February 21, 2013

Art and Math – A Match Made In Heaven

Friends' art teacher Rachel Relin making new
friends during her recent trip to Morocco
Each year, Friends' School awards a sabbatical grant to one of our teachers.  The idea is to give one of our hard-working educators an opportunity to rejuvenate themselves, while participating in a worthwhile activity that will also enrich our students’ experiences.

A year ago, 4th grade teacher Liz Richards used the award to visit Washington D.C. and colonial Williamsburg.  It was a great investment by the school as Liz returned with amazing ideas for teaching history and she became the inspiration behind our school election back in November. For more on this story, you can visit this earlier column.

This year’s recipient is art teacher Rachel Relin.  Rachel used her award over winter break to help pay for a trip to Morocco.  Long fascinated in the art and culture of North Africa, Rachel was able to enjoy an amazing trip, building on her long-standing interest and expertise in fabric arts. 

Fun facts:  Rachel has a Masters Degree in Fine Arts in Fiber Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design.  Her teaching experiences range from teaching Fiber Art at the Maryland Institute College of Art to developing art programs for the Museum of International Folk Art, and the Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe. She has been our art teacher at Friends’ for seven years following her graduation from our own Teacher Preparation Program.

Just as with Liz’s experience, our students are about to benefit.

Moroccan-inspired geometric pattern
While in Morocco Rachel fell in love with the amazing geometric tile work that is so representative of the Islamic influence in Morocco and Spain.  Knowing that our 5th grade students are currently learning about geometry, Rachel connected with our math specialist, Erika Norman, to co-create a fabulous integrated unit of study.

Starting this week, Erika and Rachel began collaborating with our 5th grade class to explore the connection between geometry and art. Erika is guiding the students through the mathematical aspects of creating elaborate designs, and Rachel is leading the artistic aspects of making these geometric images come to life.

Islamic influenced architecture -
a photo from Rachel's trip
Earlier this week, our students watched a slideshow of Islamic architecture that is filled with geometric patterns. One of the most famous examples is the Taj Mahal. Our students are learning to create their own traditional Moroccan star patterns, following the techniques that Rachel has learned.

Repeating patterns, as illustrated in the eight-point Islamic star called the Khatam, made with two squares, is said to represent the unchanging laws of the Universe in a symbol of interconnectedness.

Interconnectedness is the perfect way to describe the way our talented teachers work together, combining their strengths, passions, and skills to enhance the learning experiences of our students.  Integrated curriculum at its finest.

Both Erika and Rachel, as well as our students, are excited for this process of collaboration.  Be sure to check the halls at school soon for the final pieces.

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