Tag Archives: 5th grade art lesson

The Invention Story

I’m basically a storyteller.  And all of my stories begin with, “the year was blah-blah-blah”.  Today, one of my students called me over and asked, “will you tell us a story?” and someone else chimed in with, “we love your stories!”  !!!

So – here’s a story for you….

The year was last year.  All of my 5th graders were bringing those fidget spinners to class.  I’m sure you’ve seen them – they are some sort of toy that was created as a way for students to stay focused, particularly students with focus issues – but they were seriously getting out of control.   Everyone had them.  Most had more than one in their pockets. Kids were just playing with them all over the place until pieces flew off.  It was nuts.

One day after school, I was sitting with my feet up on my desk and I envisioned a teacher confiscating those dumb things then sitting exactly as I was . . . and eating them, lol.  I had invented a commercial for chocolate fidget spinners!

OMG, I thought, I have my million dollar idea!  I called Hercules, a candy company in East Syracuse, New York.  I told the proprietor, Terry Andrianos, my idea.  Her response was it takes about a year in development to create the mold for something like this and it is expensive.

So, I thought, that was that.

A few days later, I attended a concert at Traditions at the LinksLetizia and the Z Band was performing.  At their break, the drummer, John Mangicaro, told me this gig was like a full-time job but he did have a full-time job – he was in the technology department at Syracuse University.  He runs the 3-D printer!

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I shared my fidget spinner concept with him.  A few months later, he’d created a mold for me.  I brought the mold back to the candy shoppe and Terry agreed to make a couple samples for me!

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I had successfully brought my invention to fruition and it didn’t cost me a dime.  Law of Attraction brought me face-to-face with these amazing people who helped me just for the fun of it!  Of course, after it was all said and done, I checked Amazon.com and now there are fidget spinner molds available.  Yes, a zeitgeist!

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Students don’t play with fidget spinners anymore.  I have not seen one at all this year.  It was a very short-lived fad, which leads me to believe that nobody really desires chocolate ones anymore either.

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But the point of the story is to illustrate how you don’t really have to know how to manufacture an idea in order to invent something.  Leonardo da Vinci drew pictures of helicopters in the 1500s, as well as all sorts of things he did not actually make.

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My fidget spinner story acted as the launch pad for the active minds of my 5th grade art class.  I gave them a hand-out – to get them thinking about inventing something – why do people need it?  Who will use it?  How big is it?  How much does it cost?

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They filled out the sheet and drew illustrations for a coloring book of inventions.  This took several classes.  We did projects in between, which gave ample time for the students to ponder ideas.  Many shared the project with their parents – some came back with sketches their parents had made of the assignment.  It seems that everyone is a budding Leonardo!

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I sent the pages to Chittenango High School and the person who runs the Xerox printer created these amazing books.  Each student received a book of everyone’s inventions.  We spent one class period coloring them.  I told them to hold on to their copy, to keep the book in a bookshelf for, like, fifteen years.  Then pull it out, maybe when they are moving out or when their parents hold a giant garage sale, lol, and flip through it to see if any of the inventions had really been invented.  Zeitgeists happen all the time.

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My cousin Brian is an inventor at Welch Allyn.  He has something like forty patents.  Engineering type stuff.  I had actually checked on the patent information regarding my idea.  It seems the woman who had invented fidget spinners could not afford the patent and that is why everyone was manufacturing them.  Crazy, right?

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Our science teacher, Beth Bennett, received a grant to purchase a 3-D printer for school.  She will be meeting with John to learn more about the machine and what amazing things can be created with it.  I just love that!

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The sky’s the limit!

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Things & Junk Like That

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Even though the Mary Mattingly art exhibit is now over (it was at the Katherine O. Ellis Gallery at Light Work on Syracuse University campus), I still wanted to share it with you.  I saw the show and took these pictures when I was in the building for that Jerome Witkin art talk.

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I loved the way she created these over-sized “junk” sculptures then placed them in environments and photographed them.  They had a similarity to Sandy Skoglund’s work. Kind of reminded me of – okay, I made this weird ball of stuff, now what should I do with it?  I like the idea of taking art into the world and placing it in other environments, and allowing the new place to give the work a fresh perspective or meaning.

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I am working on a self-portrait style texture sculpture with 5th graders and I’m getting inspiration from Mattingly’s work.  Thinking about having them add metallic embroidery floss to their completed pieces – we selected ten pieces of wood for the basis of the sculpture then added the other items to create the texture and personal meaning.  The work here is in progress.  Everything will be painted in the metallic paint, hopefully by next class.

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What do you think about the addition of the string?  I was thinking it’s like My Favorite Things – “brown paper packages tied up with string….” or will it be too weird?  Can art be too weird or do we always need to be pushing the envelope?

I absolutely love introducing students to contemporary artists they could potentially meet in their life-time – as I have been saying a lot lately, the world has become small enough through social media that the thought of interacting with your favorite living artist is a direct possibility!  As so much of what is being done today has a social impact, in this case, the idea of recycling (trash to treasure), I think these new artists have a lot to offer our students/kids/youth – think art in the modern world and what that constitutes with regard to emotion….

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If you want to catch the next art exhibition at the Katherine O. Ellis Gallery, it starts tomorrow night – Wednesday, March 23, 2016 with a reception from 5:00 – 7:00 pm and  a gallery talk at 6:00 pm.  The show is called The Passenger’s Present and is the work of Japanese born artist Miki Soejima.

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According to the Light Work website literature, they “were founded as an artist-run, non-profit organization in 1973.  (Their) mission is to provide direct support to artists working in photography and related media, through residencies, publications, exhibitions and a community-access lab facility.”

The gallery is at 316 Waverly Avenue, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13210.  Contact them at (315) 443-1300 for more information.