Science topic: Properties & Changes of Materials
Participants: Year 5 pupils
Artist: Fiona Goodwin
Our project journey will see us investigating a range of properties and materials, and exploring, testing and developing ways of affecting change in them. As we group different materials together we’ll be looking at different ways of changing their characteristics and their capacity to melt, dissolve, mix and change state from hard to soft, opaque to transparent; and we’ll be demonstrating that some changes are reversible. We’ll be experimenting with layering techniques and stabilising materials to build and construct with, taking engineered shapes and forms as a starting point for our mixed media artwork. On our journey we expect to encounter “happy accidents” and unexpected occurrences which we won’t necessarily have control over, and the end result will be something we can’t quite predict. So our final exhibition piece is a complete experiment – how exciting!
Session 1: 15th February 2017
Our project and our investigation of properties and materials got off to a great start today as we met artist Fiona and scientist Elaine from Cummins Turbo Technologies. We were shown some examples and began our observation and experimentation stage by learning a little more about the properties of wax. We split into small groups and tested the temperature of the wax as we heated it with melting pots and irons. We loved watching it change from a solid into a liquid state and back again. It took some time to heat up – we recorded this, and tried to predict what might happen as we introduced the wax to different material bases. There were lots of discoveries made here and lots of visible changes to observe as the wax cooled too; we recorded these using our scientific and creative vocabulary and are starting to build our catalogue of surfaces. We learnt a lot very quickly and loved the fact that wax can be both hard and transparent. It will be so much fun to work with, and we’ve had some very exciting results already!
“My favourite part was testing the wax through different materials. I found some materials didn’t have gaps whereas other materials absorbed the wax”
“I thought it was great! It’s something I’ve never done before. I never even knew that wax could be artistic and fun”
“My favourite part was creating patterns by scraping crayons and ironing it onto the paper. I found you can create lots of patterns and you can create a giant piece of art too”
“We scraped wax crayons and designed a pattern with them. We ironed over it carefully so it melted. That was my favourite part!”
Session 2: 15th March 2017
What a fast-paced session! Ideas were flowing and we were keen to keep moving and experiment further , all enjoying the challenge of deepening our understanding of properties and materials. There was a real buzz as we were introduced to paper mould making techniques. We began as two groups with two different pre-cut engineered base shapes and started to manipulate our paper forms using the pleating and folding techniques that Fiona demonstrated. We discovered that some of the paper material is absorbent, some repellent, and all of it is fragile at this stage. Could we make it look fragile but become hard? We took care and had fun creating the shapes that would become our moulds. When we realised how wonderful they will look en masse we all started pulling together with a real sense of team. We helped each other and shared our ideas and thoughts about different materials, about how we could test and include them and contain them within our moulds but……would they float, would they sink, would they melt? We watched and waited for our wax pours to cool. We included some secret ingredients so it will be exciting to remove the paper and discover what’s inside.
Session 3: 15th March 2017
Wow!! We removed our wax papers…. Some bits did stick and we couldn’t remove them, but because we know why they are there we’re quite happy with them. There are some amazing things starting to happen. We noticed that although we had used similar starting points, each of our pieces displayed very different characteristics. So we started to explore whether we could get pieces that come from the same or similar moulds to be even more unique and characterful. With our next batch of making, and by using the mould differently this time, we discovered that the character really is in our hands – it’s all about our material selection, our understanding of the materials and how they perform, and the order in which we do things. We realised that we may need to allow our wax to cool before adding in other ingredients and moving it onto the next stage. We’re learning that we can try and control the outcome, that we can stabilise and build with quite fragile materials, but that the materials themselves will to some extent dictate the quirky forms they want to become. Materials and processes really are as unique as we are ourselves!
“We learnt how to fold paper like origami first. Then we learnt that wax hardens when it’s cool. The lessons were fantastic, amazing and super!”
“We made sculptures by melting wax and folding paper. Then we put the wax in the paper folds. This made some amazing creations”
“A real experience. A very cool day”
“We learnt how to fold with wax paper. We also learnt how to make chatter boxes and used these with wax. I didn’t know you could do that”
“Today we melted wax and made sculptures. It was absolutely incredible”
“It was really fun and creative”
Session 4: 29th March 2017
Our quest for trying to direct the wax continued as we returned to our geometric forms again. Splitting once more into two groups we developed our ideas further around our two central starting points – a square and a circle. We experimented more with folding, pleating, scrunching and embossing techniques, varying our methods each time to see how this would change and affect our base shape. We loved the results even more as we introduced metallic waxes into our folds and creases. We noticed that the heat source, this time an iron, allowed us to direct the heat in a much more controlled way and affected the wax very differently – it quickly dispersed, flattened to an extent, and created a lovely sheen on the surface too, the effects were really quite magical. Our pieces started to take on different characteristics, some fabulous organic shapes began to appear and the square and circle starting points became less and less important. The wax just wanted to flow, but by creasing and manipulating our base shapes there was a symmetry to it too – how fascinating! Sadly we’ve run out of time, even though there are many more exciting experiments and discoveries in us yet. For now, we will leave Fiona to put finishing touches on our artwork ready for the exhibition and look forward to seeing it at the art gallery. We’ve had fun – in fact we’re all waxing lyrical about it!
“We worked with wax which was super fun. We also ironed the paper with the wax inside ourselves, which was pretty good. I really want to do it again because it was fun and we learnt lots of artistic things!”
“I enjoyed the last session because I worked with fascinating materials. I worked in the circles group and first I made a tiny one, then a medium one and then a huge one. It was interesting seeing how the size would make a difference to the patterns”
“I thought it was great! My favourite part was when I created a pattern of Jesus and someone else thought one of my patterns looked like a shield”
“We created art by cutting out circles and squares. We also put wax crayons shavings in the shapes and ironed it. I enjoyed that process a lot”
“I enjoyed ironing the wax and looking at how the wax had reacted to the heat. I would love to do it again because it was so fun”
“My favourite part was seeing how the wax changed and I thought it was really good. I hope we can do it again”
“I liked how everyone’s ended up being different and we ended up with different designs”
“I enjoyed watching the children’s reactions as they unfolded their pieces of paper to see the patterns the melted wax had created. It was lovely to see children exploring textures and patterns and using their inquisitive skills to come up with pieces of art” (staff member)
A few final words from our teacher
“Children understand reversible and irreversible changes better than they did. All were able to talk about how solids turned into liquids, and then realised that when wax cooled it would turn back into a solid again. Staff noticed that children were using scientific language whilst working, which showed that their understanding of the science topic was enhanced. I have enjoyed watching children also engage in art in a way they haven’t before – I have found that children are more engaged in our class art lessons now as they are understanding the investigative nature of art. Children’s artistic learning was enhanced by using materials they have never used before, which was brilliant. Working with Fiona with wax has given me an abundance of ideas – I can already think of a variety of ways to link the skills from the sessions in my own teaching and across the school curriculum.” Asma Rawat – Year 5 Teacher