Tag Archives: TEACHING ART

Knowledge = Exploration x Experience

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Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment. Maria Montessori

In the photo above, a 4 year-old child explores geometric forms after discussing the art of Wassily Kandinsky. During Art, children learned about his passion for music, his love of the arts and his desire to unite the two in harmony through color and form. Students continued to work over their collage the following class with watercolor while listening to music composed of a gentle and calm melody.

Maybe my mathematical formula will be fancied by the DOE. Let’s keep the Arts alive.

After all, the earth without “art” is just “eh”.

I enjoy what I do. -MJ

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The Falling Leaves: A Rekindled Love of Autumn

You can try and call my bluff but I can’t remember a year in my life where I have been so head over heels for the nature and colors that make up the autumn season. As a child, the fall meant the end of summer and the start of a new school year hence homework and high-anxiety Sunday nights; I think many can relate. This year, however, holds so much more.

After exiting my car in the early morning and walking through the concrete parking lot, my eyes are distracted by the intense colors that cover the ground. Vibrant reds, fire oranges, intense yellows and that shade of lime that strikes a cord in my heart, sprinkle the earth in pointy geometric shapes. I collect a large quantity and use them for art making and nature explorations in the classroom wherever it supports my curriculum.

Early Childhood artists have been observing the fall colors and singing about the actions they perform in nature during the autumn. I play the xylophone to a simple melody and sing a song I wrote that was inspired by my rekindled love of this colorful season. Children are mezmorized by the gentle high-pitched sound of this musical toy and easily follow along in song and hand gestures.

Listen to the leaves (rest) falling from the trees

                                 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5  they touch the ground                            (hands are held up high then slowly fall to the ground)

Yellow, orange, green (rest) red and brown

fall colors (rest) cover the ground

With the help of the collection of leaves I found earlier that morning, we have a visual, tangable resource to inspire our art. We discuss the colors and shapes we see and notice that not each leaf is the same shape. Some have three points, others have 5 and this one has, let’s count: 15! As a supporter of Inquiry-Based learning, my learning objectives are to challenge students to observe, analyze and make connections. Therefore, my questions do not have “yes” or “no” answers. Rather than ask “what shape is this leaf?” I ask “what do you notice about the shape of this leaf?”. This allows every student to feel comfortable to share their ideas and also opens up the discussion for an endless amount of creative possibilities.

I offer a limited palette when creating collage, painting, and drawing during these fall art explorations. Brown paper is the ground and the space where we collage our falling leaves. Colored tissue triangles are the leaves that are fragile and pointy. Yellow and Red can be mixed to recreate the various orange hues that dress the fall leaves and are painted with patterns that mimic the motion of leaves touching the ground. Oil pastels can illustrate the falling leaves. I make an effort to ask the students about the shapes and lines I notice in their compositions and write their direct quote in small, neat pencil at the bottom of their drawing. The product is not my concern, rather a positive experience with the art process and the connection they make to the content determines my material choice and activity structure. Once you have an objective in mind (a goal for what you want students to learn and become aware of), format and plan your learning experiences to achieve your goal.

Elementary artists are introduced to contour drawing with the help of the various types of leaves I collect that morning. Note that leaves don’t last longer than a day inside so my collections were frequent and fresh for each art experience (if time is on your side, a quick trip outside will allow students to scan the local harvest and choose a selection of inspiring material). Students carefully observe the curves, dips and sharp angles that form the edges of the soft delicate forms and use black felt-tip pens to draw their observations. Students soon noticed the texture found on the underside of the leaves and inquired about what they saw. We discussed how veins bring nutrients to all areas of a leaf’s surface and made a connection to the veins in our own bodies and discussed how they carry blood and oxygen to every part of our body. Texture was further explored through leaf prints using black ink on white paper. Students discovered so much more about the details and patterns found in leaves when they observed the textures that the process of relief printing offered to the naked eye.

What other material would be able to display the textures found in a leaf? Students pressed leaves into clay with the help of a rolling pin and carefully lifted the pointed subject. A beautiful impression was left in the clay and students were motivated to use a clay knife to follow the contours of the leaf and cut out its elaborate shape. Colored underglazes can be used after a bisque firing to make these hard-to-see details more prominent. See the link for clay relief below. At the end of the class period, students had made at least three clay reliefs and joined them together to form a fall inspired sculptural work of art.

Are you inspired to bring nature inside for a creative artmaking experience? If so, view the list below for a selection of engaging and meaningful hands on learning.

Autumn Inspired Art Experiences (and the necessary materials)

Leaf printing (ink, brayer, paper)

Contour Leaf Drawing (any drawing material, paper)

Leaf rubbings (crayon, oil pastel, chalk pastel, paper)

Leaf prints in clay (clay, rolling pin, clay knives, colored underglaze, clear gloss glaze) learn more here.

Leaf collage (liquid glue, paper, be sure to vary the size and shape of leaves, literary resource: Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert)

And if you crave direct contact with a human being to answer your questions, as do I, feel free to email me anytime at sunporchartstudio@gmail.com .

Have a crisp, cool, windy yet COLORFUL day! (and why not finish it off with a mug of hot cider)

-MJ

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Happy New {School} Year!

September marks the beginning of a new year for teachers, children and parents. It may be a tough transition for some, but for others it is an exciting time. I always did enjoy the Staples commercial that synced “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” with an overjoyed father taking his children shopping for supplies. Watch it on You Tube below. Classic.

For teachers, September means promise. It opens us up to an array of opportunities to make this year the most successful year yet. This year we will try out new classroom management tactics. We will re-design our studio space to make it exciting, user friendly and a comfortable work environment. Oh, and we will start report card narrative writing two whole months before they are due. Let’s make those last three statements into “I” statements because that is what I plan to do. What are you excited about this year? And if you are not excited, you can share those thoughts too…

Above is an image I found on Grey Matter. I plan on including it in my selection of inspirational phrases that hang in my art studio. I have shared a few of my favorites with you below:

Celebrate Differences

Feed Your Curiosity

Practice Making Creative Choices

Always Play First  (shared by a fellow art teacher I met in grad school)

Practice Makes Better  (a friend of mine heard this from their child’s teacher)

Take on a Creative Challenge Today!

Trust your Hands  (shared by a fellow art teacher)

Creativity Takes Courage  Henri Matisse

See. Think. Wonder.  (Visible Thinking, Project Zero)

Today is a New Beginning

Feel free to use these in your classroom or studio to encourage awareness, openness and risk taking.

Have you tried anything new that has lead the year to a successful start? What are you most proud of in your space?

Happy New Beginnings! -MJ

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