Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Math + Maker Night! Project Explore- Flynn Elementary

Last November, I was lucky to attend the Cougar Cub Inventor's Workshop at Richmond Elementary, where I am the Art teacher. Being a person who loves to to make things, and is interested in learning higher tech skills, it was so exciting to see young students getting their hands on all of that artsy techie goodness.
Magic wand testing
I had the chance there to meet Tricia Finkle, head of the Vermont State Science Fair, and knew at once my Flynn students would have to bring this type of event to Burlington. After proposing the idea to principal Graham Clarke, the annual Flynn Math Night has been merged with Project Explore to create a Math + Maker Night.

Project Explore's thirteen 5th graders have been working hard to learn, and to learn to teach, an array of processes that will be available to the Flynn community to try.  All families K-5 are invited, many teachers and volunteers will be present, and there are learning opportunities for all ages and skill levels. Here are a few of the things you can look forward to trying.

Balloon testing
Balloon races! Students went through an inquiry process of trying different balloon shapes (round, tubular, pear-shaped, long and wavy) and varying numbers and locations of attachment points to straws determine which balloons would travel the farthest and fastest. They also drew on and bedazzled their balloons with markers and adhesive rhinestones.

Paper arts, such as origami and hexaflexagons, were popular for their seeming simplicity.  Students were stunned to find out how difficult and math-heavy these art forms are, but once they got the hang of it there was no stopping them. They look forward to sharing their knowledge with you!

Another station will be making marshmallow and toothpick prisms. This is a great activity for all ages, because designs can range form the simple to the complex. My students worked in groups with straws and play clay (much harder materials to control) to build both the tallest and smallest prisms they could.
Opened up at the top, this group turned it into a triangular prism.
It was surprising and frustrating how easily these objects fell down!

After making conductive and insulating doughs, students experimented with lighting up different sculptures using parallel and series circuits. Being an art teacher, I put emphasis in each of these learning processes on the creative process and overall aesthetic.

You might wonder why the battery pack above is missing a AA. Not for lack of one- we didn't want to overpower it, so we simply took one out and inserted a bit of pipe cleaner wire to continue the circuit in its absence. The next week a student told me he tried it with his remote control, and that he could successfully remove a battery, replaced with a wire, and have it still work just as well. 

When Tricia is involved in this type of event with a school, she likes to provide Professional Development to the teachers, so that this learning is fully integrated into the classroom, and isn't just an occasional after-school night event. First grade teachers are doing a unit on light and shadow with students, so we got together as a staff and made LED badges.

 Using what is essentially an LED throwie in a bottle cap, we customized our badges to have different designs, patterns, and colors.

The materials needed were relatively basic, and don't they look great?

Here is a close-up of one in progress:
That foil lightning bolt will block the light, making the pink, translucent tissue paper glow.

And one finished:

Back to the 5th graders, they have much more in store for you!  Jittering cups stretched their knowledge of circuitry, adding in pressure switches and vibrating motors.

Feathery, google-eyed, fully festooned robots buzz and whirl across the floor

And, of course, the magic wands. Whizz bang pop! My favorite, perhaps. Come hang out with us and make magical art come alive.  Your wand will be as magic as you make it!
Wrap it in feathers, ribbon, or washi tape! Rhinestones look great glittering with the RGB bulbs.

 Hope to see you there!


  1. Thank you so much for the tremendous amount of energy and creativity that went into making the Maker Fair at Flynn such a great night for the students and their families! It was a great addition to Math Night. :)

  2. You are welcome! A new post is in the works on the event itself. Thank you for coming!