Here is another in my continuing series. Enjoy!!!
11) Wealth beyond my wildest dreams.(Note: wealth, as defined by the number of recyclable gifts that come through our studios.)
Yes, keeping an art studio capable of 6.2x10E44 possible art projects stocked and functioning is a 40 hour week all by itself. There's a real possibility that I'm close to the fabled tipping point with my squirreling away of recyclables. Every cabinet in my class is filled. Every corner - who am I kidding? There ARE no corners left. There's one part of the room that used to be a corner in ancient times. It's now the repository of flat cardboard, destined for cutting down into manageable building parts for the 3D center. In that area are also essential extras that we simply can't live without: small sized paper cups, lable-less prescription bottles, clear plastic thingamabobs that make great wheels, flat-folded cereal boxes for medium weight cardboard use, and a thousand extra soda straws. Just in case. Did I mention egg cartons, orphaned socks for future puppets and those great plastic bubble things that protect fragile fruit at Costco? Yep. Rich lady. Me.
12) Sometimes the room breaks out in presidents.Imagine my surprise when a whole roomful of short, shyly smiling presidents appeared just before President's Day. What a coincidence! Presidents are quite serious about their artwork, is is demonstrated by the quite serious faces that day. There's something about a spiffy three-cornered hat that just lends itself to high levels of decorum.
13) I never know which direction a demo will go.
In a TAB classroom, we frequently begin the class period with a short (I shoot for five or six minutes - tops) demonstration of a specific technique. Students can choose to do something with it that day, or, if they have other plans in mind for the time, can revisit the topic of the demo during a later session. This week we talked about contrast in paintings. I shared a technique for outlining subjects in heavy black crayon and then laying down thick tempera - while leaving a bit of white between the black crayon and the color. Kids came up with some neat applications.
14) Joy.Like any classroom, we have occasional upsets. Sometimes an issue seeps through from the playground or someone's day is simply too intense to get through art without doing something beastly. But MOST of the time, we have a deliriously good time. I see joy reflected in proud artist faces, in exuberant work, and in kids' reactions to each other. I think they may have figured me out, too. I get several versions of "Gee, Mz. J. You get to do art all day long. Lucky!" I usually smile and say, "Shhhhh. Your other teacher will want my job if he/she hears. Don't tell!"
15) Fairy Godmothers (and fathers!) abound.Our program has recently been gifted with a brand new sewing machine and benefits from steady volunteer help. Thank you, Pat and Paul. Pat brings her projects and sits alongside the older kids, both to help spark ideas, and to show that the love for art never wanes - even after retirement. Miss Nancy comes three or four days a week to help kinderpeople with their art. She began sharing her gentle guidance when her grandson was a kinderartist but has stayed on because she's so fond of short people when they're in their creative zones. Thanks, Miss Nancy! LOTS of people cull "artables" as they recycle (western Washington is amazingly green) and bring me cardboard rolls, tidy collections of little boxes tucked into each other, and the aforementioned orphaned socks. This list includes lots of anonymous souls, but there are also regulars like Donna, Yvonne, Rachael, Courtney, Conde, Robin, Heather, Karen, the other Karen, and yet another fabulous Karen, Steve, Ron, Kenn, Janis, Merry, and lots of people who just leave gifts outside my door or in my mailbox. Both Sue and Porfirio stop by just to smile at artists at work and to ask questions as they validate kids' efforts, and lots of visitors beam their way through our little corner of the school, accompanied by Dr. Warner as he's giving tours related to what we do. Once in a while a visitor will be curious enough to come for a return visit. Voila! The artists at Evergreen have a new friend and advocate!
It doesn't just take a village to raise a child. It takes a whole learning community. This is a great one in which to nest.
Some 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 flyer 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 and 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.
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 would 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.
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 staples 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.
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 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 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.
After 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?)
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. It 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, 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 Stroller 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
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 collect your thank you hug when we see each other at school. Same time next year?
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!
The 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 GLAD. 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 kids 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.