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Art and Math Collaboration

April 4, 2013

Mt Vernon and Wayne Elementary Schools – SPIRAL

_E5R6749Sarah Caban, RSU #38 math coach, and Dona Seegers, elementary art teacher at Mt Vernon and Wayne Elementary Schools, used the theme of spirals for their second annual Art/Math collaboration. It has been a yearlong inquiry into the essential question: Throughout history, why have so many people enjoyed and used spirals?

This winter Dona was exhibiting with 23 artists and poets in SPIRAL: A Journey Of Growth Without End, an interactive multimedia art show at the new Emery Community Arts Center at UMF. http://www.onlinesentinel.com/news/farmington-art-gallery-showcases-spiral-exhibit_2013-01-12.html

K-5 students spent the fall months studying and responding to artists who have spirals in their artwork: painters Van Gogh and Klimt, printmakers Hokusai and Hiroshige as well as the rock art of the Southwestern Native Americans.

As a jumping off point for the collaborative unit, Sarah and Dona coordinated field trips to the SPIRAL exhibit. During dynamic mini lessons students experienced the math, science and art of spirals with participating artists as docents. Galaxies, body rhythms, drumming, poetry, nature, mathematical structures and artworks were included.

“I have to tell you how impressive this trip was!  I still can’t believe you got the artists themselves to make presentations at each of the stations. The artists were terrific with the students and their exhibits were inspiring…thank you, thank you” Cheryl Hasenfus, principal Wayne Elementary School.

The following are student reviews: “I didn’t realize there were so many spirals in life.”  “I learned that even animals have adapted to using spirals.” “I learned that you use math to make the Fibonacci spiral.” “The drumming made me feel like a beating heart. We danced and talked. Marty taught us to talk to each other with rhythms.”  “There were spirals in a spiral and we could walk through it.”

IMG_6847 Sarah and Dona then team taught in K-5 art classes integrating the Common Core Mathematical Practices: Look for and make use of structure and attend to precision.

Students explored two different spirals; the Fibonacci and the Archimedean.  They identified the structure of each spiral, used their knowledge of the structure to build a Fibonacci and an Archimedean spiral and predicted what would happen to each spiral if it continued to grow.  Students learned about the importance of the Fibonacci number sequence and explored what would happen if Fibonacci had tried to make a spiral with the same size squares.

The two spirals were painted and collaged.  After a gallery walk, students worked together to complete a Venn diagram which compared and contrasted their structures. A similar lesson sequence helped to understand, build, adapt, and compare a helix and a modified Archimedean screw.

Our finale was a combined art exhibit and math learning lab. Students used the math they learned to describe and label their art work.

They answered the essential question, “Throughout history, why have so many people enjoyed and used spirals?” Here are some of their thoughts: “They are food.” “They help us.” “They are used to build things.” “They are in the atmosphere.” They can be used for tools and artwork”  “They make me curious how it all started and how did the world start? It’s like a doorway.”

Students met a variety of learning targets that integrated essential understandings of Math and Art:

  • We can explain the characteristics of a spiral
  • We understand and can explain the differences and similarities between an Archimedes spiral and a Fibonacci spiral.
  • We can explain the characteristics of a Theodorus spiral.
  • We understand and can explain the differences and similarities between a helix and an Archimedean screw.
  • We can classify spirals by their characteristics.
  • We can evaluate and prove whether a spiral is one of the mathematical spirals that we studied.
  • We understand and can explain the similarities and differences between artists and mathematicians.
  • We understand and can explain the significance of spirals in our world.
  • We understand  how to integrate structure into our creative work and can explain how it has impacted our creative work.

“The school-wide Art/Math integrated unit at Mt. Vernon Elementary School is a resounding success! Over a period of months Dona has skillfully introduced the spiral theme to the students through their study and practice of art while Sarah led the investigation of the math behind the Fibonacci sequence. Students used higher order thinking skills to connect all aspects of the spiral to nature and their everyday lives! They deeply questioned, reasoned, and hypothesized, and as a result this study will be a springboard for future inquisitive studies!” Pia Holmes, principal Mt Vernon Elementary School.

Thank you to art teacher Dona Seegers for sending this blog post to share on the meartsed blog.

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