Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Art of Science

As Leonardo da Vinci understood, the power of observation is a very important tool in understanding both Art and Science. His books are filled with many notes and drawings of his scientific studies and included a wide range of topics. He would spend hours writing and recording meticulous details such as how facial expressions change to reflect the moods of man or of the anatomy of a birds wing and how it shifts as the bird takes flight. These observations not only helped him both in understanding the natural order of things, but they enabled him to create highly realistic works of art and amazing inventions.
Art and science often go hand in hand. The First Graders have just finished their unit on Portraits in Art. We have learned that a Portrait is a picture of a person, and created Fancy King Portraits in the style of Holbien. We learned that when an artist creates a picture of himself it is called a Self Portrait, and we created Self Portraits in the style of Van Gogh. We learned that Group Portraits include more than one person and we created Family Portraits in the style of Renoir. We even learned about Abstract art and created Grid Portraits in the style of Close and Cubist Portraits in the style of Picasso.
In Science the First Graders have been learning about shadows with Mrs. Henry. They leaned that every shadow must have three things, a light source, an object and a surface.
The Fifth and Sixth Grade Girls have also been learning about portraits. We spent several sessions learning about the proportions of a face and how each subject has his or her own personal features. Using mirrors, and special measuring tools (that they made themselves) they are in the process of creating Portraits in Proportion that include some of their own personal features.
And all of these lessons came together on Thursday, November 12th, when the fifth and sixth grade girls joined the first graders in the Science lab to help them create Shadow Portraits. The first graders’ heads were the objects. The older girls helped them by holding up the light sources and tracing the shadow of their profiles onto the surface (a piece of drawing paper). Then the younger children took the papers and shaded in their portraits and Mrs. Henry mounted them onto black construction paper.
The results are of course wonderful to look at but the lesson learned was even more valuable. Often children separate the subjects they learn in school into different categories and it is our job as teachers to show them how that these subjects relate to each other and to the world around them. Sometimes the connections are obvious, sometimes they need to be pointed out. And sometimes all it takes is a trip to another classroom to see that this is so.

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