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Between Matte and Glossy

on Thu, 10/23/2014 - 16:42

Think Tank programs tend to nurture the reward of hands-on experience, where students leave with distinct memories or physical representations of a given class. Students construct digital and physical models in 3D Design. They explore challenging experiments in Contextual Chemistry and leave with vivid memories. Video Production workshops culminate in final movies indefinitely preserved online. And, in the case of Applied Digital Photography, artistic visions are preserved both in print and digitally. 

Photography perseveres as one of our most important forms of visual art and communication. As a hundred thousand stills compose an elaborate feature film, just one photograph may convey a profound concept, or perhaps a simple sentiment. For the final project in last semester's Digital Photography workshop, Tyler Trahan challenged his students to tackle the latter; how can you tell a story through a photo, and what will that story say? During class sessions students studied some technical elements of photography, such as exposure, aperture, depth of field, etc., and most importantly composition.

While discussing the workshop, Tyler explained that a still image contains more than what the eye instantly perceives.  Beyond our immediate recognition of things, there are patterns that might instill a certain emotion. Curving lines are calming, Tyler explained, whereas perpendicularity signifies stability, and angles generate excitement. He encouraged the students to be aware of these patterns as they considered what they're final project would be about. Throughout the workshop they explored several theme-based assignments with an experimental approach. For example, when asked to capture motion in a photo, student Joshua Dick tied glow sticks to his sneakers and ran on a treadmill in the dark.

And so the students began to take pictures. Some were taken at home, some in and around Think Tank, and some were captured during a field trip to Rutland State Park where a decrepit prison camp remains from the early 1900s. In Sam Dodson's photo titled Ashes (above), from a series that depicts pivotal moments in board games, he chose a diptych (two panelled) protrayal of a Jenga tower, first crumbled and then tall and complete. Tyler and I talked of the potential symbolism behind Sam's piece and how its title may signify a rebirth (if perceived from left ot right). Lydia Hart, a student not only fond of horseback riding but also quite passionate about the animals, chose to intimately document a horse and its environment at a farm. Trust (right) is one of six images in a series. Again, Tyler pointed out the significance of meaning here. Lydia's connection to the subject matter is clearly conveyed. You can view more photos from Applied Digital Photography and more HERE.

Tyler Trahan is a professional photographer and former Worcester Think Tank student. Visit to view Tylers work and for booking.

Creatively Recording Science

on Thu, 09/25/2014 - 15:42

When Lauren Monroe and I considered what we wanted to achieve with the Macro to Micro: Multimedia Science class, we revisited the notion of teaching to teach. That is, encouraging those who have acquired knowledge to relay it back to the world in a new and creative way. Our goal, with this class, is to introduce students to a diverse variety of science-based experiments and document our findings via a multimedia approach. As we conduct and record experiments both familiar and new, we ask: How can we teach this concept differently?

In our first two classes we explored how the liquid chemical compounds hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and bleach (NaClO) can be mixed together to produce a gas. When combined, each compound releases an oxygen molecule, leaving NaCl (salt) and H2O (water) as the remaining liquid. The reaction occurs so quickly that the oxygen (O2) rushes out as a newly formed gas and mingles with the air. What can you do with such a reaction? Watch the video below and find out!

Science of Sound

on Sun, 09/07/2014 - 12:45

What does sound look like? What happens when we clap our hands in appreciation or hum a familiar tune? Often we associate these everyday sounds with a fleeting feeling, but there is much more happening beyond the surface. This video features Adam Zelny, a Science of Sound instructor. Science of Sound is an afterschool workshop and will be offered in the Spring of 2015 . Join instructors, Adam Zelny and Bill Wolfson, to ponder and explore these questions as students work with multiple hands-on projects and the creation of electronic art instruments!

Students in Guatemala: Con Los Ojos Abiertos (With Eyes Open)

on Mon, 06/30/2014 - 05:18

Twelve teenagers departed last Tuesday (6/24) to participate in an extraordinary travel abroad program to Guatemala. Roger Bourassa of Perduco Education has now brought teenagers to the country for three years in a row. His program includes travel throughout the country, engagement in hands-on service learning projects, studying Spanish with the Guatemalan based Homeschool Spanish Language Academy and teaching English to youth in La Escuela Esperanza (School of Hope). Think Tank director, Lauren Monroe, is proud to participate and teach within this program for her second time, and is also proud for awarding a scholarship and recruiting one of her own students to the program. Think Tank student, Jeanelle Wheeler, is a part of this group and in her own words: "I am incredibly excited and grateful to culminate my Think Tank and high school experience with a trip to Guatemala.  There I will be immersed in another language and culture and finally put human faces to the social problems of developing countries...This trip is an opportunity to feed my inner dreamer, explorer, writer, and activist.” 

Students began their Guatemalan adventure in San Miguel Escobar to volunteer with a coffee cooperative called De La Gente. De La Gente organizes fair trade and profit opportunities for local coffee farmers while also building awareness to the efforts required to cultivate coffee, from the seed to cup. Students visited a coffee farm in Volcano Agua, helped farmers weed around plants and learned the processes of harvesting and preparing beans for roasting and brewing.

The adventure continued as students visited communities around Lake Atitlan. This lake, a result of a volcanic eruption 84,000 years ago, is in the Guatemalan highlands and revered by many as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. In addition to hiking, boating and zip lining in the nature reserves, students also learned about the traditional Maya cultures still present in the area and visited with elders who are survivors of the Guatemalan civil war.

Continuing on their journey and nurturing friendships amongst themselves, and three accompanying teen aged Guatemalan girls, Maira, Cristina and Juana, students begin an adventure this week (6/30-7/4) in Antigua. In Antigua students will learn Spanish with the Guatemalan based Homeschool Spanish Academy and teach English at La Escuela Esperanza (The School of Hope). 

This trip is offered annually to teenagers ages 13-18. Applications are necessary and a maximum of 12 are chosen each year. Congratulations to this years CLOA participants and we look forward to hearing more about the adventure soon!

Top: Students hike, and go by horse, to a coffee farm owned by local farmers, Miguel Jeronimo Vasquez and Mercedes Perez Gonazalez in San Miguel Escobar, Guatemala.

Right: Students prepare English lessons for their classes at La Escuela Esperanza (The School of Hope).

Bottom 1: Students boat across Lake Atitlan to reach a nature reserve.

Bottom 2: Think Tank student and scholarship awardee Jeanelle Wheeler gets her hair prepared by Juana. 

Unique Forms in Sculpture Physics

on Wed, 03/12/2014 - 21:38

Recently, grateful students (and staff) were a little sad to see the end of Sculpture Physics, a new 5-week workshop offered at Think Tank this semester. Instructor Samantha Minter developed and taught a brief, highly engaging art class which had each student creating original work. Over the course of the workshop, students worked on four separate projects, all of which took inspiration from the various properties of physics such as gravity and light. For instance, one project's goal was to create a sculpture which suggests that gravity is amiss. This was achieved by shaping a wire-frame base to which clay was then applied and sculpted. The finishing touches required some detail painting to help bring ideas like an upside down tree and floating figures to light.

Another project involved cutting identical paper shapes using the ROYGBIV color spectrum, then bending and affixing them to a wire axle on a stick, creating a functioning pinwheel. The pinwheel, when spun via wind energy, demonstrates how these colors blend together into a white blur, indicating that white is the essence of all the colors. The pinwheel project eventually led into a separate work where students were tasked to create an abstract sculpture consisting of wire and colored foil that moves and interacts with wind.  

Photos: (Above)Samantha gives Josh some pointers while Rebecca adds clay to her wire tree frame. (Right) A ROYGBIV pinwheel.

See more images from the Sculpture Physics workshop HERE.


The Art of Science Learning Needs You!

on Wed, 02/26/2014 - 20:27

Beginning March 1, 2014 through January 2015 an exciting new program is being implemented in Worcester.  Funded by the National Science Foundation, 100 participants will be testing a cutting-edge curriculum that links arts-based and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning and will apply this information to develop new transportation solutions for our city.  Most meetings/workshops are scheduled on Saturdays to take place in locations in greater Worcester and range from 4-7 hours in length consisting of seminars, hands-on interactive workshops, and professional panel discussions.  

Volunteers are needed for general support before, during, and after sessions in areas such as taking attendance, passing out, and/or collecting curriculum materials, etc.  We are looking for volunteers to be part of an exciting initiative that will make a difference in our community.  The volunteer application process is currently underway and available online   More information can also be found at:
Klaire Reis uses petri dishes and reflective epoxy polymer to show off colors and patterns that can be found in natural cellular reactions.

Ornithology Among The Trees

on Tue, 10/15/2013 - 15:15

Donning cloth security harnesses, helmets, sketch books, and the sheer will to explore, students of Art Biology class head to the EcoTarium's Tree Canopy Walkway for an interactive bird watching session. EcoTarium educator and ornithology enthusiast, Alex Dunn, leads the group along with WTT founder, Lauren Monroe, and resident art teacher, Jen Swan. After Alex guides us through safety protocol we set forth, one at a time, across the first bridge. The Walkway consists of three tree-house sized platforms, interconnecting bridges, and a plethora of tether cables which dangle and stretch like metallic vines.

The students spend some time exploring each platform, clipping their carabiners back and forth between the web of heavy cables, before we're asked to settle on a specific platform with sketch book and pencil in-hand. On one of the platforms, surrounded by a group of students, Alex holds up a small speaker attached to an iPod. Suddenly, the excited energy of the group begins to focus into a quiet calm as the speaker unleashes the sounds of Black-Capped Chickadees mobbing an Eastern Screech Owl. Within moments, actual Black-Capped Chickadees descend into the tree canopy.

Alex, who has been into ornithology since the 5th grade, explains how the recording of the birds mobbing the Screech Owl is like a call-to-arms; the chickadees hear trouble and come to aid their brethren. In our case, they simply perch on the surrounding branches perhaps wondering what all the fuss is. The commotion doesn't only stir the Chickadees- we soon see other species appear in the foliage such as the White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Tufted Titmouse, and Blue-headed Vireo.

The students sit and lean attentively. Jen Swan encourages them to observe and illustratively document the birds even if the visibility is fleeting. In the coming weeks the students will implement some of what they learn in this experience to render 3d bird sculptures which they shape and paint themselves. It is a beautiful sight to behold, sharing this space with the students, teachers, and nature.

As Alex and I recounted the experience, I asked what was appealing to him about bird watching. “They don't stand still for you," he pointed out, explaining how he enjoys the challenge of the hunt.  Alex also appreciates how ornithology is "part of this larger story", acting as an entryway to studying a vast and complex ecosystem. I interpret this into how we have to be vigilant and perpetuate awareness in order to keep the practice alive, keep our thirst for such knowledge satiated. I can't help but draw a correlation between these words and the experience of teaching youth! Learn more about local ornithology on Alex's blog.