Disk-cards? – recycling renaissance – CD-ROMs turn three-dimensional sculpture

Disk-cards? – recycling renaissance – CD-ROMs turn three-dimensional sculpture – Brief Article

Jane Rowley

What shall we do with all of those computer disks and CD-ROMs that inundate our mailboxes? It seems shameful that so many “free-trial” disks are often discarded; after all, they are invitations to try a product or receive complimentary services for one thing or another.

I decided that I would hang onto the disks and CDs until I found an artful purpose for them. Added to my ever-growing pile were the unwanted disks that students brought from home. A parent even brought in boxes of disks and told me, “I hope you can find a purpose–seems like a waste to throw all these out!”

And so, my magnificent collection grew. One day, while I was planning my lessons with technology on my mind, a brainstorm hit: Why not use the disks and CDs as material for a lesson in sculpture?

To begin, my fourth-graders and I talked about three-dimensional objects. We examined what makes an object functional as opposed to non-functional. They were then told that they could create their own three-dimensional sculptures or structures using our store of computer disks and CD-ROMs.

I demonstrated how two disks could be bonded together using 2-inch-wide masking tape, making sure to hide the tape on the inside. In this manner, students carefully connected disks until their sculptures were completely constructed. Students were surprised to see that CD-ROMs could easily bend or even break apart. (If you carefully hold a CD-ROM and bend gently, the disk will easily conform.) Because many students chose to create buildings, it was discovered that CD-ROMs made great roofs! Even the packaging in which the disks and CD-ROMs were mailed was incorporated into the sculptures.

For the project assessment, I told them that I was looking for creativity, sturdiness of structure and overall design. Clean craftsmanship was vital to success!

This was an especially exciting lesson because of the familiar and “ordinary” nature of the materials–whether CD-ROM or computer disk. The fourth-grade students eyes’ lit with excitement when challenged with the prospect of recycling from discards.

Students were fascinated when they explored the inside of disks. While some began pulling them apart, many others came to me for permission to “undo” the disks. The majority held a certain reverence for the disks, and I had to keep explaining that this was not destruction but, rather, creation. Our purpose was to form a new entity from a discarded object.

Thus, the “disk-card” project became a lesson in creativity and found art, as well as in three-dimensional “sculpture.” As they worked on their projects, the room filled with comments such as “awesome,” “wow” and “cool!” In art class, the discards of technology became fabulous three-dimensional works of art–something that you could never imagine discarding.

Jane Rowley teaches art at Greenfield Elementary School, Richmond, Va.

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