Rigid Transformation Art Project (revised!)

For the third year, I’m wrapping up unit 1 of 8th Grade Illustrative Mathematics/Open Up Resources with an art project.

(You can read about my digital version from 2020 and my first attempt from 2018, if you’re interested!)

I wanted to enrich this project in a couple ways: 1. Weaving in examples of rigid transformations from several different cultures through video and books. 2. Asking them to create a work of art with some type of significance/symbolism 3. Thoroughly prepping them, by bringing up the project/project themes throughout the unit so it didn’t just feel tacked on at the end. 4. Hosting some sort of gallery for them to share and celebrate their final product.

The following “activities” took place throughout Unit 1.

Day 1: Launching the Unit

I told kids the title of the unit and then passed out the library books I had checked out. I asked kids to look through them with their partners and brainstorm what they think we might be studying during this unit. The kids got the chance to look through several books and then shared out. Afterwards, they took the Unit 1 pre-assessment. At the end of class, I asked if they had any more ideas for what we might be learning about and I added their ideas to the list.

A few days later: Another look at the books.

After the first 6 lessons, kids had lots of experience identifying, describing, and applying rigid transformations, so to launch lesson 7, I invited them to take another look through the books . After giving kids 5 minutes to look carefully through one of the books with their partner, I asked a couple kids to hold up their books and share a transformation they had identified.

Mid-Unit Assessment:

I arranged the mid-unit assessment to match the rubrics I’m using for the unit. I included a photograph of a Navajo rug for one of the questions. (For the final project kids would be asked to describe the transformations in their own art.) *The other questions are from the curriculum. Found here for free here: https://openupresources.org/

A deeper dive into the examples of art/crafts/fabric with rigid transformations :

During the second half of the unit, I took advantage of two shorter lessons to share some of the videos showcasing art with rigid transformations. I wish I had the time (/had made the time) for more of the videos, but the three we watched went well. My school is pretty diverse; it’s roughly 40% hispanic, 30% white, 14% asian, 6% Black, and 10% multi-racial. I am a white teacher. I was a little nervous that kids would tune out or express disinterest and that my attempt to highlight art and mathematics by people of color would get twisted around and somehow reinforce white supremacy. To try to avoid this, I prepped them with the following:

  • When I showed the slide with the example of Kente Cloth, I asked kids to take a moment to see what rigid transformations they could find and then asked them to share out.
  • The video ended with a minute to spare so the kids were anxious to pack up and leave, but I emphasized that I wanted to hear from at least three people. Kids shared really thoughtful comments about what they learned and appreciated. I was happy to notice that students of color where especially eager to share here as well as a white student who is not a big fan of math. One Afro-Caribbean student took obvious pride in his connection to this work and even commented on it…I can’t quite remember what he said now. We need more of this in math class!

A few lesson later, I shared two more videos. We started class with the first 2.5 minutes of a video about Islamic geometric patterns.. Once again, I asked them to first share any rigid transformations they saw in the example, and then let them know that we would be watching a video focusing on mosques in Turkey, but that there is similar art and architecture all over the world, especially in areas with higher percentages of Muslim populations such as North Africa and the Middle East.

After we watched, I re-emphasized how MC Escher’s work was heavily influenced by Islamic Geometry. We have two of his prints in our classroom and a few books featuring his work.

After the regular lesson, at the end of class, I introduced them to Zarah Hussain, a current artist, whose work is based in Islamic geometric art. First I scrolled through a few examples of her work on her website, and then we watched the short video about her Breath exhibit. Kids definitely appreciated seeing a contemporary artist and hearing about the personal meaning behind her art.

Planning for the Project

The directions were simple: Create a piece of art that uses all three rigid transformations. Your art should be about something.

Kids completed this handout to plan for the project. I wanted them to think about the meaning/intentionality behind their work first. I knew kids would take it to different levels of depth….and I honestly didn’t care as long as they chose something specific for their work to be about. To give a taste: “Life and death and the beauty in both,” “My cats and how much I love them,” and “My culture. I’m from a certain area in Ukraine and want to make my art inspired by their fabric.” When it came to sketching a rough draft, some kids had concrete ideas, but many kids relied heavily on the books for inspiration. I cannot recommend them enough!

Creating the art

I gave kids multiple options for creating their final artwork:

  1. Drawing on blank paper.
  2. Using grid paper.
  3. Using isometric grid paper
  4. Drawing on watercolor.

I emphasized the importance of creating truly congruent figures and showed them how, if they were using blank paper, they could make stencils out of card stock to make sure their work was truly composed of rigid transformations. I had pattern blocks on offer as well which a few students used. One students made a collage, by cutting out and rearranging the shapes.

Here is one elaborate work in progress:

The final product

I’m asking kids to turn in three parts:

  1. Their artwork
  2. An artist’s statement
  3. An annotated photocopy of their art that precisely described one example of each type of transformation.

We are still working on this, but I will add updates once it’s done.

Now…to figure out how to host an exhibit showing off their work during a pandemic.

As always, questions, comments, suggestions welcome!

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