The Tapestry of Art and Science

Annette Calloway MEd

Think of a school as a colorful tapestry. Look closely and you will see the beautiful repeating threads of art and music in the students’ daily experiences. In a 21st century school, technology is another vibrant thread; it is a medium for innovation as students tap both their imaginations and their problem-solving skills. Dr. Loretta Jackson-Haye of Rhodes College said it perfectly: “Our culture has drawn an artificial line between art and science, one that did not exist for innovators like Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs.” At our school, Akiva in Nashville, part of our mission is to erase the artificial line by empowering students to create art through contemporary technology.

Stop Motion Animation is used in art to encourage students to create and problem-solve. For years, Stop Motion Animation has been used by motion picture studios to create films such as Gumby of the 50s and 60s to more recent movies such as Coraline. Stop Motion Animation is now accessible to students through the use of iPad applications. It is a process that makes inanimate objects appear to move without help. The secret, however, is that objects are moved by an outside force in small increments between individually photographed frames. When the frames are played in sequence, the illusion of movement is created.

In art class, students use Stop Motion Animation to produce minimovies. Working in partnerships, students are assigned the task of creating a three-minute film using clay. One partner serves as the director, physically remolding the clay and moving the figures. The other serves as the filmmaker shooting each individual frame. Students have to think critically about structure, flow and timing to create the stories they are interested in sharing, and these minimovies become a fun, zany, surreal opportunity for creative expression. A sixth grade student said, “Stop Motion has a feature called ‘onion skin’ that helped remind me of where the movement stopped in the frame before so we could make the flow of our movie more natural.” One team might use clay to create a giant taco that ate people. Another team might make clay snowmen careening down a slide and then collide into one another to form one big snow pile. The ideas are endless. Through trial and error, students hone their skills and improved their stop motion films.

Another art project that utilizes technology is textile story weaving. Students write individual fictional or true short stories. They then mark the rising and falling action of the story with various colored pencils to create the design of their weaving. After similarly colored thread is selected, the weaving on cardboard looms commences. Imagine the calming effect of old fashion weaving in a room full of middle school students. For a moment, we step back in time from the digital age to a simpler time of handwork. After their tapestries are completed and ready for display, the children see their story represented through the colors of a tapestry.

When the textiles are exhibited, students can tell the unique story of the textile weaving in their own voices. To do this, Quick Response Codes (QR Codes) can be displayed alongside the individual weavings. QR Codes consist of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background and are popular because they can contain large volumes of recorded information. Students can record their stories on a classroom iPad into an application specifically designed to capture audio recordings that can be accessed by a QR Code. Participants visiting the exhibit must have QR Code readers on their smartphones to be able to hear the story. For this reason, it is good to have an artist statement written, as well as directions for downloading the reader for those who have not done this before.

Our fourth, fifth and sixth grade students participated in a monster project. They created monsters made of felt embedded with a Lilypad Arduino, a small e-textile computer that can be used in fabric. Though the students had already been formally introduced to coding, the hands-on monster project made coding real to them as they programmed their individual monsters to respond in unique ways. Students led their own troubleshooting sessions, sharing with their peers tips and successes they had learned by making their monsters. Then they shared their projects at the annual Akiva Curiosity Night. They used coding vocabulary to describe how their creatures were able to glow and make music, and explained the circuitry that made it possible.

Akiva students also enjoy a weekly art recess, when they are able to choose art for pure play. Kindergarteners and 1st graders were surprised with 3D coloring pages from an app called Quiver. Students colored what they thought were regular coloring pages, but once the iPad was held over the image, the image came to life. Quiver offers a number of free downloadable images to be used in classrooms. Imagine coloring a bird and then seeing the bird rise up off the page and begin to eat worms and walk around. Or, imagine a fire-breathing dragon flying over a medieval castle. Teachers reported that the expressions on the students’ faces looked as if they were seeing magic happen.

Technology can help erase the invisible divide between art and science, and instead build a bridge. Success requires teachers and administration to embrace a growth mindset for incorporating technology.

Return to the issue home page:
HaYidion Art and Aesthetics Summer 2016
Art and Aesthetics
Summer 2016