The third through fifth graders are beginning on a project that will take them through the next several week exploring urban environments for alphabetic letters through the eyes of photographer Abba Richman. I found a poster earlier in the summer with a composite of Richman's Alphabet photography in black and white and thought it would be a great start into our year with one of our main focuses being Structures. (You can see the poster that inspired this lesson and get a closer look at each of the letters of the alphabet, plus view a set of letters in color by going to PBase.com, a photo sharing site on the Net. If you click on the PBase link above, it will take you directly to Abba Richman's poster. Click on The Alphabet in the bread crumbs at the top of his page to go back and view the rest of the alphabet photos.)
As an amateur/hobbyist photographer, I'm fascinated by the abstract, especially in black and white. I love looking at through the view finder at a 'big picture' in the world around me and seeing what sort of a snapshot of that bigger picture I can capture, bringing the details into closer view. This is what the students will be creating, only without an actual camera.
We will be taking a look at Mr. Richman's photos and discussing all of the different materials that are in the photos, then mentally exploring our school to find alphabet pictures of our own. Then, while working in teams, we will be using different materials, like aluminum foil, wood pieces, felt, sand paper, craft foam, and plastic, to create a letter of the alphabet that mimics Richman's Alphabet photography. While we are exploring the different materials through team work, each student in the team will be responsible for their own material. The students will have to work together and communicate (just like engineers do) on how and where the materials are going to be in their picture.
Meanwhile, the Kindergarten through Second Grade students will be using the Engineering Design Process to create a cleaning machine like Dr. Seuss's 'The Cat in the Hat' had.