Sunday, March 10, 2013

Program: Tween Art

Have I mentioned before that I'm not terribly good at marketing my programs? I mean, I can make a mean poster but when it comes to coming up with a clever name, sometimes I struggle. This program would be one of those instances. (Stay tuned - some programs get even worse!) However, the terrible name didn't deter the kids who came to my tween art program, which turned into a bit of a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) program.

Our community wide book for this year was Okay for Now and we were focusing on art and the impact it can have on your life. My program came just a few days after our big kick-off program, so I definitely wanted to do an art theme. Choosing what specifically to do wasn't terribly difficult either - Dale Chihuly had just finished an installation at the Dallas Arboretum, so where better to look for inspiration? In this program, we were going to do our best Chihuly impersonations.

To get the program started, I showed the kids a short presentation. I told them the basics of Chihuly and showed them examples of all his different kinds of art, focusing mostly on his glasswork, though. After the presentation, I explained the two different projects to the kids, both mostly inspired by Chihuly's Seaforms series. Everyone had the option to do one or both and they could do as many as time allowed.

Project number one was coffee filter art. The kids could color the coffee filters any way they desired, experimenting with colors and shapes. Then we formed them into bowls (by rubber banding them around cups) and hit them with spray starch so they would hold their form. Only a couple of the kids chose to do this project, which I expected once I planned project number two.

Project number two was melted plastic cups. I discovered this one on Pinterest and couldn't wait to try it out. I had 9oz. plastic cups which the kids colored with Sharpies. Then we popped them, one at a time, into the library's toaster oven and the kids decided when they wanted to pull them out (they were choosing which shape they wanted to leave their art in, essentially). This was the hands-down winner of the two projects, with most kids making at least three different pieces.

How this program accidentally turned into a STEAM program: once the first few kids colored and melted their cups, they started to wonder aloud what would happen if they did this or that. Hearing this, I enthusiastically shouted, "well, let's try it!" We turned the cups on every side we could (opening up, opening down, onto its side). We experimented with making cuts in the cup, as well as removing entire sections of the cup prior to heating. We stacked a number of cups on top of each other to see what would happen as they heated (most surprising discovery: the cups did not melt together - you could still pull them into separate pieces once they cooled off). Anything the kids wanted to try, we did. It turned out to be great fun for all of us and I only worried a little bit about unforeseen consequences of these experiments (thankfully, there were none).

Have any of your programs evolved as you were holding them?

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