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Artist Ellie Balk and The Green School's Assistant Principal Nathan Affield are at it again, using mathematics to connect high school students to the community by painting large-scale murals in East Williamsburg.
Back in 2011, Ellie and Nate worked with two statistics classes who surveyed the student body to create a histogram that runs the length of the school, aggregating the emotional path of a student's day.
In 2012, students explored climate change through visualized data of weather patterns dating back from 1930 to a projection of the future. This mural is located on Moore Street near Graham Ave in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. For this project we partnered with Borinquen Plaza Senior Center where seniors and students worked together in implementing the project.
Last year, with the help of Kickstarter, students constructed an image of the golden spiral based on the Fibonacci Sequence and began to explore the relationship between the golden ratio and Pi. The number Pi was represented in a color-coded graph within the golden spiral. In this, the numbers are seen as color blocks that vary in size proportionately within the shrinking space of the spiral, allowing us to visualize the shape of Pi and its negative space to look for "patterns". The students soon realized that the irrational number of Pi created no patterns at all, resulting in a space that resembles “noise”.
This year, with your help, we want to visualize the number Pi in a reflective line graph that will resemble a sound wave. The colors of the mural will change at each prime number in Pi so that we can visualize a pattern of prime. Located on a busy corner in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the sounds of the bustling traffic and rhythmic commuter passing creates the perfect backdrop for our visualization. To take this next level, we want to collaborate with musicians and sound artists to “read” the visualization to then create actual noise. So not only would we be able to SEE the number Pi, we will be able to HEAR the number Pi.
We are excited that visual/sonic artist Bill Brovold will be contributing to the project by creating a musical interpretation of this visualization. Brovold is an established musician/composer, visual artist and art educator. He has composed music for film, dance and performance pieces. He was the leader of the Detroit experimental group Larval and guitarist with Rhys Chatham's ensembles. His music has been released by John Zorn, The Knitting Factory and many other sources. Brovold is very passionate about working with young artists and community. He teaches courses in art and music and its relationship to math and will share his work with the students in workshops and classes. Their work will be showcased along with an original composition at the final community celebration/party.
What math will the students will be learning?
High school Math standards call on students to practice applying mathematical ways of thinking to real world issues, preparing the students to think and reason mathematically. Outside the classroom and into the community we can focus on this goal in a direct approach. The move towards the Common Core Standards pushes educators to create curriculum achieving depth instead of breadth. By focusing on the single, transcendental concept of pi across courses, the mathematics department plans to not only deepen student understanding of shape and irrational number, but more importantly, connect these foundational mental schema for students while dealing with the concrete issues of neighborhood beautification and how proportion can inform aesthetic which can in turn improve quality of life.
The project will focus on topics that build a deeper understanding of the irrational number and transcendental mathematical concept of Pi. Pi is used throughout the high school curriculum from discovering the relationship between circumference and diameter in Algebra, using the unit circle to find trigonometric ratios in Algebra 2, analyzing ellipses key to understanding planetary motion in Earth Science and proving shapes congruent in Geometry – all skills necessary in preparation for Regents Exams. Pi is a concept all math and science classes use throughout the school year.
This project is directly in line with national Common Core Math standards:
A.N.1 Properties of real numbers,
A.S.5 Constructing and reading frequency histograms,
A.A.42 Using trigonometric ratios,
A.G.1 Finding area and volume of composite shapes,
A.G.2 Finding volume and surface area of prisms,
G.G.17 Constructing congruent shapes,
G.G.71 Equations of circles,
G.G.27 Circle proofs,
A2.A.60 Unit circle,
A2.A.56 Determining trigonometric functions,
A2.A.61 Finding arc length.
Art skills: color theory, color mixing and large-scale detail painting combining mathematical skill and artistic knowledge to up-scale and measure. Direct contact with the outside community will raise awareness of the power of art to illuminate, inform and influence opinion. (VA, b.m. 1)
Here is what you are investing in:
- Student ownership and commitment to beautification of their neighborhood
- One-on-one time for the artists and students
- Collaboration and recordings with Sound Artists and Musicians
- Purchase of professional art supplies
- A spectacular community par-tay and ribbon cutting
Additional funding beyond our goal will take this to the next level! Here's what we will do:
- Pay musicians! With help, we will be able to HEAR Pi in a whole new way ! With additional funding we hope to collaborate with more musicians...Wouldn't it be cool to HEAR how a pianist, opera singer and violinist interpret the Pi sound wave?? We think so and so do they!
- For The Green School math teachers, we will provide a Professional Development opportunity where we will introduce hands-on activities to share ideas on how to use art and visualizations to help teach students to understand complicated math problems.
- We would love to partner with a film artists to help capture the project with professional documentation. This documentation will enhance our reach and help send out our message of working with students and communities to make curriculum integrated pubic art.
- Additional funding will provide the opportunity for Ellie Balk and Nathan Affield to attend a math conference and share our work with a larger community to teach and inspire educators on how to creatively integrate art into their math curricula.
- We have been working closely with the local business improvement districts which are looking for more beautification opportunities. With the great need for art in this district, additional funding has the power to transform this neighborhood with even more public art.
More about Ellie and Nate:
Last year we were honored by Mark Hurst to speak at the 2013 Gel Conference. Gel(Good Experience Live) is a conference focused on experience in all its forms -- business, art, society, technology, and life.
This year, we have been honored with a Walenta Family Foundation Grant which has allowed us to hire four teaching artists to come to The Green School to work with the students in creating arts integrated, public art/beautification projects.
We also received a grant for this beautification project from the Decentralization Program of the New York State Council on the Arts administered by Brooklyn Arts Council.
By the way...this isn't the first time Ellie has explored ideas of data visualization through SOUND WAVES...in 2011, she worked with 9 NYC pianists, drawing the distance between their hands as they played Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. These drawings were layered together to create a 130' musical landscape.
FOLLOW US @VISUALIZE PI
Risks and challenges
Besides possible weather challenges, there aren't really any risks for completing the project. We have the wall, the community and school support and the KIDS are READY to start painting! All we need to do is meet our funding goal! So that means if we get it, it's done...COLOR AND MATH AND SMILES!! If we don't meet our goal, it's all sad faces and blank walls...
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- (21 days)