Relationship Building

The Joy of Shrinky Dinks (Ep. 323)

Do you remember making Shrinky Dinks® as a kid? Tim does! And on today’s episode, he talks to Kerri Waller about how she is bringing Shrinky Dinks® into her classroom and everything her students can learn from the process. Listen as they discuss her wins and fails, how she develops STEAM connections, and why it is so important to always try new things with your students.  Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by the Art of Education University. And I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.

Today, we are going to do a quick fun episode about a quick fun project, Shrinky Dinks. Now, I have not done Shrinky Dinks since I was a kid, but I loved doing them back in the day, and I think everybody else did as well. And I’ve seen a lot of art teachers creating Shrinky Dinks with their students this year on social media, with great reactions from teachers and kids alike. So I thought we needed to spread the word about how enjoyable this project is now.

Now, Kerri Waller is going to be my guest today. She is an amazing teacher from Georgia. She has shared a lot of good ideas at the NOW Conference before, and she’s going to be back next month to give a great presentation on Shrinky Dinks at the conference. I am really looking forward to it. And today we are going to chat all about this awesome project so you can get excited about the presentation as well.

Now, before I bring Kerri on, I want to give you three reasons to come to the NOW Conference on July 27th, 28th and 29th. Number one, the featured presenters. And we have Ekow Nimako, who you heard recently on the podcast, an amazing sculptor who works with Lego pieces to create just these fascinating worlds, fascinating sculptures, and they are spectacular. He was great to talk to on the podcast. He’s going to be even better to see presenting at the conference. Our second featured presenter is Ulcca Joshi Hansen, who you have also heard on this podcast. She wrote a book recently called the Future of Smart and just, she has an incredible vision of what we can do with education, and I cannot wait to hear from her as we listen to what she has to say about how we can shape our schools and shape our classrooms to best benefit our students.

Reason number two to come to the conference, the new format. We’ve really expanded the offerings of the conference and it’s going to be so worth your while this time. So on July 27th, in the evening, we are going to have our conference kickoff. We love to play games. We love to just have an evening where we can hang out with other art teachers and have fun and create art and do all sorts of great stuff. The 28th, day two, we’re going to have a live event with our two featured presenters, as well as a number of other great presenters, talking about all things art education, a lot of the newest, most exciting ideas out there.

And then, day three, we’re going to have a day of asynchronous learning where all of the teachers who attend the conference can dive into things on their own, more specific ideas at their grade level or more specific ideas with specific media, where you can really figure out what applies most to you, figure out what you want to learn about, and dive in during that asynchronous day.

And then, reason number three is just the opportunity for hands on learning. Okay? Whether it’s the conference kickoff on day one, the main event on day two, or asynchronous learning on day three, you have a ton of time to make art, to figure out what’s going to work best for your classroom, get your hands dirty, and actually make examples that not just of art, but of rubrics and lessons and other ideas that can really help your teaching. And it’s very hands on. It’s very specific to what you need in the classroom. So it’s all going to be worthwhile. And I really hope that we see you there.

So if you are interested in learning more about the NOW Conference and registering for the conference, take a look at the AOEU website and click on the NOW Conference tab. But for now, it is time to get our interview started.

All right, Kerri Waller is joining me now. Kerri, how are you?

Kerri: I’m great. Thanks for having me.

Tim: Well, thanks for coming on the show. I feel like we’ve known each other forever, but we’re finally on the podcast.

Kerri: Yeah.

Tim: This is exciting. So I guess to start, can you just give us a quick introduction, tell all the listeners about yourself, about your teaching?

Kerri: Sure. So my name’s Kerri Waller and I have been teaching at Simpson Middle School in Marietta, Georgia for almost… Well, I guess for 14 full years now. Next year will be year 15. And I’m also the middle level representative for the Georgia Art Education Association, so I like to kind keep up to date with what’s going on in art education and use new techniques and tools in my classroom.

Tim: Oh, that’s awesome. And I was just going to say I’m always impressed by all of the new things that you try, all the new things that we see you do.

Kerri: Thank you.

Tim: So I guess just sort of looking back at this past school year, are there things that you did or what did you do that’s worth mentioning or worth talking about here?

Kerri: Sure. We all know the past few years in education just in general have been pretty rough, but I think art education in our class and our studios are one of those safe havens for the students, so they can express themselves, not worrying about necessarily what’s happening in the world around them for a minute, and just kind of really focusing on themselves and who they are.

In my classroom this past year, one of the big things we did was the Simpson Smiles Project, the postcard project. And I worked with my principal and what we did was my eighth graders had a contest. They created in artwork and the theme was Simpson Smiles. And we picked four artworks and we had them printed on postcards. And the teachers at my school were supposed to send four postcards out to the Cobb County community to other art teachers or teachers of whatever they teach or administrators or staff members to kind of spread that kind of smile just to say thank you or we appreciate you. Sometimes you got to get the ball rolling for the positivity, you know?

Tim: Yes.

Kerri: And you can’t always expect somebody else to start it, and the art classroom is one of those really great places to just start with the positivity.

Another thing we did was we started incorporating Shrinky Dinks into our classroom. I hadn’t done them before in the classroom, but that wow factor was there and the kids really enjoyed it. So it was fun watching that whole process unfold.

Tim: Yeah. That’s awesome. And I actually want to talk about Shrinky Dinks, because you’re doing your whole presentation at the NOW Conference on Shrinky Dinks.

Kerri: I am.

Tim: Which I could not be more excited about, let me tell you. No, I haven’t done them in a really… I was a kid last time I did Shrinky Dinks, so I’m super excited to kind of dive back in. But let me ask you, where did that idea come from? How did the in idea or inspiration like first come to you? What made you say, “Hey, I really want to try to create these with my students”?

Kerri: So I think one of the really cool things about being an art teacher is that we can use things in our everyday life and we can kind of take what’s going on around us and incorporate that into our classroom a little bit more than, let’s say, a math teacher. And what happened was my daughter had been gifted, a Shrinky Dinks set for December holidays, and when I got it out and I explained her what it was, her eyes lit up and she got super excited. And she’s in third grade, so while she’s a little bit younger than the students that I teach, I knew that there was a way I could incorporate that because I felt like my students would get that same joy out of it. And we started just kind of with the idea of creating Shrinky Dink key rings with their names on them because my students had just gone to a one-on-one technology school and they all just got laptops, but they all had the same black bag, so I wanted them to be able to personalize them a little bit.

Tim: That’s really cool. And I don’t know, I love the idea of just like how much joy, how much excitement that brings our kids. And my daughter is 14 and I was talking to her about Shrinky Dinks, and she’s like, “That sounds amazing.”

Kerri: Right?

Tim: And so, I think everyone gets excited about them.

Kerri: I had a couple girls tell me, that I taught, that they were going to buy them to do over the summer or they were going to use them at their birthday parties, or so it wasn’t just going to stop at the doors of the classroom. This is a love that is going to continue.

Tim: I love it. That’s awesome. Okay, so let’s talk a little bit more about some of those projects. I know in your NOW presentation, you’re going to discuss three different projects. You have the pop art portraits, sort of the wearable art and the key rings. And then I think your eighth graders maybe did the 3D gallery rooms.

Kerri: So yeah.

Tim: Can you talk a little bit about those?

Kerri: Absolutely. So it kind of started with, like I said, the idea of having name tag key rings for their laptop bags, so all of my classes created those. And then we went on to have a different project for each grade level. My eighth graders had, I teach a high school credit eighth grade class, so I gave them a little bit more freedom in what they wanted to create. And a lot of them chose to create wearable art. I had earring backs and necklaces. Some of them made whole sets. Some of them just made the key rings, but we went into how jewelry is an art form. We talked about buttons that you might wear on your shirt, ways that you incorporate artwork into your look every day.

And then with my sixth graders, we created these pop art portrait key rings inspired by Andy Warhol, and they had their school pictures and they traced them onto a larger sheet of shrinking paper, colored them with bright, bold, vivid, popping colors. And then when it shrank down, it was that immediate wow factor.

Tim: Yeah. Yeah.

Kerri: Even kids that aren’t necessarily all the way bought into the art program. My goal is to get them all there. So this really brought in a couple extra kids into the fold. And then, with my seventh graders, they had a little bit more freedom as well, creating the key rings. They didn’t do the wearable art. And then with my eighth graders, as early finisher project, as a group project, kids created these gallery spaces, which were done on three separate sheets and then cut out and then glued together with hot glue to create a three dimensional work of art.

Tim: That sounds really cool. And then, what was on the walls of those galleries? Was it other Shrinky Dinks or what kinds of things did they put in there?

Kerri: So the eighth graders had talked about gallery spaces and gallery rooms. And what they did was they had this kind of stenciled sheet with the sizes of the walls, and they created their own artwork within the galleries on the walls. We talked about abstract artwork. We viewed a couple of different museums virtually, and they kind of created their own artwork to go into the museum space. Now, because they were able to do this on a rough draft first, they could make changes. They could do what they wanted to do. And then because the Shrinky Dink paper is see through, you just put the Shrinky Dink paper right on top and trace what you want.

Tim: Nice. Now, that makes it very simple.

Kerri: Yeah.

Tim: Now, I want to ask you though, we always love these new projects, but it seems like they always come with challenges. You always run into some kind of speed bump that you weren’t expecting. What were some of the struggles or some of the challenges that you ran into as you were trying to figure things out, trying to do these in the classroom?

Kerri: Well, because this was the very first time I had done the project, the biggest thing was funding, right? It’s not necessarily something you’re going to find just laying around in your art supply closet. I wrote a couple grants. I used funding through our SEE Foundation, which is our Simpson Eagles Educational Foundation. And what they did was they gave me enough money to do this with all of my classes. But now I have extra, so I can use it for next year as well. So it’s something that I can continue along with.

Another issue is that kids, when they make the mistakes on the Shrinky Dink paper, they want to just kind of throw it away. So if you show them the magic expo trick, where you use the expo to get rid of any stray Sharpie marks, and then just wipe it away, you save a whole lot of paper. Another kind of thing that I figured out was you really want to limit the amount of paper you want to get them. You don’t want to give them a sheet. You’ve all had kids that cut that tiny circle out in the middle of a piece of-

Tim: Of course, of course.

Kerri: So what I did was I measured out kind of the sizes that I thought would be best, and I cut the paper. So everyone got a half sheet and then they got stencils as well for the outside shapes on a rough draft sheet of paper, so they could design anything they wanted on that rough draft sheet of paper and then transfer it over onto the final piece, not having to worry about wasting the amount of space.

Tim: Gotcha.

Kerri: Another issue is making sure they had that hole punched in the key ring or in the wearable art far enough down to where it won’t break off right away.

But close enough to the edge where you can still add the attachments. And it was a little bit using our engineering and design process to get things to work. And what we figured out was even if something broke off, you could sand it all the way down and then attach it to a magnet, and then just plan on telling people that’s what you meant to do. So it’s only a mistake if you admit to it. It’s all good.

Tim: No, that’s a good way to do it. I like it. I like it. Okay. So you just mentioned engineering, design thinking, that sort of process. And I know you do a lot with steam connections. So can you talk a little bit about how you tied Shrinky Dinks projects into what you do with some other subjects and other types of learning?

Kerri: Absolutely. So I teach at a steam school. We’re Cobb county certified, but I think I’ve been doing steam stuff way before then. It’s just good teaching, bringing in things from other subject matter, this interdisciplinary teaching, something we learn back when we’re learning how to be teachers, bringing things in from other subjects.

Tim: Yep.

Kerri: And when you are talking about Shrinky Dinks in using them in your classroom and bringing in other subject matters, you are totally tying into the steam process. You have leading with your art program, of course, but then you’re pulling in math with scale and proportion. You’re pulling in science with the reaction the plastic has to the heat source. You talk about measurement, with things being one size shrinking down to another size. So there’s a lot of different things that you can tie to add into that interdisciplinary practice.

Tim: That sounds really good. That’s a cool idea. And like you said, it is just good teaching to kind of bring in those other things. And you know, you talked at the beginning about getting kids to buy in, and sometimes that’s a great way to do it too. If they aren’t art kids, maybe they are math kids, maybe they’re engineering kids, and just incorporating some of those things can really help with the buy-in or help get them excited about the projects.

Kerri: So there’s this idea, right? That your brain is like a file cabinet. And I tell the kids, sometimes when you’re an art class, you don’t want to pull out your math or your science folder. And the goal is that no matter where you are in the school, you can pull out those folders and use that information. So when you have students that are really strong with the sciences and the maths, and they see how that interconnects with the art classes, it definitely has the ability to bring in the larger buy-in.

Tim: Yeah, for sure. That’s well said. All right. So I guess last question for you. I know a lot of people after hearing this discussion, after seeing your presentation at the conference, they’re going to be excited about trying Shrinky Dink. So any other words of advice for teachers who want to try them, or any thoughts or suggestions on why teachers should do these types of projects with their students?

Kerri: The biggest thing is the excitement that it brings into your classroom. The kids are going to be so excited and be so intrigued with the entire process that you have an instantaneous wow factor. And then that kind of leads them into that excitement and that confidence in what other projects that you’re doing. If they feel they can be successful with something as cool as this, they’re going to try something else, which I saw firsthand in the classroom.

And then, another thing is because it builds that confidence, they’re showing what they’ve done to other people in the school building. I had teachers emailing me, telling me they really liked them. Parents were in love with the pop art portraits. I had a teacher friend tell me that a parent took a picture of it and posted it online. So it really has this webbing factor, where it kind of leaves your classroom. And the goal is that the kids see that, right? You don’t want them to think they create the art, stays within our four walls and no one ever talks about it again. So they get to see this work of art that they created transcend the art classroom and kind of go out and travel around. That key chain’s on their laptop bag. The kids are wearing their earrings out.

Another thing is after doing it, it’s really important that you have everything ready before you shrink them down.

Tim: Okay. Okay. Yeah.

Kerri: So when you are in the process of shrinking them down, one of the things that I had discovered is if I had my students put their finished work into a bag, so all of the tables had their own bag, each table had their stuff in their bag, the name was on the bag, and then all the pieces didn’t get mixed up and things didn’t get lost.

Tim: Okay. All right. So organization, you got to put some thought into it.

Kerri: Yeah.

Tim: And let me ask you too, do you just put them in straight into the oven? Like How do you cook them? How do you shrink them? What works well for you?

Kerri: So I use a toaster oven in my classroom, and you put a piece of parchment paper down, and then I set the oven to 325 to 350. You really just kind of have to mess with what you got, because my oven at home, the settings were a little bit different. It was a little bit higher, like 350, whereas the toaster oven I could get by with 325. And then you lay it out on a flat cookie sheet and it goes into the toaster oven, and within three minutes, it’s done.

Now, there will be a freak out moment because your Shrinky Dink is going to bunch up because the plastic particles bunch up. It’s going to look like it’s folding in on itself and you’re going to want to take it out, but you have to trust the process and let it lay back flat and let it do what it was meant to do. And then once it comes out of the oven, it’s seconds before it’s cool enough for you to touch it.

Tim: Okay, cool. Cool. Oh, I appreciate the advice. And also, I’ve seen some teachers try and shrink them with a heat gun, and that just seems like a terrible idea to me.

Kerri: Yeah. Someone told me that they let the kids shrink it down with the heat gun or they use the heat gun. To me, that just seems like a lot of energy and a lot of stress and a lot of dangerous activity when you have easier and safer ways to do it. I like the toaster oven and the regular oven. I will stick with that.

Tim: Okay. Sounds good. Cool. Well, Carrie, thank you so much for the explanation, the advice, and just kind of giving us a view into some of the cool things that you were doing in your classroom. It was great to talk to you today. Thanks.

Kerri: Good talking to you. Thanks for having me.

Tim: All right. Thanks to Kerri for coming on and sharing all of her Shrinky Dink wisdom. I love the idea that she talked about, that a simple project like this can serve as such a great advocacy tool for the art room or for the art program. Kids are excited about their Shrinky Dinks. They tell other kids about it. They tell other teachers about it. They show off what they’ve made to friends and parents and whoever else. And it gets noticed when they’re on computer bags, when they’re hanging from backpacks, when kids are wearing these Shrinky Dink earrings that they’ve made. And there’s that sense of excitement and that sense of accomplishment that are just palpable when you have an exciting project like that. That is a great feeling.

And even though we talked a lot about this project today, Kerri will share even more in her presentation at the conference. You’ll see some great visuals for all of the projects that she discussed. She’ll show some additional examples, and there are going to be some great just step by step instructions on the techniques she used for the projects, what you can use in your classroom as well. It’s definitely going to be worth checking out. And Kerri’s presentation will be live as part of the main event on July 28th.

And again, if you want to be part of the conference, check out all the information you need on the AOEU website. You can also give Kerri a follow on Twitter @WallerArt. And that’ll be in the show notes as well, but we appreciate you listening. And I am hoping that we will see you next month at NOW.

Art Ed Radio is produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering for Michael Crocker. As I said, the NOW Conference it’s one month away. Okay? One month from today, actually, on the main event. So being an art teacher, you’re probably listening to this right now and thinking, eh, I should sign up, and you’re procrastinating. But I’m telling you, quit procrastinating, go sign up now. It’s worth it. Okay? Go do it. And we’ll talk to you again next week.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.