South Lakes High STEAM Team Art Club Creates Work of Art for Lake Thoreau
Members of the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) Team Art Club at South Lakes High School have created a kinetic work of art designed to enhance and enrich their community, currently on display at Lake Thoreau in Reston. For the fourth consecutive year, the group created a new sculpture by incorporating project-based learning and 21st century skills. South Lakes High School is a Fairfax County public school.
The students are challenged to develop and produce a kinetic work of art, incorporating natural elements, taking into account the impact on the community. STEAM Team Art Club members handle every aspect of the project, presenting three concepts to Public Art Reston, under the guidance of art teacher Marco Rando. They select the concept they feel most strongly about, taking the board’s perspective into careful consideration. Once the concept is selected, they produce digital and physical three-dimensional models that they present to Public Art Reston for approval. Once they receive approval, they file a request to present their concept to the Reston Association Design Review Board (RADRB), which provides feedback.
The project provides a professional learning experience for the students, complete with challenges, delays, and roadblocks, exactly what professional artists encounter when receiving a public art commission. Their design is displayed for a temporary period on the 19-square foot concrete spillway on Lake Thoreau.
This year’s sculpture is Althea, representing all aspects of human rights, this year’s thematic concept. The design includes rings that randomly rotate, reflecting the constantly evolving nature and complexity of human rights, as does the gradual change in the surface of the human figure as it rusts over time. Concentric circles, designed to resemble the orbital paths of the planets in the solar system and electrons around an atom, are meant to reinforce how deeply connected humans are to each other and to the world while reinforcing the importance of maintaining awareness of the world around us.
Students chose the name Althea to reference the nature of healing regarding the problems we face as a global community, and to remind us of the importance of unity and compassion during difficult times. The sculpture is visible from South Lakes Drive; a path that runs parallel to South Lakes Drive is accessible from South Lakes Shopping Center.
The sculpture is created from galvanized metal, plywood, wire rope, spray paint, and metal. STEAM Team members must ensure that their design will stand up to the high winds that occur on the lake, and is made of materials based on their properties and ability to withstand the elements over time. Working with engineers, the students receive feedback on materials, their process, and fabrication techniques. The students also invite community members to provide feedback, which they take into consideration. The design is assembled in the school parking lot and students test the physics of construction. Once complete, the sculpture is transported to Lake Thoreau by Reston Association Parks and Recreation Crew members and installed.
South Lakes students Lucy Nguyen, Jonathan Doctor, Phoebe Liu, Mackenzie Krider, Samantha Busch, Catherine Lashley, Leah Moyer, Christian King, Victoria Slaski, Carson Bush, Harrison Cahn, Amirah Kirwan, Saeed Louis Razavi, Kimi Nacu, Darja Loidap, Lily Vogel, Morgan Ryan, Jeremy Southern, Yanis Gribi, Isabella Emmons, and alumni Josh Rodriguez, Jefferson Frost, and Margaret Lashley worked on the STEAM Team that created Althea.
The first sculpture created in 2014 by South Lakes Students was called Pyramid of Light. It required multiple presentations to the RADRB, whose members unanimously approved the students’ final design and praised their technical detail and passion for their work. Pyramid of Light was on display for 16 weeks in 2014. Subsequent sculptures created by the STEAM Team Art Club were Nothing Twice and Simon.
This project-based learning challenge enabled the South Lakes students to use 21st century learning skills from beginning to end. The students used creativity to develop their sculpture; collaboration to work together and with the community to advance the design and execute the project; communication, both through their art and with the public bodies providing feedback and approval; and critical thinking, to use STEM skills to solve the problem of how to build a structure that would endure the elements.
The annual sculpture project is made possible by professionals and community members who volunteer many hours of their time and provide funding. Future projects can be supported by making a donation to Public Art Reston and designating the South Lakes STEAM Team Public Art Club.
For more information, contact the Fairfax County Public Schools Office of Communication and Community Relations at 571-423-1200.