Dream Something Big: the Story of the Watts Towers, written by Dianna Hutts Aston with collages by Susan L. Roth, is a visually stunning biography of an artist you may never have heard of before. Simon Rodia was simply Uncle Sam to his neighbors in Los Angeles. Over 34 years, Sam built towers from broken bits of tile, glass, and cement that soar up to 99 feet high. His incredible recycled-art structures are now a National Landmark.

At the end of this gorgeously illustrated book you’ll find jaw-dropping photos of the Watts Towers. I’m including a close-up of the towers here so you can see the details as well as a photo that shows just how huge these works of art are. Share Dream Something Big with your students and do a fun math activity. Just how tall is a 99-foot tower? Get out the rulers and chalk and head to the playground or parking lot. Divide 99 by the number of students you have and let them take turns measuring and marking out each foot in 99 feet. Stand at one end of the length when you are done and imagine that distance soaring into the sky. Decorate the 99 feet with chalk “collages”, coloring bright shapes to resemble Sam’s art. Build your own towers with scrap materials, pipe cleaners, clay, etc. and encourage your students to “dream something big” like Sam did. For more inspiration, visit Dianna Hutts Aston’s website: diannahaston.com or Susan Roth’s website: susanlroth.com

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