Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Back to Work with Mayan Masks

Ready to dry!


It was AWESOME to have two weeks off for Spring Break, now it's back to work and back to blogging!  I am so excited to watch the fifth grader's Mayan masks coming together.  My husband and I had taken a tour of Chichen Itza, outside Cancun, last fall and I fell in love with the history and art.  I bought a mask and based a clay project on my purchase.  The kids were so intrigued by the Mayan culture and were really involved in the project.  They researched the meaning of animals in the Mayan culture and also came up with their own interpretation of animal meanings.  Then, they picked two animals they felt best represented their own personalities.  We carved this into clay, fired them and finally started painting them this week.  These are the first several that are finished.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Living Thing Teapots

This may be my all-time favorite 3rd grade project!  The project starts off with plane tickets and a plane ride to Japan, which is just all the stools lined up like the seats on a plane.  The kids even get an in-flight meal of seaweed and Japanese candy!  There may also be some turbulence, but only if the kids are behaving well.  Once we land, we get in our 'bus' in front of the projector to watch a presentation on Japanese culture and beliefs.  It's our own tour!  When the tour is over, the kids get to check into their 'hotels', or their tables, where various Japanese phrases are printed.  They get a few minutes to practice writing before class is over.

The unit consists of Sumi-e painting, printmaking, origami and constructing teapots. 

For the teapot lesson, students learn all about the tea ceremony and the importance of tea and the teapot to Japanese culture.  They are told that they get to make their own teapots, to which they freak out!  Anything with clay and they are HAPPY!  But, their creative challenge to the teapots is to make them to resemble something living, animal or plant.

They get plenty of time to brainstorm, build a clay reference book and practice several hand building techniques before deciding on what to make and which technique fits best with their design.  Here are just a few of the amazing results.  I LOVE that each one looks completely different from the next.  I even saw baseball players, aliens, dragons, unicorns, flowers, and even one of me! 

A Creative Challange

I was lucky enough to be one of the first three respondents to this post on Phyl's page, There's a Dragon in my Art Room.  I can't wait to get my art from her!  As the challenge goes, it is now my turn to offer a piece of original art to the first three people to comment on this post.  Here's how the challenge works:
  • I will create a piece of original artwork for the first three people to leave a comment on this post stating they would like to participate.  
  • If you choose to participate, you must offer this challenge on your own blog or social networking site and pass the creativity forward!  
  • If you are one of the first three to respond, just send me an email with your address and I will mail you your artwork.  My email is found on my profile page. 

I love this opportunity to create and hope I will be able to make some art for you!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Apple Awards

The 2012 Apple Awards!  I was so honored to be picked as the representative for my school, it feels amazing to be nominated.  I didn't win, but that just motivates me to try to be a better teacher so I can live up to those who have won this award.

Me and the Mister

Our table and my box of presents.  The best thing in that box?  The sweet notes from students.

Me with the school secretary and principal

Dancing with the ice scraper that was in my present box.  Scraper disco!


Getting down

Sign Language Clay Initials

This was such a fun and successful project.  First, I taught the kindies the sign language alphabet.  Each kid had a worksheet illustrating every letter.  We did the alphabet together, then they were allowed to practice their name or any other words they wanted on their own.  When they had practiced enough, each kid got a slab of clay, traced their hand on it and cut it out.  Their challenge: move the fingers in the correct position to create their sign language initial.  After these adorable pieces were fired the kids glazed using whatever colors they wanted.  They came out so cute!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Andy Goldsworthy

A peak at our Andy Goldsworthy projects:

I cover him every three years, once when the kids are in primary grades and once when they are in secondary.  The primary kids stay on school grounds and we just use the rocks, gravel and twigs that we can find.  When they're older, we go down to the stream near our school to use the water, plants, rocks and cool landscape.  They beg for this every year, but I don't want them to tire of it. 
We take photos of everything and talk about 'letting go' of our art and leaving it to the environment to destroy.


Which is worse? As I was trying to pour some clogged paint, I squeezed too hard and it splattered ALL OVER a poor and unsuspecting second grader. We’re talking hair, face, clothes, arms - covered! She just sat there in stunned silence. 


When the teacher came to pick them up I announced that she should ask them the ‘S’ word that I taught them (Yes, there were chuckles). Um, I meant SYMMETRY!

I laughed pretty hard at myself today!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Art is not for dum dums!

Art is not for dum dums!

This was a great project I created about line and movement that was a prequel to a painting lesson.  It was inspired by a Denver artist, Kym Bloom, whose work I saw while walking around on a First Friday.  She does many pieces with Dum Dums, and when I saw those I knew the kids needed to experiment with candy art!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pack Painters

Meet the Pack Painters!
This group of kids have been working all school year to raise money for Emilie Gossiaux, an artist who lost her sight in an accident.  When they heard her story, a group of 5th graders approached me about raising money to help pay Emilie’s medical bills.  We have met every Tuesday to talk art and plan events.  During these events, students auction off their artwork (made on their own time) and the venue collects donations.  So far, we have raised about $1,000!  This is a huge amount for a group of inspired young students.  How cool that they created and run this group, all for the sake off someone else?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Tactile Art

One of my favorite projects... 
Over the Summer some friends and I created and sold artwork to raise money for a young art student, Emilie, who was in a terrible accident and lost her sight.  See her story here:

I shared pictures of the artwork I made with my students when we were discussing our Summer breaks.  The 5th graders showed a lot of interest in Emilie’s story and together we created a project that could appeal both to the sighted and to the visually impaired.  It was so interesting to watch the kids experiment with blindness.  They tried to find their way around with blindfolds on and discovered the only way they could get around was by using their sense of touch.  They then made the connection that, for art to be enjoyed by those who couldn’t see it, it would have to be tactile.  (Yes, we discussed sound, which is another element that can be added to the art.)

The art project they ended up creating utilized the element of line as a way to create movement for those who were touching the art.  They also included different textures so that the artwork would offer various tactile experiences.  First, they built a line out of bunched up paper that they papier-mached on top of.  When the art was constructed, they used paint to make the piece visually interesting.  When the painting was finished, students added sand and cotton to the piece in specific places to add the texture.  The sand was colored so it became a visual element as well.

I loved when we finished this project because the kids expressed that it changed their traditional view of art, its accessibility and who the ‘viewer’ is.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Planet X Monoprints, 2nd grade.

This was SUCH a fun project!  The kids got really into it, especially the boys.
First, we learned about monoprinting and stamping.  We checked out examples from artists throughout history and then did some 'free' monoprinting, practicing how to paint on (add) and take away (subract), and they made some 'free' stamps out of foam and recycled mat board.  These practices went into a printmaking notebook they made along with a typed description of monoprinting and stamping.

Next, we learned about space by reading G is for Galaxy.  Everyone shared their knowledge of space as well as any questions.  We discussed the possibility that there could be a planet out there, planet x, that has not yet been discovered by astronomers and that they were to create that planet x with their printmaking techniques!

For their planet, they chose their colors, painted on magazines and used paper towels and q-tips to lift up areas.  Then they printed and cut them into a perfect circle.  Then, they used lids from around the art room to create 'mini-monoprints' on a black paper to create smaller planets for the background. They also created star stamps to stamp on the black paper, then glued down their planet x on top of everything.

For the finishing touches, we glazed with gel and went around the planets and stars with chalk for a glowing effect.

When all was done, the students filled out a worksheet describing the name of their planet, the inhabitants, atmosphere, climate and landscape.  This was their favorite part and the ideas were flowing like crazy!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

An email from a parent:

I hear a congratulations is coming your way! my kids told me about your apple award! congratulations!!!i hope you know my family just loves you as a teacher, and as a person. we're VERY happy to send our children to you. i just want to thank you and wish you some appreciation. i know teaching is challenging and my kids have had a tough year with me moving to afghanistan to work. they still love, and look forward to art class though! :) congratulations and thank you from a parent, coworker and an overall impressed guy :)

Another message (My blog posts to my facebook, and I wanted to share a message I received about my last post regarding cuts in art.  Love these encouraging families!  They fill my heart with joy and these notes mean so much to me.): 

We can’t even express how your class has positively impacted all our kids! You provide them with learning and creativity in a way that let’s them express themselves and grow so deeply!! We love the programs, teachers and administration at Pioneer and WILL stand along beside you as we fight to keep the high quality of education you provide!
Quite simply ~ YOU ARE THE BEST!!!!

Art Advocacy

So, I am going to speak from the heart here and from personal knowledge and experiences.  I am worried about the future of art education.  I know that in my district, art teachers have been cut or reduced in the last couple of years.  One school cut my friend and replaced her certified position with an uncertified one, meaning anyone off the street can come teach art.  A co-worker came to me and said she heard on the news that Eagle County, in our state of Colorado, was cutting all art, music and PE from elementary through high school.  I have not been able to confirm that but I did see this one quote in an article from Vail Daily, referring to Eagle County schools:

‘In a meeting Thursday, art teachers were told to prepare a curriculum so someone who's not an artist could teach it.’

Really?  That’s like asking a science teacher to prepare a curriculum for someone who hasn’t studied science.  Nobody would ask a science teacher to do that, so why are we diminishing a certified art teacher’s position to that of crafter who can follow step-by-step instructions?  That is not art. 

I understand that we have an economy that cannot meet our every need.  I understand that we need to be more frugal and make some changes to live on our diminishing budgets.  However, as someone who believes in what she does, I can’t stand seeing this taken away from kids.  My chest aches when I have new students who arrive from California, Oregon and Washington who have never had an art class!  How can education cuts be made without affecting our programs?  Do our communities know what is happening?  Do we need to advocate more?

Art is not just fun time for the kids.  Art is teaching and training students to be the thinkers of tomorrow.  Any successful entrepreneur is an ‘out of the box’ thinker.  That creativity is what differentiates the creators from the robots.  I understand that many of my kids will not grow up to be ‘artists’, and that is fine.  I don’t feel sad about that because I don’t think the only benefit of art education is giving the kids the ability to make a pretty picture.  The main purpose of my program is to foster the student’s creative critical thinking skills.  My classroom is one place where they are free to explore their ideas.  They are not held back.  My favorite thing to tell the kids is that they aren’t wrong.  Their artistic choices are not wrong.  They almost don’t know what to do with themselves when given such freedom, but once the ideas start flowing, they can’t be stopped!  Art education validates their ideas and creations; it gives them the chance to explore without fear. 

I feel so lucky to be at the school that I am at.  I am thankful every day that I ended up here 6 years ago.  I am surrounded by a staff and administration who thank me constantly and completely support my program.  As sad as I am to see art being cut in other places, I am so happy and grateful that my students have access to it.  I am a lucky girl and I know my principal will fight for the arts in his school with every last ounce that he has.  I just wish every school was as lucky as I am to have him. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

This is me.  In this pic I’m doing makeup for my friend’s wedding.  I love all the pictures from this morning because I look so much like my mom, whom I lost three years ago to Pancreatic cancer, in these shots.  Sometimes I just look at the collection of photos and marvel at the similarities.  Before my mom died, I remember just sitting there rubbing her face, then rubbing my own.  I didn’t want to forget her face.  I have her chin.  When I miss her, I rub my chin and smile because she is so much a part of me.