The Humble Foam Peanut as an Unstoppable Creative Force!

When this bag of foam peanuts was donated to the art room I had no idea of the powerful force of creativity it would be… really!

As I mentioned back in this post opening my cupboards at the beginning of the year to make the art materials highly visible and easily accessible for all learners has made a huge difference to choice in my room. When I prepared our “construction area” I filled a little container with foam peanuts… wow, I did not know at the time their value, seriously, these are gold! Check this out:

These students have used foam peanuts to create soft cushions around their teepee… why the teepee? Here’s an excerpt straight from their artist statement: “We created this because we wanted to design a little real-life world of our own where no one could bother us. The teepee represents as the safe shelter for us.

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Yesterday this student told me this morning that the foam peanuts are the protective cushioning bags for the spaceship as it lands on a flat landing field:

This student has used the foam peanuts for the exterior texture of her architectural model home:

These foam peanuts are placed inside the belly of a sea turtle (amongst other things) to show the effect of plastic pollution in the oceans:

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This student has used foam peanuts in her sketchbook as a part of her planning process for the interactive wall installation she has created for her exhibition:

These foam peanuts are the flood lights on a soccer field:

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These foam peanuts come from a trio of artists/historians working on a World War I battlefield titled “No Man’s Land”, the foam peanuts standing up are the sole survivors and the ones lying down are died in battle:

There are foam peanuts inside these pokemon sculptures creating the structure for the arms that then had foil and pipe cleaner wrapped around them:

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And just this morning my wonderful teaching assistant used foam peanuts as she worked alongside students who were experimenting with watercolor effects – she did not know I was writing about foam peanuts!

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In many ways, I think the foam peanut is my symbol for the year so far. My year of opening up the physical space, opening briefs wide-open and letting students drive… I’ve handed over, closed my eyes, crossed my fingers and have been blown away by the happenings…

Students are artists and they are using everyday, throw away objects that do not fit into traditional “art tool and material” categories. Just like all the found object artists that came before them like Marcel Duchamp and Louise Nevelson or the artists still working with found objects today like the delightful Judy Darragh. 

I will never forget the humble foam peanut and all that was created with it, the stories, the plans, the designs, the imagination, the function and purpose, the CREATIVITY!

Next time you get a delivery, save the foam peanuts, open them in your class and see what happens, they are irresistibly playful and imaginative, all hail the foam peanut! (excuse my quick photoshop job on the graphic below haha!)

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Meaning Beyond Words (grade 4 HWEO art integration)

Meaning beyond words… poetry… meaning… message… intention… interpretation… words… letters… form… shape… design… hmmm Typography (?!) were the stream of thoughts that preceded being asked to be involved with the Grade 4 How We Express Ourselves unit of inquiry.

Central Idea:
Being a poet gives us the freedom to express meaning beyond the words
  • Following, adapting and changing the many forms of poetry (concept: Form)
  • Poetry invites us to respond with different interpretations  (concept: Perspective)
  • Reflecting on experiences and knowledge through our own poetry (concept: Reflection)

The students moved through a series of provocations that involved group typography challenges (see some of the final outcomes here). And giving meaning to fake words (fun!). This was all with the intention of students to experience what it is like to deconstruct, reshape and introduce unusual materials to give type/words a new and enhanced meaning. Student to student feedback was used frequently to see if they had indeed done that.

Sounds fun so far right? Here is where it started to really pick up pace and intensity. Each grade 4 student came armed with their poems to the art class. They were then asked to select specific words from their most treasured poems to transform into a typography art piece for their MiniX. We had 3 weeks — enter thoughts of plausibleness…

Did I prescribe the size? No. Did I prescribe the materials? No. Did I prescribe 2D or 3D? No. The only prerequisite was that their artwork enhanced the meaning of the word and the message in their poem. This planning sheet allowed my AMAZING art assistant and I to prepare and plan materials for the students. Did I have enough space? I don’t think so. Did I have enough manpower? Probably not. Did I have enough time? Definitely not. What I did have was an amazing grade 4 team of teachers who were flexible, supportive and encouraging. I had a tech integrator that worked tirelessly with LED’s, circuits, robotics, programming and 3D printing. I had energized students that ran to class and wanted to work through their lunches. I had an art assistant that not only kept everything organized (80+ projects on the go!) she conferenced students through the designing stage and helped them troubleshoot through the creation stage too.

In the end they did it! They finished their work on time, they finished work that they truly owned, they were proud. I finished reading all their reflections yesterday and not a single student wrote they were disappointed in their work. They all relished in the chance to exhibit their work in such a lovely setting. Now, to reflect on the logistics for next year so students have easy access to the materials so more time making and less time “Ms Anna where is the…?”