SchoolArts Magazine

September 2015

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 21 The discussion typically evolves to consider the form of the overall chair and ends with increasing the function (adding a lift for your feet, extra stor - age, etc.). Once the design concept for the chair comes together, the science behind how to get the chair to support a person becomes important. Physics + Art = Fun I ask students to work in a group to design a chair made completely out of cardboard, the key being that the chair is able to support at least 150 pounds. The class begins with a lesson in phys - ics, covering key concepts such as tension and compression in structures, center of gravity, loads and joints, and strength in shapes. I enjoy discussing the connection between the triangle and tetrahedron in structures, and how artists use the triangle as a visual map in two-dimensional artworks. Creating a Prototype Students sketch out their best ideas, then use index cards to test their hypotheses. Once prepared, each group uses recycled cardboard to create their life-size prototypes. The project can be completed with just cardboard or, depending on the level of the class, with the addition of an adhesive or binding material. Taking a Seat The final products are often not the most attractive chairs ever made, but the real creativity is hidden below the surface. Out of all of my classes, I have only seen one or two chairs that did not meet the 150-pound bench - mark. Students take pride in making sure that their chairs can manage the weight, and it becomes a contest to see which chairs can hold multiple students at once. I display the chairs in the hallway outside my classroom and watch as passersby take a look and try them out. Reflections The studio classroom is a place where art, science, and engineering can all intersect under the umbrella of cre - ativity and critical thinking. I find that creating lessons that reinforce STEAM ideas packaged as applicable and practi - cal design projects is a satisfying and effective way to encourage students to practice their creative thinking. We all have a mess of cardboard lying around, especially after the back-to-school orders come in. What better way to reappropriate this read- ily available material than to upcycle? Yesterday's cardboard could be tomor- row's lesson in physics, creativity, and lounging. Kari Giordano is an art teacher at the Mount Everett Regional School in Shef - field, Massachusetts. kgiordano @ N A T I O N A L S T A N D A R D Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context. W E B L I N K Students like to design chairs. The ike to redesign the chairs the it on at school even more.

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