STEAM activities employ skills from various educational disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math) to propel kids toward inquiry and solution-based knowledge. By combining tessellation explorations with a STEAM approach to learning, kids are challenged to use interdisciplinary and critical thinking skills to investigate how all learning is connected to their world.
STEAM EDUCATION: TESSELLATIONS
STEAM Skills Presented:
Science: Students will locate tessellations found in nature and in their everyday world.
Technology: Students will use mobile technology to create tessellations and digital technology to document learning.
Engineering: Kids will become aware of tessellating patterns commonly found in everyday structures.
Arts: Kids will construct a tessellating pattern that reflects the student artist’s creative choices.
Math: Kids will employ measurement skills to produce a grid and experiment with geometric shapes, lines, and patterning as they design the tessellation.
Background Information for Parents and Teachers: Tessellations are connected patterns made of repeating shapes that cover a plane (a 2-D, flat surface that is infinite) completely without overlapping or leaving any holes. A checkerboard is a basic tessellation comprised of alternating colored squares; the squares meet with no overlapping and can be extended on a surface forever. Tessellations have been used for thousands of years in architectural designs and structures (tiles and mosaics are examples). Today, artist M.C. Escher (Dutch artist – 1898-1972) is known as a master of tessellation artwork. M.C. Escher portrayed realistic objects (fish, birds, and others) in his drawings and tessellation prints.
Introduction to Tessellations for Students
Tessellations have 3 basic characteristics:
- Tessellations are repeating patterns.
- Tessellating patterns have no gaps or holes in the pattern and do not overlap.
- Tessellations can go on infinitely on a plane (flat surface).
Invite kids to look around the classroom to see if they can find tessellating patterns. Many classrooms have brick walls, tiled flooring, and/or tiled ceilings. Those structures tessellate space because they fit the attributes above. Discuss the following questions with the students: What other shapes can the kids locate that tessellate space? What patterns would not be considered tessellating patterns?
Wikki Stix Tessellation Activity for Kids
- Assorted colors of Wikki Stix
- Heavy Paper
Invite the students to create a 9 square grid on the piece of paper. Each square should be 3 inches by 3 inches – measuring accurately with the ruler is important. Assist younger children in creating the basic grid for the tessellation design. Older children can make the grid on the paper independently.
Set out assorted colors of Wikki Stix and invite the children to create the tessellations. Younger children may wish to design a basic checkerboard by outlining and filling in the template squares with Wikki Stix colors of their choice. Students may also want to create a paper template from a separate 3” by 3” square. The student tessellation design, TEE-PEE with SETTING SUN, was created by cutting shapes away from a separate square and using it as a template for the tessellation.
Older students may wish to try more challenging tessellation designs with Wikki Stix. In keeping with M.C. Escher’s tessellation art with birds, one student designed his work, Bluebirds, on a 9 square grid with Wikki Stix. It is truly amazing to watch kids think, create, and solve problems with hands-on design and exploration!
Digital Documentation of Learning – Exploring Tessellations in the Everyday World
Tessellations are found EVERYWHERE! To expand and document learning, invite kids to search for additional tessellations in their everyday world. Challenge kids to use digital cameras (or invite parents to assist in documentation) and take photos of tessellations they find in the classroom, in nature, or at home! Our own kids found tessellating patterns in:
- Textiles (curtains and rugs)
- A wasp nest
- A soccer ball
- Tiled ceilings and flooring
- The brick foundation of a home
- The grate of a fan
- A metal fence
Mobile Technology Extension Activity – Digital Tessellations
The Tesselations App by David Rasch is available for iPhone and iPad. If the students have access to mobile technology, the app is a fun one to use for creation of simple digital tessellations. The kids will choose a template from the drop-down menu, select the color(s), and then use touch-screen skills to move the basic square to create various tessellating patterns. The photos can be saved within the app and printed for additional documentation of learning.
Exploring tessellations through an interdisciplinary STEAM approach helps kids connect learning. When students are given the opportunity to recognize geometric relationships and construct the tessellating patterns, they can apply that knowledge outside of the classroom to problems that exist in their everyday world.
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