Design – 3D Modeling:

“3D Printing: It can change the whole paradigm of how our children will see innovation and manufacturing in America” – Bre Pettis, MakerBot CEO

We’ve had our MakerBot Replicator II for five years now. We received it for free thanks to a grant from MakerBot and DonorsChoose. Since then, we’ve acquired two more – a Polar3D and New Matter Modt. We use them as an integral part of the grade five and six art curriculum for three project based learning units – GameMakers, Castle for a Friend, and Imaginary City. We use the 3D printers to make game pieces, castles with classic and empathic architectural elements, and city buildings and bridges.

3D printed game pieces

3D printed Castle for a Friend (with shrimp truck pulling up to make a delivery)

As I often say to my students, 3D printers are like desktop inkjet printers in that they do what they are intended to with little fanfare. The magic is in the design – 3D modeling. We use the Morphi Edu app for designing models in my classes. We are a 1:1 school with iPads and the app works quite well on them. We have used the free online version of Tinkered as well, but I prefer Morphi Edu app because WiFi is not needed until it’s time to share the file.

To introduce 3D modeling I show the kids the basic tools and forms in the app, the adjustment sliders for scale, rotation, aspect, etc, and the drawing tool, one of the most indispensable tools in Morphi. Every student is asked to create a simple model on the theme of snow or winter (themes help in middle school). And although the directive is clearly stated as snow and winter,  I am always surprised to see the large amount of holiday creations specific to Christmas. Here are some of this year’s models:

Looking at all these winter and holiday images reminds me, this is my last post of 2018 and so I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and/or Happy New Year! See you next year!

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Digital Art – Superimposition

“Things are not always as they seem; the first appearance deceives many.” – Phaedrus

I’ve long been a fan of Superimposition, using Photoshop to combine images and make them one – so much so that I can’t help considering scenarios in this way, sometimes with an image superimposed over a compatible image, sometimes paired with an unlikely choice; my mind goes there. In fact, the staff in our district posed for a group photo on the football field and I’ve superimposed the powerful image twice, once with all of us in a swimming pool during a September heat wave, and more recently with  horn-of-plenty for Thanksgiving:

Superimposition is part of the visual literacy all around us today. My fifth and sixth grade students are well aware of the term Photoshop and can give examples of its use. So we talk a lot about the importance of using these technologies for good (not evil). We also discuss appropriation and citing sources with borrowed images if the artist is known.

Because we are 1:1 with iPads in my school, rather than Photoshop, my students used Autodesk Sketchbook app to create their Superimposition. I demonstrated the process with a live tutorial during the introductory class, while the students asked questions. Here is a video that shows the process:

large 5

Selecting images from their camera rolls as well as Google search app, students combined just two images in this first experience. I think they came out really well, especially considering the abstract and challenging process. Here are a few of the standouts:

You can see many more fifth and sixth grade iPad Superimposition pieces in our Artsonia gallery here: https://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?project=1635508

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Digital Art: SketchNoting

“All our knowledge is the offspring of our perceptions.” – Leonardo da Vinci

When I searched for an appropriate quote for this post about SketchNoting, I was thinking of note taking as idea gathering and remembering, working through thoughts in a visible way. Of course my mind jumped to Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, which are full of his documented ideas for projects, philosophies, and observations. I love them and have seen some of them in a museum. You can see them and virtually turn the pages of some of them here.

SketchNotes are rich visual notes created from a mix of handwriting, drawings, hand-drawn typography, shapes, and visual elements like arrows, boxes, and lines. – Mike Rohde, The SketchNote Army

Over the past few years the concept of SketchNoting has become talked about and practiced by many of us who learn well visually. Personally I find that by translating content into writing, sketching, and illustrating, I remember it and make better sense of it, finding connections that otherwise wouldn’t be there. Many people SketchNote with writing implements on paper (especially in notebooks). I prefer to SketchNote on my iPad, employing many of the digital painting and blending tools. You can see some of my SketchNotes from conventions, workshops, courses, and books here: https://www.behance.net/amgentilidf49

Here is an example of my SketchNoting to retain content, from an MIT MOOC (massive open online course) I took a couple of years ago – I use the Adobe Sketch app:

Because I enjoy SketchNoting and find it helpful in retaining information, I decided to show my students how to do it, also using iPads, but with Autodesk Sketchbook app. I offered them the opportunity to SketchNote a book or movie and asked them to include the title, author or director, characters, and setting. We kept it really simple because the act of SketchNoting was challenging. Here are some of the results:

Shortly after my students finished up their SketchNoting projects, renowned SketchNoter, Sylvia Duckworth, released a series of tutorials in advance of the release of her book on SketchNoting. Here is the playlist of those SketchNoting tutorials: SketchNoting Tutorial Videos.

As I reflect on this activity, I think I would start the kids with pencil and paper first and work up to iPad SketchNoting. They would have benefitted from more time on the project as well. Most importantly, I would like to see some second attempts, because many were really grasping the process just as they were finishing up. I understand some of my students have been given the option of using SketchNoting in other subjects areas recently, and I’d love to see those results as well.

Grade five and six SketchNotes have been uploaded to Artsonia and you can see them here: https://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?project=1635515


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Digital Art: Self Portraits vs. Selfies

“You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” – George Bernard Shaw

Tommy E.

A large part of November found my art classes engaged in Digital Art Making with their iPads. One of the projects was Self Portraits accomplished through the rotoscoping (tracing outlines) method traditionally used in animation. It has been our good fortune to have been graced with a student teacher in her Field Study III practicum (one full day each week) this fall. Her name is Shaina and her Fine Arts concentration a few years ago was Photography. Shaina’s practicum requires that she plan and execute a lesson, and lucky for us she chose to include photography.


Shaina led the classes in observation and discussion about photographic Selfies vs. Self Portraits – the implied in-the-moment and marking time and place nature of Selfies, and the thoughtful, purposeful intent of Self Portraits. She gave examples of both, focusing mainly on the self portraiture of both women and men, people of color, the serious, the sardonic, and the soulful. It was a wonderful way to weave art history with art appreciation and art making.

Students began by taking a few photographs of themselves with iPads and then imported them into Autodesk Sketchbook as a base layer. On layers added above the photo, students first outlined their image and then painted using a variety of brushes, color mixing, and blending. When the painting was complete, students deleted the photo layer and were encouraged to consider adding color or a different photo for the background.

Here are some of the self-portraits with Artist Statements that can be found in our online Artsonia gallery here: https://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?project=1660297

Usually I make myself stop at choosing about ten pieces from all the excellent artwork, but with this project, I had a hard time stopping. Please indulge me and enjoy these additional self portraits:

As we bid farewell to Shaina who is moving on to her next practicum experience after the holidays, it is clear she has had a positive, aesthetic impact on the Miscoe Hill fifth and sixth grade students. Just look at this artwork!

Stay tuned for upcoming posts on Digital Art with Superimposing and SketchNoting …

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“Doodling serves as a means of keeping the hand or fingers limber, so that they are always ready for serious work.” – Charles E. Burchfield

Doesn’t everyone doodle? When I was a kid, I’d fill our phone book with doodles as I stretched the phone cord as far as I could to attain privacy away from my family to talk with a friend. I’d bring the phone book along and pretty much fill it with ball point pen doodles while I chatted. Mention phone cord and phone book in the same sentence and I’m really showing my age. Mention doodling and suddenly we have something in common. We can all look back at a time we’ve found ourselves doodling, whether sitting in a meeting, a classroom, or watching TV.

Not long ago a company who shall not be named decided to attempt to corner the market on doodling, certifying official trainers and copyrighting doodling patterns. Longtime doodlers carried on with their doodling, never referring to what they were doing by the newly trademarked name. In our classroom, we refer to these carefully executed line patterns as ZoneDoodles. Zone – because doodling is a great way to get your head in the creative zone. Doodle – well, duh.

In a recent post (here: https://monalisaliveshere.me/2018/10/22/sketchbooks-and-zonedoodles/) I described the sketchbooks students created to help make their thinking visible, describing the ZoneDoodles they created on the cover.

Kyah Montano

Click on one image to view as a slide show:

These ZoneDoodles are created by dividing the 2 dimensional picture plane of the manila tag cover with intersecting lines that travel from the left side to right side of the page to create separate sections. Each section is then filled with repetitive line patterns with Sharpie. Color is then added with regular water-based markers to amplify the patterns. Examples of line pattern were provided as a resource for students, but only when original ideas had been temporarily exhausted. This took about two 50 minutes blocks to finish.

The gallery of student ZoneDoodles on Artsonia is here: https://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?project=1607890

Annabel Palmer

After students finished their marker-on-paper ZoneDoodles, I introduced them to the Autodesk Sketchbook app with the purpose of creating Digital ZoneDoodles. Students explored layers, brushes, and the flood fill option in Sketchbook.

Click on one image to view as a slide show:

Because these are digital images, they have a more polished, professional looks to them. The kids were very pleased. I especially enjoy how some experimented with importing images to fill sections, particularly the ramen noodles.

The gallery of student ZoneDoodles and Artists Statements on Artsonia is here: https://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?project=1610669


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Sketchbooks and ZoneDoodles

“Fostering thinking requires making thinking visible.

Thinking happens mostly in our heads, invisible to others and even to ourselves. Effective thinkers make their thinking visible, meaning they externalize their thoughts through speaking, writing, drawing, or some other method. They can then direct and improve those thoughts. Visible Thinking also emphasizes documenting thinking for later reflection.” – Ron Ritchhart and David Perkins Educational Leadership Feb2008

“You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.” – John Singer Sargent

This is the fourth year we’ve made sketchbooks in my 5/6 art classes, (after all, we are makers) because making them ourselves helps to create greater student investment in using them. In prior years, students had been asked to purchase sketchbooks as part of their school supplies. They were asked to purchase 9 x 12 sketchbooks and I provide them for those who couldn’t/didn’t buy them. This worked well when students remembered to bring them to class, which they didn’t always, and sometimes they lost them for good. That was pretty frustrating. One year I squirreled away copy paper boxes and kept them as storage bins for sketchbooks for each of my nine classes. That kept them in the classroom – no longer lost or forgotten. However, those nine boxes took up a lot of space.

In 2015, I attended a Project Zero Classroom workshop for a week in the summer. You can read my reflection on that experience here. I found myself inspired and consumed by thoughts on learning both in content and instruction, especially in comparison to what I was seeing in my school and reading about from educators across the country. I realized I was teaching in a way that guided kids through projects, which although deep in layers of content, were more project/product based than process-based. At the end of the week at Project Zero, my cohort group were assigned the summative task to come up with a headline that captured each of our take aways, or going forward goals. Throughout the week, my international group of educators had gently teased me about my Boston speech mannerisms (I can’t help it!) which ended up being captured in my headline:

Actual Headline posted on the wall at Project Zero Classroom

As I prepared for back-to-school throughout the rest of the summer, I focused on Slowing Down The Learning by developing deep and rich projects that allowed for a focus on process, whether creative, collaborative, or communicative. This is when sketchbooks became very important in my classroom.

Students use the sketchbooks for daily Creativity Sparks (bellringers), planning projects, and reflection. They use them as Discovery Logs as they progress through units. These handmade sketchbooks are an integral to the learning in our classroom.

Here is Bridget M to give a tour of her sketchbook:

Prior to teaching, I had a twenty year career in the printing industry. I well knew the process of making books, I just had to simplify it enough to ensure success for all of my students. I settled on a 16 page saddle-stitch book which would end up at 7.5″ x 11″, and fit well in the locker bins which were being discarded at school.

Here is how to make the books:

Cover stock varies year to year, from 26 x 40 sheets of actual cover stock donated by a local printer to Manilla Tag, which is what we used this year. And this is the paper I order for the text:

We call these extra-long staplers “turbo staplers”…

These steps are shown through a demonstration and are posted as a reminder…

In my school most electives teachers get all new classes in January for the start of term three, so I facilitate sketchbook making twice each year. Each time we make sketchbooks, we try out a new process for the cover artwork, including Collage, ZoneDoodles (my version of zentangle), Compass Shape Watercolor, Paper Circuits, Blown-Splatter-Drip Painting, Mandalas, and this year – Colorful ZoneDoodles, which will be shared in an upcoming post.


ZoneDoodle with metallic Sharpies

Compass Shape Watercolor

Paper Circuits

Blown (straw), Splatter, Drip Painting


Colorful ZoneDoodle






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RESPECT: One Rule Fits All

Respect is what I want from you
Respect is what I need
Respect is what I want
Respect is what I need – Otis Redding

Last week I was cleaning out the art department storage area at school and came upon the pieces from a collaborative art project from long ago – probably during the 2006/2007 school year – which I can tell only by the names of the artists still written on the back of the panels. (I love these moments when names of former students recall sweet memories from long ago).

Curious to see what kind of shape the project was in, I pulled out all the panels and except for 20 or so missing mosaic tabs/tiles, it was in great shape.

Fortunately, I had a bag of tabs left over so I easily patched the missing areas. I have a pre-service student teacher one day each week this semester, Shaina, who quickly offered to lend a hand. Once the individual 8″ squares were all set, Shaina and I laid them out in order following the grid mock-up:

There are 110 individual squares that make up the mosaic. After we had laid out the squares, we glued them in 2 columns of 5 squares each on large pieces of black tag board. I laminated the 11 large sheets, then trimmed off the excess laminate. I used a staple gun to stick them to the bulletin board. I don’t mind that it’s slightly crooked, just thrilled to have all the pieces and to be able to display them. Here is the label to explain the project:

And a few more photos:

butterflies - 1 (2)





I designed this mural as a collaborative effort for my students (7th and 8th grade at the time) so they could see the magnitude of a cooperative project – as in a “many hands make light work” sort of way. We were using a Character Education curriculum then for which the most important tenet was Respect, and I expected the large word posted on a wall in a prominent place would be impactful. Fortunately (or maybe especially right now) Respect is a timeless ideal in every situation from individual relationships with family or friends, the school community, the work place, within political discourse, and throughout a civil society.


This project was part of a deeper project about classic mosaics, art history, and architecture. For those faithful to the elements of art and principles of design, the concepts we’re utilizing here are Shape, Color (warm/cool), Contrast, and Emphasis. This would also be a good project to tie into an exploration of stained glass.


I designed the grid mock-up by shading in the block letters with orange and then numbering the squares. I then looked at each square individually on the graph paper and transferred it to the 8″ x 8″ grids  that I had photocopied using check marks to indicate where the warm color tiles should be glued. Students worked in groups of four to complete each square.

When this first hung on the board, each square was still separate – that was a lot of stapling. I suspect the laminator wasn’t operational at the time or something, because stapling 110 individual squares is just a little crazy.

These are the paper tiles we used:


I love this piece. It is colorful and vibrant and impactful with its message. My students did a fabulous job working together to bring this to life. However, it was my idea, not theirs. As I consider whether or not to do this or something similar again, I would use the creation of a large cooperative piece like this as the introduction or “hook” into a project-based learning unit or a more student-centered unit on mosaics. Once the collaborative piece is finished, I would put it out to the kids for their input on possibilities for content, images, and medium. I would like to see what they’d come up with, and I expect it would be great.




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