Bulb Archived: Vaughn 2018-2019: E. Westrich and A. Slavik (2018-2019 A/R Partners)


1. How did you and your teaching partner decide to do this project?

(Please describe the context of your project, this can include influence from previous projects, context of your school, community, etc.):

During the initial planning meeting, we discussed the positive impact that hands on learning has on the student population at Vaughn. We brainstormed and designed accessible interdisciplinary art/science projects that were themed on the states of matter.

2. Big Idea: 

Art and states of matter.

3. Inquiry:

How can formalist art-making techniques and media technology be used by students to empirically understand the behavior of matter in changing circumstances?

4. Grade Level: 

10 – 12.

5. Academic Subject(s): 

Chemistry, Film /Art History.

6. Artistic Discipline(s): 

Video production, animation, interdisciplinary installation, and painting.

7. How many years have you worked together as partners?: 


8. Please describe what you did and what you made for this project:

Project Description: 

Students created experimental interdisciplinary art projects that explored the properties of various states of matter by incorporating gasses, liquids and solids as art materials. There is a different project for each state of matter.


In this project, students created abstract paintings by safely melting crayons onto canvas with a heat gun. This experiment was meant to help students better understand how specific materials move through states of matter, in this instance students turned a solid into a liquid and back into a solid again. For a frame of reference to their project, students explored the work of Jackson Pollock and other abstract expressionist painters.


Each student created an abstract video using an iPad to record the student’s real time manipulation of water, mineral oil, isopropyl alcohol and water based/oil based colour dye on an illuminated glass plane surface. For historical context, students viewed related work such as the camera-less films of pioneers Stan Brackage, Norman McLaren, and other avant-garde films from 1960’s including examples from the psychedelic genre.


Using the work of artist Anthony McCall as a source of inspiration, students were guided to collectively create a final video installation that included real time projected abstract hand drawn video animations created by students which were captured in time released vapour. The interplay of light and vapour is meant to help students materially explore the gas phase. Students used the iPad app Animation creator to make the video animation component. 

9. How did you share your student’s learning process with your school faculty or community?

The Solid component of the the project is installed in the hallway outside of the classroom along with a placard describing the work and process for passerby’s to experience. 

Teaching Artist Assessment:

How did you assess student arts learning?: (ex. Was it formative or summative? Was it a written, verbal or performative based assessment? Were students provided with teacher or peer feedback? Did you use a rubric or portfolio system? Etc.)

Formative and summative assessments and feedback was verbal. Our assessments simultaneously addressed both academic and artistic content which took place in the form of class and one on one discussions and interviews. Students also received ad hoc input from teachers and peers throughout the process of creating their project.

Through regular class discussions and while facilitating projects, the teachers were able to primarily assess student level of participation in assignments, student comprehension and retention of artistic and academic material.

At the end of our unit, we created a rubric in the form of a student questionnaire that was used to generate a detailed one on one discussion of the student’s project outcomes and processes. We used this rubric as a way to not only summatively assess student’s accumulated knowledge, but we also saw this as an opportunity to refresh student’s memories about the process of their projects and provide a space for deeper reflection once all the work was done.

What were the results of the assessment? What did students learn in your class/project?

The following includes paraphrased student comments and student quotes that were gleaned from various assessments. Students learned:

– how to safely handle tools and materials like heat guns and oil dyes

– how to handle fragile media technology with care

– how to “experiment with different techniques and ideas, creating something unique”

– how some materials move through the states of matter in different situations (ie. a source 0f          heat can turn solids like ice and wax into a liquid state and can turn a liquid like water into a gas)

– that not all solids, liquids and gasses behave the same way

– about color, line, texture, shape, pattern and layering in abstract art/film/design and nature

– that art making can make students feel “curious” “joyful”, “calm”, “focused”, “excited” and           “surprised”

– that they like “new experiences” and doing something that “was different”

– “that it takes time” to create a thoughtful work of art

– that some students prefer working solo because they “can focus better” and “like the quiet”,            while others prefer working in a collaboration because “you can get help with someone”, “as a        team you can do more” and have “more ideas”.

– to work with “unexpected outcomes” and “go where the art takes me”

– that “It helped me see the states of matter because it is hard to see it in my mind” 

What did you learn from analyzing the student assessments that informs your Arts teaching practice?

The assessments aided us in determining whether the class (a class we designed and were implementing for the first time) was effective in helping students understand the science behind the states of matter by creating and learning about various art forms. I was able to gain greater insight into what students thought and how students felt while creating their projects, and how a memorable experience like creating a unique work of art helps some students retain knowledge.

Illinois Arts Learning Standards Addressed:

Next Generation Science Standard:

NGSS 2-PS1-1. Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties. [Clarification Statement: Observations could include color, texture, hardness, and flexibility. Patterns could include the similar properties that different materials share.]

Teacher Assessment:

How did you assess student academic content learning?: (ex. Was it formative or summative? Was it a written, verbal or performative based assessment? Were students provided with teacher or peer feedback? Did you use a rubric or portfolio system? Etc.)

What were the results of the assessment? What did students learn in your class/project?

Standards Addressed: (Common Core, Next Generation Science, SEL, Etc.): 

Our assessments were collaborative and simultaneously addressed both academic and artistic content. Please see the “Teaching Artist Assessment”.

Students engaged in a warm up drawing exercise where they are depicting particles of matter in the solid state.
Students collaborating on their abstract painting and exploring how certain materials move through various states of matter when heat energy is applied.

Students closely observing their abstract paintings which are currently installed in the hallway outside the classroom.
Student creating and recording a time-based light painting while exploring the various material properties of liquids such as water, mineral oil, isopropyl alcohol and water-based/oil-based color dye. 

Time-lapsed light painting video.

Students interacting with the installation.This component of the project was an investigation into the gas phase.

A student creating a drawing in real time that’s captured three dimensionally in vapor. 

Students enjoying the installation and some techno music within the context of an impromptu dance party.