Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tessellating Learning

M. C. Escher is probably best known for his "tessellating art". Actually it occurs throughout Art History, ancient architecture, nature, modern art and computer graphics. This was the reason and subject of my latest "subbing" at a new,(for me) local middle school art class. My learning and theirs tessellated exponentially.

A tessellation or tiling of the plane is a collection of plane figures that fills the plane with no overlap and no gaps. The more intricate the compensating interconnections the more difficult to visualize and illustrate. This was the challenge for the day at three art classes for 8th and 9th graders. Many had made their initial "pattern templates" too complex for tessellation and they kept looking for familiar "figures" (flowers/animals/sea creatures etc.) and they were impossible to see, let alone tessellate. The K.I.S.S. rule applies here. (Keep It Simple Stupid)

The art teacher I was subbing for was hosting an on-campus inservice for other teachers from around the district in "Computer Graphics" and how to teach it to this age. Here the problem again is, too complex a software program for the antiquated computers that still reside at our schools. This is a continuing problem: technology can't slow down for our schools. The potential is there for exponential learning especially with something like tessellating. There are Math and Science connections aplenty. Historical and Religious ties are there too. I mentioned our recent vacation/tour to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey and the "tessellating art" on the walls in the form of "worship" since "graven images" are forbidden in Islam.

Most of the kids were "into it" as long as they could socialize as they "traced and colored". Several had trouble doing both at the same time (like chewing gum and walking at this age) Very few actual behavior problems or challenges; which were easily circumvented or "tessellated".

Two younger classes (5th-7th) had a DVD on Performance Art as in "STOMP, OUT LOUD". They were somewhat fascinated by it and filled out the response sheet with incomplete sentences, no capitals or periods. (come on, this is an Art Class) We had some "sponge time" so we experimented with some of our own "performance art" They enjoyed that...because it made rhythmic noise. We also "tessellated our hands" with some meshing gestures which was also enjoyed.

I met a Physical Science teacher in the teacher's lunchroom and he took my card and agreed to call me. I like this school so far. It has a better overall spirit with less heavy-handed retribution visible. This is an unfortunate reality at the other middle schools. I had a "year book class" and they were full of "school spirit" and ideas for the annual. We had less "dominance testing" or fake illness complaints or runs to the restroom. These are valid meaures at this level I'm afraid. The motivation to "fit in" and adapt is primary at this level and so metaphorically "tessellation" in their burgeoning lives. Can they do it and succeed academically and in life? RRR

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