Sunday, October 28, 2012

Optical Illusions - Science and Art with Seniors


Optical illusions was the theme of last week's science for seniors + art activity. It was a hoot! The participating seniors were calling out across the tables to each other comments about what they first saw and then saw later. It was the noisiest activity I have yet conducted. Oh my, everyone, including the staff assistants, had fun!

Before the seniors sat down, I placed a photocopy of an optical illusion on each of the red, paper place mats that are now recognized by most as designating a non-eating activity. 


Above - One of the staff assistants shares with one of the seniors a few of the optical illusion images. At first the senior didn't see the "hidden" image. When she did, she screeched out that there was a man in the trees. "Wow, can you see that? Oh my! It's amazing!" she asked and declared.

Below - When everyone had viewed the various handouts, I removed them from the table. Next, I handed out a sheet of paper that had two circles on it. In one of the circles was a picture of a bird. In the other was a picture of a birdcage. I asked the participants to use colored pencils to illustrate the image. I also handed out two pieces of same-length yarn to each of the seniors.


Next, I invited those who had illustrated the images to cut them out.


I then handed out glue sticks and instructed that the two circles be glued together, back to back.


My assistant and I punched a hole on each side of the now double-sided circles. We did invite the seniors to do this themselves. One of them was successful, but the others weren't. This was the same for threading the yarn through the holes and tying them. Here though, everyone needed staff assistance.

Soon, all of the participants were swinging their shapes and then pulling them to reveal the optical illusion in action - the bird appears to be inside the birdcage.



This is a very short video taken of one of the participants using her optical illusion spinner -

video


The final activity used a similar hand out and a wooden clothespin likes those used to make dolls. First, each of the participants illustrated both the handout and the clothespins. We used washable markers for the clothespins.


As with the first activity, participants were instructed to cut out the two illustrated circles and glue them back to back.

 
On one side was a picture of a bird. On the other was a picture of a branch. 


The assistants and I taped the double sided circles into the clothespins.


When all was done, the spinner was ready to go. Holding the clothespin between their palms, participants moved it back and forth as fast as they could. It wasn't long before they were shouting out, "The bird is sitting on the branch!" "It's amazing!"


It was a hoot! Oh...I think I said that already! The best part of the activity was the wonderment expressed by the seniors. They were amazed at what they saw. The joy in the room was palpable. When they discovered in the first images the hidden illusions, it was as if they had unveiled mysteries. This sense of discovery delighted them. Albert Einstein said, "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science." My memory of the experience was of witnessing a collective, mental alertness that made time fly. Yes, that was another illusion...


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