Most of the time I’m super happy to live in a place where it’s warm and sunny year round. But every January I get a bit wistful for some snow. It’s usually about the time my sister-in-law sends me pictures of her house blanketed in five inches of powdery whiteness and her four kids happily building snowmen and sledding.
This year, some of my students told me about Wilson Bentley, aka “Snowflake Bentley”. Snowflake Bentley got this moniker by being one of the first to produce close-up photographs of individual ice crystals. Amazingly, he did this in the 1800’s, and over the course of his lifetime, he captured over 5,000 images of snowflakes, proving that indeed, no two are alike.
That’s a PHOTO, Folks! Isn’t it amazing? Snowflake Bentley thought the tiny crystals were miniature miracles of beauty and masterpieces of design. I would wholeheartedly agree!
Since we couldn’t hop a plane to Colorado, or Alberta, or Switzerland, or New Zealand, or any of the other 130 places I would like to visit to satisfy my snow-craving, I put this inspiration to paper and devised an art project instead!
This lesson is a loose interpretation of snowflakes. In making their designs, my kiddos learned about radial symmetry, geometry of a circle, and printmaking.
I love it when I can pack a lot of concepts into one fun activity!
This project yields beautiful results and, just like the real snowflakes, each print is unique–no two alike! The kids’ favorite part was going on a scavenger hunt for all of the small gadgets we used for printing. I would recommend this project for any age, however from a design standpoint you will have best results from kindergarten and up.
Here’s how you can make this Project Artwork at home:
- “gadgets” (see Step 3 below)
- white paint (tempera or acrylic)
- clean kitchen sponge
- foam tray (leftover produce tray or foam plate)
- scrap cardboard or used gift card
- construction paper (I used Atomic Blue, Pacon Tru-Ray, 12X18 cut into a 12 inch square)
- a piece of white chalk
- plate to trace
- newspaper or extra construction paper for padding
Cover your work table with newspaper or old party tablecloth
Wet a kitchen sponge and wring out thoroughly.
Place damp sponge onto leftover foam vegetable tray or foam plate.
Cut construction paper to 12-inch square. (Cut several–you will want to make lots of prints!)
Discuss radial symmetry with you child. If you do an internet search under “radial symmetry art examples” your child will quickly understand this concept of things radiating around a central axis.
Look at internet images of snowflakes.
Step 1: Draw A Circle.
Center the plate on your construction paper square and lightly trace around it with your chalk.
Use a tissue to “erase” any mistakes. This outline of the circle is its CIRCUMFERENCE.
Step 2: Divide Your Circle.
Using the chalk, mark the center of the circle with a dot. Then draw a line from the edge of the circle to the center point (This is the RADIUS) and continue the line to the opposite edge of the circle ( The DIAMETER). You have divided your whole circle into two equal halves.
Finally, draw an “X” across the center of the circle, dividing the circle into sixths.
Put the chalk and plate away and move on to Step 3.
Step 3: Go on a gadget hunt!
You will be looking for all sorts of small objects that might make an interesting design when printed. Gather up small lids, paint stirs, old legos, keys, toy blocks, used ink cartridges, cookie cutters, etc.
I never throw anything away! Old spools, lids from candles, pool noodles cut into pieces, even empty glue stick containers, all work great for printing and mixed-media work!
Step 4: Prepare Your “Ink Pad”.
Grab your tray with the dampened sponge. Squirt white paint on the top of the sponge and use an old gift card or piece of scrap cardboard to scrape the paint across the surface of the sponge into a uniform layer.
Step 5: Print!
Press gadgets into the “ink pad” and then onto your circle.
I like to place a folded newspaper or stack of extra paper under my colored construction paper. This gives it a little extra padding and allows the objects to print better. I also keep a piece of scrap paper handy so I can test-print objects first to decide of I like them or not.
Start with the center of your circle.Something large and round works best here. Next, print objects at the endpoints of your lines. Then repeat objects in a row or find longer, linear objects like popsicle sticks, to create the lines.
The chalk lines are guidelines only. They will be erased once the paint is dry. Feel free to create extra lines with printed objects. You may also overlap, or print new objects on top of other objects.
The key to making this look good is developing the radial symmetry.
I tell the kids to never print something just once; when they print something in one spot they MUST repeat it on the opposite side.
Developing the radial symmetry of the design is important, otherwise, the project will look like a snowBLOB instead of a snowflake!
Step 6: Allow Time to Dry, Then Erase Chalk Lines.
Once the paint is totally dry, use a tissue to wipe off any unwanted chalk lines and call it done!
Each one is totally unique!