Saturday, August 1, 2015

One morning, two workshops, loads of fun!

I serve as a region rep for NYSATA, my state organization.  A couple of days ago, we held our second annual regional "Summer Art Blast" professional development event.  We planned it on VERY short notice, and I am so happy it was a success!  The night before, I decorated an old ugly pair or orthopedic sandals with a white Sharpie paint marker to jazz them up.  Just in time to wear while teaching workshops!
At last year's event, our members asked if we could hold some region workshops on the Common Core.  So our goal was to comply with that request.  Our Common Core presenter is an art ed professor at the College of Saint Rose,and she did two workshops, one for elementary and one for secondary.  I didn't get to attend them (but I was told they were both fabulous) because, at the same time, I taught hands-on workshops to each group.  We agreed that math scares a lot of art teachers, but it doesn't scare me, so I agreed to present the hands-on workshops.

For the secondary workshop, I taught the participants how to construct a trihexaflexagon, a tetratetraflexagon, and a Möbius strip. We also looked at the more complex hexahexaflexagon and a kaleidocycle.  (Have I confused you yet?)  I've taught this many times before, so I'm really confident about it, and everyone was 100% successful!  If you don't know what a hexaflexagon is, I've seen posts recently calling it a "flextangle".  That's a newly invented name, I presume a play on the Zentangle craze.  The original name goes back to the origin of flexagons in 1939, and was made popular by an article in Scientific American in 1956. 
 Here, participants are examining trihexaflexagons and learning how to make them flex and change.  (A trihexaflexagon is a hexagon with 3 faces, but you can only see two of them at once.  You have to flex them to reveal the hidden face.  Flexing them also causes the designs to rotate and change.  Very cool.)
During the workshop I also demonstrated what you can do with a Möbius strip, which is simply a strip of paper that is twisted one and connected in a loop.  It becomes one-sided.  But when you cut it in 1/2, it changes into a double twist and becomes two-sided again.  Cut it in 1/2 again, and it becomes two linked loops, which is what I'm holding in the photo below!
Since I'm retired, I was not as familiar with the standards as many of you, but I pored over them while planning for these workshops and discovered something that helped me a lot.  The Standards for Mathematical Practice, which are basically the same at all grade levels, include (among other things) the following: using appropriate tools strategically, reasoning abstractly, attending to precisionmaking sense of problems, looking for and making use of structure, constructing viable arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others.
And here are my workshop participants, using appropriate tools (rulers/pencils) strategically.  We talked about using multiple contact points to keep the ruler from sliding.  I tell my students to make their hands into a rainbow bridge, and to anchor the ends of the bridge on the ruler.  We also always look closely at the rulers we use.  Often, there's an extra gap at the end of the ruler, beyond the first inch.  I discuss with my students the need to know where the "zero" is on the ruler, for accurate  measurement. 
 Here we are, measuring accurately (attending to precision), 
cutting, scoring, and folding (again, attending to precision). 
 Looking for and making use of structure, and making sense of the problem, too!
 And when we were done, everyone had met some CC Math Standards, 
everyone survived the process, and they were still smiling, too! (below)

 When the flexagon workshop (with secondary teachers) was complete, it was time for the elementary workshop, which was an introduction to assorted weaving activities for various grade levels.
We began (pictured above) with a "human weaving", to show how, if the weft has been woven appropriately, the warp will be all joined together.  It only takes a few minutes to do, is an activity that your students will enjoy, and will really help them to understand weaving. The people standing in line are the warp.  The person at the end of the line will hold onto a piece of rope, and another person will be the weft, pulling the rope in front of and behind the warp.  When the second row has been properly woven, if you ask one person to go to their seat, the rest of the warp will have to follow! 
In just an 80 minute workshop, we started a complex looking (but easy to do) paper weaving activity, began to make a woven pouch on a cereal box cardboard loom, learned to do Kumihimo and strung a loom, and learned about a couple of other weaving projects.  Busy, busy!  Participants again explored the math standards, and talked about ruler use and measuring.  And took home everything they needed to finish all the weaving projects they'd started!
 Above and below, the aftermath of two workshops all piled together in one magical mess! 
We held the "Summer Art Blast" at the Tang Museum at Skidmore College in beautiful Saratoga Springs, where I grew up.  The exhibit of work by Nicholas Krushenick, which I've written about before, was still there, so I got to take another look.  Then, before leaving, we viewed an odd exhibit of small painted books by Arturo Herrera, and finally, stopped at the "Sol Wall" - a piece of wall art conceived by Sol Lewitt, consisting of scribbles in graphite.
Above and below left, the "Sol Wall".  Below right, a piece from Arturo Herrera exhibit.
 Below, a piece by Nicholas Krushenick.


  1. I like the idea of people weaving (can't believe I never thought of doing that with kids!!)
    I used to have kids make people patterns all the time and know that any time you get them up and "doing" the concepts "stick."

  2. Would have loved to join you and learn how to make flexagons! Texas is just a little too far away. Thank you for sharing!

    1. I thought about proposing to offer it at next March's national NAEA convention in Chicago, but then I thought about getting all the carefully cut oaktag there safely, and it just got t complicated. Plus the long hands-on sessions have a fee, and while I'd love to be reimbursed for materials, I don't think you should have to pay $25 or $35 for a workshop where the cost of materials is much much less

  3. Wow! Such great workshop content with worthwhile stuff to take away. Well done!

    1. Thanks! I hope everyone felt that the workshops were worthwhile.

  4. Oh and the sandals look fantastic!!!

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