teacher's blog

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Once Upon an Art Night

A satisfied puppet makerA satisfied puppet makerSome projects fly together with a small amount of enthusiasm, a little bit of energy, and a good idea or two. The average Art Night is a little more complex, as it turns out. We've been talking about scheduling one for a couple of years, but with one thing and another, it's never quite come together. This was the year. My predecessor had organized one with the help of the PTSO but it'd been a while and nobody had strong memories of the kinds of activities that were offered. A colleague shared a flyer from an art night at her daughter's school in Olympia sometime last spring. That Father / daughter mask makingFather / daughter mask makingflyer spoke to painting activities that parents and children could enjoy together but there weren't many details. Hmmm.

In October, I collaborated with my library buddy across the wall and talked about the advantages of having both events share an evening. She had a book fair scheduled for the first complete week in December and needed an evening event to finish off her event in style. I used a variation of the "put it on the calendar and the muses will show up" (they always have, after all) method of event planning and loudly plunked it on the school calendar. Evening events are a big deal A Danish woven heart expertA Danish woven heart expertand our nice little gym is used by lots of community groups for sports events. The sweet schedule maven at the high school moved heaven and earth (and basketball teams) and cleared the night for me. I had a great time designing a flyer, getting it translated so our whole community could read it, and happily sent them home with kids. With the wrong date. All 540 of them. YIKES! We rescued some of the flyers, reprinted some with the new, correct date and made our apologies to the teams who then needed to be unbumped from their bumped spots. Everyone was still smiling so I continued with the planning.A friend and I work on a woven heartA friend and I work on a woven heart

I've heard of some December art nights that were primarily craft nights intended to be fun "make and takes" for small ornaments, but that's not really my style. While crafts are certainly fun, they aren't open-ended enough and don't allow for artistic expression like our studios do. I'd thought for quite a while about what kinds of activities the eight year old me The mola queen at work with her subjectsThe mola queen at work with her subjectswould enjoy on such an evening. Then the 103 year old me who is responsible for resources whittled away at the list and chose things that could depend on either inexpensive supplies or the lovely collection of recyclables that flows through our studios. The final step was for the 56 year old art specialist me to come up with the final selection, design displays and instructions to fit a wide variety of age, ability, and interest. My eyes circled the studios in my classroom and chose an activity or two from all the media-specific centers that are part of our stable except for 3D construction and clay. Both required too much time, thought, and peaceful drying time to be appropriate for this first Art Night.A self portrait?A self portrait?

With final "casting" done, I made lists of each proposed activity that included display ideas, supplies (both those that were on hand and those that needed to be purchased, begged, borrowed, or stolen) and a quick sketch of what the setup might look like. For example, for the ojos de dios (gods' eyes in English) I had all the yarn I needed, a reminder to hot glue 50 or 60 "frames" from craft stick stores in the classroom, and a note to site the rainbow cabinet close to the table. The rainbow cabinet is a storage cabinet with brightly colored drawers that stores lots of classroom Cats - our second favorite obsessionCats - our second favorite obsessionstaples in drawers with picture labels (rulers, kid scissors, "big" scissors, ojo frames, square frames, etc.) When I sketched out the table banner I realized that I could only go so far with written instructions so I made a note to invite the artist to "Find an Evergreen artist for a lesson." My students start learning how to weave the colorful ojos at the beginning of second grade so I knew there would be lots of willing (and proud) helpers to assist parents.Circles and curves always work well in the art world!Circles and curves always work well in the art world!

When I pictured the gym in my mind - with ten or twelve tables against the walls so that I could hang my banners - I realized that the use of space felt impersonal and clunky. As I gave it more thought (while simultaneously gathering supplies over the period of a couple of weeks) I came up with the idea of situating the tables in a big circle. If I used that kind of arrangement I could help to direct/manage/play activities and I'd save myself essential steps. I drew out a schematic of my plan on a sheet of paper and consulted with our head custodian. Sue agreed that it could be done and politely skipped mentioning how strange a big circle of art in the center of a rectangular gym looked. She also committed her night crew to helping us set up. (Thanks, Sue!)

I had a vague idea that there would be at least 50 people of various ages attending because of a cutaway slip I'd added to the publicity flyer. I also had a I am one with my puppet!I am one with my puppet!few volunteers from the parent community and a few staff members that offered their help. In addition, I gave the fourth and fifth grade students who attend my Thursday morning (we're talking 7:00 AM!) Art Club a chance to help, too. Our enthusiastic crew loaded and re-loaded the utility cart with the supplies I'd set out for travel. We made numerous (!) trips the length of the school between the art room and the gym (as far apart as is possible, of course) and flew around our circled tables, placing the essentials and making final adjustments. Brightly colored construction paper was cut for the paper mola Molas, anyone?Molas, anyone?table, more paper set out for the Danish woven hearts, paper plates, feathers, pipe cleaners, scissors and glue set up for masks, and paper bags and colored paper scraps put out for puppets. Crayons were peeled for the warming trays and set against the wall where the outlets were. A long line of newspapers was set down along another wall to offer a place for giant tempera posters and prints to dry. Parent helpers carried the big loom down so it could hold a place of honor in the center of our wagons circle, and lots of felt was cut and displayed with heavy string and big-holed needles for the L.F.T.s.

Ojos have a calming effect because they require concentrationOjos have a calming effect because they require concentrationAfter a tornado of activity we looked around and discovered that our start time had come and gone and each table had artists happily exploring new things. I was so entertained visiting different tables and watching what our talented community was doing I almost forgot to take pictures but managed to capture some of the fun. Until the batteries quit. In both cameras. No matter. We laughed and put a giant pile of batteries on the "to do" list for next year. (Speaking of a "to do" list, I would greatly appreciate input from those of you who attended. Do you have suggestions for improvement? Is there something you want to insure that we do again? Did you get help from an Evergreen student who deserves a thank you note?)Weaving with paperWeaving with paper

We had such fun. Little people were teaching big people who were teaching middle sized people who were celebrating the joy that creating art always brings us. Some of the extra paint escaped the aprons and rags but it looked like any errant color was being worn as a badge of honor. There is no age limit on how much fun it is to explore color, texture, and creativity. Warm ears and great artWarm ears and great artIt was important to me that our offerings were true to the concepts of TAB as they relate to inspiring creativity through access to great media. Our thank you list includes:

Dr. Warner, principal, for helping with crowd serenity and cleanup, as well as his steady support for the arts, Jimmy, Daley, Oscar, Angelica, Hilda, and Ashlee, Lupita and her brother, Victor, There's a member of the synchronized baby stroller brigade now!There's a member of the synchronized baby stroller brigade now!Art Club members who helped with a million tasks, (especially Ashlee, who was the main instructor at Danish hearts for the whole night and is a fabulous teacher!), Jennifer, who helped with setup and cart pushing, Ms. Robbins, who worked the paper mola table with such flair, Ms. Doyle, who lent support while managing the Evergreen Synchronized Baby StrollerThe glorious aftermath...The glorious aftermath... Brigade, Ms. Berg and Ms. Mott, who helped with sewing and problem solving, Harmony's mom, who peeled crayons and got the melted crayon center going, Casi's mom and dad, who helped with loom lugging as well as the print center, Daley's mom and big brother, who helped with clean up, Ms. Salinas, who helped by STRONGLY suggesting that the art teacher eat
...and Mr. Escobedo's reaction to the aftermath.  Not to worry - we all helped make it go away....and Mr. Escobedo's reaction to the aftermath. Not to worry - we all helped make it go away.



some of her supper, Ms. Jackson, PTSO president, who helped to generate the idea, Ms. Peterson, who helps with all sorts of kid projects, Ms. Morgan in the library, who's a great collaborator, Ms. Salzer who came, even after a full afternoon of caroling with her choir, to help with crowd control, Ms. Trejo and her family, who actively participated in creating some fabulous art and then stayed to help clean up, too! Mr. Escobedo and Mr. Wilford helped with room setup and with clean up after we'd all cleaned up, Dr. Warner had washed and rearranged tables, and Ms. Gray and Jennifer cheerfully pushed the brooms. I also appreciate my sweetie, who helps by ferrying supplies back and forth from Olympia and never inserts earplugs when I plan out loud or talk about art for six straight hours. If I forgot you, send me an email or collectYou'll know it's me by the lifelike mask!You'll know it's me by the lifelike mask! your thank you hug when we see each other at school. Same time next year?Artists - hard at workArtists - hard at workMeanwhile, exploring an international theme in the library...Meanwhile, exploring an international theme in the library...










There were a lot more photos (HARD to choose!) than would fit in a normal sized blog. Here they are, in a gallery called, Art Night 2009. Enjoy the visit!

It Takes a Whole Art Colony to Raise a Child

A confident kinderflowerA confident kinderflowerThe quality of the work created by artists in this building is amazing. Evergreen is a special place in several ways but one of the coolest is the different ways my colleagues nurture and grow artistic expression by our students. I see examples all the time, and sometimes I'm bright enough to capture them on camera.

Our dual language school uses a powerful teaching/learning strategy called A lesson in picture and textA lesson in picture and textGLAD. The letters stand for Guided Language Acquisition Design. A visit to a GLAD classroom offers up a rich visual smorgasbord of charts, drawings, maps, posters, and other highly visible written language - in both languages - that supports lessons. Using this much variety to allow learners to access knowledge is part of essential scaffolding that good teachers use all the time. GLAD takes classic scaffolding techniques, adds lots of oral language support, and uses a wide variety of graphic organizers that kidsFlorFlor and teachers employ to share new knowledge. Artistic talent is visible all over the place. One of the techniques that's used employs making drawings of vocabulary words. Another has teachers draw a nearly transparent pencil drawing of a topic of study - say, a flowering plant - on a large sheet of butcher paper. After it's laminated, a dry erase marker or washable pen can be used to "draw" the parts of the plant as children discuss them. Here's looking at you!  (Sorry - couldn't resist...)Here's looking at you! (Sorry - couldn't resist...) Labels in the target language are added and used repeatedly during the unit for reference, to practice the words, or to check spelling during writing assignments. Nobody makes a big deal about relative skill in drawing, but it's clear that lots of practice yields up comfort with lots of public drawing. Teachers model drawing, kids use it extensively, and the art teacher smiles all the time.

A well-loved story with lots of dramaA well-loved story with lots of drama




Art is visible throughout our building and it's not always generated in the Evergreen Studios. A bulletin board close to the kindergarten rooms broke out in pumpkins recently, and the effect is glorious. Pumpkin Town!Pumpkin Town! We see clear evidence of wise teachers who choose projects that extend their children's learning rather than narrowing it into "class set" types of projects. One of the fascinating aspects of this quality of learning is the deep understanding a teacher gains about children during their work. Find the face?Find the face?The child who painted this picture really, REALLY wanted to do a Jack-O-Lantern, even though the story that was being shared was about whole pumpkins. His teacher quietly observed how he painted characteristic triangle eyes and jagged mouth, then used that darker paint to blend and shade the pumpkin. While she noted the beautifully controlled blending, he just smiled.Glorious, celebratory pumpkinsGlorious, celebratory pumpkins
The story line and requisite vines meandered across the bulletin board - beautiful...The story line and requisite vines meandered across the bulletin board - beautiful...

Flying Colors

The artiste at workThe artiste at workWhat has 40 whirring blades, 200 sticky appendages, and a fiery love for layers and layers and layers and even more layers of brilliant color? Twenty kindergartners in the throes of a lesson on layering collage are a terrifying force for art good. How did a whole group lesson in collage come about inside a mini-studio territory like ours? There are a couple of answers. First, when a new studio is introduced, we frequently do an in depth orientation into how things work. It's important for everyone to know how the tools work, what kinds of thing are possible with the materials inPartnersPartners the studio, and to have a bit of background in related genre. Collage (or "cut paper" in kinderspeak) is a rich place for creative artists. All the layering, textures of different papers, magazine picture cutting, not to mention the fun mask and puppet making that lend themselves to the area, are a trill.

A startled layering masterA startled layering masterDifferent from a lesson that points children towards a specific project, a good kindercollage lesson teaches some basics about attachment. A glue stick is a fabulous source of entertainment but works best in collage when it's used carefully. (Translation: one large stick per collage project might be a little much.) Scissors are wonderful tools, but it's a little harder to assemble 3,278 pieces of shredded construction paper if you don't save one bigger piece to use as a base. One last challenge Deep in concentrationDeep in concentrationis to gain an understanding about how much time we have in art for short projects. If we have about thirty minutes for cutting and pasting, thirty minutes of cutting (remember the 3,278 pieces of construction paper?) won't leave an artist any time for pasting.

If I more time with my flock of kinderducklings, we could do more of the "discover how to use this tool" exploration on our own. As it is, though, I'd rather install a few short cuts so we can get to full studio use as soon as possible. The payoff? Total joy.My art is serious businessMy art is serious businessFabulous scissor techniqueFabulous scissor techniqueCelebrate!Celebrate!

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