Making Stained Glass Window Hangings with Tinkering ASP


To continue our explorations of light, shadow, and color at Lighthouse's Tinkering Club Afterschool Program, the next activity we dove into was making stained glass art. There are a few big reasons we chose to make this our next activity. First, it builds on students' interests and prior skills. In past activities, soldering has always been one of the most popular elements to participate in, but all of our previous soldering has been related to circuitry. Making a stained glass window uses those same tools and materials, but in a different way and for a new purpose. Additionally, creating a stained glass window allows you to manipulate a common material in a way most people don't have access to. Glass is everywhere around us, but it's not often we get to physically cut, arrange, and connect pieces of glass for our own purposes. Lastly, we appreciate how making stained glass is a practice done all over the world, and this activity allowed our students to engage with that process.

Though we had some examples that were 3D, layered, or used custom shapes, most students ended up making pieces that were flat, square mosaics of color. Sara's ocean-themed stained glass was inspired by the film Moana. The blue tones represent the sea and the green represents life. The copper spirals coming off the sides symbolize flowing water.


Many students enjoyed the process of cutting custom-sized pieces of glass for their projects. Karla commented, "this is sooooo satisfying" after cutting her first piece of glass. It's surprising (and a little bit scary) to cut glass for the first time, but her statement perfectly captures the feeling when it works.


Yesenia was frustrated by the slow pace of soldering her seams, so she came up with a technique to make it go more quickly. She would loosely bundle a medium sized ball of solder then begin to heat up the copper tape. When the tape was hot enough, the whole bundle would melt to join the two pieces together. Karla built on this idea by twisting together several strands of solder to make a thicker piece to work with. At one point during the session our co-facilitator, Rosie, exclaimed, "This is so much more helpful! Why Didn't we think of this before?!"



Another innovation the students developed was using masking tape to help hold their pieces together before they were soldered. At times the glass pieces would slide around when we tried to attach them, but using the masking tape made the piece more secure. Below you can see how Thalia held the loose pieces together with a piece of tape stretched over the top.


Just outside the Creativity Lab (where Tinkering Club happens) there's a large atrium with beautiful, tall windows. There's lots of natural light that comes in during the day so it was the perfect place to display students' work. We were concerned about the pieces being fragile and the potential for broken glass if they got bumped since the atrium can be really busy at times. We ended up realizing that we could hang the pieces outside so that they were still visible, but safe from accidental harm. I really like how they cast colorful shadows through the space.

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One concern we had around developing this activity was around its "tinker-ability." The initial explorations into this activity were rich, and I think there's potential to dive more deeply into expanding on how to tinker with glass, and could probably be the exploration for a whole semester's worth of activities. Some thoughts were: make your sculpture 3D, experiment with layering glass pieces, embed flat elements between pieces of glass, incorporate LEDs to illuminate the glass, or build out frames for the glass using woodworking or 3D printing techniques.

I'm looking forward to revisiting this activity so we can try more of these ideas in the future!

Overdeck Family Foundation

This collaboration is funded by the Overdeck Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

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