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Beautiful Symmetry

At-a-glance
Drop-InAll Ages10–15 Participants1–1.5hrCraft MaterialsScratch

Welcome to PLIX Beautiful Symmetry!

Explore a branch of mathematics that's profound, yet accessible to creative learners. Beautiful Symmetry adopts symmetry as a foundation around which to create works of art and functional materials in physical and digital formats.

STEM Connection
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Curriculum Connection
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STEM Connection

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Curriculum Connection

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Workshop Prompts & Example Gallery

The Beautiful Symmetry activity supplies can be used with a wide variety of workshop prompts. Below you'll find a few that we love πŸ’•β€” and we encourage you to come up with your own!

Patterns created by hand-carving potato stamps.
Patterns created by hand-carving potato stamps.
Unicode creating patterns in spreadsheets!
Unicode creating patterns in spreadsheets!
Symmetry found in the natural world.
Symmetry found in the natural world.
A radial symmetry drawing interface using Scratch.
A radial symmetry drawing interface using Scratch.

Prompts from PLIX

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Design a textile, gift wrap,Β or wallpaper pattern using customized stamps.
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Build a sculpture or tapestryΒ using symmetrical elements found in the environment.
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Explore the built and natural worlds to capture imagery of the way symmetry provides form and function.
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Model the infiniteΒ by making patterns with algorithms (in Scratch, in a spreadsheet, or on paper) or printing continuous patterns with cylindrical roller stamps.

Librarian remixes

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Make snowflake designs with folded paper in Snowflakes Inspired by the symmetry explorations of Francesca Passiglia, a Teen Librarian in Greenfield, MA.
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Check out more examples and experiences from other librarians on the PLIX Forum Beautiful Symmetry space

Materials

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Supply Kit

Below you'll find some materials that we've found work well for this activity, but it's not necessary to have them all! The prompt you'll explore determines what materials you'll want to have on hand.

Folded & assembled Beautiful Symmetry zines one per participant
Paper with or without grids; generate a wide variety of styles at Griddzly
Large sheets/rolls of butcher paper for wrapping or wallpaper
Markers, colored pencils, or crayons
Scissors
Stencils/cookie cutters
Stamp pads and rubber stamps or erasers/potatoes/sponges to carve
For roller stamps: paper towel or toilet paper tubes and items to attach rubber bands, foam pieces, etc.
Laptops/computer access if using Scratch or making spreadsheet art
Optional: PLIX Beautiful Symmetry Pattern Grid & Tiles tiles printed & cut, with base grids printed: one set per participant

Beautiful Symmetry Zine

Download here ↓

PLIX-BeauSym-Zine_v.0.01.pdf738.0KB
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PLIX zines are a supplementary resource for patrons and librarians to refer to. Use this guide to cut and assemble them on 8.5x11" paper.

Facilitation

Playtest and Plan

Choose one of our prompts, or come up with a prompt that suits your library community.

Our activity guides are for getting you startedβ€”feel free to change or create new design elements to suit your local community!

Gather materials and print out the zine.
Make an example project. Try it out with friends and colleagues.

Thoughtfully incomplete, good examples feature a variety of approaches and starting points. Use them to inspire learners to make something uniquely their own.

Try the activity with your patrons. Set a date and time.

Easily promote the workshop with our ready-made graphics!

Populate your workshop space with diverse example projects. Create and play together!
Reflect on what you’ve done and consider doing a remix!
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Learn more about the art of the example in our PLIX Guide to Making Activity Examples
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All PLIX activity guides are designed for a minimum of 1–2 facilitators, though some technical activities may benefit from additional facilitators.

Facilitation Tips

Since there are many ways to explore symmetry, patrons may need some guidance in how or where to get started. When facilitating this activity, we encourage you to support a tinkering mindset, and consider the following to culture a creative learning environment:

Facilitation Techniques to try with Beautiful Symmetry ↓

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🌐 Think globally, inspire locally.

Consider having examples on-hand that reflect the cultural diversity of your community. Symmetrical patterns appear in a wide range of textiles, ceramics, wall patterns, tapestries, and from every continent and islands around the world.

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🌊 Know the depth.

While the concept of symmetry and pattern is something learners often encounter in preschool, the domain has a very high ceiling in mathematics research. You won't want to dive into the technical jargon, but it may be helpful to point out to participants to areas where the field of symmetry is relevant: facial recognition, meshes, 3-D modeling, algorithmic art

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Check out our PLIX Facilitation Techniques Guide for additional techniques from the PLIX team to help you cultivate your own creative learning facilitation practice.
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Check out reflections and facilitation tips from other librarians who have done this activity!

Remix

Here at PLIX, we’ve expanded the meaning of β€œremix” to mean making an activity your own. Because PLIX activities are designed to be open-ended, they are also easily customized and adapted by members of our community. In fact, everything we create is shared under a Creative Commons license!

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Visit our How to Remix Creative Learning Activities guide to help you to remix PLIX activities to fit your context, programming ideas, and community interests. Share your remix on the PLIX Forum or via our PLIX Remix report form.

About PLIX Beautiful Symmetry

This activity was developed in collaboration with Jean Slavkovsky (Malden Public Library, Massachusetts), Claudia Haines (Homer Public Library, Alaska), and Alex Berke (MIT Media Lab graduate student) as part of the PLIX Co-Design program, in which Media Lab researchers team up with public librarians to create new PLIX programming.

Other ways to engage with the PLIX Beautiful Symmetry activity: