Art & Science: Light

One of the things I love most about my job is that I create my own curriculum. If I’m inspired by something I have free range to run with it. I do my best to pay attention to what my students enjoy and what is age appropriate and then follow my inspirational whims whether it is the turning of the seasons, art for arts sake, or an educational topic I think would be interesting. The play between art and science is one of those educational topics that gets the brain wheels turning but can be fun filled.
The first topic we covered during our four week Art & Science session was Light. I darkened the room by covering all the windows with sheets and used an old school overhead transparency projector to place silhouettes on the wall and floor. My younger children who aren’t quite at the point of tracing lines were more interested with the machine and all the little do-dads. They spent 20-30 min remaking compositions. I encouraged this because how often do you get to play with a light machine in a dark room with fun trinkets? Not often enough!
My 4Y and ups had a blast tracing the silhouettes. The challenge comes with placing your body in the correct position so you didn’t block the light.
I love working on the wall because it lends itself to large scale art that makes you use your full body to both stretch and reach or bend and kneel.
In addition to exploring artificial light we made art with natural light. Our second project, Sun Prints, were magical to make and a great “take  home” project. You can order Sun Print kits or Sun Print paper online. I found mine on Amazon.com.
Using plexiglass is helpful if you have little hands that want to move things around or it’s windy. If your objects are heavy and your child is patient and understands once items are placed they shouldn’t be moved until the end then plexiglass is not needed. The more flat your objects the better if you desire crisp silhouettes, but it’s also fun to play around with 3-D.
I had each child choose their objects in a little collection tray and I gave them a pep talk about moving fast, placing items quickly and moving on to the next item. We did this project on a hot late summer day with intense midday sun. The paper is extremely light sensitive and once removed from it’s packaging begins to expose. The Sun Print paper still works on overcast days it just takes longer to expose.
After exposing the paper under sunlight you remove the objects and stop the chemical reaction in a water bath. The paper only soaks for one minute. This entire process was fascinating to my students. I was so proud of them for moving quickly between each step and being precise and gentle along the way.
The coolest part is that you can see the paper change from blue to white in the sun and when you remove the objects you get to see the sharp contrast of the areas that weren’t exposed. When you move the paper to the water almost the entire page turns white and the areas that were exposed slowly turn blue and the areas that were blue slowly turn white. This swap isn’t obvious at first but can be seen over the course of about 5 minutes.
I love the play between the natural and man-made items and how each composition was original!

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