You are walking with your friend on the BeltLine in Atlanta on a beautiful spring afternoon. You smile at a passerby and notice the white fluffy clouds in the sky above as the breeze blows across your face. You tell your friend about your students, working so hard to master new skills that week. A glimpse of red draws your eye to the ground. It’s a small, red door with fencing surrounding a garden on either side. There is a miniature bicycle parked outside the door. You notice a frame with the words “#TinyDoorsATL” inside. Questions abound. Who lives behind the door? What is their tiny life like? Who rides the miniature bicycle? These questions will never be answered but will be imagined by all who pass these Tiny Doors.
This red door, like so many others, has been carefully designed and crafted by Tiny Doors ATL. The goal of Tiny Doors ATL is to create free, public art that generates wonder, creativity, and imagination. Two teachers at Hopkins Elementary School took this art installation to the next level by creating #TinyDoorsHop, short for Tiny Doors Hopkins. Sydney Cohn, Math Connections Teacher, and Amanda Main, Art Connections Teacher, envisioned a project that combined art, math, and technology to help students understand that math is all around us while also encouraging student creativity.
Classes begin the project by seeing Ms. Main for a week in art class. On Monday, students take a pretest consisting of 10 questions: five questions are focused on the elements of art while the other five questions are centered on area and perimeter. Next, students are introduced to the project by viewing an emaze presentation about Tiny Doors ATL. The following day, students complete a foldable using terms and definitions. Students learn about line, shape, form, texture, space, value, and color while thinking about how they can use some of these elements in the design of their doors.
Students begin executing their vision by creating a sketch of their Tiny Door, keeping in mind the elements of art and how the location of their door will influence their design. Ms. Main incorporates student use of technology by having students answer questions on a Padlet.
Students must describe how the location of their Tiny Door impacts the design and what elements of art are included in their design.
The first group of 4th graders who completed this project had never used Padlet. Without teacher instruction, the students quickly discovered the camera feature and chose to capture images of their doors in addition to answering the given questions. Allowing students the freedom to explore tech tools independently takes projects and activities to new heights!
The week after students finish creating their Tiny Door, they visit Ms. Cohn in Math Connections. Here, students spend a few days learning about area and perimeter and measuring different parts of their door. For example, students can measure the actual door, the design of the door, or specific aspects of the design. Students compile their calculations using a graphic organizer. Students synthesize their learning, about both art and math, into a paragraph that is then typed into a QR code generator.
Ms. Cohn differentiates this activity by providing different forms of the same graphic organizer. One group of students will compose their own paragraph, another group of students use sentence starters to create their paragraph, and yet another group of students circle answer choices and fill in blanks. Students submit their final QR code to a dropbox so Ms. Cohn can print them out.
Tiny Doors will soon take over the halls of Hopkins Elementary and each door will be accompanied by a QR code that describes the elements of art used in the design of the door, the area of the door or design, and the perimeter of the door or design. The last piece of technology integration in this project is an online post-test. Students take the same test that they took in art to show knowledge gains in the topics of elements of art, area, and perimeter.
The most meaningful part of this project is seeing what the students have taken away. When asked the question, “How does math influence art?” students were able to articulate more connections between math and art than at the start of the project. They identified many elements of art that are present in math.
“Each time we draw, we use the elements of art.”
“Math influences art by using shapes. Shapes are just like geometry. Squares and rectangles can be measured to find out the area and perimeter. That is how math influences art.”
Watching students complete this project showed me that making connections to the real world, integrating subjects, and embedding technology in meaningful ways grabs students’ attention. The students at Hopkins Elementary School are so excited to see their Tiny Doors decorating the halls. Once placed throughout the school, students may choose to develop a creative writing piece that describes the world around these Tiny Doors. Students will answer many of the same questions that are generated by Tiny Doors ATL.
Kudos to Sydney Cohn and Amanda Main who dreamed up this highly engaging project. I leave you with the words of a fourth grader at Hopkins Elementary,
“Art and math go together because they both help you learn more things. If you do half math and half art it will be so much fun.”