For several years, I have been very eager to facilitate Passion Art Projects loosely based on Google’s Genius Hour. I explained to the students that we actually attend a school that is named after a great inventor, Alexander Graham Bell Elementary School and since he (among others) invented the telephone, the phone has gone through serious design transformations…all created by industrial designers, a type of artist/inventor.
There are a lot of wonderful resources online. Also, a good friend of mine, Lincoln Park High School art teacher, Ms. Grimm shared some of her project resources with me. This helped me frame my vision and teaching strategy. I taught the lesson for the first time today and already made changes to the brainstorming think-sheet, slide show and creative expectations. The best character trait of any teacher is to be flexible. Exploring, researching and attempting this project has required patience, reflection and constant tweaking.
The three main rules of the Passion project/Genius hour are: Create something, research it and present! Bell 5th graders will be the first group to leap into this new venture this year. As presenting their work is the final step, this blog post will become a gallery where they can add their descriptive, fact based topic paragraph and a photograph of their Passion Invention project for all to see! Families will be notified of this exhibition gallery and will be able to add approved comments that I can later share with the students. To help connect the ideas of invention, history, design and storytelling, I asked the students to compare two different flying inventions, one by Leonardo Da Vinci, ca.1485 and the other one by Abbas Ibn Firnas, ca.875. It was interesting to see the students trying to figure out which invention had been invented first. They were also surprised the Firnas invention was from ca.875, close to 600 years BEFORE the Renaissance and Da Vinci! They were also surprised to learn that while the era before the Renaissance in Europe is called the Dark Ages, in fact, in the Middle East, this could not be further from the truth. The Dark Age in Europe is considered the Golden Age in the Middle East, a time filled with mathematical, scientific, artistic and creative inventions, many of them later influencing European, inventions 400 and 500 years later in Europe such as astrolabes and surgical devices.
Much of this information was transferred via the Silk road through accounts of merchants and sailors meeting Muslim traders in “penny universities.” Google has created a spectacular website documenting the early, Golden Age inventions and contributions by female and male creators here.
To learn more about these fascinating, trailblazing Golden Age inventors, students watched and discussed the 1001 inventions initiative, award winning video called “Library of Secrets.” They learned about Firnas and other Golden Age thinkers whose inventions are still used in the modern world today!
Topics picked by my first group are: Help the World clay model, Help the World art design kit for children with no art, ocean cleaning device, poster to raise funds for homeless people, build a sculpture of a restaurant that offers free food to homeless people, “The E project” a graphic novel, design and write a song book about problems in the world (pollution/war/homelessness/healthy choices/save the animals,)”Don’t be selfish poster to help the homeless, Royal Python painting, Dogs Can Fly invention (inspired by Firnas/Da Vinci,) Free food cart, handmade bowls at the free food cart, Stop Poverty poster, build a sculpture of a free apartment building for the homeless, Comic book to help people learn to read, Bangtan band painting/album cover.
Topics picked by my second group are: Arm sculpture model for people without arms, A Cubs W sign design, A poster called “Come out of the Dark” as an album cover about feelings, fancy soccer ball, Super Speed skateboard, Mini Coral Reef, Doll Friend, Scale City Model, Bird, Snowball game character sculpture, Film trailer, Baseball Bat sculpture, PacMan Game model, Cubs Team 12 month calendar, Electric Car sculpture, Cubs Mascot bobble head sculpture, Help Earth jewelry, Queen Tribute album cover.