Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ant Art

My art and entomology class took a quirky turn this week when we explored ants. I usually look for videos, crafts and art on line each week, hoping to get an idea of a craft and perhaps a "keep-busy" activity during textbook time. Because of the wide range of ages and ability to sit (2 boys, 2 girls, ages 5-11) I usually read the (self) edited textbook selection aloud. I try to have a worksheet or activity they can do quietly while I read. I find for certain classes busy hands help with the listening skills.

Of course, as soon as I thought of ants, I thought of ants on a log: celery, peanut butter and raisins. This would be our "keep busy" activity. The kids washed, sliced, spread and placed to make these treats for themselves and the other classes. "We should cook more often!" said one of the boys.
While looking on-line, I saw some dishes with ants glazed on them. Bingo! Right now it is popular to design your own ready made dishes with permanent markers. I had picked up these white ceramic mugs a long time ago (25 cents each) with this project in mind for some future class. Well, the future is now!
There are many directions for making the designs permanent, but most advise letting the marker dry for a couple of hours, then placing the decorated ceramics in the oven, turning it on to 400 degrees or so and baking from 30 min. to 2 hours. Turn off the oven and let the ceramics cool without opening the door. This melts the glaze a little and bonds the new pigment. Some people use the dishwasher to clean their creation, but if it is precious to you, hand washing might be wiser.
We did encounter one problem. I was surprised to have trouble with the thin permanent markers. I thought we would use them for the fine work, but when baked, those lines faded. I wonder if there was just not enough pigment laid down? Soooooo, I re-colored and re-baked all of the ants except the ones on the cup below. Luckily, Ian used the large markers for his.
I had one student who had trouble making correctly shaped ants, so I helped her draw some and she filled them in. It didn't occur to me until after I was copying over the faded ants that I should have had the kids make a figure eight for the bodies and add a little round head. I think this tip might have helped.
From top: Eleanor, Gideon, Whitney (says "Hi"), Ian and my own cup. I have to say, it is fun and a little unsettling to take a drink of tea and see ants swimming in the bottom!

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