Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Eco-Friendly Machines

5th Grade spent the last couple months of school conceptualizing, designing, building and embellishing these incredible inventions. These one-of-a-kind machines are especially earth-friendly - not only are they made entirely out of recycled materials, but they also serve a very important purpose. Each machine has been designed to help solve a particular environmental issue!
To begin this unit, we started by talking about current and future environmental concerns and threats. Students discussed what they knew about various types of pollution, energy and natural resource conservation, endangered species, animal displacement, global warming, and many other issues.
Our discussion also included talk of inventions, the process of developing new technology, and the interwoven relationship between artists and scientists. We reviewed simple machines, and discussed real-life applications of these machines. This helped the students with the next step - creating a preliminary design.
Each student individually chose an environmental issue that they feel passionate about, and brainstormed different ways that they could work to aide in solving that issue. Then, they sketched out an idea for their machine, incorporating at least four simple machines in their design.
Of course, the students did not limit their imaginations to totally "realistic" designs. Without a creative mind, nothing would ever change, right? So many of these machines do quite impossible things - like take trash and turn it into new trees. Some, however, do things like take trash and turn it into furniture, or artificial habitats, or building supplies.
To make these designs, students used a variety of collected materials - plastic and tin containers, bottle caps, soda tabs, cardboard, egg cartons, beads, and all sorts of odd pieces of plastic, etc. They used hot glue to join their designs together securely. On a safety note - students were WELL educated as to the proper (and safe) way to use a hot glue gun, and WELL warned about the consequences of any misbehavior while hot glue guns were being used in the room!

To finalize their sculpture, the students used acrylic paint. I had the students first paint a base coat to fully cover their materials (unless they wanted to leave it unfinished.) Then, students added design elements, patterns and details on top. It was very important to make sure to wait in between coats of paint so that the colors didn't mix or get muddy.
It was interesting to see the way that each set of students solved the problem. Many students, as you may have noticed in the images above, created vehicles that serve an environmental purpose. The work in water, on land, in the air, underground, even within a hot volcano! Of course, there were some awesome robots, too. The last one in the pictures above eats used paper and spits out new recycled sheets from the back! I love the sense of humor mixed in with creative problem solving.
A few students in one of my classes created some different tank designs, but they're not for military use! First of all, they run on eco-friendly energy - like solar power or trash converted into fuel.
The canon-looking attachments on these tanks expel things like purified water or food for animals or clean air! I wish I had recorded the students explaining their final products - their creativity was astounding, and their explanations were very detailed and thoughtful!
Some students work to collect waste or recyclable materials, some work to relocate animals, some work to rebuild habitats. The middle one above takes solar energy and uses it to power a video camera that projects films about recycling. The students considered every detail they could - including the colors of their machines. Many chose to camouflage their creation with the type of environment in which it would work.

I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed watching the students use all those items that would otherwise be trash and transform them into these sculptures. I really hope that they share their ideas with others - these children are the future, and our key to taking care of our very important planet in the years to come!


Lauren Taylor, Art Instructor said...

These are SOOOO cool! I love them!

Clay Boggess said...

Very Cool. Creativity ideas from students who will soon a significant impact!

Marta said...

Son alucinantes!!!!!

Me encantan todas!!!!!! enhorabuena por tu trabajo.