“I’m like the kid in kindergarten; I really do send Valentines to everyone.” ~ Susie Bright
Children at my school participate in a lot of STEM challenges. For those unfamiliar with this concept, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A STEM curriculum integrates these areas of learning, rather than treating them as separate subjects. This aids children in better understanding the relationship of these subjects (and ultimately improving their contribution to the country’s competitiveness in science and technology development). I have a lot to learn about this approach to teaching, though as an educator who likes to bring an arts element into learning experiences, I have considered ways to create learning experiences that are what is referred to as STEAM challenges.
When a colleague of mine suggested making pop-up cards for Valentines Day, I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to do just that – pose a STEAM challenge. We decided to explore the mechanics of pop-up cards, while creating a lovely gift for our parents. I should explain that this was a project that had many steps, and was completed over the course of several weeks, one small step at a time. I must also admit that while the kindergarten children did most of the work involved – cutting, glueing, painting and writing – some “adult assembly” was required for expedience; this was, after all, a time sensitive project! Still, it was a project well worth doing, and it taught us a lot.
For inspiration and guidance, we looked at a few books about how to design our own greeting cards, and we consulted the classic book by Joan Irvine, How to Make Pop-Ups, for instructions. We also looked at some examples of pop-up books (Robert Sabuda has created many) to see how they are made. We explored methods for cutting and folding paper in a particular way, to cause paper figures to “pop out”. We decided to use paper steps, or strips, which required the children to cut along straight lines and do minimal folding. We could then proceed to apply our knowledge and use technical processes to create the interior part of our cards. The mathematical element came in when we used rulers to measure and cut the strips, both how long they were and how far apart. To bring in the scientific piece, we marble painted the cover of the card, which allowed us to see what happens when colours combine – we used red, blue and white – and how a rolling marble can be used to make marks on paper. Using the ‘wet on wet’ technique to watercolour paint our cut paper hearts was another way to observe how pigments can slide and combine, making new colours, and to demonstrate how science is embedded in art experiences.
The last step involved in the creation of the pop-up cards was to write a love poem for the cover of the cards. Thoughout the month of January, we had been reading lots of poetry together, and also learning to write poems (the subject of next month’s blog post), and this seemed to be the perfect way to complete our project. The children were invited to list a number of things that parents do for us (the ways they show us our love and why we love them in return for all they do). Their responses included: parents give us gifts, they keep us healthy, they let us stay up late sometimes. Between each of the shared ideas we inserted the words I love you and the result was the following poem, the finishing touch on our beautiful gift.
Because you give me things that make me happy, I love you.
Because you let me stay up late sometimes, I love you.
Because you take care of me, I love you.
Because you plan play dates and trips for me, I love you.
Because you celebrate my birthday, I love you.
Because you let me watch TV, I love you.
Because you read me books I love, I love you.
Because you keep me healthy, I love you.
Because you cuddle me at bedtime, I love you.
Because you give me muffins with peanut butter and honey on top, I love you.
“Love is like a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination.” ~ Voltaire