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.

 

 

Flower petals, leaves, rock and corn

Flower petals, leaves, rock and corn

 

 

It’s summer. We’re surrounded by nature here in rural upstate New York.

There’s no question that I want the kids that I am working with to play with plants.. I haven’t had much practice with using summer-time foliage in my workshops. Well, I have more practice now.

holding yellow flower

I tried out a couple of ideas with my groups of soon-to-be-kindergartners. The little figures pictured here are the second project we did with things gathered from my backyard. I can’t stop looking at them, I like them so much.

Stick and petal figure

Stick and petal figure

I have goals that this project fulfills. I want the children to use their fingers mindfully, which is necessary to place the materials just so. I want to notice the shape of plants, including learning that most plants have round stems but mint plants have square stems, which they can feel when rolling the stems between their fingers. I want to talk to them about the names of plants. One of children surprised me by knowing the names of many of the plants: his “Nona” taught him.

The first plant related project I did with these kids had to do with geometric shapes. I found out that straight lines and plants don’t go together well.

Foliage, squared

Foliage, squared

Because I’ve done projects like this with numbers and letters, it seemed just fine to me to expand into doing shapes. Wrong.

Making Shapes

Making Shapes

I realized too late that doing geometry with plants is different than using plants so make numbers. The defining difference for these projects is that a wonky number 5 is still a five, but a wonky square is something entirely different from a square.

Rectangles

Rectangles

I compensated for the geometric imprecision by photoshopping in the requisite shapes.

I brought these photo reproductions of the childrens’ work in the week after we made them. I loved how the kids were up for me challenging their logic: What are these shapes? Triangles! Are they the same shape? NO!!! Huh? But you just told me they are both triangles, so they must be the same shape?!?! NO!!?! They’re different shaped triangles!

Tomorrow is the last day I see these kids. I will be bringing in cards with the flower people on them, and we’ll play a game with them that works on using words that describe relationship and position. I’ll be taking notes and writing about how that goes.

Sorting

Sorting

In the meantime, I’m just loving looking at these pictures.

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.

Pop Ups with more Pop ups

Pop Ups with more Pop ups

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.

Making Pop-ups in an Accordion Structure

Making Pop-ups in an Accordion Structure

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.

Pop-up Worksop

Pop-up Worksop

There were plenty of counselors in the room, and from this very first project, these counselors joined right in with creating their own projects.

Overlapping Rotated Squares

Overlapping Rotated Squares

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.

summer squares 3

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.

Tracing Shapes to Create  More Shapes

Tracing Shapes to Create
More Shapes

Students seemed to enjoy creating these images.

summer shapes 2

After they created the outlines they added color.

Colored Shapes

Coloured Shapes

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 …

Building Stars and Hexagons with Regular Rhombuses

Building Stars and Hexagons with Regular Rhombuses

…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.

Making a Hexagon with a Star in the Middle

Making a Hexagon with a Star in the Middle

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.

Paper Hexagon Quilt

Paper Hexagon 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.

A work in progress by one of the couselors

A work in progress by one of the counselors

If you look closely at the photo above you’ll see many different lines and curves overlapping and crisscrossing.

summer geometryI 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.

summer geometry 8

Some students filled areas with color, while others were happy to make colorful outlines of shapes.

summer geometry 2Some drawings were big and bold.

summer geometry 5

Some drawings were delicate and detailed.

summer geometry 4I 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.

summer geometry3

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.

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