper hat, we talked about triangles for a good bit. Some schools that I work with don’t want children to talk about all the different kinds of triangles, as the only one the kids see for quite a few years is the triangle with equal sides. The kindergarten teacher from the local school gave me the go ahead to talk about all kinds of triangles, so that’s what we did.  I heard some really interesting comments from the kids, comments that got me thinking about these shapes in ways that I hadn’t considered before.

Rotations of an Equilateral Triangle

Rotations of an Equilateral Triangle

There was some hesitation from the kids about saying that differently proportioned three-sided shapes were all triangles. Then one boy pointed to differently proportioned triangles and suggested that these are different sides of a triangle. This got me wondering if  different triangles could be seen as the same triangle seen from a variety of vantage points.  I came home and tried out rotating equilateral triangles in my Adobe Illustrator program, and, oh my, yes, seeing the same triangle from multiple perspectives gave the same triangle  different appearances. What an interesting discovery!

Eight Jewels

Eight Jewels

Each child received this array of jewels to use as decoration on their hats.  I asked them to please count the jewels that I gave them to make sure that they each got 8 of them. These children recognize the number 8, they can count to eight, but they counted the amount in the photo above as 6 or 7 or 9 jewels. This was good for me to notice, as it will inform planning for my next session with the kids.

The hat making went well. I will likely do some kind of paper-folding every time I meet with these kids.

Shadow of a cube

Shadow of a cube

Next (well, after a snack) we went outside and played with the shapes that are featured at the top of this post. The shapes were created with cubed potatoes and toothpicks. We talked about what their shadows might look like, then, mounting them on a knitting needle, looked at all the surprises that showed up on the ground. This was such a great activity (as long as the sun was shining.) It wasn’t easy for them to get this flower-like shadow, but they badly wanted to create it, and did, discovering lots of other surprising shadows along the way.

Dipping 3d shapes

Dipping 3D shapes

Next we dipped the shapes into bubble mixture that was laced with a bit of glycerin to give the bubbles extra staying power. We talked about what shapes the bubble might make within the confines of the shapes’ boundaries. I can’t even begin to tell express how amazingly rich and interesting this activity is. I highly recommend this. Especially surprising is the shape that forms within the cube. Go try it. Please. Or at least look at this video, made by the Lawler family from their post https://mikesmathpage.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/trying-out-4-dimensional-bubbles/: 

One thing I told the kids at the outset of this project is that Mr. Lawler had warned me that the kids would want to pop the bubbles as soon as the shape emerged from the bubble mixture, so I suggested that we do some running around and popping bubbles before we moved into the observing part of this project. These 4 and 5 year-old were aghast at the suggestion that they might pop the bubbles, and assured that this would not happen. Unbelievably, they did not pop the bubbles.

What shape bubble does a cube make?

What shape bubble does a cube make?

Instead, then blew into the shapes and created more bubbles.

What shape bubble does a tetrahedron make?

What shape bubble does a tetrahedron make?

And more bubbles.

Square bubble maker

Square bubble maker

When the cube broke apart, bubbles were blown through square shapes.

And then it was time for another snack.

I’m loving this time I’m spending with this age group.

In searching for wisdom to inform my planning I’m revisiting posts on https://mikesmathpage.wordpress.com/https://talkingmathwithkids.com/ and http://www.malkerosenfeld.com/ 

 

This morning I came across this video by dad and educator Kent Haines, that I wish every parent would watch.

The next few weeks these kids and I will be talking about numbers, shapes, how when one thing changes, another thing changes (especially with shadows), we’ll be getting those little fingers to fold paper, attempt to tie knots, make patterns, and run around and have fun.

kids in hats

kids in pirate hats

Argh! Shiver me timbers!

 

Paper-quilting sqaure

Paper-quilting sqaure

Yesterday was paper-quilt square day with second graders. This is the central graphic of the Western Expansion project that this group started last week.

Although this project is designed to align with this class’s curriculum, I have to say, this quilting part has great possibilities for as a summer project.

Templates and samples

Templates and sample

Although I’ve been playing around with rhombuses in squares (along with my friend Malke)I hadn’t yet mixed rhombi and squares together within the same square. This may sound like a small detail, but it creates the possibility to make many new decisions. What I provided was some samples to hint at the wide range of  choices students could make, colorful papers that had squares and rhombuses on them ready to cut, and a kind of complex looking white template.

 

I tried to get these second graders to see the rhombuses as well as the squares and the triangles in this map of shapes. I wasn’t sure if they’d get it. Maybe second grade is too young to be able to make sense out of all these lines?

Ha! Some students struggled more than others, but they absolutely were able to make sense of this, and make some great designs. 

Some students added their own graphics to the papers that I gave them.

Quilting square, journal and compass rose

Quilting square, journal and compass rose

Some students created miniature designs for the covers of the journals that they made during a previous class.

Starting the quilting square

Starting the quilting square

Here’s a nice sequence, showing the first steps of one student’s work…..

Paper Quilting square nearing completion

Paper Quilting square nearing completion

…and here it is, nearly done. For the most part students used cut-paper as their medium, but finishing off some of the small spaces with marker was a great way of working.

 

The students in the classroom went wild over the piece in the above photo. . The young man who created it had a long explanation for the choices he made, and his classmates were riveted by his reasoning.

Paper-Quilting square in book

Paper-Quilting square in book

Students needed only about forty minutes to design and assemble their squares.

We finished off this project by making the crisscross which held their journal in place (I gave very little direction on how to do this: mostly I just said, “can you figure this out?’ to which to replied yes or no, but in either case they did figure it out themselves. I just helped them make a knot in the back that kept the yarn from being saggy)

Then students glued on their title, added in the writing they had already created, and most of them drew a covered wagon on the front, which I had done with my sample, but I hadn’t anticipated that they would want to do as well. Without further explanations, here are some more close ups of the rest of this really engaging project.

 

 

 

 

And, last photo, here’s what the paper table looked like when we were done.

Fancy Plane Shapes

April 30, 2017

Second Graders are learning their shapes. What a great age to be composing, decomposing and recomposing.

Bird on the left, hexagon & rectangle on the right

Bird on the left, hexagon & rectangle on the right

These images are the final part of the Wallet-Book project that I began with about 66 students earlier this week. After making images that had a value of 100 we moved on to getting up-close and intimate with parallelograms and trapezoids.

Students got strips of these parallelograms, which I had printed on five different colored papers. We looked at the parallelograms and noticed that they were made of two triangles. After separating a triangle, we fit next to a full parallelogram, to see how the two shapes, together, could make a trapezoid.

Triangle plus parallelogram makes a trapezoid

Triangle plus parallelogram makes a trapezoid

The kids seemed delighted by this discovery. While most students illustrated this connection with three different images…

Three shapes on one

Three shapes on one

…there was one student who took an elegant approach, which was to make just one shape, then label the way it could be broken down into its parts.

Hexagon, rectangles and star

Hexagon, rectangles and star

Next we moved on to hexagons, rectangles, then, finally, a shape of their own choosing. The kids loved noticing how three parallelograms not only are the parts of a hexagon, but also, that their hexagon has the appearance of a cube drawn in perspective. The toughest shape for the students to make was the rectangle, as this meant that they had to divide a triangle in half, the rotate and reflect the pieces. Not so easy. Try it.

Designing

Designing

After making the compulsory curriculum shapes the kids went free-form, designing their own creations. My seventy minutes time slot with each class of 22 students just flew by!

Whale on the water, spouting

Whale on the water, spouting

Some students made abstractions with the shapes, others created scenes or something recognizable.

Playing with shapes

Playing with shapes

Since this was the first time I was doing this project in the classroom, and since I had three classes to work with, I kept changing how I presented the project, getting a better feel each time for better ways to get the kids to interact with the shapes within the time frame I had with them, and within the agenda that needed to be addressed. For each class, though, I kept the curriculum piece at the beginning of my time with the students, ending the class the creative part. I think I’d like to see what happens if I flip that order of working, as perhaps it will let students discover on their own things that I actively try to get them to see.

 

Pieces in pockets of Wallet-Book

Pieces in pockets of Wallet-Book

When we finished, any extra parallelograms were stored in the origami pocket we had made during out last session, looped a humongous rubber band into a hole punched into the front flap, created and ID card for the front, and added some bling, because, well, bling.

wallet-books

wallet-books

The Wallet-folders, by the way, are made from heavy weight 11″ x 17″ paper that has a four-inch fold along the bottom edge, which creates the pockets. There are two 7-inch wide pockets within, and a 3-inch fold-over flap. If you are wondering where I got this awesome paper that is tinted with black, blue, and silver, with a light cast of gold above, well, thank you for wondering. I spray painted the papers (outside, of course, with a mask on) so I could have exactly what I wanted. Yeah, a bit crazy, but that’s what I do.

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