Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Inventions (Vulcanization), Senses (Smell), Social Studies – History, Careers (Engineers, Commercial Artists), Supply And Demand
Language Arts – Literature, Mathematics – Sorting, Graphing
Possible Art Concepts: Art History – James Rizzi
Commercial Art, Art Careers, Drawing, Paper Sculpture, Color Mixing (Primary Colors, Secondary Colors)
Four posts ago, I talked about clothing being displayed in art museums. Well, guess what? Clothing isn’t the only unusual item being displayed in art museums this summer. “The Rise of Sneaker Culture” is currently on display at the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. Yes, actual sneakers, not Pop art paintings or sculptures of sneakers, but the sneakers themselves. This exhibit was at the Brooklyn Museum, NYC, from July to October of last year and I was really bummed that I missed it. The invention of sneakers became possible after Charles Goodyear invented the process of vulcanization, a way of combining rubber and fabric. Thus, my reference to this song in this post’s title. Read about the very first rubber shoe or plimsoll and more sneaker history here and here. Find a video history here. Find a nice little slide show with descriptions of some of the highlights of the shoe exhibit here and a video here.
Over the years, the sneaker has evolved along with it’s purpose and scientific advancements. Their first purpose was to keep people’s feet dry or hold croquet balls in place. When sneakers began to be worn for sports, beginning with basketball, it’s shape changed. The shoes became high tops to protect the ankles. When the shoes became specialized for different sports, the soles changed. Spikes were added to some to aid in running track. Air bubbles, pumped air and springs have been added to allow for better athletic performance. Who made all these advancements possible? Why they were engineers. While investigating this post, I found several sneaker themed, engineer based science lessons online. Check out this one. In the 1950s, influenced by movies starring James Dean and Marlon Brando, sneakers became everyday wear. Later, fashion houses, hip hop stars and sports endorsements made the sneaker a fashion statement. Who designed the outward look of these? They were designed by commercial artists. I found it very interesting that two Jordan Air designers were trained for other fields. Tinker Hatfield, the first Air Jordan designer, was originally an architect. Dwayne Edwards, footwork design director for brand Jordan, was initially a file clerk. Sometimes visual artists like James Rizzi will design the surface of a sneaker. As you can see, the sneaker and it’s history can easily be incorporated into a science or career unit.
After investigating the history of the sneaker, students could brainstorm the next innovation they’d like to see in the future. Students who are into the show Sharktank or other invention series would really love this asignment. They could sketch out their ideas or make a 3D model of a sneaker. Below you will find steps to a 3D sneaker I used to leave for subs. (So frustrating, reinventing the wheel. I had this lesson all made up and threw it away when I retired. Hope you can follow these three steps to a 3D tagboard sneaker.)
The sneaker exhibit may correlate well with literature time if you happen to be reading one of these three sneaker books to your class: “Pete the Cat-I Love My White Shoes” by Eric Litwin, James Dean or “Those Shoes” by Maribeth Boeltz and “Stink and the Worst Super-Stinkey Sneakers” by Megan McDonald. “I Love My White Shoes” could be modified to an excellent color mixing story for your students. Those of us who are familiar with color theory know that a red shoe mixed with blueberries would turn into a purple shoe, not blue. If Pete would step into water to clean off his shoes, then stepped into lemons and then blueberries, his shoes would turn green, etc. You get the picture. “Those Shoes” keys into the commercial aspect of sneakers. Younger students would love the first two books. After reading one of the books and looking at examples of sneakers from the exhibit, students could engage in some sorting activities found here and here. The third book is a chapter book and could go along with a science lesson on the senses.
Most students have one or more pairs of sneakers. They can easily identify with a sneaker. So, using a sneaker theme could be of interest to them and help them remember the classroom concept you are trying to get across. Also, it seems that no theme or subject is an island. There always seems to be crossovers with other subjects. I hope you have found some kernel of knowledge that will help in your everyday teaching.
I hope you will stop by again soon!