Zooming Into Craft and Technology
Words by Marvin Camras Children’s Engineering School, 7th grade Teacher, Marilyn Baez, and Teaching Artist, Niema Qureshi.
Setting the Context
We had been fairly successful with our collaboration in the past so Marilyn and I decided to build onto that. Our unit integrated art, SCRATCH software (free digital and coding animation platform), and language arts, however, Marilyn informed me that the students this year had limited knowledge of block coding so we would need to adapt the project for this particular groups’ skill level and interests. We decided rather than having the SCRATCH animations, as we had done in the past, be the central part of our unit, instead offer the students different pathways (different art mediums/materials) to explore the inquiry question. The students were predominantly female so Marilyn and I discussed strategies for how to engage them with technology. Since craft and technology have a long history together, we determined that cross-stitching (a form of early pixels) would be a great introduction to SCRATCH. We were curious how the students, male and female, would respond to integrating embroidery and technology.
Beginning the Project
We spent a considerable amount of time on the first day of class discussing the big idea and inquiry question. Marilyn and I shared the slide below with the class and discussed it as a group, then students were encouraged to think about the question independently and write the inquiry question in their own words. This gave Marilyn and I an opportunity to gauge how the students were interpreting the information we were delivering.
Students began by creating drawings of a video-game character, inspired by 8-bit video-game character designs from the 80’s. These drawings were then transformed into pixelated images on graph paper, then cross-stitched onto a plastic canvas, and finally to a SCRATCH digital animation.
As students worked on developing their video-game characters, Marilyn asked them to consider how authors create compelling characters through their vivid and detailed descriptions. We asked students to think carefully about the detail they should include in their drawings and designs. Depending on the medium they’re using, students were asked to think about what colors, shapes, textures and patterns etc. would reveal important details about their character’s personality to the viewer. Students made careful observations about the limitations or advantages of the different materials they were using. We also introduced the Studio Habits of Mind (SHoM), at the beginning of our unit and used that framework as a tool to help students articulate their thinking during the collaboration.