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Fractal Facts

Recurring patterns are found in nature in many different things. They are called fractals. Think of a snow flake, peacock feathers and even a pineapple as examples of a fractal. Create your own example using a stamp cut from a sponge and Crayola® Washable Watercolors.

  • Grade 6
    Grades 7 and 8
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Fractals are found in nature. Share examples of these repeating patterns such as those found in credible Internet sites. Hold up pictures of a peacock and its eye-like design in the feathers, a nautilus shell with its spiral pattern, tree branches and fern fronds. Examples can also be found in mountains, lightning and leaves. Snowflakes are another example of how nature has created these repeating patterns.
    2. The oval-shaped spiny repeating pattern of a pineapple is easy to make and helps students understand this phenomena.
    3. Ask students to work in small groups to research scientists and mathematicians who are well-known for studying fractals. Each group will be responsible for organizing their research to share with classmates.
    4. Cover working surface with recycled newspaper. Pass out water containers, Crayola® Washable Watercolors, white paper, sponges and brushes.
    5. Using Crayola® pointed scissors cut a small oval shaped piece the size of a quarter. This will form the repeating pattern of a pineapple.
    6. Dip brush into water and drop water onto colors in paint tray. Always clean brush in water when changing colors.
    7. Press sponge piece into paint and press onto white paper to create a pineapple. Add some green foliage to the top when finished.
  • Standards

    LA: Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.

    LA: Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively and orally.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    MATH: Reason with shapes and their attributes.

    SCI: Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties.

    VA: Students will investigate, plan and work through materials and ideas to make works of art and design.

  • Adaptations

    Many architects are inspired by nature. In fact quite a few buildings use fractals found in nature for their design. Some examples are the Chicago Spire, inspired by a seashell, The Lotus in India, a replica of the repeating petals of a Lotus flower and the Palm Islands in Dubai, which is an exact replica of palm fronds. If possible show some of these photos to inspire students. Use the same stamping method and have students cut out shapes found in nature to create their own building using a repeating pattern.

    Have students look around their homes and see if they can locate any repeating patterns or fractals found in furniture, kitchen items, or even the building itself. Have a discussion about what was found and evaluate if they think any of these objects were inspired by nature.

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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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