Wooden sharks: Preschool explorations with the Glowforge

This is a guest blog post from Casey Federico!


In my daughters’ Spanish Immersion preschool classroom in San Francisco, children have daily opportunities to visit the art studio, or “taller,” to try out new mediums for representing their world.

Each May, in preparation for the end of the year celebration, children are invited to choose sea animals they wish to represent on paper and through movement.

In the taller the children are given resource texts to begin sketching their sea animals, using black permanent pen on white paper. Teachers support the children in noticing the details in the photographs and transfer those details into their drawings.

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Having been exposed to the Glowforge in the Tinkering Studio, I wondered how the children might experience having their sea animals cut out and engraved in wood.

The teachers and parents agreed to share the images with me, and I began working on scanning and printing the images on the glowforge.

I collected all of the children’s images and made photocopies of them to bring to the studio.

 

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The first step in the studio was scanning the images on the glowforge, using the glowforge’s trace image tool. In most cases, the trace was simple.

In some cases the glowforge had a hard time knowing what areas to cut, and which ones not to. On this shark, the machine wanted to cut out each tooth individually.

 

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In these cases, I thickened some lines with an orange sharpie to help the Glowforge understand where to cut and where to engrave.

 

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The cutting itself was straightforward, using the Glowforge app to place as many images onto each plywood panel as possible.

 

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Finally the animals were complete. Back in the classroom the children were excited to see the animals, but confused about the process. I wished we had visited the machine directly so the process was clearer for them, and so they could inspect and ask questions about the machine.

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Back in the taller, each child had the opportunity to paint their animal. The teachers again invited the children to look at books for color inspiration, and to notice small details.

Each child painted their original drawing and their wooden animal.

The etched lines from the ink drawings made separating colors into sections of the drawing easy, and children noticed how differently the wood soaked up the color.

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At the end of the year celebration, the children posed in front of the mural they created with their drawings…

 

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…and compared their wooden and paper creations.

 

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Every child took their wooden animal home with them at the end of the celebration, a piece of art to display, play with, and remember.

After this small exploration of the Glowforge’s capacities in the early childhood setting, I’m eager to explore more. What if these children had drawn self-portraits, had them cut in wood, and used them in the block area throughout the year? Once exposed to the technology, what ideas would occur to them next? Eager to explore this opportunity with more teachers and classrooms.

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