March 12th.. it started like most days. We were finishing up a whimsical Dr. Seuss project. I was thinking about creating an Earth Day bulletin board. Thoughts of the art show projects were swirling in my head. Ceramic and sculpture projects to plan. Trying to keep organized.
There had been this sense of uncertainty that had been building for weeks. Events were starting to get cancelled. I think everyone was becoming increasingly nervous and fearful of the future.
When the news hit at the end of the day that our school was closing, I had a rush of emotion, energy, and a strong desire to capture every last artwork that would be created on this day. I began snapping pictures, saying goodbye to my students. This was hard. In the hallway as I was about to leave for the day, a teacher said, “We are witnessing history.”
For those first two weeks, things moved at both a slow and frenetic pace. I was able to do some clay and painting projects with myself and my kids. I got way deeper into cooking and baking! Together, my principal and specials team created a plan going forward. I created daily drawing challenges for my students so that they still felt connected with art class. When I saw those initial pictures coming through with the students and their work, it made me feel so happy and hopeful.
As our new digital format took shape, I was excited to return to my design roots and continue making and then editing instructional videos for art projects, which has been so much fun. I can’t say I am the YouTube star my sons want me to be, but I try.
When I was able to return to the school and see my classroom again, I had a few moments to collect materials and create an entirely new curriculum that would continue indefinitely through the last ten weeks of the school year.
What I decided to do, was to create a theme for each week, pull from staple projects and create some new projects that would include found objects and materials that families would have access to at home. Clay has been the greatest challenge, as not all of my classes has completed clay projects for the year. So we find substitutes, and we will have to get creative. Below are some artworks the students have been working on over the last three weeks.
Now the big question is... Where do we go from here? Next Wednesday was to be our school’s art and music celebration, the Festival of the Arts. I would normally be in the throes of last minute art show prep right about now.
I decided a week ago to have a virtual art show. I know it will not be the same, but I feel that it is extremely necessary to honor all traditions, even if in a different way. More than ever, as artists, it should be a time to record, reflect and remember what connects us together.
Time continues to move at such a fast pace that I find myself relishing the few and far between opportunities to reflect on what I am doing, take a breather and start the process of renewal.
It has been a busy few months in the art room as I continue to feel out some new projects here and there, and decide whether to fine tune or discard the tried and true projects.
Lately, I have given a lot of thought to adjusting the art curriculum to less DBAE (project-based) and more TAB (choice-based) curriculum. I find that more and more, my students crave the freedom to create without such stringent guidelines and expectations. Giving them more creative control will quite possibly alleviate a lot of the anxiety I am seeing with my youngest students.
This found object house project that I have done for ten years or so, continues to be a favorite. It yields such interesting results, and feels less cookie cutter than most.
I have tried to keep busy with my own pursuits, which have continued to be canning, ceramics and painting. I feel such tremendous guilt when I am not creating on my own, and also the constant feeling that it is never enough.
My best friend asked me a while ago, why do I do it? For recognition? For a living? For enjoyment? It’s a powerful question. The only way I can describe it as imagine you are underwater for a long time, struggling to breathe. The act of creating is like coming up for air and taking a breath you have been holding for such a long time. I know that creating makes me feel alive, and that I connect with something regardless of the outcome.
I hope this new year continues to bring change as I feel it coming on so strongly. Whatever happens, it’s the love of creating that holds me together.
One of my favorite things about being a teacher is having the ability to reflect and reset each year- it’s like nothing else!
It was pretty neat to be able to have one of my students selected as PAEA artist of the month, and to be able to celebrate that success! I also had the joy of seeing Enfield and Erdenheim student work displayed at State Representative McCarter’s office in the winter.
In the spring, we welcomed (for a second time!) fiber artist and Children’s Museum director, Gabrielle Kanter to Enfield. The students also celebrated the end of a successful year with our annual Festival of the Arts, themed “Summer Camp.”
I also got a chance to exhibit some work along with Ambler based Artworks Collective at Pigs Alley Gallery in Flourtown, Pa. and during Ambler Arts and Music Festival... so fun!
The years just keep flying by and it’s hard to believe that next summer we will all be moving on to a brand new elementary school. I am more excited than ever for this next chapter.
Until then, summertime is here!
Winter has gone by quicker than usual, and now that I am starting to think spring, I wanted to share some of my favorite winter projects of the year! We started with some fun salt-watercolor snowmen, moved into a classic Kandinsky project, delighted in some Northern lights collages, dabbled in some penguin collages/clay penguins and finished with some heart paintings/clay hearts! Have a look at some of these:
I selected a few students works for a display at our local state rep’s office in January which was an awesome event for the kids! It is great to see their work being displayed outside of the school, they were very proud.
I am keeping busy with my own artwork and trying to squeeze in some jamming time! I joined a “food in jars” challenge in January (started by Marisa McClellan) that involves a different canning challenge each month! It’s been a lot of fun :)
Well, as always, the school year really starts cooking by the end of February. We have a visiting fiber artist Gabrielle Kanter joining the students next week, and in March, it will be time to start planning for this year’s art show. The theme will be “summer camp.” I can’t wait to get started on these camp-themed projects that I hope the students will love as much as I do!
So, I’ve taken a looong break from blogging lately in favor of quick insta and Facebook posts, but I wanted to share some projects that the students have been working on since the beginning of the school year!
I love starting the new year with inspirational, art-themed picture books. This year, I was happy to find two new books, “I’m not just a Scribble” by Diane Alber, and “Mixed” by Arree Chung. We read these books and then carefully crafted an illustration of our own that was inspired by each story! Below is a gallery of each project...
In October, we explored some fall-themed projects in Kindergarten inspired by Matisse’s still life paintings. We moved next to a fall tree collage, and a few classes even snuck in a little Halloween “spooky cat” project as well.
Next up, we are exploring line as part of a two-part Line unit, in which will we create both a sculpture and drawing/painting. The sculptures closely resemble theme parks with rides. Have a look...
In First grade, we’ve focused on really slowing down (which can be a challenge for 6/7 year olds!), and worked very hard on a three-week self portrait project that lead to some really impressive results! After, we jumped into some leafy fun with a popular leaf print project. Here are a few...
November looks to be equally as busy as we head towards the holidays and Thanksgiving break. Kindergarten will finish their line unit and create a painted paper blanket; while First grade will dabble in some pumpkins, art history, and one of my favorite childhood books, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”
Today we finally made it to the the last day of school!
This spring has been bustling with activity between the school Art show in early May, to some Plein air and exhibiting events that I participated in during May and June! Above is some of my work at Ambler Arts and Music Festival as part of the Artworks Collective.
This year for the Art show, the student’s artwork surrounded the theme of “School Rocks”, to which their artwork was inspired by different school subjects, such as math, reading, and science. We had a lot of fun with this theme, and for the first year ever, all the work resided in the gym, which was super cool! Here is a gallery of the show...
Among my favorite pieces of the show was the first image of the gallery. We did a mixed media project inspired by the book,”Unplugged.” Here is a link for more information on this fantastic children’s book:
This project took three weeks to make... the first week involved painting the landscape/reading the story, second week we put together the robot with paper scraps and metal objects, and lastly the third involved drawing details, such as animals within the landscape.
Other popular projects from the art show were definitely the Rubix cubes and Papier Mache’ ice cream cones! The students worked with Celluclay for the first time this year as part of the ice cream cone project and they absolutely loved it! These will definitely be resurfacing in the future!
During the summer, I hope to refocus on making some new ceramic pieces, continuing Plein air works, and joining a book club with some online art teacher friends!
February has been full of activity! Between the start of the month kicking off with the Philadelphia Eagles finally winning the Super Bowl, some Valentine's fun, and the Winter Olympics... it has been a little crazy in the art room!
I have just recently started experimenting with creating instructional videos in art class... so much fun! The students have always really responded well to any type of guided video, so I decided it was time to make a few of my own.
Yesterday, all of my classes had a clay day. Kindergarten made bird's nests and the first grade made dragons. Below are some student examples of bird's nests...
I had created two separate videos to explain the approach. You can view them both here...
This has really helped further engage the students through the process of making art and allowed me to circulate around the room to help students during each step.
Below are a few more highlights from the month of February in the art room...
For this blog post, I wanted to share something non-art related that I have been into for the past few years!
My best friend since Kindergarten, Allison, introduced me to canning three years ago and I have made some odd fifty or so things in jars ever since. I’ve read a few books, and blogs, and closely follow local Philly canner Marisa McCellan (www.foodinjars.com) for her endless tips and inspiration.
Canning and preserving is a lot like making art. You gather ingredients in any point in time, put them together in interesting ways, create something (hopefully special) and give it away. It is time frozen, and often when you open that jar a few months later, it’s like a memory unlocks itself yet again.
The joy of making these things is so calming and relaxing, I feel like it closely matches the feeling of making art. I do have much to learn on the process as well as building more confidence in myself to deviate from the recipes, but one thing is certain. I am running out of cabinet space!
To end with a little art project update, the Kindergarten students have started a beautiful project inspired by the author, Lois Elhert. First graders are finishing up some wintry artworks with birds and beginning a typography project inspired by Jasper Johns. Here are some examples in progress:
Well, the season of pumpkins is rapidly coming coming to a close! Ahead of Thanksgiving, I am already seeing signs and symbols of fall fade away and switch on to winter mode!
Some of my first grade students are tackling a moonlit pumpkin project that I have seen on a number of blogs and art teacher posts. This is typically a second or third grade project by most accounts, but I wanted to give it a try with my first grade classes to challenge them.
Boy, did they rise to the challenge! This project tackles concepts of value, color mixing, collage and space all in one project. It should be broken down into three classes.
The first week, I have them draw pumpkins and we discussed value (highlight and shadow). We practiced on dry erase boards, and drew some rough contour line drawings of pumpkins. We took those sketches to black paper and drew in white oil pastel and colorized in chalk pastel, with emphasis on highlight and shadow.
The following week, we painted the moonlit background. We drew a horizon line for the field and a circle for the moon. After, we introduced white for the moon and gradually added more blue paint to paint various tints of blue, and painted a halo over the moon. As we got a bit darker, we started adding black to the paint to fill in the remaining night sky.
Following the sky, we mixed orange with navy blue to make a nice brown color for the field. Background complete!
The last week was all about composition and collage.
We talked about how in a landscape, objects appear larger in the foreground and smaller in the background. They placed their biggest pumpkins in the front, as well as showing overlapping. When everything was cut and arranged, we glued down the pumpkins and finished with drawing leaves and vines.
So very proud of these fall beauties! Have a look!
This month in the Art room has been jam packed! Students have been busily finishing their Square One artworks in mid October, which focused on a variety of different themes.. line, geometric shapes, heart designs/collages, fall trees, and owls.
Here is a sampling of a few SQ 1 artworks...
At the end of October in Kindergarten, we wrapped some line paintings from early October and gave them a Halloween twist by turning them into funky monster and ghoul collages! They loved getting an intro into cutting and collage with this project, and of course, letting their imaginations go to work!
We begin the first week with painting a variety of different lines using black paint. I have them draw their lines first, then trace with black paint. Before we create, I show them a great video called, "The Line Movie." You can view it here:
The second week, we focus on color and color mixing. The students begin colorizing in oil pastel or crayon, then do a resist on top with a water based paint (either pan or liquid watercolor.)
You can see the finished results here...
During the last week of the project, we focused strongly on honing in on our cutting and collaging skills! Students made eyes, mouth, horns, hair, and more to finish their collage and turn their monsters/ghouls into something truly fantastic!
To begin November, we will be starting a stained glass fall leaf project for Kindergarten, and finishing up some fall-themed artwork in First Grade!
Enfield artists are just starting to get back into the swing of school! I welcomed students back in mid-September with a wonderful art initiative inspired by author/illustrator Peter Reynolds, who wrote, "The Dot." This book talks a lot about having creative courage and perseverance.. all things that are necessary as an artist! The students enjoyed creating a small dot artwork that incorporated many elements of design.
Take a look at some student samples here:
We have also been spending a great bit of time establishing and reestablishing classroom routines, as I have introduced some new things in the art room. This year, I have started "art stars" as a way to reward positive behavior and allow students to help with the art demo, clean-up, and anything else for the good of the artists/art room.
Also, I painted shapes on the demo table so the students have a specific spot to stand, and a chance to engage more in art critiques.
This week, we are beginning artworks for our Square One art fundraiser that will be wrapping up in two weeks. At the end of the month, I will be starting some leafy and spooky projects for sure! 🎃👻
This first week of May has been a busy one! We had our Art show and Spring concert (Festival of the Arts) on Wednesday while also celebrating our visiting artist, Jenna Price! Jenna is a woodworking artist that creates awesome creations out of wood, both large and small. Her work can be found at www.honeybadgerwoodworks.com/
Jenna made a class wooden birdhouse with the students, from concept to completion. The project took two weeks to complete, in which the students made imaginative sketches of what they envisioned a birdhouse would look like, to which Jenna took their ideas and meshed them together into a completed
The second week, the students measured, sanded, and painted various parts and pieces of the birdhouse, while practicing hammering, sawing (yes!!!) and drilling (more yes!!!!). This was a tall task to the K/1 set, and they really loved the hands-on process of building something from concept to completion!
Below is a gallery of the final birdhouses on the day of the Art show...
Onward to the Art show! This year's theme was "Elements.. earth/air/fire/water", a broad theme that encompassed a variety of different artworks, mediums, and materials. I was really inspired this year by a lot of work that I saw this year at the NAEA conference as well as some ideas from fellow art ed bloggers.
Take a look at the artwork below!
I love to inspire the students with contemporary artists, as well as old masters, so that they remember the new and the old! As I reflect on this year's show, I tried to let go of some traditional notions of what art show artwork should look like, as some of the artworks favor abstraction over representation, which more closely followed the artist's style, process, and technique. My favorites are the big, scribbly paintings that were inspired by kinesthetic artist, Heather Hansen. They also remind me of one of my favorite artists, Cy Twombly. I also enjoyed introducing some of my students to Yayoi Kusama, which inspired the large dot paintings.
Even though art show season is crazy busy time of year, it is the time of year I most look forward to. I get so excited to see what other art teachers are doing.. we are able to connect to each other and share these experiences. I think we all find way to push each other harder and push the boundaries of what the students can do. I am looking forward to seeing what next year brings :)
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit New York (thank you SDST!!!) for the National Art Education Association's National Conference.
This experience was a first for me.. I have been wanting to go to this conference for a very, very long time, but the distance and logistics of going was always an issue.
As an elementary art teacher, I often long for a chance to talk (in person!) with other art teachers, as it you can sometimes feel isolated at your own school. I try to reach other to other teachers online and through social media and blogging, but it is never the same as having meaningful discussions with creative people in person!
This place was brimming with activity (obviously, it's NYC!) and there were unlimited chances to meet other art teachers, share ideas, and generally just be inspired and motivated to find ways to better engage art students and create unique works of art.
My three main goals of attending where to meet other art teachers that inspire me, connect with familiar colleagues, and discuss new art lessons/art materials that will continue to breathe new life into my current art curriculum. Mission accomplished!
I attended a two sessions lead by my favorite art teachers/bloggers (of course they were crazy packed!) and reconnected the UArts gang from graduate school.
This session was jam packed, and focused on teaching Folk Art- lead by art teachers Cassie Stephens, Laura Lohman, Ginger Pacer, and Jennifer Alvarado. There I am near the doors, on the floor, making friends with a trash can! This was one of my favorite sessions of the conference- so many great elementary project ideas.
In addition to attending sessions, I walked around the convention spaces, viewed some incredible student work, and tested out some fun, new art materials. I even sat down for a bit (hard to find the time!) and created a ceramic artwork on a tile, used a scratch out method, glaze on glaze technique from the AMACO booth. Mostly, I just discovered a lot of materials that I may need to consider for the students for next year :)
During the off times, I had the chance to explore the city a bit. It has been a few years for me, so I visited the MoMA first (one of my favorite museums). I wanted to create a little virtual tour for my students when I returned, so I snapped a few pictures of the pieces I love the most!
That night, my family joined me, and we had a chance to explore the rest of the city, while I squeezed in some of the last moments of the conference here and there. Of course, we did typical tourist things.. and also spent a lot of time using the subway and figuring out where we were!
The last session I attended, was an "elementary carousel of learning", which allowed art teachers to have roundtable discussions about current contemporary artists. This is so important, because sometimes I feel that as art teachers, we spend a lot of time talking about old masters and non-living artists, and forget about the ones that are "alive and kicking!" Here are some of the highlights of this final session..
Overall, NAEA weekend proved to be such a memorable, art-filled, fun, exhausting (!!) experience. It leaves me feeling reenergized, excited and hopeful for what comes next in the art room :)
In January, we have wrapped up some wintry projects that carried over in December and have begun some abstract art projects that span the latter part of January for Kindergarten.
Kandinsky is the perfect introduction to abstract art, as his work as beautiful as it is varied and diverse. It leads itself to simplicity and bright colors, which brightens these dreary winter days!
The students begin with a square piece of paper, which can be folded in half twice to create a smaller 4 x 4 grid. We draw on the fold lines to bring focus to the grid blocks.
I cut out a lot of smaller squares in various colors to use for the circle cut outs. We discuss various ways to cut circles by rounding the edges, folding the paper and symmetrically cutting, and using circle tracers (a glue stick cap is a great example!
When they begin stacking the circles, make sure there is good contrast between colors and that the circles continue diminishing in size. By the end, they are circle cutting pros!
Once all the blocks are filled up with concentric circle cut outs, we discuss how to enhance our collage with drawing and paint. I give them really small 6 color paint trays and we do lines, dabs, dashes of paint to further enhance. Some of the students do a little marker drawing ahead of the paint.
This is a simple and fun project that stresses cutting, color theory, and design- a great intro to more abstract approach to art making.
This week, the Kindergarten students are starting a Mondrian inspired project and the First Grade is doing a African Kente Collage- more to come in February 💕
For many years in December, I have had the kindergarten students at my school create a small found object assemblage of a house. It has been a favorite of mine, as it ties a lot of art concepts together, symmetry, color, shape, collage, and much more. Most of all, the students get to let loose a little, as it becomes a kitchen sink project, where they can throw lots of different materials together, and just have some fun.
I often see their personalities shine through in these houses, some are very structured and ordered, where others feel more scattered and playful.
It starts in the beginning of the school year. As most art teachers do, we save all the cardboard boxes from our art supply order- as it means as added material for sculpture or whatever!
I spend a good deal of time cutting up these boxes into varying shapes- rectangles, squares, and triangles.. to construct the house shape and use for details such as windows and doors.
Also, I gather materials, recycled or a mix of art materials that are small, and lend themselves for embellishments (buttons, gems, pipe cleaners, beads, and fiber scraps). I also use a great material called "bits o wood" which I get from Nasco. This stuff is so much fun for little hands.
The first class, we discuss the word, "assemblage" and how it is similar to collage, only more 3-dimensional. If time permits, sometimes I show the work of Louise Nevelson, Robert Rauschenberg, and other artists that explored assemblage.
We begin assembling and gluing our houses together, starting with the rectangle for the base, then a triangle for the roof. I have them come up by their table color to pick out further materials for embellishment, and then they are off!
A word on glue. I have tried using both Elmers squeeze bottles (which mercifully clog all the time not matter what you do!) and glue pots with small brushes.. glue pots are the better choice for little ones. The time that you spend unclogging glue is not worth the trouble and unless they are gluing with some kind of creative meaning, it's not worth the trouble!
I also try to encourage students to bring in a few novel materials from home (I always get some incredible stuff here ;) to personalize their house.
We complete the houses the following week and discuss paint and color mixing. I have started using puck tempera recently which feels like very powerful watercolor, only more opaque. It allows students to mix and layer the color more deliberately and allows for more immediate results.
When the houses dry, I glue on a ribbon and button to the back of the project so it can hang. Lots of hot glue is needed for this, and in general, I have the hot glue flowing throughout the entire project, as it is needed in the event that anything falls off during the process.
Please check out some finished houses from this week!