Literature, Light and Laser Cutting with ILIS and 5M

By Lower and Intermediate School Library and Information Services Specialist Mary Catherine Coleman

Fifth graders in Mike McPharlin’s class have been reading the book The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman as part of their Medieval England study. This is the story of a young homeless girl who overcomes failure to find hope and her place in the world. Students spent time talking about scenes in the book when the main character Alyce faces challenges and the moments when she overcomes difficulties in life. These conversations became the inspiration for a maker project with the ILIS Department, a shadow box picture, which uses simple paper- or cardboard-cut scenes stacked together and backed with tissue paper to allow the light to shine through and highlight the figures.

Fifth graders picked an important scene from the book that highlighted overcoming a challenge or a difficult time for Alyce. After they identified a scene, they drew simple pictures that were outlines of characters or objects from the scene in the book and connected by one continuous line. Students designed two or three layers of action for the shadow box they created. Then, they used the new laser cutter in the TIDES Garage to cut out their drawings. Using lots of cardboard from the TIDES Garage cardboard closet, students also measured and cut out the frames and layers for their boxes. The final step was picking the tissue paper colors that reflected the mood of the scene from the book. Some students used lighter colors to signify Alyce overcoming a challenge; others chose darker colors to express that Alyce was dealing with a failure or sad time in her life. Fifth graders built their frames, layering their laser-cut scenes with cardboard frames and tissue paper.

The final projects are beautiful, light-catching shadow boxes that highlight the connections 5th graders made from reading the book. By using simple cardboard and tissue paper materials and the skills they learned using the TIDES Garage laser cutter, they produced beautiful shadow boxes. All the shadow boxes are on display in the Kovler Family Library hallway windows. Stop by and see 5M’s amazing work!

Click here for examples of these shadowboxes.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.