Art Crayon Toolkit: Impact Report

The overall goal of the Art Crayon Toolkit is to increase children’s engagement with art. Specifically, we aim to: (1) encourage children to look closely at the visual elements of art, including color, (2) spark an interest in learning about art and artists, (3) prompt children to actively create and connect art to their own lives.
photo 2The intended audience for the Art Crayon Toolkit is children from age 7 to 12. We imagine it would be used in a semi-structured educational setting such as museum workshops, art classes, or after-school programs. Independent use of the Art Crayon Toolkit is a secondary use case.

photo 1

In order to evaluate the Art Crayon Toolkit, we tested it with three children: two children age 7 and one child age 4 (2 male, 1 female). The four-year-old was taken as a secondary use case, as he was outside the intended age range. We observed the children and ask them questions as they interacted with the Art Crayon Toolkit. We also asked them to talk through their reactions as they worked with the objects in order to get a better idea of their thought process. Finally, we asked a few semi-structured follow-up questions to get an overall idea of their experience. with Art Crayon Toolkit. Example questions include:
– What was your favorite part?
– What part of the workbook did you like?
– Was there anything you’d change to make it easier to play with?

During the testing session, we first asked kids to explore the workbook and crayons on their own for a few minutes. Then, we explained that the art-based crayons were made of many colors corresponding to the hues in a painting or a print. We asked them to match the four art-based crayons in their pack to the four works of art on the first page of their workbook. Kids then picked a particular crayon or artwork and went to the relevant page to learn more about the work of art, examine the bar graph, and do the drawing activity. The first tester was more interested in looking at the works of art and figuring out how the crayon corresponded to it; the second two testers were more excited about the drawing activities.

photo 3

We found that the art crayons were an interesting way to get children to look closely at the works of art, with special attention paid to how the artists use color. Every kid was able to match at least some crayons to bar graph picture, although they found crayons with similar hues difficult to match. The seven-year-old testers reported that they understood the bar graph diagrams in the workbook and how they related to the crayons; the four year old did not understand the correlation. One kid placed the crayon next to the bar graph to line up the colors. In certain cases, very similar colors, such as sepia and brown, were adjacent in the crayon, making it difficult to distinguish between the two (one kid believed that a color was “missing”). Some of the testers read the percentages of different colors in a crayon, showing a basic understanding of how the data in the crayon relates to the images.

While color served as an initial hook to looking at the works of art, some of the kids also noticed elements beyond color. One kid was familiar with Hokusai’s Great Wave print because he had studied Japan in class, but he noted, “I never realized there was a boat right there.” Another tester realized that there is a small skeleton, or calavera, in Kahlo’s painting. The crayons and the content of the workbook served to help kids look more closely at works of art and learn more about the art and artists. Some of the testers read the artist name and artwork titles on the crayon labels, as well as the information about the artworks in the workbook. The thematic groupings were an useful way to spark children’s interest, too; one of the kids reported liking the food theme. As one kid explained, he liked the crayons because it helps him to “know what the artist used to make it. Some art it’s hard to describe what the artist used to make it.”

photo 4

The Art Crayon Toolkit also encouraged kids to create and connect art to their own lives. Two of the kids were most interested in the drawing activities; they were rapidly pulled towards these activities and later reported these were their favorite part of the entire session. The other tester enjoyed reading the activity and talking about the prompt, but seemed reluctant to color. The kids also were interested in where the crayons came from, asking how we made them. In addition to prompting an interest in artmaking, the Toolkit was a great way for kids to connect art to their everyday lives. One kid has been studying Japan in school; when he saw the Hokusai artwork, he quickly identified Mount Fuji and Kanagawa, the island in the title of the print. The corresponding prompt asked them to think an of ocean scene they’ve experienced, which led him to recount a story about his own time at Martha’s Vineyard. Another kid was familiar with Frida Kahlo and told us about how she had dressed up like the artist for a school event.

While our testers were generally enthusiastic about the Art Crayon Toolkit, they also provided feedback that could help us improve the project in the future. We noticed that the wrappers for the art-based crayons came off almost immediately because the children had trouble seeing the different colors despite the translucent labels. Kids were also interested in using the five colors in each crayon individually. Some of the kids would rub the crayon sideways to reveal the different colors, but others found it frustrating when they couldn’t draw with a color in the middle of the crayon. We found that the structural integrity of the crayons generally held up, but could be improved—a few of the color bar crayons broke when kids drew with more force. The language of the information on works of art could also be simplified for younger audiences; a challenge is balancing art-related words like “pastel” and “depicts” with the reading level of our intended audience. We are also considering changing the supplementary colors in the crayon pack; the kids were not interested in white, and would benefit from having a broader color range.

Overall, our impact study shows that fundamentally the Art Crayon Toolkit is a viable path for increasing art engagement in children ages 7 to 12 and could be further improved by iterating on the design and content.

SnapSim Presentation

Danielle, Edwin, Harihar, Tami

We have created a Google slideshow

We have two variants of our SnapSim.

The first one takes the player through the grocery store experience.

The second one focuses on the difficulties of removing items from the grocery cart.

Both variants use a map.

SnapSim is designed as a guided experience. That is, the researcher (one of the four members on our team) takes the player through the narrative and talks to them as they make their way through.

SnapSim Methodology

Danielle, Edwin, Harihar, Tami

Our project goal was to make our audience feel empathy for families on SNAP who must make sacrifices when shopping. We implemented this goal by creating an interactive text-based narrative.

Our first prototype was a game that utilized food price data from the Market Basket circular over 10 weeks. The dataset presents the data as scanned images, so we manually transcribed the items and prices. It also used nutrition information from the National Nutrient Database and restaurant websites (ex. McDonalds). In the game, the player aimed to buy a healthy week of food while staying under budget. However, we found that the addition of nutrition data did not help foster empathy (based on responses to our post-game survey), so we omitted nutrition in our final project.

For our next iteration, we learned about other connections people have to food and used that to tell a story to evoke empathy. To understand the demographics of SNAP families, we studied the examined the income data and SNAP benefit data from the the Food Environment Atlas and read the “Characteristics of SNAP Households” report from the USDA. To understand people’s connection to food, we created a survey and received about 20 responses from friends. These responses illustrated some reasons that people eat the foods that they do.

With that, we moved from a game structure to an interactive narrative. Rather than using data to evoke empathy, we chose to use stories. We built a character fitting the demographic data and we created stories around food which captured some of the connections we observed in our survey responses. To determine the character’s budget, we used income and monthly SNAP benefit data from the USDA Food Environment Atlas. We supported our numbers by looking up salaries on the Bureau of Labor Statistics and using a SNAP benefit calculator.

We aimed to conclude the narrative by connecting it back to reality. To do this, we created a map indicating SNAP participation rates (hoping that a user’s connection to their state or country would help them identify with the data) and the locations of food banks around the country (as a call to action). Getting data on food bank locations was very time consuming. We fetched HTML from Feeding America and wrote a Python script to clean it. We then used Google’s geocoding service to convert the addresses to latitudes and longitudes.

We had four total iterations of our interactive narrative – each had a different user experience. The changes were guided by questionnaires given to our testers and feedback from games expert Prof. Sara Zaidan.

Our final product is an interactive text-based narrative. The player is a single mother grocery shopping for herself and her two children. Each food item has a story indicating its importance to the family. In order to stay within budget, the player must forgo buying some of the foods. At the end, we show the player a map of SNAP participation around the country to illustrate that for some families, this game may be a reality. The map also displays food banks (and links to their websites), encouraging the user to act on their empathy by donating or volunteering.

We created two variants of our project: one focusing on removing items to the grocery cart, and the other focusing on adding items to the grocery cart.

We have a number of repositories for our project:


first prototype

second prototype

final project (variant 1)

final project (variant 2)

Food Sec Sim

Team: Mary Delaney and Stephen Suen

What: we are interested in understanding and presenting the trade-offs that people receiving SNAP benefits face, in terms of their time, their budget, and their other resources. To do this, we want to create a game that combines datasets that include characteristics of SNAP participants, cost of food, nutrition, and the cost of other resources to simulate the choices faced by a SNAP participant. To ground this experience further, we are going to focus on local data and base everything else off that, though given more time we could make it a tailored experience based on what location you were playing from.

Who: Our audience is non-SNAP participants interested in learning more about the program and its participants. Our game could also be used by classes, allowing players to get a better understanding of the realities of food insecurity.

Why: Our primary goal is increase awareness and empathy around the issue of food security.

We hope to educate the food secure about the challenges of food insecurity, including those that may not be immediately obvious. It is our hope that players, with their increased knowledge and empathy, will also be compelled to take action and help the food insecure.

How: We have discussed both single- and multi-player games and digital and physical games. We are currently undecided between a very immersive, narrative digital single-player game (likely to be made in Twine, a text-based choose-your-own-adventure game engine), which seeks to increase empathy and impel action, and a physical card-based multi-player game, which seeks to facilitate discussion of the issues faced by SNAP participants. We plan to build and playtest prototypes of both games to see which strategy will be most effective to pursue.

Final Project


Hayley Song

Deborah Chen


We are interested in comparing prices at local grocery stores/farmers markets to see how far one’s money can go on food and which ones are the most/least expensive.


We aim to build an interactive web application that allows people to put in their budget for food, select a basket of goods, and compare how much food they can buy in different places. The prices will be from data in various Boston area supermarkets.


Many news outlets and individuals have done their own stories to help readers determine the cheapest place to shop.We’d like to make use of that information, and allow people to find out what the cheapest place to shop for them is based on their own basket of goods. Even if one is committed to shopping where they are, the tool will allow them to quantify how much money one is saving/not saving.


We looked at various sources of data for supermarket prices:

  • Instacart
  • NH Public Radio:
  • Farmers markets:

The data shows that for certain defined baskets of goods, some stores are cheaper than others. For example, the report on farmers markets compared the average prices in the farmers markets to those in other supermarkets.  The report concluded that, contrary to the common belief that farmers markets would be more expensive, the prices in the farmers markets were competitive to those in the supermarkets.




Final Project Proposal – Food Security Game

Stephen Suen
Mary Delaney
(…looking for more! A digital game may be out of scope for a team of two)

Economic circumstances/challenges of those faced with food insecurity and how that affects other aspects of their lives (e.g. health/nutrition)

To increase awareness and empathy around the issue of food security
To educate the food insecure on how to make better dietary choices within their economic means

Web-based digital game, in the vein of “empathy simulators” like Cart Life or Depression Quest


Our initial story pitch is based on this article from the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, which took dietary intake data from the 2003-10 waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and measured it against the Healthy Eating Index, a measurement of how closely one’s diet conforms to recommended daily intake. This analysis specifically focuses on SNAP participants, who are lagging behind in multiple HEI components (notably fruit and vegetables) compared to other Americans.


In addition to these findings, the article explains how this different in dietary consumption is having real effects on SNAP participants’ health — adults enrolled in SNAP are “more likely to be overweight and suffer from diet-related health problems.” To summarize: The data say that low-income Americans are unable to eat healthy due to price, access, and storage concerns. We want to tell this story because food security is a struggle for so many people but is not tangibly understood by those not affected by it.

Expanding the story beyond the initial article, there are a number of things we could do with the data:

  • Recreate the HEI analysis using the most up-to-date NHANES data
  • Facet NHANES data by other dimensions (e.g. geography, specific income brackets) to make the game even more personal/relatable
  • Combine other USDA data sets, such as Food CPI or the Quarterly Food-at-Home Price Database to relate the HEI components to actual prices

More brainstorming will have to be done in terms of the actual game mechanics to determine what data sets might be pertinent to the final product.

Art data and gender

Members: Desi Gonzalez and Laura Perovich

Topic: museum collection data

Goals: education, increased access to and engagement with museums/art, social change

Techniques: interactive visualizations, physical objects

Story: The data say male artists have a stronger presence than female artists at the Tate.  We want to tell this story because we’re interested in exposing the biases in art museum collections in order to both teach audiences about how women have been historically underrepresented in collections and possibly help shape museum collecting practices in the future.


I quickly plugged Tate artist data into Tableau and graphed artists birth date by gender. Most of the artists represented in the collection were born more recently. The artists born before 1850 are overwhelmingly male. (“Null” shows up for collectives/groups of artists, but in a few instances it seems like artists weren’t coded; it seems like collectives/collaborative artwork represented in the collection are younger/were born more recently.)


Screenshot from 2015-04-02 14:41:03


We also used R to begin to dig into the data a bit.

Overall, there are 5.6 time more male artists with work at the Tate than female artists.  Male artists at the time have 23.9 times more pieces at the Tate than female artists.  Male artists also occupy more artwork territory in than Tate than female artists: male artwork has 8.2 times more area than female artwork and 9.5 times more volume.

We further considered gender breakdowns by artist century of birth, to see if changes in gender diversity of the profession over time (exact data TBD) may be reflected in the Tate’s collection.  Finds are below:

Representation ratios (M:F) by century of birth

century artists artworks area volume
1600 45 66 252 NA
1700 39 21 186 21.8
1800 24 249 124 789
1900 5.7 9.5 9 23.9
2000 2.2 2.7 2.6 3.4

N.B.  This is an extremely rough and initial analysis of this data.  There is a significant number of NAs in the data that will have to be addressed, as well as some data inconsistencies that require further exploration.  Data has not been fully checked or cleaned.

Additionally, this data would be better understood with further context–such as collections from other museums or overall occupational statistics.

Final Project Ideas


Val Healy, Ceri Riley


Current environmental/human influences on agriculture (urbanization, desertification, industrial farming/animal agriculture) and how this impacts food security


Changing behavior, educating people about agricultural impacts — both food choices and environmental/land use choices — without sensationalizing the information


Simple interactive/web visualization or infographic


Food Environment Atlas – USDA

This dataset contains a lot of information, but we chose to look at the fact that 50.54% of Farmers Markets in the United States sell fruits & vegetables, while 46.94% sell animal products, and 50.66% sell ‘other’ (presumably flowers and other non-edible products). We wanted to look at the story surrounding farmers markets nationwide to see how local farms/agriculture might help provide different types of food choices to people.


Game/Visualization about Food Supplies


Danielle Man
Edwin Zhang
Harihar Subramanyam
Tami Forrester


We are interested in the makeup of food supplies (ex. meat, produce) in countries around the world.


We aim to build a data game or an interactive visualization to teach people how countries’ food supplies are structured and to encourage them to improve their diets.


We look at the following dataset by the Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations.


The ratio of the supply of meat to vegetables is 0.97 in the U.S., 0.14 in China, and 0.05 in India – the food supply makeups of the three most popular countries are quite different! We want to food policymaking to consider these differences and we want readers to observe how this is reflected in the diets of people around the world.