#TurtleArt explorations with Julian Altschul’s Class IX Geometry students at @BrearleyNYC. #MathChat #ArtsEdTech #STEAM #STEM

I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations with Julian Altschul (one of the fabulous members of Brearley‘s Math Department) over the last two years. I wondered if he’d be interested in taking his tessellations unit into the 3rd dimension, and we discussed various tools we could use for a 2D to 3D transformation. He and I are both longtime fans of Geometer’s Sketchpad, Logo, and Scratch. I suggested trying out TurtleArt since it’s a clean and simple way to make Art while flexing their computational thinking skills. Julian offered a couple of days this week for me to join his Class IX Geometry students and tinker with them.

Yesterday, we began by examining the TurtleArt menus and blocks, constructing simple polygons, and then tessellating shapes. We talked about procedures and loops, and students were tasked with exploring and coming up with interesting designs for homework. Today, girls shared their designs (as PNG files) with the rest of the class, and we peeked at their code and considered ways to make their program as efficient as possible. Here are some initial doodles:

Here’s an example of the code powering the flower drawing below:

Then, something serendipitous happened, and a student shared the “rainbow thing” file below. After opening the file, I immediately hit the clean button to clear the screen in order to watch the drawing evolve before our eyes, but only one spiral popped up on the screen.  The student explained she had manually layered spirals — each with a different color and different radius. It was a perfect segue to discuss how to enhance her code with variables (and more math!) so her fully intended design would bloom automatically. Another student talked the class through how to use the box1 and store in box1 blocks to assign and revalue variables. It was super exciting!

I suggested that students convert their PNG to an SVG (using this website), import their SVG into Tinkercad, resize if necessary (including giving their design more height), and export an STL for 3D printing. Julian is thinking that will be their next assignment…

Here’s a link to an earlier post about a TurtleArt workshop I attended last year which was led by Artemis Papert and Brian Silverman: https://karenblumberg.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/turtleart/

You can get TurtleArt for free (!) by emailing Artemis and Brian at the bottom of TurtleArt’s home page: https://turtleart.org/


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Pics and notes from Heidi Brant’s @LegoSeriousPlay workshop with Class 1 teachers at @BrearleyNYC this morning. #elemaker #MakerEd #storytelling #ArtsEd @LEGO_Group @LEGO_Education

I was thrilled to get an email from Ariel Sanabria (Class 1 Teacher at The Brearley School) inviting me to join a LEGO Serious Play workshop facilitated and designed by Heidi Brant. Heidi is a Serious Play Pro, and this morning, the Class 1 teaching team explored independently and collaboratively for 90-minutes under Heidi’s guidance. Each exercise consisted of the following 4 steps: Challenge, Build, Share, Reflect.

We were presented with a variety of LEGO pieces in individual ziploc bags. Our first Challenge was to create a tower that started with a black flat as the base, consisted only of green and yellow pieces, and had a flag at the top. Being me, I misheard Heidi and thought she said we should top our tower with a flat, and as I was absorbed in the task and didn’t look up, I carefully reserved my yellow flat pieces to top my structure (unlike everyone else who had a flag topper). This Build time was paired with Heidi’s curated musical choices playing in the background, and then we were asked to hold our structures in our hands and Share our designs. After everyone had a chance to speak, we had additional time to Reflect on the experience. These days, I’m finding it a more comfortable challenge to be creative with constraints rather than without constraints. Total freedom can feel almost paralyzing…

The second challenge was to build a structure which represented our frame of mind. Many of us had thoughts of summer vacation on the brain (coincidence?), and my neighbor and I both built beds. Using LEGOs to explain something intangible seems very accessible and similar to asking someone to tell a story, draw a picture, write a poem, etc. to illustrate inside thoughts/feelings.

As Class 1 studies structures and NYC landmarks, the third challenge was to choose a landmark and represent its personality as a LEGO design. I chose The High Line Park and tried to convey how it’s flexible, ever-evolving, generous with its offerings, and constantly on display and watched by all the visitors. Among other insightful and creative designs and explanations, my neighbor had a really interesting take on the Flat Iron Building.

The fourth challenge was to work in groups to construct and name a new landmark which incorporated a component from each of our individual designs. There were 8 of us, so we formed two groups of 4. My group included moving/flexible parts from my High Line interpretation, secret nooks from the teacher who created Grand Central Station, symmetry from the Chrysler Building, and happy colors from the teacher who constructed the personality of her parents’ backyard. We decided on a maze-like design for our group-building exercise which included these four elements.

Here are additional images from the workshop:


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Pics from the awesome #STEAMWorks event at Automotive HS in Brooklyn today. Thanks for organizing, @kyourke! #MakerEd #STEAM #elemaker #artedtech @STEAMthinktank


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