Before quarantine: How can movement and sequential art teach us how matter is formed? During quarantine: How can we find fractions in our everyday lives?
– Murphy Elementary, Teacher Frank DeJohns and Teaching Artist Gwyneth Zeleny Anderson
We began with showing examples of stop-motion animation, including Gwyneth’s “Cellule” project [background video playing here], which is an animation that has the same number of frames as number of cells in a mustard seed. We also showed the old IBM short film “Powers of Ten”. We then asked students the inquiry question, and had group discussions about the movements inherent to matter’s existence. They had already begun their unit on molecular composition and states of matter when we asked them to draw responses to the question. They drew depictions of sugar dissolving in water through the motion of a spoon, for example. (We used journals which unfortunately did not get documented before the shut down.) They then used objects on their desks to express motion and to become familiar with the stop-motion animation process, and learning through trying how to create a smooth start, middle, and end:
We completely changed the focus of our project due to the closure. Because they had already finished the science unit on molecular composition and states of matter, we tried to shift to suit them learning about fractions.
our project after quarantine to be a journaling project, where we continued the emphasis on writing and drawing like they had before for brainstorming/storyboarding the animations. However, because they had moved onto learning about fractions by the time Gwyneth joined their Google class sessions, we tried to encourage them to journal for the sake of emotional release and reflection, then identify fractions that naturally occurred in their entries. Gwyneth gave the example of one journal entry she made, where she wrote about eating two pieces of toast with egg, peanut butter, and honey. Toast was 2 out of the 5 foods she ate. We received a few journal entries (see above), but no one identified fractions in them, either on paper or in a Google classroom session.
What new questions or new ideas did the stop motion projects spark for you? Responses:
It gave me the idea to do stop motion at home
I don’t have any at the time
Can the stop motion be any cooler?
I was thinking of making an animation with pictures.
What new questions or new ideas did the journaling spark for you? Responses:
It gave me the idea to go swimming
What is going on on the other side?
Are we going to do them at home but on a Google meet
More peacefulness and organization
It made made me think if for next year we could do do animations with pictures on computer for CAPE
“What is going on on the other side?”
Some of the responses to the first question made me aware of how journaling, a very internal, indoor activity, prompted some students to think about the outside world: “What is going on on the other side?” Similar to one student saying “it gave me the idea to go swimming”. It makes me think that asking questions about reflecting on one’s isolated life indoors can have a focus of imagining what’s “on the other side”, and what we could/want to do on the outside our homes. Wondering, then, what is the fraction that communicates the student’s indoor reality in relation to the whole block/city/country/world?
There was less communication between Frank and Gwyneth than usual, due to the overwhelming state of transition of CPS teaching expectations. The fractions-journaling was not treated as a graded assignment, and was introduced very close to the end of the semester, which hindered responses. Also we didn’t spend any time with them actually journaling as part of the Google Meet call, due to the shortened time allotted.
We tried to engage them with journaling and drawing about their days, and only a few students wrote anything, and none identified fractions.