Saturday, May 25, 2013

African inspiration

My 1st and 5th graders have just completed projects that explored arts originating in Africa. My curriculum calls for study of Egypt in 1st grade, and it took me a while to come up with a good project. Most of the projects I've seen out on the internet seem more geared to 3rd grade and up. But I was inspired by some pictures of Scarab jewelry I found on Artstor. 1st graders looked at Ancient Egyptian art including the pyramids, the Book of the Dead, scarab beetles, and hieroglyphics. I did a directed drawing for the first time and was amazed at both the success rate and the variety among the drawings that resulted:
 I've never been a big fan of directed drawings, but the kids REALLY enjoyed it, and were really confident in their projects. The freedom and individuality I love came in when it was time to color their projects with oil pastels. We talked about how scarab beetles have bright, jewel-like colors that reminded the Egyptians of their sun god.
 Afterwards, we looked at hieroglyphics, and the kids wrote out their names in Egyptian symbols like a cartouche. Finally they carefully cut out their beetles and attached them to the background using pop-up foam adhesive tabs so it looks like the beetles are crawling over the walls of the pyramid tombs. I hung them up, and they're freaking out the teachers left and right =) This is definitely a keeper lesson for next year!
 My 5th graders have just completed a long unit of printmaking inspired by the Adinkra cloth of Ghana. We learned how Adinkra cloth is printed, usually in honor of someone who has passed away, using symbols to represent their character. Students brainstormed 5 personal qualities and copied 5 traditional Adinkra symbols that best matched them, and then combined visual elements from each to develop their own personal symbol. I demonstrated how to carve a stamp from easycut linoleum using a gouge (which some were a bit nervous about- including me). The kids did a fabulous job carving their blocks (no injuries!! YEAH!!) and then printed them on both paper and fabric.
 The prints on paper were cut up, some traded among students, and collaged back together with some patterned paper. Their fabric prints are being turned into pillows with an extension of the project to learn some sewing skills.
This is the last project of the year for my 5th graders, as we only have one more day together. Next year they're all moving up to our upper school... I'm really going to miss them as they were my favorite grade this year. I can't imagine my first graders someday being as big and mature as my 5th graders, but it will happen before I know it. My first year as a full-time teacher is almost over, but hopefully it's the start of a long career!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The extras

One major thing I do as the art teacher is help supply decorations for the school concerts. I get along really well with the music teacher, who is also my mentor teacher, so I don't really mind helping her make the school concerts impressive events. I work with my art club students to design and produce backdrops for the concert. We have a cafetorium, so it's a bit of a challenge to transform it into  a setting worthy of a concert. This Spring the students felt that the choir's music selections seemed mostly patriotic, so they wanted red, white, and blue! We projected the images onto canvas, sketched it out, and painted them over about 2 weeks.  
In addition to the backdrop, I thought it would be fun to have some kind of slide show to illustrate one of the songs. I had my third graders each take a line from the lyrics of "The Ash Grove" and create an illustration that included the words so that we could make a "lyric video" for the concert. The kids whose images ended up in the slide show were so excited and proud!
It feels really good to hear everyone's comments about the artwork around the school. I love helping make our school a more pleasant, colorful, and visually interesting place to be in.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Butterflies and Sunshine

While from the look of my blog, it doesn't look like I've been doing much, behind the scenes in the classroom we've been crazy busy. My younger grades have been doing spring and nature themed projects, which have been taking a long time! Kindergarten explored butterflies and gardens in a printmaking project. We made caterpillar bodies with beads and pipe cleaners, which doubled as bubble wands!! Then we made marker monoprint butterfly wings so that they would be perfectly symmetrical. Kids folded their paper, drew an M and colored it in. Then I came around with a spray bottle to mist their papers and they transfer printed their drawing to the other side by pressing and rubbing. Depending on how much water and how much marker, some came out great, while others barely printed- so some kids opted to draw over the print again to make it bolder. To make our gardens we did bubble prints-which to me looked like hydrangea. Kids blew with straws into a cup of watercolor/bubble concentrate to make bubbles rise up above the cup edge, then laid their paper on top. It took some experimenting beforehand to find the right combo of container and technique to make it foolproof and flower-like! After printing, students added leaves, dirt, and bugs to their flowers with marker, and I came around to staple their layers of garden/wings/caterpillar into a 3-D picture. I'm not totally happy with the results- there's something about markers I find dissatisfying. Maybe they're too common, and don't seem art-class worthy?
 My 2nd graders have been toiling over their Huichol-inspired yarn paintings. Most did suns and moons like seen in the original examples I showed them, but many chose other nature images like butterflies and trees.
 This project was extremely challenging because of the fine-motor skills required to cut and glue the yarn carefully, but it's definitely something they can accomplish. Some turned out amazingly!
 I have to buy more yarn next year, though, as I had 3rd and 2nd doing yarn projects at the same time, and we ran out of many colors by the end of it. If you need a stash-busting project, this is it- even through each child only worked a 6 inch square! To distribute the yarn I rolled 5 balls of each color so that each table had a box of colors to work with. They had to throw out scraps at the end of class to keep the boxes tidy. It's possible a lot of my yarn got thrown out as scrap, though!

The end of the school year draws near, and I'll only have about 3 more class sessions with each group. It's going by so fast!!