Noilly Prattle: Call Me Mr. B. – Fourteen

Friday, July 19, 2013

Call Me Mr. B. – Fourteen

Grade 4

Picture Pie

     We've all heard about integrated learning where one type of lesson can morph into another, so why not integrate Art and Math. Every kid knows that when Mom offers him some pie he's not going to get the whole pie but a fraction of it—better know as a piece of pie.

        While browsing through a bookstore some years ago I ran across a book called “Picture Pie” in which the artist composed an amazing array of imaginative pictures using circles and fractions of circles cut out of colored construction paper. I bought the book and kept it in my library.

        Fast forward ahead a few years. I'm in Japan, setting up an art program and looking for ideas for lessons that are a little, shall we say, left of center, educative, that might capture the imagination of primary school kids and would be doable. Kids this age are interested in their stomachs and the natural world around them, especially living things like animals and insects. Beetles are big in Japan where we have a rather large variety of shapes and sizes.

        I got the Picture Pie book off the shelf and started looking through it again, this time thinking about ways that I could adapt the technique to a project for my 4th Grade class. It was obvious that you could tie the lessons to food and Math through the idea of cutting a pie into fractions, and that was how I introduced the project. Using large circles cut from colored construction paper I demonstrated how you could cut the circle into halves, quarters, eighths, even sixteenths and three-quarters.

        When they understood the concept of dividing the circle, which all were readily able to do having already studied fractions in their Math class, I discussed and demonstrated how to assemble the various shapes to form an abstract picture of some familiar object—such as the baby chick on the right. The image consists simply of a three-quarter yellow circle and three one-eighth circle pieces, one yellow and two orange, a small black circle either cut out of construction paper or simply drawn with a black felt tip marker and a few lines with the marker to represent legs and a tree branch.

        Abstracting shapes of this nature is, of course, very challenging even for the teacher. Consequently I didn't expect a lot of creativity in this project and allowed it to be an exercise in cutting, pasting, design and manipulating of the shapes. I had lots of examples on display that the children were free to copy and/or try to make their own pictures. They were required to create six different pictures that were to be arranged and pasted on large circles. The arrangements were then laid out on large sheets of white drawing paper to represent a bunch of helium filled balloons tied together with string as if they were being sold at a circus or fair or festival. Looks good enough to eat—if you slice it right!

To be continued...

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