Vanessa Bianchi
Educator and learner. The opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the York Region District School Board.

Unite the disciplines: Art and Science need each other. Discoveries – great and small – happen when the two come together; so give students places for cross-disciplinary work, and who knows what creative genius will flourish. ~The Third Teacher

This past week was March break and I was so excited to spend a week recharging, relaxing and reigniting. I have stated it before, but will repeat, opening up a new school is taxing and so, a break was just what I needed to unwind.

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Through researching Tinkerlab via Instagram, I was fortunate to come across Action Potential Lab. I felt an instant connection to this wondrous place that (re)connected Science and Art, the perfect marriage.  It was amazing to see how Action Potential Lab has managed to allow for exploration, experimentation and discovery using science and visual arts as vehicles of expression and documentation of learning. Emails were exchanged and plans to collaborate over the break were made. This was how I came to spend my March break at the Action Potential Lab, and what an exciting week it was.

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About Action Potential Lab  

Action Potential Lab is Toronto’s first laboratory dedicated to merging science and art. It is here where the teachings of both fields interact and exchange by way of classes, workshops, birthday parties, lecture series and various community outreach programs.

The notion of science and art throughout history has shared a paralleled relationship, but in recent years, there has been a divide. Action Potential Lab is dedicated to merging the two fields as a way to encourage novel ways of knowing and understanding the world around us. Based on a collaborative learning-teaching model, we view all projects and endeavours with a researcher’s lens. Classes are encouraged to work at the intersect between these two fields. Our laboratory is open to curious people of all ages.

Lisa Carrie Goldberg is the founder and Lab Director of Action Potential Lab. She designed the lab as a community space for the merging of material matter found in both science and art, as a way to enhance Toronto’s creative potential. Lisa has completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interrelated Media at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, learning techniques in sculpture, weaving, film and photography. She has a Masters of Science in Biological Arts from SymbioticA, a research facility dedicated to art, technology and the life sciences at The University of Western Australia (the only university program of its kind in the world). It was here that Lisa got to experience what it meant to do research at the intersection of science and art, by studying topics in sleep science, tissue culture, physiology and molecular biology. As a lifelong academic, she has a certificate in Graphic Design and a Certificate in Teaching and has taught grades K-5, grades 6-8 and post-secondary art education, in the public and private school systems, in university settings and in independent art schools.

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An Overview of The Week

Day One: Introduction to scientific terminology and explosions.

On day one students learned all about variables and writing their own hypothesis. They had an opportunity to theorize and test their hypothesis with simple baking soda and vinegar volcanoes. What was most impressive about this process was how invested the scientists were in developing a recipe for the perfect explosion. After recipes were written and theories tested, the scientists made elephant toothpaste. This provided the students with another opportunity to study and learn about chemical reactions and was a real hit.

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Day Two: Circuits

On day two our scientists learned all about sewing and soft circuits for the creation of wearables with the guidance of local organic, textile artist, Debbie Arruda (@organicdebbie). Once the scientists were armed with knowledge regarding how a circuit worked, as well as the various types of stitches they could experiment with, they set to work creating LED bookmarks with conductible thread, a Lilypad Arduino and an LED light. It was amazing to see the campers so devoted to the fine motor task and I was most impressed at their understanding of how a circuit worked as well as, their troubleshooting when some of the LED lights did not turn on as expected.

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Day Three: 3D Printing

On day three the campers had the unique opportunity to develop prototypes in groups, on Tinkercad. Tinkercad is a free online, easy to learn app anyone can use to create and print 3D models. It was remarkable to see how engaged the scientists were to learn to manipulate the app and print their own designs. Lisa worked with Jacquelyn van Kampen of, MakeLab.ca (@makelab_ca) to help instruct the campers. The results were remarkable. The idea that the campers could create something physical from just a drawing in mere minutes was a real thrill for both the children and myself. The applications for this type of technology in the classroom is limitless.

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Day Four: Printshop

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On day four the campers worked with various mediums to create their own stationary as well as prints. A disclaimer: food was used in the making of some of the prints. The scientists began with learning about how fat and water do not like to mix. We explored with oil and water and milk and food coloring.

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Then we moved onto making stationary using shaving cream and food coloring. After lunch we went on a nature walk and collected objects that we would experiment with. The instructors contributed to the print materials by raiding their fridges for food that was past it’s prime and these materials were added to the found objects.

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We then discussed the elements of design and allowed the scientists to let their creative juices flow. Once the sun came up after lunch, our scientists made geometric prints on fabric using a special fabric treatment and sunlight. The results were truly inspired.

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Day Five: Molecular Gastronomy

On day five the campers explored molecular gastronomy and the scientific principles that applied to food. They had an opportunity to experiment with dry ice and made sparkling apple juice, it was carbonated using the dry ice. Then it was time to cool off with some orange sherbet made using salt, water and much shaking. Finally, our campers made the last of their March Break badges using chromatography. The day ended with a showcase of all that the campers learned over the week and a parent party.

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I was very impressed by the technological terms the students were able to learn and use throughout the experimentation process, as well as the high level of engagement with each task. Lisa and Sian provided a week full of rich experiences that did not shy away from terminology that might have even intimidate some adults. Campers were challenged with fine motor tasks or materials that required scientists to act with care, a real learning experience. Within each task, I saw risks being taken, inquiry in action and truly deep thought from the youngest camper (4 years of age) to the oldest camper (9 years of age).

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Action Potential Lab is a remarkable place that melds the worlds of science with art, inquiry with experimentation and the development of fun and engaging lessons, provocations and investigations. I cannot wait to go back, collaborate and learn more.

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While my March Break was not a quiet one, it was one that provided unique experiences and in doing so a much needed break from my regular routine.

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How was your March Break? Did you explore anything new?

The Evolving Educator

 

 

Filed under: growth mindset, Inquiry, Uncategorized

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  1. Talia:
    this looks like an incredible place! what lucky students, being able to engage in such exploration. i commend you for using your break to explore and continue to push your self.
  2. Vanessa:
    Thanks Talia! It really is such a wonderful gem :) They can tailor programs to meet all needs and can even come into the classroom or host adult events! Think molecular gastronomy, cocktail mixing, even taxidermy!
  3. Amazing! Thanks for sharing what great resources and programs there are for young minds.
  4. vanessa bianchi:
    Thanks Alessia! It's definitely an amazing place for children and adults to explore!
  5. Erica:
    I love that you got to explore too. I often find that adults forget that we can learn too! What a great opportunity, and you are opening up the minds of so many people :)
The Evolving Educator
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