Working blind with people and place that I hadn’t met before and also up against a forecast for torrential downpour, I armed myself with a large rucksack filled with explorer-y things, a story about having been sent to explore Gretton and some mild consternation that my explorer equipment hadn’t been delivered yet.
With the pupils’ expert assistance we did some excellent exploring that was sure to make Yasmin Boss extremely proud.
Pictures, pictures, pictures…
Those marked (JS) courtesy of James Steventon, Fermynwoods Contemporary Art.
The group decides that we need a map before we can start exploring and everyone settles down to draw a mapbit of something interesting/important in the village
The group decides that we're going to need a *really* big piece of paper to put all these mapbits on. Next job is to work out where all the mapbits go...
But how do we get from one mapbit to another? (JS)
Paths, roads and other details added to the gaps in the map. (JS)
A few of the girls hang behind at breaktime because they think they've figured out what the recently-delivered devices are. (JS)
Explorers set out to walk to some of the places on the map. (JS)
Using all our senses...
A confused Nikki The Explorer needing some things about the village hall explained to her. (JS)
The Pocket Park: many things to discover and examine. (JS)
Walking through the tunnel with the GPS devices to see what effect it has. (JS)
Explorers in the tunnel. (JS)
Small child. Large rucksack.
Discovering that drawing a line of where we've just been is actually quite difficult. (JS)
Recognising where home is on the device-drawn traces is even harder...
Recognising places. (JS)
My home-made GPS gadgets get the thumbs up. (JS)
Because - regardless of age - that moment when the LEDs come on is always a good one... (JS)
Investigating dark places and their effect on the gadgets we made. (JS)
Someone puts forward the hypothesis that the trace from the GPS module placed on the windowsill is the way it is because of all of the excitement in the room when we were making our gadgets. (JS)
A great day and a really nice group of people to work with.
Thanks to Garmin for supporting the day through the loan of several GPS devices.
I spent last Friday working with two Year 5 classes at Wyvern Primary School in Leicester as we explored an alternative method of teaching the Sun, Earth and Moon module. (scheme of work).
Working alongside one of the Y5 teachers and another artist Linda Harding we designed two days of activities. The first, with Linda, in which the pupils made models of the planets and then the second with me where planets and pupils went outside…
Jupiter and a slightly inconveniently located water hazard
The day I worked on was split into 2 2-hour sessions, one with each class. I burst into the lesson, announced launch to be in T minus 20 minutes and set about calling out the crew names whilst the teacher set the countdown timer going on the whiteboard.
After locating notebooks, donning space helmets and checking our gravity boots I gave them the mission brief: NASA had ‘acquired’ a couple of items that claimed to be some sort of aid for travellers. I played them a sample entry:
Our mission was a fact-finding one – we had to check the accuracy of the Guide’s entries in order to determine if we wanted to try and obtain the full version (the versions we had were trial versions limited to the solar system only).
After launch and hyper drive out to the edge of the field solar system, our teams of astronauts navigated their way sun-wards visiting different planets and checking the information given by the Guide against what they already knew or could deduce.
Unfortunately the entry for planet Earth was entirely unacceptable, so we agreed to spend time collating our own facts which we would then send to the publishers so they could put this straight.
I placed the planets out on the field so the relative distances between them were correctly scaled (although I forgot to get an orbit diameter for the moon). The planets themselves were not to scale, which is just as well because with these distances between them, we’d have had to have made the Sun 15cm across and Earth only 1.3mm across.
The planets at their relative distances from the Sun
A favourite moment was glancing back onto the field after I’d placed the planets in position to see a crowd of dogwalkers and dogs gathered around Saturn scratching their heads and wondering what was going on!
Mr Mabbett also suggested placing the detector near a TV set (which I don’t have) or some jangling keys (which I do!) to test it. There are some good clicks coming from the keys test too, so next step is to get the circuit soldered up onto stripboard and into an enclosure of some sort.
As well as the schools stuff – where we would be using the detector to reveal sounds beyond our hearing – I’m interested in running workshops for people to build their own detectors. I also have some crazy game ideas…
The Anticipator: now with power indicator, LED bezels and several layers of what I hope will be waterproof spray...
I’ve tarted up The Anticipator a bit to hopefully improve its usability – bezels for the main series of LEDs and also a power indicator. We’ll be using it no matter the weather, so I’ve also given it a few coats of waterproofing. (Not that I’m feeling pessimistic at all, but I’ve also given myself a new waterproof coat too!)
I’ve put together a first draft of the GPS zones I’ll be using over the school field to represent the presence of our mysterious noise-making object and tomorrow I’ll be in Leicester giving it a test run.
School field with GPS zones overlaid
Oh, and we’ll also be testing the field with a metal detector, just to make sure we don’t get any derailing surprises on Wednesday next week when we do it with 50 kids watching!
As an extra tool for us to use in our investigation into the unseen, I constructed an Arduino-based electromotive force (emf) detector. I’ve made breadboard versions of this before, but now it was time to build something a little more permanent.
barebones Arduino, 10 LEDs and a plastic case from a pound shop screw set
The LEDs light up in proportion to the strength of electromagnetic field detected. Since electrical currents are intrinsically linked with magnetic fields (can’t quite remember my A-level Physics) placing the antenna near to power sockets and electrical items light up some of the LEDs.
4-way gang lights 'em up
The microwave seems reassuringly well shielded:
But my clock radio and bedside lamp are a tad alarming!
It’s very interesting hunting around the room for different effects. Orientation of the antenna changes the number of lit LEDs, as does switching things on and off. I’m curious to see how the detector responds to big classroom equipment such as smartboards and projectors, but of course the main point is observing how the children respond to being able to visualise things they wouldn’t otherwise be aware of.
Earlier this week I had a planning meeting with the Y3 and Y4 teacher of a school I’m working at. The theme of the project will be based around the idea of investigating the things we can’t see.
The doings will kick off with me coming to the school asking for help in locating the source of a strange sound. I’m not much of a sound engineer, but when my tummy started gurgling enthusiastically after a breakfast of cold pizza this morning I grabbed my binaural mics, a digital voice recorder and the opportunity to see what would happen if I manipulated the sound a bit.
Here’s a gurgle amplified, noise removal-ed, slowed down, lowered in pitch and then overlaid with slightly off-set versions of itself.
Note to self: must make more notes to self so I can reproduce the sequence of applied effects.
My main area of enquiry is centred around interactions between people and place: often using tools and strategies from areas such as pervasive games and physical computing to set up frameworks for exploration.
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