There is always something to be said about simplicity, particularly when you are working with technology and younger students. This Is Sand is an ideal art tool for elementary students to create virtual sand sculptures. At first glance, thought, the site appears to be nothing more than a blank screen. But with a left click of the mouse, digital sand starts dropping from the cursor on the screen. Click the “C” button on your keyboard, and now you have a vast array of sand colors to choose from. In no time, This is Sand will have your attention as you slowly layer in colors. (When you are at the site, notice the small unobtrusive gray box in the upper left corner of the screen — this is the instruction manual.)
I was introduced to This Is Sand by my kindergarten-teaching colleague, who uses the site on the first day she introduces her students to our school’s Mac laptops. (See her video documentary of her students’ first day with the Macs.) The site’s artistic nature and user-friendly interface makes This Is Sand a great place to begin classroom instruction for younger students as they learn the mechanics of using a computer mouse to navigate a screen, finding letters on the keyboard, and choosing colors from a palette. The learning has less to do with the building of sand castles than with the computer literacy that comes with using the site.
The site defaults to making a neat little sound as the sand falls (you can turn off the noise, if you want) and users can submit works of art to the gallery. With younger students, a teacher could take screenshots of the work and then print them out or add them to an online class website.