The “Squirrel Bridge” art installation teaches college students STEAM skills

THORNDIKE – Four college kids’ whimsical fiber art installation taught them not only about art, but also about the many elements of teamwork required to conceive, design and create a project.

Under the direction of Ann McClellan, a Gifted and Talented teacher in Regional School Unit 3, four grade seven and eight students from Mount View designed, designed and built a fiber art bridge that now spans the atrium. from the Mount View complex.

Stuffed squirrels appear to navigate the “Squirrel Bridge” designed, designed and built by students at Mount View Middle School. Courtesy of Ann McClellan

Much like the process of engineering a bridge to span a river, the project challenged their abilities to work together to create a workable design, organize respective roles, solve problems as they arise. presented, keeping an open mind, trusting yourself and developing self-awareness – all elements of a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) project.

“These design team skills are all important lifelong skills,” said McClellan, who has a background in art and design. She works with a small group of middle school students. Kaden Bradeen, Brady Bryant, Julia Richards and Juliet Jewett heard about bridges all last fall, and then it was time to build one.

“We talked about the materials we could work with, and we ended up choosing the rope because it was something we could work with in the classroom space,” McClellan said. The students planned to create a series of nets that they would connect together.

“The materials and process for the project also had a strong connection to netting in Maine, and we talked about that,” McClellan said. “It’s a dying skill.” In her search for a netting expert to help them, she called shipyards and marine supply companies, but “no one knew who to talk to.”

McClellan was well acquainted with Anne Coddington, who teaches textile arts and sculpture at the University of Illinois. “So I approached her and asked her if she would be willing to teach the students a few workshops on netting techniques,” she said.

Coddington taught Mount View students via the Zoom teleconference. “As a playful idea, they decided to create what was called a ‘squirrel bridge’,” McClellan said. The team worked on the project for almost six weeks, meeting twice a week for 45-minute lessons.

“It was a collaboration,” she said. “Each student worked on several sections. They talked about it, really looking at what the real engineers and designers consider, how were they going to fabricate the bridge, what materials would they use, what the nature of the materials was, where was it going to be installed, what were their techniques to work with. with the materials, how did they have to adjust the techniques?

When they encountered problems with their materials becoming “frizzy and twisted,” they had to stop and untangle them. “They found out that Anne Coddington typically uses waxed cotton thread,” McClellan said. The students learned from their experience and changed gear.

“This is what happens when you create a work of art,” said McClellan. “This is also what happens in (real) engineering and construction: materials react in different ways. “

Their completed project, a mesh bridge with stuffed squirrels crossing it, is now installed above the atrium in Mount View.

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