Friday, January 10, 2014

Toothpicks and Marshmallows and Tinker Toys sculpture

What imaginations my students had this week!

The after school kids in Art Student Academy had to put on their thinking caps because sculpture is not just clay! It's the basic building block of everything from practical buildings to works of art.
Many an engineer started their careers with Tinker Toys and Erector Sets!
Building from the basics
Sculpture is one of the few art forms that combines so many elements! The kids (ages 5-15) did just that in combining Math, geometry, structure, design, history and plain common sense to create some amazing 3D sculptures and they did it all in just an hour. Think what they could create on a rainy afternoon at home with these inexpensive items!

What we did:
After a discussion and demonstration about which was stronger-a pyramid or a square (50% got the right answer-a pyramid!) we went over the take home sheet of basic geometric shapes of square, triangles, etc. to more complex forms such as octahedron, pentagram and tesseract. Students learned that every building, stairway, bridge, in fact every man-made structure they see going down the road or in their house started with a simple basic shape. And the basic shape could grow and grow but not unless it was structurally sound! Learning about reinforcement for instance is important knowledge to keep walls from falling over when they get into  slab clay structures next week.
The very cool thing about using the miniature marshmallows instead of self hardening clay is that the marshmallows, in less than 24 hours, harden to a rock hard consistency.  These same, very cool structures can then be spray painted with a glossy or matte spray paint and hung from ceilings or set on tables. The possibilities and the results are infinitesimal!

We started with the basic shapes and went from there!

The students all started with the basic building blocks of cube, pyramid and (tada) octahedron (diamond). From there they were allowed free rein to go in any direction they wished. It did not take long for them to see the importance of reinforcement and practical design :-)

Exercises such as these are part of the hands on knowledge that all children excel in. They learn best by doing. They retain that by practice. Give them a bag of miniatures marshmallows and round toothpicks, step back and watch what happens!

Expanding a basic pyramid

Marshmallows are flexible, eventually rock hard and yummy!

An even more complex creation

Even the youngest were intrigued!

She just got totally involved and would have kept going!