Project: Peculiar Particles
Science topic: States of Matter
Participants: Year 4 pupils
Artist: Fiona Goodwin
Working with the States of Matter topic and using wax as our main material, we will be developing groups of “peculiar particles” based on prediction, experimentation, discovery and observation. We’ll learn about the structural changes and visual differences of particles, their mobility and flow, and changes associated with heating and cooling as we move between solid and liquid states of wax. What happens when wax comes into contact with other materials or we change the orientation of the surface? Is the process reversible? We’ll explore what potential and reactions wax has as it comes into contact with other hosts, and we’ll record the changes that take place as we have fun experimenting with tools, heat sources, media and moulds in order to develop our ideas for our final exhibition piece.
Session 1: 15th February 2017
It’s going to be exciting….There was a real buzz in the room as we discovered that we will be working with both an artist and a scientist and that we will be working on a piece of artwork that involves building with wax. We began in small groups look closely at the changes in wax as we ran some heating and cooling experiments. We really enjoyed watching the wax change from a solid state into a liquid, and had great fun sharing our excitement and ideas with each other as we went through the various stages. We’ve recognised too that wax behaves differently as it comes into contact with other materials and that the result also depends on the way that we apply the wax to other materials. We’re finding ways of testing temperature and new methods of recording and documenting our discoveries. The artwork we make over the next few weeks will be a collection of all our ideas and we’re very much looking forward to our next session, when we’ll learn more about what happens when we introduce other materials and pigments and start to create more 3D forms.
“First we used scissors to scrape off long bits of crayons onto a piece of paper. Next we put white tissue paper on it and ironed it on the top. Suddenly, it melted and looked like splats of paint which was epic”
“At first I thought the wax would not melt but when we added heat it was melting. I thought it was amazing and fantastic”
“I noticed as the wax was melting it was making patterns. The patterns looked liked faces. I found this so mysterious”
“I did not think the wax was going to melt and turn into a liquid”
“I never thought crayons would melt and turn into big beautiful patterns. I never imagined that crayons could make good backgrounds. These sessions are proving me wrong and I am learning so much”
Session 2: 1st March 2017
After starting our session with a discussion about particles and the differences between solid, liquid and gas states, we excitedly set to work developing ways of creatively creating our “peculiar particle” forms. Our investigation into materials is going further as we explore in more detail what happens when wax is introduced to other ingredients – paper flakes, saw dust, metallic foils, plastic seeds, spices… (all fascinating materials in their own right, with differences between them, for example some are natural, some man-made). What changes might take place when other materials are incorporated? We looked more closely at how these small fragments fuse together and wondered whether we could control the outcome as we layered up our moulds. Would there be any difference in the way the wax behaved in different containers? Many questions and possibilities emerged as we explored the effect of temperature change via heating experiments using metal and silicone moulds, this time using an oven as a heat source. We might not have all the answers yet but we know we’re having fun experimenting together !
“It was a marvellous idea to mix glitter and coloured powder with wax”
“I thought mixing things with wax and putting them in the oven just like baking cup cakes was a crazy idea, but after working with Fiona I have realised that doing unusual things is so much fun”
Session 3: 1st March 2017
Wasting no time we began our second phase of experiments, investigating the combination and effect of water when used alongside wax. We returned to using our wax pots as our heating method, and water to assist in our rapid cooling experiment using water-filled balloon containers. We worked in pairs and laughed a lot as we tried various methods of inflating and filling these lively moulds! We quickly realised that the level and temperature of the water was important to our working method, as we repeatedly dipped and cooled our malleable rubber moulds into the liquid wax, layering and building up the surfaces. This method enabled us to work more quickly and hand-build our forms in quite a different way. We realised that we were more able to control the variety, shape and form of the outcome and started to look at ways of changing the surface qualities too as we removed the moulds. The possibilities are endless, we could do with another day!
“Now I understand that when you heat things or freeze things it can change the material. For example the wax was solid and when we heated it the solid changed into a liquid”
“I enjoy learning scientific facts through art”
“First I thought the wax would cool down instantly, but it did take time for the wax to change back from a liquid to a solid again”
“Children researched the properties of a solid, liquid and gas as part of their homework. Working on the Change project has given them the opportunity to apply their learning and knowledge in real life situations. The vocabulary and facts children learn in these sessions give them a very valuable and unique learning opportunity – something that will stay with them for a long time. Many Year 4 parents have commented that they have noticed a confidence increase in their child, especially in Art and Science” (staff member)
Session 4: 29th March 2017
We arranged the space for a fast-paced, fun-filled session, very much drawing upon the knowledge and expertise of our CTT buddy Elaine. Elaine introduced us to aspects of manufacture that are commonly used in industry and explained how process flow methods are used at Cummins. We tried to mimic and adopt a similar way of working in this session through our planned activities – grating, heating, die cutting, embossing….. We enjoyed the freedom it created and the ability to move fluidly from one task to the next. It made us more aware of each other as we worked very closely together. Everyone had an important role to play as we attempted the creation and manufacture of our paper-based piece in just two hours! It was a massive task, and very sweaty at times, because there were many heat sources being used in the room at the same time. We relied on each other and it required lots of energy to keep the chain moving and the momentum flowing, but it was so much fun and definitely worth it. We really made the most of our final session – we couldn’t have squeezed in anything more, it was brilliant!
“The experience was amazing. It was so exciting and it was so satisfying when the hairdryer melted the crayons”
“It was fun because it was learning Art and Science”
“I felt full of joy when I was grating the crayons”
“The best part today was everything. It was amazing. It was good”
“It was amazing when the solid was reacting to the wax bits”
“I enjoyed the session because I loved making the circle pieces. It looks beautiful. Thank you for helping me”
“I was feeling amazed by the crayons when they started melting. It was really cool, my best part was when I was watching the crayons melting”
“I had a lot of fun today. I think the activities were very creative. Especially when we grated crayons onto circle paper. After we ironed it it looked awesome”
“I thought it was a good and amazing day doing lots of experiments”
“I want to do it again and again”
A few final words from our teacher
“Children researched the properties of a solid, liquid and gas as part of their homework. Working on the Change project has given them the opportunity to apply their learning and knowledge in real life situations. The vocabulary and facts children learnt in these sessions gave them a very valuable and unique learning opportunity – something that will stay with them for a long time. Many Year 4 parents have commented that they have noticed a confidence increase in their child, especially in Art and Science.” Tasleem Kamal – Year 4 Teacher