Winner announced April 15, so taxes are a little less painful!
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Winner announced April 15, so taxes are a little less painful!
I read posts online or hear people exclaim in person how making and __________________ is impossible. I'm going to call your bluff.
If you have the desire to make, the passion, and the need... you fit it in to your life. Making, for a maker, is like eating. You can go without for a while, but eventually the deprivation will begin to make you feel starved. Making is something that changes your productivity and interaction in all your daily interactions.
I am not prescribing a particular type of making for any of you. Perhaps cooking is your skill, or creating jewelry, or painting, the list could go on... but I do think that the production of something balances your life with the consumption of the many things we engage with in our work and personal lives. Even keeping a journal can be a way to sort through some of the information we are constantly digesting.
BUT I DON'T HAVE TIME! Really? Here is the harsh reality, I have time to exercise. I don't. Plain and simple. If I decide it is something that is important for me (I have before, and will again) I will fit it in my day. Having kids, having cancer, having a full-time job, being a single parent, and all the other excuses I can use are just that, excuses. Ultimately, I can decide to fit exercise in my life, or not.
Recognize how much control you have, and how little. You only control yourself, so make it count. All the other factors are made better or worse by how you choose to engage. Engage wholly, in the way that makes you happy, and take ownership of your decisions.
Invention is constant in the mind of a first grader. They are processing the world around them at a rapid clip, and they love to reimagine their experiences. Challenging them to create with thought, detail, and completion was my intent when we began our art lab board game event.
Students got to make up a game with any subject, as long as they were not plagiarizing. YES! I introduce copyright infringement as early as first grade. We talk about where ideas come from, what it means to create your own image, and how it helps us in all subject areas to make sure we are not just using photographs, drawings, or words that someone else already made. First grade began the year with a project discussing how we get ideas from combining things we know. We combined animals that exist to create new fantasy creatures. Planting seeds early for problem solving is sure to help my younger artists be strong as they grow in the art lab, and in school.
First grade artists were challenged to do the following things with their games; determine a theme, decide a path or board area for your players, color the entire board, make a spinner, and create characters. I was excited to see everything from sidewalk style paths to endless checkerboard games, where the players decide when the game ends.
We used a standard 90 pound drawing paper for our board games. The students colored with markers and crayons and used sharpies to outline paths and write words and numbers that needed to stand out. Each lab session students were allowed to access the 'choice table' with the tools they might want to use that day. Tools used would change based on how each artist saw the application of the marker or crayon working on their game. I also created a template spinner sheet photocopied on plain copy paper. The spinner and arrow were small enough that students had plenty of room in the additional paper space to create as many characters as they wanted for their game. When the games had been completed, I laminated both the board and spinner sheets. Students did the final lamination trimming of the spinners, arrows, characters, and boards. We attached the spinners to their game boards using 1.5" roundhead fasteners. Students got in line as they completed cutting and I used and X-acto knife to cut a hole for spinner placement on their boards, as hole puncher would not go far enough for placement. Once the students got spinners secure, they were given an envelope to glue on the back of their boards that would hold their characters. As soon as the game was pieced together, it was time to play!
What a fun time in the art lab to see all our hard work end in such success. There was no keeping these pieces for display, the kids were far to excited. I allowed the students to take them home immediately. I hope they have a great time playing with their families.
Teaching children age 3 through fifth grade, I find myself spanning wide skills and concepts. As my youngest students spend time in my lab exploring materials and developing their fine motor skills, the oldest students have started fine motor tuning at different paces and are ready to explore their creative side with varied degrees of confidence. My older artists are also beginning to understand how practices learned in my lab translate to work habits in other areas of study, and later in their work field of choice.
My fourth grade has been creating a range of outstanding work this school year. They have been willing to explore focused events longterm, insert their own ideas for subject matter, get messy, and take chances. I am proud that they have willingly participated so much in the art lab!
Earlier in the school year we worked with mirrors and facial proportion to create observational self-portrait drawings. After that, we drew nature from a photograph, and eventually moved to a series of fantasy works. Through the fantasy media application, I was able to push all the students to strive for completion, more detail, and a higher degree of craftsmanship.
We have now returned to observational drawing with these freshly honed skills. What a difference I saw in the students focus and recognition of what they were producing! We worked on blind contour hand drawings. I spoke to the students about the importance of seeing details, in art and other subjects. We discussed how details make a big difference in the final product. We compared research papers and essays to detailed drawings. I enjoy talking to my students about how boring a sentence with no adjectives or adverbs would be, and how that is like a drawing with no detail. Students love to give examples, and this is connected to what their teachers are trying to communicate with each student to improve their writing and verbal communication skills. This allows for class conversation to stay on-task while students are working, and students feel they are not in a silent art lab. I find these conversations 'click' with students as young as first grade.
When doing contour drawings, I ask students to imagine an ant slowly walking along the edge of what they are drawing. Draw the path of the ant, and let the ant crawl along the edge of every line. As you can see from our pictures, the artists fully committed to their blind contours. I was thrilled to see knuckles, skin folds, and shadows! I was even more excited to see them try again and again.
The desire to write grows with writing.-Desiderius Erasmus
I love when my artists read. Having a school library that is full of energy and wonderful resources is invaluable when the time comes to tap the imagination of my students. Children who have been read to, and maintain their reading habits, are students that have a larger world view entering any problem solving challenge. I encourage reading continuously because I want my students to know that visualizing a story they read is very different from watching a movie or television show. To imagine as you read requires creation skills, and as you use those skills, you become more self-assured and excited about your own creations. We are all consumers, but I want my artists to see that they can be creators of new worlds, products, and tools by responding to their desire to realize something they have conjured in their minds.
Empowerment of students is both difficult and simple. The difficult part is not knowing what your outcome will be. As a teacher, not knowing can be scary. The simple part is allowing the student to be the artist and drive in the direction they are interested. Once you've done this a few times, not only do you feel how amazing the lab energy is, but you realize all the interests you might overlook if you have -too much- control as the teacher.
In my kindergarten classes we have been talking about authors and illustrators. We had the amazing Greg Pizzoli visit our school, and that was a real treat! He spoke about writing and drawing the worlds his characters live in, and even how he lets those worlds overlap with hidden 'easter eggs.' After testing some of the techniques that different illustrators used in their storybooks, our work culminated in the kindergarten artists creating their very own book! We talked about the main ingredients we found in books; a beginning, middle, and end. After deciding a story could be told with or without words, the students were ready to go.
I had prepared small bound booklets using white construction paper. I cut the 9x12" paper in half and then folded the paper so the final book size was 4.5x6". Next, I cut yellow construction paper in quarters, which made those pieces 4.5x6". I placed two sheets of folded construction paper together, and using an electric stapler, I staple bound the edges of all the white booklets. The finishing touch was taking the yellow paper and, using a glue stick, covering the staples on the front and back of the booklet. I allowed about one inch of yellow paper to show on the front and the remainder to wrap around the back. This gave me a place to write student names and allowed me to clearly show students the front and back of the book. Don't underestimate how helpful that is with younger students!
I was so happy with this project. The students were eager and totally engaged. They were so excited to 'read' their books to me. I was able to emphasize detail by asking students to go back and fill in blank areas on their pages. I also got to see some fascinating student interests. It is always great to get to know my friends better!
Spring Break is drawing to a close, and I can see the end of our stay-vacation, I want to reflect on the ways my own children inspire my art lab. As a single mom, my kids are with me during play and work. That can make work a challenge if I don't have a plan. Over the years I've developed strategies to make the boring times more pleasant. I've also noticed that if I pay attention, my children are valuable resources.
Currently, one of my favorite activities for my children is Art for Kids Hub. If you were like me as a child, and much of my reading audience now teaches or makes art and can relate, you loved How to Draw a... books. From cartoon characters to cats to perspective challenges, I could be engrossed in drawing challenges for a good portion of my day. My own kids are the same, but their favorite How to... is by Rob and his family crew. There are lots of factors that make this video series great. The first is that Rob almost always draws along with one of his kids. That is a GIANT confidence builder for my kids. They aren't just seeing the perfect adult version, but they also get to see a kid TRYING to draw. The next thing I love about Rob is how he weaves in vocabulary. His mention of terms in context, such as overlapping or shadow, is a great way to help kids start connecting the dots. Finally, these are relatively short exercises that don't require a ton of materials. I am able to get lots of work done, cleaning my lab or preparing lessons, with almost no oversight of my kids. That is MAGICAL! (Note: Rob uses oil pastels in most tutorials. Do not use oil pastels if you are in an area that must be easy to clean or if you worry about stains. I have substituted washable markers on many occasions when location or time do not allow for the smear that oil pastels create.)
So, you might be asking about now, how does this inspire her lab? Honestly, in several ways! First, As my kids grow, so does their attention span and ability level. They are a fantastic gauge for ability spectrums I can see in the elementary level. Another way the videos help is planning for substitutes. I do not always use these videos, but they have been fantastic for emergencies. I have also had students use these videos at home as drawing practice. After using the tutorials with my own children for almost a year, I have decided that I will be implementing a weekly competition next year for students who do a sketch at home using the video tutorial. I want to encourage out-of-class drawing!
Another method I enjoy using for inspiration with my kids is just letting them go, with no instruction, and seeing what happens with a material. I had some old model magic, much of it was dry and needed to be in the trash. I am always excited when something my girls are creating is also helping me clean! When they worked on these pieces I saw a few things come out of their creations. The most apparent was that they were sourcing recent information. The compass rose is something Olive had seen recently in class, we ate pizza the day of the creations, and Easter is this Sunday- which means carrots have been in lots of images. Noticing this is a good reminder for those kids in my classroom that are stumped when I give them a prompt and they 'have no ideas.' I have even more questions in my pocket, about mundane activities of the day, that I can ask to help pull out a little creativity! I also love that Olive added paper to her compass rose, it made me think of some mixed media possibilities.
The last inspiration from my kids this break was also inspired by a fellow art teacher blogger. We have a new indoor trampoline park in Montgomery- LOVE IT! The girls can hop their hearts out for an hour or two (and I am a total superhero.) I saw a post on Don Masse's blog where he used images of human motion in handball to create portraits while students work on figure drawing. I thought this was such a great way to fuse student interests and foundational skills.
We had been to the trampoline park several times during our stay-vacation. I noticed a young man who has a true jumping gift. I asked his permission to take photos and he was very gracious to give me permission. You can see a handful of the images in the gallery below.
Though I haven't decided exactly where these might fit, I think whatever age group uses them will love them! How lucky that I do work and play at the same time.
Above: K3 students racing hex bugs and mixing blue and yellow at the same time!
Hugs, high-energy, sweet smiles, and a total willingness to explore materials; K3 students are such a wonderful group to keep me fresh and invigorated!
I want to introduce my sweet students to the basics; primary colors, media usage, along with material and lab respect. While doing this foundational groundwork, I also want my kiddos to grow a true LOVE of the lab, wanting to create and experience something that might not be occurring in other parts of the school. I work at an AMAZING school; with very creative educators, an awesome technology space that all our students explore, a library that I enjoy hanging out in (and even sneaking a listen to books being read when I have a chance), a music room that is filled with sounds that are inspiring, a science lab with an array of living creatures and outdoor spaces that leave students with minds full of information about their world, and an 'Inspiration Station' that has been designed in a manner that allows every teacher to put this maker's space to great use for a wide range of creations! WOW!! With all these amazing things, I could be left thinking, what is there for me to do? Instead, I consider myself incredibly lucky. All of these resources fill my students, from K3 forward, with confidence and a strong desire to explore in my lab. Students are willing to be challenged by unfamiliar materials or non-traditional use of media.
I love non-traditional applications of media. I think having students see unexpected materials in the art lab keeps them thinking about options when they need to problem solve on their own. Rather than using paint brushes for our first primary color mixing exercise with K3, I decided a hex bug race would be much more fun! Hex bugs are small motorized toys that, when turned on, vibrate and travel in crazy directions. Two students at a time dipped bugs in a primary paint color and we cheered our bugs to the finish line! All the students raced bugs twice. We used two primary colors and got to see the mixture occur during the second race.
In order to prepare for this lesson, I precut poster board in vertical pieces and applied checkerboard duct tape on one end of each sheet. I created an enclosed racetrack using a drawing board and chipboard to create and enclosure that the bugs could not escape. You can see this in the animated gif at the top of the page. I placed our paint in the enclosure to avoid spills. This allowed what could be a very messy activity to stay pretty clean. I will do a few changes next year, such as placing the enclosure on a tabletop (to avoid my littles putting paint hands on their knees) and I have purchased small aprons for my smaller artists to use since this activity, so we will have those on in the future.
This was an action-packed way to introduce color mixing to my youngest students in a twenty minute class, and each student has a pretty cool piece to take home that can be a good conversation with their parents. I declare this event a WIN!
Below: K3 students finished race mixtures. Check out the cool mark making of those hex bugs!
In the classroom drawing can be a challenge, no matter the subject matter. So when you ask a group of second graders to think way outside their normal perception of observational or fantasy drawing, things can go downhill quickly if you don't have complete buy-in. Lucky for me, between my crazy onomatopoeia usage and my second graders willingness to take an adventure, we went to places unknown, and with awesome results.
Let me rewind <<<<<<<< This past summer I attended a week of fantastic training for Alabama teachers that focused on integrating the arts into your curriculum. Having been to so many professional development events in the past, and being an art teacher, I decided I would get more out of the theatre classes, in regard to integration. I wanted to see what that could bring to my art classroom. Lonny Harrison was the primary instructor and the week left me invigorated with new ideas. We also got some really cool supplies to take back to our classrooms. One thing we all got was a set of instruments. The instruments all have unique sounds, as well as beautiful bodies. I could immediately see loads of possibilities for how I might use them in my art lab!
Fast forward>>>>>>>> As students arrived they found the different instruments placed on their tables. We went around the room and listened to all the different sounds that were made, and what a range we heard. This art lab event coincided with second grade learning about sound in science, so we were continuing a discussion that was familiar. Now it was time for the mind-blowing moment. I asked my students what would the line that corresponded to their instrument's sound look like. Ok, in second grade speak, that was followed with me making some really expressive sounds and body motions to display how sound and line can correspond. Thank you, Lonny, I am using my theatre skills and getting lots of undivided attention, and several giggles! We listened to the instruments again, and talked specifically about the sound. Was the sound broken, like a dashed line? Was the sound loud and soft, like a thick and thin line? Did the line bounce or zig-zag or was it smooth? Once we had filled our lab space with many questions about our lines, I tasked my students with drawing their instrument's sound. I gave the kids super fat sharpies and 12"x18" drawing paper. The sound repeated with all the instruments, and I asked my students to fill their page with the pattern of their vision of what they heard.
Seeing the students transformation as they connected the idea of line to something as abstract as sound was a magical class moment.
ABOVE: Students listening to their instruments before drawing.
BELOW: Completed student work.
Kelly is a mother, artist, and elementary art educator living in Montgomery, Alabama. Lady Color Bones is a blog space for her to share the many artistic gems uncovered, sometimes needing to be reburied, but always cherished for what they bring to her perspective as a mom, maker, and teacher.