Hello friends! I hope you are all having a great winter. If it’s December, January or February, you can’t go wrong with a snowflake lesson.
Here is my Snowflake Bentley lesson. It’s based on the work of photographer and tinkerer Willson Bentley. Bentley was the first person to photograph individual snowflakes on a microscopic level. Thanks to Bentley, we know that each snowflake is unique and six-sided.
I’m using my new favorite tool, the Smore (www.smore.com) to share it with you. Enjoy!!!
Our 5th and 6th grade students did a quick 40-minute cut paper notan collage project. Our inspiration came from these beautiful notan artworks at the MiniMatisse blog. If you are unfamiliar with notan, it is a Japanese design concept of dark and light. Notan cut paper projects are great for teaching a lot of concepts including contrast, positive and negative space, symmetry, and geometric vs. organic shapes.
Each student started) with a 6″ square of red construction paper and a white format (background) paper . The minimum assignment was to make four single cuts – one cut from each of the square’s sides. Double cuts were optional (about half the students tried them). Cut pieces could be geometric (hearts were popular) and/or organic shapes.
Our students really liked this project. Some made Valentines and wanted to take them home immediately. I think they turned out great. I also think that their second attempts will be even better. Definitely a project to repeat!
Fifth and Sixth Grade Results:
The next two designs contain cut pieces that were rotated incorrectly. But you know what? I consider the artworks successful. They are beautiful designs, even if they don’t fully fulfill the assignment. They still illustrate the concept of positive and negative space although they are in places asymmetric.
Although we did these red paper notans in honor of Valentine’s Day, they will look great displayed as a group any time of year.
I would LOVE to find an iPad app or interactive website that illustrates notan. If anyone knows of one, please leave a comment!!
Magnified snowflake photo by Kenneth Libbrecht. Source: scientificamerican.com
This is a good time to discuss radial and bilateral symmetry. Just like real snowflakes, our iPad and cut paper snowflakes will have radial symmetry, with six identical branches.
Folding the Paper
Next we folded our coffee filters in sixths. Students folded the round coffee filters in half, then used a protractor to divide the semi-circle into thirds. See this post from the Heart of Wisdom blog for great directions on folding the coffee filters.
Cut paper snowflakes start with a round coffee filter folded in half, then into thirds. Then one more fold in half to create a skinny wedge.
Designing the Snowflake on the iPad
I demonstrated how to use the My Flake app, guiding my finger on the screen to make virtual cuts on the paper image.
Students spent the next five minutes exploring the My Flake app. The app allows them to test out different designs virtually by ‘cutting’ a folded paper image, then previewing the design. They can go back and undo or redo one ‘cut’ at a time, and preview the resulting changes.
Once the students settled on a final design,they copied their My Flake design on the folded paper, and finally cut the folded paper to match.
Tip: encourage students to try a simple design on their first snowflake, and draw pencil lines lightly.
Sixth grade student work:
Matching paper and iPad snowflakes
Mount cut paper snowflakes on construction paper.
Our school is 1:1 iPads in grades 4-6. However, this project can be done collaboratively in pairs or in small groups. Several students can share an iPad, each adding a virtual cut or two. Then they can all cut the group design (U.S. art teachers – collaboration is a big part of new Common Core standards).
These two students collaborated on an iPad My Flake design, then both cut to match.
On its own, the My Flake app may also be an option for an inclusion activity. Students who cannot easily manipulate scissors may be able to design virtual snowflakes on My Flake and print them out for decorations.
If you are looking for a book to accompany a snowflake project: our librarian likes Snowflake Bentley, the Caldecott-winning book by Jacqueline Briggs Martin about real-life snowflake photographer Wilson Bentley.