This post originally appeared on the blog Mossy Oak Musings.

A couple of years ago, I met some friends in Paris.  I couldn’t wait to soak up the history, the food, the wine, and most of all… the art. I had read a brief article in a magazine about Monet’s residence and gardens in Giverny.  The article was tantalizing. This was a MUST for our itinerary.  The day came when my fellow crazy teaching friend and I boarded the train to Giverny. My anticipation was palpable.

“I perhaps owe becoming a painter to flowers.” – Claude Monet

We arrived and took a shuttle bus into the town. We had wanted to rent bikes, but we weren’t sure if the weather would cooperate. We disembarked and hoofed down cobblestone streets, along the river, and suddenly we were there. Just like that. I rounded a corner, and I was there. The first thing I noticed was the poppies. They were everywhere — crimsons, scarlets, delicate pinks. I could hardly talk. 


And then I started to cry. Have you ever had an emotional response like this… been so moved by beauty that you lose your composure? Monet’s gardens were breathtaking. I spent the remainder of the day soaking up joy. I wandered for hours, naming all the flowers I saw: Cleome, poppy, rose, bachelor buttons, Coreopsis, daylily, bee balm, phlox, cosmos, apple trees grafted to create a natural fence, the Japanese bridge, the bamboo forest, the lily pads, and on and on. I learned that Monet gardened early every morning and then spent the afternoon painting what he had created. The garden fed the art, and the art fed the garden.

Flash forward to this year. I was looking for a math/art connection that could help my students conceptualize linear metric measurement.  I wanted something engaging, interdisciplinary, and creative.  And then I found my photos from that Paris trip, and I knew.

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We began our investigation into Claude Monet by reading Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork. This book has been around for quite a while, but it served its purpose well. Linnea travels to Giverny to see Monet’s house and gardens. The book is a narrative travel journal of her trip. I interspersed our readings with photos from my own trip to Giverny. I wrote a mini-biography about Claude Monet to share with my students, and we viewed examples of his art.

I asked students to imagine gardens that they would like to build and plant, encouraging them to think about whether they wanted a flower or vegetable garden, or a combination of the two. We looked online (doing Google searches) at garden features like fountains, fire pits, patios, and trellises. Students created their own garden plans using centimeter graph paper.  They were not allowed to use curved lines, rectangles, or squares. I was amazed at the complexity and ingenuity of their designs. Quite honestly, I thought about using some of them to redesign my own backyard gardens. 

 
 
Students created two copies of their centimeter grid garden plans. They used one copy to bisect into rectangles to figure out the area and perimeter of each garden bed. The second copy was used later on in the project when students elected a plan to use for their decimeter models. My kids worked hard to divide their garden beds into squares and rectangles to figure out the perimeters and areas of each bed, recording them on a sheet I provided for them.  
 
 
Then, I asked them to recreate their plans using millimeter paper. The purpose of this was for students to discover the connection between millimeters and centimeters. This was probably the hardest step of the project. After some false starts, they were able to transfer their designs onto the millimeter paper, discovering that ten millimeters equal one centimeter. They recorded their areas and perimeters again, using millimeters this time.
 
 
Then, we compared the measurements from the centimeter and millimeter models. Students were able to discover the pattern and identify equations to convert their centimeter areas and perimeters to millimeter areas and perimeters. This was really cool to see. I love when students discover for themselves. This was so much more fun than me telling them what to multiply by to find the millimeter measurements.  
 
Part three of this project led to discussions about scale. We looked at map scales and calculated distances. Then, we applied this to our garden projects.  We asked the question, “What would our centimeter garden plan look like if we built it to scale using decimeters?” I hung students’ centimeter plans around the room so they could vote on a plan they wanted to “blow up” to scale. Once they had elected a plan, we broke into cooperative groups. Each group was assigned a garden bed from the plan to build using decimeter squares. They cut these out and assembled them using Scotch tape and glue sticks.  
 
After the beds were assembled, we conducted Google searches to research types of flowers, vegetables, and fruits that we wanted to plant in each bed. They recorded their ideas on a sheet I provided and made sketches of their choices.  Then, they began to sketch and color on the actual bed models, using pencil and oil pastels. They created keys so viewers would know what flowers were represented by their sketches. 
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monet11Finally, we worked together to assemble the beds on colored roll paper. We constructed a decimeter ruler using more decimeter squares, taping 10 squares together. This was my students’ solution to how we would space the garden beds correctly on the roll paper. We needed to make sure that the graph model continued in our scale decimeter model. This worked well!    

In the end, students also worked collaboratively to write about the steps we followed in our Monet, Math & Measurement Project. This was displayed with our decimeter garden!

This project was so much fun to tackle. As a teacher, I enjoyed it because I got to relive my trip to Monet’s Giverny gardens and estate.  I think that when a teacher is able to share his or her personal experiences with students, the learners (and teacher) become even more invested in the learning. At least, that has been my experience with this and other projects I’ve created with my students.  

If you’re interested in trying this project yourself, be sure to click the picture below. According to one of my learners, “This one is the best yet, Ms. Willis!” It doesn’t get any better than that, does it? 

 
Monet & Math
 
                                           
Until next time, my friends! Teach on!
Tracy
 

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Wild Child DesignsTracy Willis is an award-winning Michigan teacher. Her TpT shop is named Wild Child Designs and her blog is named Mossy Oak Musings. Both names serve a dual purpose, representing her love of the natural world and the wild ride classroom creativity can be! In her 24 years of teaching, she has taught general music (K-8th grade), general classrooms, and a newcomers ELL program (2nd-8th grades). She has also worked with teacher leaders as a literacy coach. A presenter at local and state conferences, as well as a Teacher-Author and poet, Tracy currently teaches 5th grade. At Wild Child Designs, you will find resources for upper elementary that are inspired by music, art, creative problem-solving, and interdisciplinary connections. Wild Child Designs promises standards-based rigor and learning with a touch of wild creativity! You can connect with Tracy on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram @twwildchild.