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Glass-Making Opens a Window to Science

A Student Heats Up Some Glass

Annie Nash’s classes may be labeled “visual arts,” but they’re much more. While mastering the use of cold, warm, and hot glass-working tools, her second to fifth grade students also learn chemistry, physics, the laws and sources of energy, optics, history, and the scientific method.

“I have always included science concepts in the art studio,” says Nash, a 32-year teaching veteran at Manzano Day School in Albuquerque, N.M. and 2015 winner of a Voya Unsung Heroes award. “Art cannot be taught in a vacuum.”

Nash began including glass-making in her classes in 2007. In 2010, she and her students received a $10,000 Toyota Tapestry grant for an in-depth 9- to 12-week program of classroom learning and field trips. This spring, eight of her students accepted awards from the International Children’s Art Exhibition in Japan.

While the end result was art pieces, jewelry, and marbles created from 90 COE, 96 COE, and borosilciate glass, the 300 or more participants were guided at each stage by the scientific method, the process of observation, hypothesis, prediction, and experimentation that yields reliable knowledge.

As they acquire glass-making skills, such as operating a lamp-working torch to melt glass, students learn how scientists and artists use glass, the equipment and tools used, the elements involved in colored glass chemistry, glass compatibility, and the coefficient of thermal expansion, which shows how an object’s size changes when its temperature changes.

They also study energy sources and energy transfer, conduct experiments on the chemistry and physics of color and optics, create hypotheses, collect data, analyze processes and outcomes, record their conclusions, and share results in class discussions and videos.

Student and Mentors Heat Up Glass

Besides glass-making tools, students also apply such technology as iPad applications for unit conversion, graphing, and chemical measurements, as well as high-definition cameras to film their progress.

Not a scientist herself, Nash expects to get support from a science coordinator and technology adviser. Classes also draw in outside experts, including S. Jill Glass, a noted glass scientist at nearby Sandia National Laboratory and the mother of two of Nash’s students, who explained the properties that cause glass to shatter in certain circumstances.

Nash hopes the project will encourage students to pursue an interest in glass, which she calls “one of the most useful and inexpensive materials in the world.” Perhaps more importantly, she hopes students will “learn the importance of wondering and investigating” along the way.

Originally published May 17, 2010, updated on June 3, 2016 


3 Responses to “Glass-Making Opens a Window to Science”

  1. The beginning of paragraph 4 should read: The end result will be art pieces, jewelry, and marbles created from 90 COE, 96 COE, and borosilciate glass.

    Otherwise, this article is dead-on: a great description of what we are doing this year. Thank you to Toyota, Rashan Jones, Andrew Brown, Doug Harroun, Henry Grimmett, Abe Fleischman, Nortel Mfg., S. Jill Glass, Dennis Croessmann, Debra Novak, Leslie Kim, Allison Croessmann, Bill Wallace, Glass Alchemy, The Bell Group/Rio Grande Jewelry, Paragon Kiln, Lea Anderson, Greymatter Studio, Erika Hartwick, and everyone who is working to make this project a success!

  2. Thanks, Annie, for providing the more precise description!

  3. ..and Beth Rekow of Rekow Designs, plus Northstar Glassworks and Hot Flash Glass.

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