Miscoe Hill 5/6 Youth Art Month Artists

Once again I find myself beaming with pride at the fine work my students create! The artwork of six students has been selected for the Youth Art Month exhibit to be held in Boston from February 8 through March 31 at the State Transportation Building. The exhibit is open to the public from 9:00am – 5:00pm weekdays and is closed on weekends and on Presidents’ Day, Monday, February 15. The State Transportation Building is located at 10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA. The Youth Art Month exhibit is sponsored by the Massachusetts Art Education Association.

On February 28, a Family Celebration will take place for students, parents, families, teachers, and administrators from 12:00 – 4:00 in the afternoon.

Please congratulate the following artists:

Adam Moeckel – Grade 5 – Self Portrait – Colored Pencils




Gina Lupachini – Grade 6 – Clay Coil Lion – CeramicsIMG_0005



Cameryn Laplante – Grade 5 – Bee in Flower Personified Pinch Pot – CeramicsIMG_0009


Eddie Ribeiro – Grade 6 – Self Portrait – Charcoal PencilsIMG_0019


Anna Foye – Grade 6 – Hole in the Page Drawing – Watercolor PencilsIMG_9999

Flip the top page to reveal the bottom

Flip the top page to reveal the bottom

Jessica McNamara – Grade 6 – 3D Designed Penguin – 3D Printing



yam-flyer (3)



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“Hole In The Page” Videos On Padlet

Long ago, a colleague dropped off a bag of jar lids with me and said, “I don’t know what you can use them for, but I figured you would think of something!”. For a few years now, my sixth grade students have traced them to make the “hole” for “Hole in the Page” drawings to explore the narrative in art making.

One of the reasons my students enjoy this assignment is because of the freedom of choice of subject matter. They also enjoy thinking up the surprise element at the end as the page is flipped for the big reveal. Although I went over the assignment and showed examples of years past, this year the details were posted in Google Classroom to allow for centralized delivery.

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As students finished they uploaded their finished videos and artist statements to me through the assignment “turn in” option:

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I have been enjoying watching the clever videos. Some of them are narrated and it is always fun to hear the student voice, even as they adopt accents or affected manners of speaking. Silly, but fun.

After turning in the videos to Google Classroom, students posted them, along with artist statements to a Padlet sharing wall for all the world (including you) to see: Padlet Sharing Wall for Hole in the Page Videos

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Here are some more Hole in the Page videos for your viewing pleasure:

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MiscoeMakerCrew In SchoolArts Magazine

It was very exciting to learn that an article I had written for SchoolArts magazine has been published in the February 2016 edition. The article is about the MiscoeMakerCrew, a group of twelve students who met weekly after school to learn about 3D printing and designing 3D models. Here is the link to the article: February 2016 SchoolArts Magazine

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SchoolArts is a national magazine, which has been in print since 1901. It is a powerful vehicle for art educators to share ideas and find inspiration. Given that many art educators often lack authentic colleagues as they are the only art teacher in their school, SchoolArts is more than a magazine; it is also a community. Although I subscribe to digital issues at this time, I have a bookcase full of print copies of the magazine from years past. I am honored to have work published in SchoolArts.

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“Freedom” is the theme of this edition – I love that!


I wrote the article nearly a year ago when all of my work with students and 3D printing took place outside of the art curriculum. Since then, I have written units and drafted lessons for designing for 3D printing. One such unit is the “Castle” unit here: Castle STEAM Unit

Castle STEAM Unit

Castle STEAM Unit

This school year my fifth students are working with 3D modeling apps on their iPads to design game pieces and “morphed”  animals (such as the SphinxCat) while my sixth grade students design bridges, cityscapes, and castles. These units are tied to the National Core Art Standards, but they can also be linked to standards in other areas including ISTE, NGSS, CCSS, and the Four C’s of the 21st Century Skills.

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I have learned so much about 3D design and printing in the past year, primarily through trial and error while designing and building models, and also through Twitter and sharing with other art educators and makers. An important new development in app choices for 3D design is Morphi and their newly released Morphi Edu, which has a draw-to-3D capability not found anywhere else. Although my students will continue to use 123D Design app for some of their designing, they will also use Morphi. The next thing I would like to see is a way to combine models from both apps on the build board at the same time. I believe this will happen, the question is simply when.

Lastly, I am very proud of the MiscoeMakerCrew and thankful for the grant from MakerBot and Donors Choose. To see how this came to be for my school and my students, watch this video, which was also made about a year ago: MiscoeMakerCrew

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“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao Tzu



“And BOOM! Masterpiece!”

It was with such enthusiasm that Gillian Y. crafted her Artist’s Statement when she uploaded her Notan art to Artsonia last week.

Gillian Y.

Gillian Y.

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Notan is a Japanese concept of light and dark. Fifth grade students used sets of complementary colors to create Notan using construction paper. The process of “Painting with Scissors” they employed is modeled after French artist, Henri Matisse, who created beautiful, giant collages using this technique in his advanced years. I showed my students this video, which shows Matisse creating this way. I get goosebumps watching the genius at work.

Students emulated Matisse by cutting paper Notan pieces. When they had completed a black and white piece, followed by  the three sets of complementary colors, they took photos of them with their iPads and created a four-square collage using the Pic Stitch app. We briefly looked at Andy Warhol’s four-square portrait series before beginning.

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol

Student work is on display on Artsonia. Please visit the site to see the work: Notan Gallery

Here are four more pieces of fifth grade Notan along with Artist Statements:

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Caroline B.

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Maya W.

Maya W.

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Alex H.

Alex H.

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Adam M.

Adam M.

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Curating, Plagiarism & Appropriation

A fellow student in a grad class introduced me to this article by Debra Zarka Miller about a lesson she uses with her higher education students to hit home good citation habits. I thought it was very clever and decided to modify it to fit my fifth and sixth grade middle school art students. Here is what we did:

When the students entered the room they found an orange bin with plastic/rubber animals in them. They were then asked to draw one of the animals and place it within an environment on the page. They used construction paper crayons and construction paper. They had about forty minutes to complete the drawing and they were told they would be sharing them during the next class (so do a good job).

The Animals


The next class we went out into the hallway and the students hung up their drawings on a bulletin board using two pieces of masking tape.



Once the drawings had been hung up, the students slowly walked past them to get a closer look.



And then sat back down so we could critique them. Young middle school students don’t always do well with critiques, so we started on a very positive note with praise for every piece. From there we began to discuss the particular elements of certain pieces and the artists had a chance to talk about them. I then prompted students to go up to the piece they liked best and write their name on the masking tape holding it in place. Yes, they were allowed to write their name on their own piece. Yes, they had to choose one.


There were some drawings without names, there were some with just one or two names. I removed all of those and left the drawings with three or more names on the board.







Because there were no names on the artwork, the pieces were chosen on appeal alone, this was not a popularity contest. The students whose work had been returned to them took it in stride (for the most part) mumbling things like “I wasn’t finished” or “I know it’s not good”. This was difficult, but necessary to talk about choosing pieces for an exhibit, what makes good art, and why it appeals to us.

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My students are kind to one another and this discussion was difficult for them. They were cautious to compliment too passionately so the students whose work was in their hands rather than on the wall wouldn’t feel poorly about themselves. I suggested we stick to the “facts” with statements such as, “I liked this art because…” – fill in the blank. Students were comfortable sharing why they had chosen certain pieces. Reasons ranged from careful execution and realistic look to “it was funny”. Right away they understood that artwork can appeal to us for a variety of reasons, which is why there are diverse collections in museums. One student suggested curating based on a theme. This led to an enthusiastic discussion of possible themes. Another student suggested that it doesn’t really matter what other people think about your art, saying, “If you like to do it, just do it for yourself. It doesn’t matter what other people think”. We all liked that statement!

“I think that curating is needed because you can not hang up 8 million paintings in a art museum and just picking randomly seems kind of useless.” – Jayme


Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 6.51.46 AMBased on the Miller’s lesson, I shifted the focus to plagiarism. I told the students that the artwork remaining on the wall would receive an “A” grade. And no matter what their own art looked like, those who had written their names on those pieces would also receive an “A”. Just as with Miller’s students, at first the students were happy to receive the easy “A” and were joking with each other about it. I then asked the artists whose work was on the wall to identify themselves. I asked them how they felt about others receiving a high grade for the work they did. Most began their responses with something like, “I’m happy I can help them get a good grade” (because my students are kind!) but then shifted to “but it isn’t really fair because I did all the work”. This also caused an attitude shift in those who had received the easy “A”. They either reacted with empathy or became defensive. They were stirred up.

“Plagiarism is not okay because you are taking credit for something you didn’t do. Also, plagiarism is illegal. Using someone’s work to make new work and putting your name on it is okay but you should still put the artists name just to be safe.” – Luke



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My young students recognize appropriation in popular music, when one artist samples another’s work. This is a viable entry point for thinking about appropriation in art. They understand parody as with the many versions of the Mona Lisa we have in the art room. They are working on understanding the difference between making transformative changes to the artwork of others and calling it your own or blatantly appropriating it without transformation as in the work of this “artist”.

When all was said and done I was deeply satisfied with this lesson and the impact it had on my students. Putting them in the role of plagiarist or plagiarized victim was key in helping them understand the problem. They have a better grasp on the curation process, which will help in the spring as we curate our annual art show. I’m hoping there will be time this year to do a little healthy appropriation of masterpieces for the pure transformative joy of it.


At the end of class I told my students they were not being graded as I had described and in fact, every student would receive an “A” simply for being part of an excellent discussion. The sighs of relief were audible. When we met as a class two days later I asked the them to reflect on the experience within our Google Classroom stream.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 8.47.10 AMHere are some of the responses:

“I don’t like being graded this way. I don’t like being graded this way because if someone doesn’t do good it makes them feel bad. I don’t think it’s fair because the only real judge of your work is you. I also think plagiarism is wrong because you’re basically stealing. I like choosing work to display. I think using someone else’s work is also not fair. That’s what I think about being graded this way.” – Cameron

“I felt that it was educational because we need to learn what we should do and what we shouldn’t do. We need to know that people can steal our art, and how to prevent that. So if we make art we know how to make it safe to post online. It was also important to teach us so we wouldn’t do it.” – Anna

“I don’t think that this is a good or fair way to be graded. I think this because if you were to make an awesome piece of art and then have someone change it or just completely copy it and get credit for it, that is just not fair to the person who actually made it. When we were choosing the piece we liked I didn’t get any votes, which didn’t bother me but I know it bothered some people. In my opinion I hope we never get graded like this again.” – Sophia

“I didn’t really like how we were graded, but I also thought it was good because it showed us that we would not be the best drawer and not everyone would like your art because it’s their opinion. So I don’t think I would want to do this grading system again.” – Hannah
“Being graded like that kind of hurt. I put a lot of work into my drawing and worked until the end. Some people were done in two minutes and chose a drawing that got them a A that is not fair. They did not think, they just slapped a drawing together. It is not fair in the slightest to be graded like that.” – Eddie

I know I won’t be able to conduct an exercise like this again any time soon with these students as they will be on to me right away. However, I plan to modify the lesson further for my classes next term. It’s a good one and the kids rose to the occasion. I am very proud of my students!

Thank you, Kayla B. for choosing this article for our grad class chat:

Miller, Debra Zarka. “A Lesson in Academic Integrity.” Faculty Focus. Magna, 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
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Light, Shadow, Self Portraits, and Artsonia

Throughout the past several classes, both fifth and sixth grade students have been engaged in a unit on Self Portraits. Before commencing instruction, students began with a pre-assessment self portrait using pencil and a mirror. Here are examples of before and after drawings:

Grace H.

Grace H.


Cole F.

Instruction began with students using iPads to sketch along with some “How to Draw” videos by Mark Crilley. iPads make this a personalized learning experience as students may pause the video at any time to catch up or review the video to see details they may have missed. The video distribution was centralized through Google Classroom, making them easy to access at home or at school.

Students then went on to experiment with charcoal pencils, stomps, and kneaded erasers. They drew Styrofoam heads and used Blurration (squinting their eyes) to see the areas of light and shadow. We used both male and female styrofoam heads that I found on eBay. We spotlighted them with flashlights to create dramatic shadow. Drawing these heads made for a great discussion of the “classic ideal” compared to real life human heads. It was a great time to point out the uniqueness of our features and skin tones.

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Once comfortable with the charcoal, students began their self portraits, referring to the styrofoam heads to see where the shadows should be on their faces.


Eddie R

Some additional before and after photos:


Annalise C.


Colin F.

Fifth grade students worked similarly, following different videos and using construction paper crayons to add color instead of charcoal. Students focused on using complementary colors in their portraits, which presented a terrific chance to review the color wheel.

Kendyl J.

Kendyl J.

Both grades worked on their self portraits over two or three classes. Last class, they posted them on Artsonia with artist statements. Sixth grade portraits can be found here:

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Jessica m.

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And fifth grade portraits can be found here:

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Cameron H.

Cameron H.

Adam M.

Adam M.

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I think you’ll agree the 5/6 art students at Miscoe Hill are looking good! Enjoy!

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The Strandbeests, STEAM, and the PEM

The half day before Thanksgiving provides a welcome chance to take a break from projects underway to see and learn something new. This year we’re watching videos of The Strandbeests, creations of Dutch artist Theo Jansen. Jansen’s Strandbeests are giant kinetic works of art, science, technology, math, and engineering. Or to rearrange those words, Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math = STEAM

Animaris Umerus, Scheveningen beach, The Netherlands (2009). Courtesy of Theo Jansen. Photo by Loek van der Klis

Animaris Umerus, Scheveningen beach, The Netherlands (2009). Courtesy of Theo Jansen. Photo by Loek van der Klis

These are giant, moving creatures:


Watch this video to see the Strandbeests in motion in their natural habitat:

To see the playlist of Theo Jansen Strandbeest videos, click here.

Following the videos, students worked in groups to consider what kind of a Strandbeest they could make together and what special attributes it would have. They have jotted notes and made diagrams. I enjoy seeing the plans below that would repurpose common items such as baseball bats, refrigerators, and lacrosse sticks.

Strandbeest one

Strandbeest two

Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests are at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem right now. The show runs through early January. I plan to see the show over the Thanksgiving weekend. Now that the kids have seen these videos, they may want to see the exhibit, too. I hope you go and maybe I’ll see you there!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!





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