SNAP 2020-2021

COVID-19 made this year particularly challenging for all students and educators since schools spent most of the year engaged in distance learning. We at the SNAP program stepped up to the challenge and modified our entire curricula to better accommodate students enrolled in our program.

Bags for students that came along with their SNAP kits.

The first modification was to simplify in terms of materials used for the art projects. We designed all of the art projects around using earth clay and underglaze. Since students were working mostly at home, this made it easier to put together individual kits because all classes would be using the same basic supplies. None of the schools we work with have working kilns, and so ceramics is something special that they wouldn’t typically have a chance to do. As a highly tactile substance, clay also has therapeutic qualities, which we hoped would benefit students undergoing stress during quarantine.

Since clay is a versatile material, it was easy to come up with a wide range of projects that complemented the various science curricula. Art projects were designed for four different science units:

Heat and Heat Technology Unit


In this unit, students learned about the many physical changes clay goes through when it is fired, including what conditions produce the plastic state, what happens when it becomes bone dry, and what happens during the vitrification during the firing process. They learned that these changes occur gradually, with the clay reaching varying states at different temperatures, depending on the types of clay being used.

Model of a zeer pot made by a SNAP student at Gesu Elementary School

For one art project, students enrolled in this unit learned about and created a model of a Zeer Pot. A Zeer pot is an evaporative cooler often used in rural Africa and the Middle East to keep food cool and fresher longer. One terrcotta pot is nested inside a larger one with a layer of wet sand filling the gap between them. The pot is then placed in a shaded location with a breeze. The evaporation of water off the outer surface chills the inside of the smaller pot.  Students watched a short video about Muhammed Bah Abba, an African engineer and entrepreneur who developed a simple zeer pot that local potters could make and sell to villagers and farmers who had no access to modern refrigeration systems.

One example of one warm-blooded animal students could sculpt

For another art project associated with this unit, students made figures of warm or cold blooded animals. This provided an opportunity to science educators to talk about heat transfer as it related to cold blooded animals that sunbathe or engage in certain behaviors to conserve or absorb heat, compared to warm blooded animals whose bodies generate their own heat.

Landforms and Geologic Time Unit

Students enrolled in this unit first looked at the ceramic pots of Alan Spencer, a field geologist and professional artist. Spencer’s series of ceramic pots called Strata In Clay illustrate various geological epochs, referencing the fossil record, erosion, and layers.

Student examples of coil pots

Students began the hands-on portion making coil pots. This is when coils of clay are formed and then attached to each other using scratching and adding water to form slip. Coils can be left as coil or smoothed over after they are built up.

For this unit, students also created clay dinosaurs and tiles that they added texture to by pressing in shells. The textures and shapes of the shells will be preserved in the clay in a similar way to how fossils are preserved in layers of strata for scientists to discover.


Students turned their projects in to SNAP educators in one state, then received them back transformed to an entirely different state – slightly shrunk, but more durable, and with a surface that was brightly colored, smooth, and shiny from the glazing and firing. This was used to address how different materials provide different types of evidence of the past for geologists and other scientists. Some types of rock and soil erode more quickly that others. Some materials capture many fossils, while others capture none. Geologists must have an understanding of the materials making up the layers of strata in order to interpret that is found and make their best educated guesses about what is missing. 

Property of Matter Unit

Students enrolled in this unit focused their understanding on the differing qualities of clay in its various stages: greenware, bisqueware, and glazeware. They also learned about different types of clay and minerals that are often found or deliberately added to clay for different reasons.

For this unit, students also learned about the history of traditional Face Vessels created by enslaved African Americans, such as the renowned David Drake (also known as Dave the Potter.) These pots had sculpted, expressive faces. Students first looked at examples of such works in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and then were encouraged to make their own face vessels that included exaggerated features and color choices that expressed emotion.

Genetics Unit

This unit focused most on how artists have used clay when making work inspired by genetics discoveries. Students looked at art inspired by the double helix – Franco Castelluccio’s large-scale sculpture Double Helix – Mutation of Increased Compassion, and also Ibrahim Said’s vessel also titled Double Helixthen went on to make their own works that incorporated clay braids and coils. Students also looked at abstract art inspired by the process of mitosis – Brendan Dugan and Katherine Dube – then made similar works of pinch pots with multiple sections.

Students at Morris Elementary were studying bees as part of their genetics unit, and so they also sculpted ceramic bee baths. This unit finished up with students learning about the mass extinction of North American megafauna at the end of the last Ice Age, and sculpting wooly mammoths.


Field Trips

Even though students couldn’t go on field trips this year, we included just as many virtual field trips to the Wagner and the LaSalle University Art Museum. During these programs the students enjoyed live interactive presentations by museum educators that were relevant to their science curricula and art projects.

One ceramic artist students were excited to learn about was Roberto Lugo. Lugo is of Puerto Rican ancestry and grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Philadelphia. Through his art and activism he aims to address issues of economic and racial disparity and helps bring more artistic opportunities to at-risk youth.

Winter 2020: 6th Graders at St. Martin de Porres Catholic School – Geology, Clay and Relief Sculpture

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Science Subject: Geology – the study of the substances that make up the Earth, the processes that shape it, and of how these materials and processes have changed the Earth over time.

SNAP Art Project #1: Clay Coil Pots – coil pots are vessels whose walls are built with successive layers of clay coils, or long rolls, one on top of the other.

Science and Art Connection: Part of geology looks at the substances that make up the Earth.  Since clay is a combination of fine grain mineral fragments, it was the logical medium to use for this unit.  Clay is the result of decomposition of rock and it possesses the properties of plasticity and porosity and it vitrifies when heated at high temperatures.  Clay is also one of the oldest materials people have used world wide to make functional and non-functional objects through out human history.  By pressing an object into the clay and removing it, students also created an impression on their pots, thus permanently recording the object’s shape.  This activity mimics how some fossils and other remnants from the past have been preserved in layers of sediments.

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Process for Clay Coil Pots: In its wet stage, clay is moist and pliable.  Using both red and white clay, 6th grade started their coil pots by creating a pinch pot base on which to build the coil walls.  When attaching clay to clay, the slip and score methods were used and many students added clay beads and spirals while making their vessels.  Both classes also made impressions on the outer walls of their pots with various objects like shells and beads.  After the clay dried, they were fired in a kiln to very high temperatures and then students decorated them with oil pastels and sealed them with an acrylic medium.

 

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Students sealing their coil pots with acrylic medium

SNAP Art Project #2: Relief Sculpture – a wall-mounted sculpture in which the three-dimensional elements are raised from a flat base.

Science and Art Connection: In order to see how the Earth has changed over time, students studied aspects of the Geologic Time Scale.  The GTS is a type of each history layer map that shows the timing and relationships between events that have occurred during the history of the world.  The classes looked at prevalent remnants from the life forms left during the Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras and translated this information creatively onto a layered relief sculpture.  Each of the three tiers represented one of the eras of the of the Phanerozoic Eon with corresponding fossil images drawn using different types of art materials.SMBoyHoldTopo2

Process for Layers of Relief Sculpture: 6th grade received a large piece of cardboard, a medium sized rectangle of corrugated paper and a small piece of tagboard.  They chose fabric, glued it to the tagboard and then they drew the same organic shape onto all three surfaces.  All shapes were cut out.  The bottom layer and largest shape represented the Paleozoic Era and the students drew fossils from this time period with oil pastels.  They also obscured some of the oil pastel drawing with torn tissue paper.  Glitter glue was used to draw dinosaur bones for the middle layer, the Mesozoic Era, and then puff paint was used to make line drawings of fossils for the top layer representing the Cenozoic Era.  Finally, to create the relief effect, layers were attached with foam core spacers.

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Artists we looked at: Alan Spencer, Strata in Clay – Cambrian Period and Diane Burko, Columbia Glacier III

Acknowledgements: Thanks to the faculty and staff at St. Martin de Porres Catholic School and to Ms. Cardoso for her co-teaching and upbeat manner.  We’d also like to thank the staff at La Salle University Art Museum, especially Ms. Clark-Binder for her guidance through the collection during our visit.

Winter 2020: 6th Graders at Gesu School

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Science Subject: Geology – the study of the substances that make up the Earth, the processes that shape it, and of how these materials and processes have changed the Earth over time.

SNAP Art Projects #1: Clay Coil Pots and Dinosaur Sculpture – Coil pots are vessels whose walls are built with successive layers of clay coils, or long rolls, one on top of the other.  Sculpture is a three-dimensional type of art that you can usually walk around and see different sides.  It has height, width and depth like a cube.

Science and Art Connection for the Clay Projects: Part of geology looks at the substances that make up the Earth.  Since clay is a combination of fine grain mineral fragments, it was the logical medium to use for a unit on geology.  Clay is the result of decomposition of rock and it possesses the properties of plasticity, porosity, and it vitrifies when heated at high temperatures.  Clay is also one of the oldest materials people have used world wide to make functional and non-functional objects through out human history.

Process for Clay Pots: In its wet stage, clay is moist and pliable.  Using both red and white clay, 6th grade started their coil pots by creating a pinch pot base on which to build their coil walls.  When attaching clay to clay, classes used the slip and score methods.  After the clay dried, they were fired in a kiln at very high temperatures.

Process for Clay Dinosaur Sculptures:  Looking at reference pictures, students used simple hand-building techniques to model and form the dinosaurs from a ball of white clay.  After the clay dried, it was fired in a kiln and 6th grade added glaze before their sculptures were fired a second time.  Glaze is basically a water and silica mixture.  When applied to clay surfaces and fired, it melts into a glass coating.

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SNAP Art Project #2: Relief Sculpture – A wall-mounted sculpture in which the three-dimensional elements are raised from a flat base.

Science and Art Connection for the Relief Sculpture: In order to see how the Earth has changed over time, students studied aspects of the Geologic Time Scale.  The GTS is a type of earth history layer map that shows the timing and relationships between events that have occurred during the history of the world.  The classes looked at prevalent remnants of life forms left during the Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras and translated this information creatively onto a layered relief sculpture.  Each of the three tiers represented one of the eras of the Phanerozoic Eon with corresponding fossil images drawn using different types of art materials.

Process for Layers of Relief Sculpture: 6th graders got a large piece of cardboard, a medium sized shape of corrugated paper and a small piece of tagboard.  They chose fabric, glued it to the tagboard and then they drew the same organic shape onto all three surfaces.  All shapes were cut out.  The bottom layer and largest cardboard shape represented the Paleozoic Era and students drew fossils from this time period with oil pastel.  Glitter glue was used to draw dinosaur bones for the middle layer representing the Mesozoic Era and then puff paint was used to make line drawings of fossils for the top layer, representing the Cenozoic Era.  Finally, to create the relief sculpture effect, layers were attached with foam core spacers.  Ms. Leaf displayed them prominently on the wall outside her Science Lab.

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Last class: Students finish the layer relief sculpture and get their fired clay projects back

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Artists we looked at: Left – Alan Spencer, Strata in Clay – Cambrian Period and Right – Diane Burko, Columbia Glacier III

Acknowledgements: Thanks to the faculty and staff at Gesu School, especially Ms. Young, Mr. Campanella and Ms. Leaf for their co-teaching and enthusiasm for the SNAP program.  We’d also like to thank the staff at La Salle University Art Museum, especially Ms. Clark-Binder for her guidance through the collection during our visit.

Fall 2019: 8th Graders at St. Martin de Porres Catholic School – Chemistry, Watercolors and Batik

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Science Subject: Chemistry – the branch of science that studies the substances that make up matter (everything that takes up space in the universe), how they behave, and the changes that take place when substances are combined.

SNAP Art Project #1: Watercolor – a type of paint made with a water-soluble binder (such as gum arabic) that can be thinned with water to create transparent layers of color on paper.  Watercolor also refers to the method of painting with watercolor paint as well as a picture executed using this medium.  (Left – Night Pond by Edda Jakab, Right – Student Artwork)

Science and Art Connection  – Watercolor Project: Among other things, chemistry studies the properties of different substances and how these components interact when combined.  Through a discussion on the chemistry of paint, students gained an understanding of the basic composition of paint and the function of each of its components: pigments, binders and carriers.  Afterwards, they made their own watercolor paints using baking soda, vinegar, corn syrup, cornstarch, and food coloring.  Eighth graders also explored different watercolor painting techniques in order to see what might be achieved using this medium in their artwork.

SNAP Art Project #2: Batik – a technique of wax-resist dying on cloth originally developed in Java, Indonesia. (Left – traditional batik design from Java, Right – student artwork)

Science and Art Connection – Batik Project: Eighth grade investigated the physical properties of wax by exploring the use of wax as a barrier for color penetration in textiles using watercolors in place of dyes.  The wax had to be heated into a liquid state to be absorbed by the muslin.  The wax repelled the water-based paint and created a distinct way to make a mark as part of the artistic process.

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Process for Watercolors: Students mixed common, non-toxic household ingredients in cups and then poured the mixtures into plastic palettes.  After the paint hardened, the classes explored different traditional watercolor techniques on their observational drawings.  They used both their homemade paints and commercial paints.  The classes also experimented using watercolors with salt and with isopropyl alcohol to create special effects.

 

Trying out watercolor techniques

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Process for Batiks: To make the batiks, each student drew a design on white muslin cloth, brushed hot wax over their pencil lines and then added watercolor paint. The parts covered in wax resisted the paint and remained the original white color of the muslin.  To complete the batik process, the wax was removed by ironing it out between sheets of newspaper.

 

Acknowledgments: Thanks to the faculty and staff at St. Martin de Porres Catholic School and to Ms. Fountain for her enthusiasm and co-teaching.  We’d also like to thank the staff at La Salle University Art Museum, especially Ms. Clark-Binder for her guidance through the collection during our visit.

Ecology and Wildlife Illustration with 6th Graders at Morris and Kearny

This year, 6th grade students at three Philadelphia public schools, General Philip Kearny and Robert Morris participated in SNAP.

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A student at Kearny showing off 2 versions of her butterfly linocut print

This curriculum aims to complement and reinforce middle school ecology curriculum. During their initial field trip to the Wagner, students had a lesson on urban ecology, a scavenger hunt in the museum, and with the teaching artist students viewed and discussed 2 etchings by John James Audubon. During the latter, they learned about the educational purpose of wildlife illustrations to show viewers not only the appearance of animals, but also information about their habitat and behavior. 

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One of the Etchings by John James Audubon students discussed at the Wagner

During visits from the teaching artist, students looked at and discussed some of the bold and colorful wildlife illustrations of Lynette Weir.

They began their hands-on project by making drawings of an animal they wanted to illustrate using field guides and photographs as references. Drawings were done directly on linoleum blocks. Next students were given a demonstration of how to safely and effectively carve a block using v and u gouges. After successfully carving a block, students learned how to print in black ink on white paper, first proofs, and eventually an edition of at least 3. If they had time. After completing a successful edition, students used markers to add color to at least one of their prints.

Our session was cut slightly short by the school closings due to COVID-19, but all students had already completed their carving and printing proofs, and many had begun to add color.

Here are photographs highlighting some of this session:

Forces & Movement and Kinetic Sculptures with 7th Graders at Morris, Kearny, and Meade

This year, 7th grade students at three Philadelphia public schools, General Philip Kearny  Robert Morris, and General George G. Meade participated in SNAP.

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Two students at Morris with their finished spinning wheel sculptures

Sculpture Sea 14This curriculum aims to complement and reinforce a 7th grade Force and Motion curriculum. Students watched a video of Cycle 90° “A Premonition of Wind” III , a large outdoor, kinetic sculpture by Japanese artist Kaoru Matsumoto. They discussed how the work interacts with outside forces of wind and light. 

Students created a small kinetic sculpture the first day using wire and beads to introduce the concept of sculptures that move based on a physical interaction with their audience. They discussed the different types of successful ways to create a kinetic sculpture as well as the challenges they faced, especially avoiding friction and maintaining balance.

The second day students watched a video of the kinetic sculpture “Duality” by David C. Roy, and then compared the contrasted it to Matsumoto’s sculpture. Differences highlighted were scale (a towering structure verses the size of a large wall clock), environment (outdoor and public verses indoor and private), and power source (wind verses a wind-up mechanism).

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sunflower-mandala884498-printsThen students began their main project: a wall sculpture with three wheels that spin when a cord is pulled. Through this hands-on project they developed their understanding of how the positioning and connecting of objects of varying shapes and densities influences the trajectory and speed of their motion. 

For the designs on their wheels many students took inspiration from natural forms that have radial symmetry, such as flowers, as well as mandala designs.

Here are two examples videos of the students’ finished sculptures:

Check out more highlights from this project at Kearny and Morris:

 

Fall 2019: 7th Graders at Gesu School – Cells and Tessellations

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Science Subject: Cells – the smallest structural and functional units of an organism

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SNAP Art Project: Tessellations – patterns that fit together like a puzzle without overlapping or spaces between each shape

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Science and Art Connection: Cells are the building blocks of biological life and they reproduce by dividing and multiplying over and over again in order to make an organism.  As a metaphor for cell reproduction, tessellations were made by tracing the same shape many times in order to create a pattern.  Students drew their tessellation designs onto different animal body parts and later worked together to combine the separate parts into single, large animals.

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Lizard by M.C. Escher

Process: Each student drew a ’tile’ (shape) on cardboard, cut it out and then traced the tile over and over again on to an animal  body part.  After tracing, students used markers to fill in their patterns.  Later, each group worked together to combine the different body parts into whole creatures.

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The Results:

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Artists we looked at for inspiration: Hop David, Francine Champagne and M.C. Escher

Acknowledgements: Thanks to the faculty and staff at Gesu Catholic School, especially Ms. Young and Mr. Campanella for their enthusiasm and co-teaching and to Ms. Leaf for her team spirit.  We’d also like to thank the staff at La Salle University Art Museum, especially Ms. Clark-Binder for her guidance about the collection during our visit.

 

 

 

Cells and Tessellations with 8th Graders at Morris and Kearny

 

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Giraffe Puppet by 3 students at Morris School

This year, 8th grade students at two Philadelphia public schools, General Philip Kearny and Robert Morris, participated in SNAP.

This curriculum complemented and re-enforced middle school science curriculum: Cell division, multiplication, simple to complex. Individual students designed their own tessellation patterns and then used them in collaborative group projects making colorful animal puppets.

 

In the simplest sense, a tessellation is a plane covered with a series of tiles, often with repeating shapes, and with no overlaps or gaps. One example of a common tessellation seen in everyday life is a tiled floor.

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Detail of a tessellation by Francine Champagne

In art history, tessellations have been used in decorative mosaics and textiles, going back to the time of the ancient Sumerians. The use of tessellations in graphic art and illustration was most famously championed by M. C. Escher. Students also looked at examples from contemporary artists Hop David and Francine Champagne.

 

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Plant cells as seen under a microscope

Of course the original inspiration for this arts curriculum came from nature, specifically: cells. As cells within an organism reproduce, they are interconnected and repeat, but with variations.

For hands-on activities, first students completed two introductory projects, a collage made with pre-cut triangles, and another designing a regular tessellation where the repeated shape maintained the same orientation.  This firmly grounded their conceptual understanding of tessellations before moving on to designing the more complicated rotated tessellation patterns that would be used in the final project.

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A group of Kearny students assemble parts of their Flamingo Puppet

The final art project served as a metaphor for the process of cellular reproduction, connection, and variation. Students had to trace the same shape over and over, fitting into the whole field of interconnected shapes, without any gaps or overlaps. Over time this became more challenging as slight shifts and errors in tracing built up, and for  many students, eventually the original shape had to be altered in order to fit within the field.

Variations were also achieved in how the students decided to color each shape. Students were encouraged to add layers of patterns with their decisions about coloring, thereby increasing both the complexity and organization of their visual designs.

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A group of students at Kearny coloring the parts of their Wolf Puppet

Working together in groups of 2-4 to create large animal puppets with tessellation surface designs, students had an opportunity to add further complexity and harmony to their collaborations in how they agreed to color the various sections.

The materials used in this project included professional quality markers in a wide variety of colors and heavyweight boards on which to draw their tessellations. Using high quality supplies encouraged students to feel more enthusiastic, confident, and ambitious about their projects.

Special thanks goes out to Ms. Freeman at Kearny and Ms. Frick at Morris for their support of this year’s SNAP program!

Check out this slideshow of highlights from this project:

Wildlife Prints and Collages by 6th Graders at Kearny

These are samples of work by 6th graders in Ms. Sabolchic’s science class at Kearny Elementary School. This curriculum aimed to compliment and re-enforce their ecology curriculum. In preparation, students viewed and discussed wildlife and botanical illustrations. They also learned about works of art that go beyond mere illustration to creatively address issues such as biodiversity and the impact of climate change on species and ecosystems. Students then engaged in the hands-on experience of making their own linoleum cut illustrations of selected wildlife, using traditional approaches to relief printmaking with non-toxic, water-based inks.  For their final project, students incorporated one or more prints from their editions into a mixed media work. Students learned approaches to collage to create a work that tells a broader narrative about their plant or animal subject.

Thank you to La Salle University Art Museum for providing field trips and hosting the year-end exhibition of SNAP artwork. The exhibition opens May 31st and runs through June of 2019.

Wildlife Prints and Collages by 6th Graders at Morris  

These are samples of work by 6th graders in Mr. Russell’s science class at Morris Elementary School. This curriculum aimed to compliment and re-enforce their ecology curriculum. In preparation, students viewed and discussed wildlife and botanical illustrations. They also learned about works of art that go beyond mere illustration to creatively address issues such as biodiversity and the impact of climate change on species and ecosystems. Students then engaged in the hands-on experience of making their own linoleum cut illustrations of selected wildlife, using traditional approaches to relief printmaking with non-toxic, water-based inks.  For their final project, students incorporated one or more prints from their editions into a mixed media work. Students learned approaches to collage to create a work that tells a broader narrative about their plant or animal subject.

Thank you to La Salle University Art Museum for providing field trips and hosting the year-end exhibition of SNAP artwork. The exhibition opens May 31st and runs through June of 2019.