Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Geodesic Dome Building, Part I

Ada Leaphart, Integrated Arts Academy Art Teacher Extraordinaire, and I have embarked on an adventure. We’ve got all the fourth graders at IAA building geodesic domes out of newspaper.

I really don’t know how this is going to end up, so that is why I have named this Part I. I hope to report back with more news as the project progresses.

Ada and I decided to keep things loose. We didn’t want to figure everything out for the students by creating our own dome first, learning all the lessons, and then presenting a tidy scenario.

Instead, we have never attempted to create a geodesic dome out of newspaper or anything else, for that matter. Sometimes STEM+Art (I, unlike others, am not wanting to call that STEAM) should be messy and students should have the fun of making mistakes and doing all the figuring.

Before the students got started building, Ada showed a photo of a geodesic dome and asked students what they noticed. We got some math+art conversation going from that, as students noticed many geometric shapes, like triangles, pentagons, hexagons, and trapezoids. Then we talked about old Bucky Fuller (every class asked if he was still living) and how he really wanted to make the world a better place for everyone by using an efficient structure like a dome for shelter.

Kids couldn’t wait to get started. Here are the instructions we are using from PBS.

It turns out, you can roll newspaper in a loose, floppy, weak way or you can roll it in a very tight, very strong roll. Students shared successful and unsuccessful techniques. Among the successful techniques invented by students are 1) Asking someone else to help you tape the roll, 2) asking someone else for help, period, 3) twisting the roll when it is finished to make it even tighter, and 4) using a pencil to act as the center of the roll, then shaking it loose once the roll is finished.

We ended up with enough rolls to make one or two domes. 65 usable rolls are needed. Next time we will need to establish a Quality Control group to assess, select, and count the rolls we’ve got. Ada and I aren’t sure how the whole thing is going to go. At the end of it all I would like to set the dome on fire in the playground. I am not sure we will get permission for that. Oh well, we’re going to roll with it.