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End of Year Message 2020

Art is a language unto itself. Along with speaking and writing, you have inside you your own artistic voice. It is a powerful voice to harness when you really want to say something. Art can be your best friend when you’re trying to work through what’s going on in the world around you. – Alice Gentili

Today is the last day of school. A year like none other, it will require time to process and reflect upon. And that’s another post for another day. This my end-of-year message to my art students and their families:

Here is the transcript of what I said (while holding a chicken):

Hi Class –

Tomorrow marks three months since we started remote learning while quarantined. We were plugging along in mid-March, but in mid-April, we hit our stride little . At that time I introduced you to this chicken, who was then, only about a week old. This is Snowy, and next Im going to show you a picture of what she looked like back in April.

Here she is when we first got her in April, when she was about a week old.

Wasn’t she cute? She’s grown a lot since then. But so have you.

You’ve grown a lot, too. Think about the past three months and all you’ve accomplished. For some of you, remote learning has been a gift, and for others it has been a challenge, for a whole bunch of different reasons.  I’ve watched as many of you have kept up with assignments all along as others took a little longer, but eventually you caught on. I’ve watched you grow as artists, taking the steps necessary to try new things and then to stick with it until you’ve created something remarkable. And honestly, that’s what art is all about both in school and remote learning AND in life.

As for me, I’ve never spent so much time tracking student progress in our grading system as I have for the past three months. In fact, teaching art for me has never been about grades. Art making, even as I was a child, was never about grades. When we are in physical school, and you’re in class, and you’re in the art room and you’re working on projects, I can help you as things come up that you’re struggling with. And I can give you a little pat on the back when things are going really well. I see you when you’re trying to work through the distractions of the school day and class. Or not. I enjoyed coaxing you in school and sometimes pushing you to take the next step.

I never saw you at the end of the day, though, when all the classes were over and the distractions of the school day were gone. You were simply you then. And during this time of remote learning, that’s all I’ve seen. You, at home, with your family who loves you. Them taking my place coaxing you and sometimes pushing you. I am grateful to your family for all of their help.

One last thing I want to share with you is that with the arts, grades will never motivate you to do your best work. Art is a language unto itself. Along with speaking and writing, you have inside you your own artistic voice. It is a powerful voice to harness when you really want to say something. Art can be your best friend when you’re trying to work through what’s going on in the world around you.

And in just the past three months, I’ve been watching you develop your artistic voice. You, at home with your family, and me, monitoring your progress on Google Classroom. The three of us have come though this together. And if we had to do it again, I think we’d rock it.

I hope you have a wonderful summer. I thank you for your participation throughout remote learning. And fifth graders, I’ll see you next year. Sixth graders, I’ll be right next door to Mr. Hansen’s room. Don’t be a stranger.

Bye bye. Cluck cluck (bye bye in chicken talk).

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Drawing Act 150 Submissions

The first section of chapter thirty-eight of the General Statutes is hereby amended so as to include Drawing among the branches of learning which are by said section required to be taught in public schools. – Massachusetts Drawing Act of 1870

I began posting about the 150th anniversary of the Massachusetts Drawing Act on March 16, 2020, with this post: Drawing Act 150: Let’s Celebrate following a meeting with the Drawing Act Coalition that had been held the week before at the MA State House. That was the week that schools closed because of COVID-19.

Soon after, I began remote teaching my fifth and sixth grade art students. I was committed to making the Drawing Act celebration happen and led the young artists through a series of lessons focused on drawing and the Drawing Act. You can see those lessons that follow the one above here: Light on White and here: Human Made Object.

Needless to say, our focus on celebrating the Drawing Act has been diminished by remote learning and by not being able to hold a school wide art show, where visitors would have been encouraged to make a drawing to be submitted to the state wide celebration. However, everyone can still participate individually (see flyer below), and I expect to lead my students through another drawing unit in the fall, which will culminate in Drawing Act submissions. Until then, I’m still submitting some of the artworks to be included on an electronic display.

Join me in congratulating the following students, whose names are on the artworks below, artworks which are being submitted to the Drawing Act Celebration to be held at the Massachusetts State House and other locations this fall and electronically until then:

(Click on first image to see a slideshow)

Congratulations to all of these artists! If you would like to submit a drawing to the Drawing Act 150 Celebration, see the flyer here:

NEW 2020 05 Drawing Act Flyer summer edition

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The 5/6 Miscoe Hill Art Show Has Been Updated

“The artist’s job is to be a witness to her/his time in history.” – Robert Rauschenberg

The Miscoe Hill 5/6 virtual art show has been updated! I’m always proud to share the creative work of our young artists with our school and greater community. I’m especially proud to be able to share the work created by my students through remote learning in this virtual art show. Click on the photo to enter the show.

Miscoe Hill 5/6 Virtual Art Show







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Stop Motion Animation/Wk11 Remote Learning

“Animators can only draw from their own experiences of pain and shock and emotions.” – Hayao Miyazaki

We’re nearing the end of remote learning for this school year. The final assignment, Stop Motion Animation, is meant to introduce many of my students to creating animation to harness their emotions and creativity through story telling. The posted lesson:

🎬MUST: Watch the video which explains the lesson.

🎬Once you’ve watched the video, make a plan for your video. Choose the materials you want to use.

🎬Invite your family to join you in making the video, if you’d like.

🎬Open/Download Stop Motion Studio to your iPad and open.

1. Experiment with the app before you commit to start shooting a video.

2. Shoot the video (one minute maximum).

3. Select the video. Click on the sharing arrow (sharrow) to send the video to your camera roll.

4. Turn in to Google Classroom.

I held back from using iPads for learning for the first two months of remote learning to help cut down on screen time, saving them for the final few assignments instead. As always my students took full advantage of this new dimension of creativity!

Look at this Star Wars based video by Lily T – complete with sound effects and narration:

Had we worked on this project in class, students would have had a full array of action figures, cards, Scrabble tiles, keyboard keys, Alpha-Bits, modeling dough and whatever else they could find in the room to work with. During remote learning, they were restricted to whatever materials they had at home. It didn’t stop them.

I first saw this one on a Thursday night at 9:00. It made my whole day:

This imaginative story as told by Alexa L:

Alexa’s artist statement: I used some of my toys for the characters, a few to help my character move or standup and some thread to help hold something. The story of my video is there is a man and a hedgehog, the hedgehog is the king though. The man steals king hedgehogs crown so king hedgehog calls his guards which are the other animals. The other animals chase the man down and he throws the crown backwards and runs while the guards chase him. The crown lands in front of the hedgehog and he puts it back on. I really like how it came out, I like the story but I also really like how it is funny too. If I did anything differently I would maybe choose a different character for the man because it was pretty annoying to get him too stand.

And this carefully crafted heartwarming message from Caelin F:

Caelin’s artist statement: For this I chose to just ask everyone how they where doing. I did this with penny’s, a lot of penny’s. I think it came out cool, if their was no shadow in the background it would look a bit better, but over all it is good. If I could do this again I would do it on a different desk.

Another very sweet video; this one by Sierra L:

Sierra’s artist statement: For this project, I used an app called Stop Motion and I took pictures every time I moved my main character forward a few inches. My main character is an astronaut bunny, and I filmed it so that the bunny walked forward, and then turned right and walked towards the camera. Then, a sign appeared and slowly it developed and in the end had a little message written on the note. I’m very happy with how it came out and if I had to do it differently, I would maybe try to make my video a little longer.

This video is appropriate to the week during which it was created – the week of social unrest and protests in reaction to the murder of George Floyd; may he rest in peace:

Last but not least, this collaboration by brothers with drama, action, sound effects, and titles via iMovie after using the Stop Motion app:

Here is the artist statement by Mark: My stop-motion story is about a man(Bob) who is driving his truck but it breaks down right when a car was speeding around the corner and hit his car he gets out of the car and he shouts at the driver(Joe) and gets his crowbar but as he does that a upgraded little tikes hits the other car and goes flying into the air and hits the ground hard but he(Little Timmy) is okay so gets his pan and hits the guy(Fred) living in the trailer (the trailer behind Joe’s car) then Bob does a jump and destroys a piece from Joe’s car then Joe gets his dart gun and aims at him while that happening a motorcycle comes and hits the truck and does a flip and lands on the trailer, Little Timmy went to help him(Hank) up and then Bob throws dynamite and everyone runs but turns out it was a dud then Little Timmy, Bob, and Joe all started to argue, but then an air plane crashes into the wreckage then Little Timmy and the girl(Clara) helps get the pilot(Karl) out of the wreckage and Little Timmy makes a stretcher out of the wreckage and put Karl on it, and if things couldn’t get worse it does a boat with animals sailing it then every thing explodes because the dynamite was a time bomb but it turns out to be a movie with a director, a camera person, and a mic person.

And here is Fady’s artist statement: My stop-motion story is about a man who is driving his truck but it breaks down right when a car was speeding around the corner and hit his car he gets out of the car and he shouts at the driver and gets his crowbar but as he does that a upgraded little tikes hits the other car and goes flying into the air and hits the ground hard but he is okay so gets his pan and hits a guy living in the trailer (the trailer behind the car that hit the truck) then the guy getting the crowbar does a jump and destroys a piece from the guy who crashed into his truck then the guy who crashed into him gets his dart gun and aims at him while that happening a motorcycle comes and hits the truck and does a flip and lands on the trailer, the guy with the little tikes car went to help him up and then the guy with the truck throw dynamite and everyone runs but turns out it was a dud then the little tikes guy, the truck guy, and the guy who crashed into the truck all started to argue, but then an air plane crashes into the wreckage then the little tikes and the guy who crashed into the truck helps and gets him out of the wreckage and little tikes makes a stretcher out of the wreckage and put him on it, and if things couldn’t get worse it does a boat with animals sailing it then every thin explodes because the dynamite was a time bomb but it turns out to be a movie with a director, a camera person, and a mike person.(By the way there is going to be a similar one with my brother because he was helping me with the production of this stop-motion)

You can see all of the Stop Motion Videos in this gallery on Artsonia

Stop Motion Gallery

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Presenting Photography/Wk10 Remote Learning

“My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport.” — Steve McCurry

When we wrapped up our focus on drawing during week eight of remote learning, it was time for something completely different. Photography. Specifically, a look at photographic composition based on the work of photographer Steve McCurry. I chose Steve’s work for us to study because his photographs take us all around the world. Having been quarantined for over two months due to Covid-19, during a spring with a lot of rain, I was feeling as if we all would benefit from a change of scenery.

Hummingbird through my family room window

Personally, I take a lot of photos of the birds who frequent our many bird feeders. I wasn’t sure what my students regularly photographed, if they photographed, so the assignment was to take photos around the home, yard, or neighborhood:

📷MUST: Watch the video which explains the lesson.

📷Once you’ve watched the video, take a journey with your iPad, photographing things that interest you, that you’re curious about, that you enjoy. You are free to choose your own subjects to photograph, although some of you might want to take pictures:

  • From a bird’s eye view
  • From an ant’s eye view
  • Close up
  • Of a person
  • Of an animal
  • Of a quiet outdoor scene

📷Once you’ve taken 30 or so photos, open the editing tools in the Photos app. Crop them as needed to make them look good. Use the enhance wand if you’d like. Don’t overuse the filters and make them look too funky. We’re going for clear, well lighted photos.

📷Once edited, look through the photos seeking to find the Compositional Elements from the video:

1. Rule of Thirds

2. Leading Lines

3. Diagonal Lines

4. Framing

5. Figure to Ground

6. Fill the Frame

7. Center Dominant eye

8. Patterns and Repetition

9. Symmetry

📷Choose six photos and label them with the Compositional Elements that apply, using the text mark-up tool in the editing platform of the Photos app.

My students have iPads as we are a 1:1 school, so cameras were readily on hand. We are also a Google Suite school, so all instruction and turning in of assignments is through Google Classroom. I had shown my students how to use the mark-up tool in the Photos app on the iPad to add text to a photo for a few earlier remote learning assignments, so they were all set with that.

During live sessions on Google Meet that week, we looked at Steve McCurry’s Curated Collections on his website. The landing page features his most recent curated collection and you can see the others by clicking “older posts” at the bottom. I captured one very rewarding session with fifth grade student, Alyssa, in this video:

The kids did a great job with this project, so the next week assignment (Week 10 Remote Learning) was to present their photographs with an Adobe Spark Page. Here are the Google Classroom instructions:

🖼MUST: Watch the video which explains the lesson.

🖼Once you’ve watched the video, delete the captions from the 6 photos you turned in last week. If you didn’t do the photography part, it’s not too late. See the assignment “Photographic Composition” below in the class stream.

🖼Open/Download Adobe Spark Page to your iPad and open.

Add a:

1. Title with your first name and last initial

2. Cover photo

3. Your 6 photos in a photo grid.

4. Artist statement as caption to your photo grid.

5. Final photo with/without caption.

🖼Generate a link to your project and copy.

🖼Upload link to this assignment.

And right away, the Spark Pages started coming in. The week after they had been submitted, I uploaded the links to a Padlet.

Presenting Photography Padlet

I could have had the kids upload to padlet, but we had already included a lot of new technologies, and I was afraid the additional upload would have been too much. I love seeing them all in one place. I hope you’ll take a look through the pages and I hope you enjoy them!


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Drawing Act150/Human Made Object/Wk8 Remote Learning

“The teacher showed us how to see proportions, relationships, light and shadow, negative space, and space between space – something I never noticed before! In one week, I went from not knowing how to draw to sketching a detailed portrait. It literally changed the way I see things” Daniel H. Pink

This post features the work of my fifth and sixth grade art students who have been exploring drawing through lessons primarily derived from the Drawing Instruction manuals of 1872 by Walter Smith, which he developed to guide educators after the establishment of the Drawing Act of 1870. May 13, 2020, marks the 150th anniversary of the Drawing Act of Massachusetts.

Lizzy S

This is the third of three posts about our work with Drawing Instruction as defined by Walter Smith. I recommend the reader (that’s you!) begin by reading Drawing Act 150: Let’s Celebrate followed by Drawing Act 150/Light on White/Wk 7 Remote Learning before reading this post. This post, Drawing Act 150/Human Made Object//Wk 8 Remote Learning, showcases the culmination of the exploration of contour, light, and shading for my students. Their artworks from this post and our online gallery at Artsonia will be emailed as digital artworks to be included in the statewide celebration. Everyone from across the state is invited to participate in this event:

NEW 2020 05 Drawing Act Flyer summer edition

The assignment for this final phase of the project, Human Made Object, called for students to choose a human made, manufactured object from around the house to draw. These are the instructions they read in Google Classroom:

✍️Once you’ve watched the video, choose a human made, manufactured object from around the house. Set it on a white surface and illuminate it with a flashlight or lamp.

✍️Sketch the edges/outlines of the object. Add a grayscale at the top or bottom or on another sheet of paper if you forgot to leave room.

✍️Add shading to your drawing making sure you find areas in the human made object that correspond to every section of your gray scale.

✍️Blend with a tissue or soft paper if you choose.

✍️Erase any extraneous marks. Use your eraser to bring back the bright white areas.

✍️Take a photo of the page to include only the sketch, no background, no grayscale. Crop these out if they are included.

✍️Type your first name and last initial using the Mark-Up option in the regular iPad photo editing tools. See how-to links in earlier assignments.

Still of lesson video

Had we been at school rather than in our homes with remote learning, students would have had charcoal pencils, kneaded erasers, blending stomps, as well  as Yours Truly looking over their shoulders offering suggestions and demonstrating technique as needed, AND providing reminders about how to photograph artwork, I expect the final drawings would have blown our socks off. However, given that was not the situation and my students were working with #2 pencils and tissues for blending on paper on hand, these young artists knocked it out of the park! (But then again, they always do!) See for yourself (click on a drawing to view as a slide show):

I’ve documented our process with this project for myself as well as art educators across Massachusetts who would like to celebrate the Drawing Act 150th anniversary by submitting student drawings. These were my plans based on the resources I gathered. Feel free to use as much of this as you’d like and to tweak it to make it your own great fit for your demographic of students.

I had planned to have a drawing table set up at our spring art show where visitors could create a drawing to submit to the celebration. Because of school closure due to Covid-19, that didn’t happen. I look forward to doing this again in the fall, maybe even in physical school, and will reach out at that time for submissions from the community. I’m really glad to have had this trial run, even as remote learning. It has given me a good sense of how my students will respond (eagerly) when I facilitate this again. I am looking forward to celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Massachusetts Drawing Act of 1870 with a lot of artwork and a whole lot of people in the future!


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DrawingAct150/Light on White/Wk 7 Remote Learning

“There is strong shadow where there is much light.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

For the past two weeks, we’ve been looking at the way light falls on an object and trying to capture it in a drawing with pencil on paper.

Our focus on drawing is directly influenced by the celebration of the Massachusetts Drawing Act of 1870 and the opportunity to submit drawings to a statewide celebration. You can read all about the Drawing Act in this post from March 16, 2020: Drawing Act 150: Let’s Celebrate. At the time of the post, we had just been released from school for what we thought was a two week quarantine due to the rise in incidents of Covid-19. Since then, schools have been closed through the end of the school year. Despite this shift, the Drawing Act Coalition, with the leadership of House Representative Mary Keefe (Worcester) and MassArt Chief of Staff Susana Segat, continues to meet to entertain ways to adapt, revise, and continue the celebration. At this time, entries are still being accepted via email. Because my students have school iPads at home, the Drawing Act unit is still viable. And so we soldier on.

For a couple of weeks, early in the time of remote learning, students copied the drawings of Walter Smith, who (literally) wrote the book on drawing instruction. This is the video I released to students to introduce the lesson and share information about the Drawing Act and Walter Smith: Drawing Instruction

At that point, ALL assignments were optional, so I know not all students participated in the lesson, although many did. Here are a few examples of the work that was submitted:

We took a break from the Drawing Act unit during Week 5 of remote learning – the week before April vacation – to lighten things up with the Make A Chicken project. Once we returned from vacation (staycation) and were energized and ready to get back to the business of drawing, I shared the skill builder lesson video with my students for How to Draw and Shade a Sphere. In teaching remotely, we are limited to the assign/submit method of instruction rather than the casual over-the-shoulder glance at student artwork during class in the physical classroom. We also have limited opportunities for communication. Normally, in a unit such as this one on Drawing, kids would enter the classroom and take sketchbooks from the class bins, read a prompt on the white board and start sketching. This is when those over-the-shoulder glances are so important, both as checks for understanding and as formative assessments. Then we’d move on to direct instruction in the form of a 5 minute demo with the document camera while all looked on. It’s at that point, currently, where remote learning begins, without the benefit of the “bell ringer” or warm up exercise. The video above replaces the 5 minute demo in remote learning, except it isn’t in person AND there’s no “ask me a question” opportunity. Despite the physical disconnect, my students did well with the assignment. Some chose to blend with a tissue or their fingers. Here are two of the 100+ spheres turned in to the Draw and Shade a Sphere assignment:

During week seven of remote learning, I shared the video Light On White  as an introduction to the lesson. The goal was for students to explore the way light falls on a white surface and the grays that are created by multiple geometric planes receiving the light at different angles. As you can see in the video, I offered the idea of folding paper with origami and sketching it, or randomly folding paper and sketching a less organized subject. I wanted it to be open to individual creativity (always) while exposing all students to the concepts of value, shading, and light. As you can see in the artwork below, there is a nice range of organized and random paper foldings. You can also view these artworks on Artsonia here. If you click on one of the photos below, you can view the gallery as a slideshow.

During the week that my students were working on this project, I invited them to join me for a half hour virtual class to fold paper with origami. Electives class live sessions are optional in our district, so I was happy to some have kids attend the sessions. Although I originally invited them to make paper cranes or to show me how to make something, I came across an easy way to make Baby Yoda with origami.

That option met with universal approval. We had a lot of laughs and bantered back and forth, yet made some pretty sweet Baby Yodas!



Make A Chicken Project/Wk 5 Remote Learning

“Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.” – Aesop

Because if you do, surely you will have underestimated. Both the quantity and quality of the Make A Chicken project assignment far exceeded my expectations for my art students in grades 5 and 6 at Miscoe Hill School, in Mendon, MA. Three key events came together as I assigned this project on April 13:

  • My husband and I had added eight chicks to our little farm on April 8. They were precious and sweet and truly brought much needed joy to our lives as we quarantined due to COVID19
  • On Facebook, I had seen the work of Massachusetts College of Art and Design Professor Chuck Stigliano and his students as they responded to his Chicken Challenge assignment: https://www.facebook.com/MassArtBoston/posts/10157789254776201
  • My school district was set to enjoy a school vacation from April 20-24. As we entered our 5th week of remote learning on April 13, I wanted to assign something cheerful and engaging to be accomplished with found materials already at home.

Patrick C

As we approached the fifth week of remote learning, I still hadn’t seen or heard from about half of my 196 students. Families were adjusting to learning at home and the many challenges they were suddenly confronting. Students weren’t yet sure what their responsibilities were and it was a nebulous time for many. I had been pushing out simple drawing tasks along with a weekly wellness check-in, where I asked students to send a photo or short video of themselves or what they were doing to pass the time to share with the rest of the class. I would upload the photos and videos to Animoto and create a weekly video to share via Google Classroom and as an unlisted video on my Youtube channel. More students participated in this weekly check-in than with the weekly drawing assignments. After a few weeks, my district shifted from “practice” and “optional” assignments to “regular” assignments and participation grew immediately.

During the week of April 13, I pushed out the Make A Chicken assignment with an introductory video:

I fielded questions throughout the week and shared creations on social media as they came in. It was a daily delight to look at the fun submissions to Google Classroom. And curating chickens for publication became my morning focus.

Liam F

That week, students were also asked to complete a survey about the art materials they had at home. As it turns out, many did not have colored pencils, chalk, crayons, or paint. The only items 100% of my students had at home were pencils, paper, and scissors. The Make A Chicken project allowed for everyone to create and create they did! Here are just some of the chickens that were submitted (you can click on a photo and view the collection as a slideshow):

In all, about 160 hand-crafted chickens were submitted. Some are shared above, and I’m happy to add that you can see these chickens and more on Artsonia in our Make A Chicken gallery: https://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?project=1981037

My principal, Jennifer Mannion, was inspired to Make A Chicken and I was delighted to find this image in my email one day:

Jennifer Mannion, Principal, Miscoe Hill School

How creative is that?

And it just kept happening that people from all aspects of my life shared their chickens with me! This is the absolutely magical thing about the Make A Chicken project! For the first time in all my years of facilitating art making in school and sharing artwork via social media, this project is the first that knew no boundaries. Art teachers reached out to me for the lesson and family and friends across the United States shared chickens with me that they had made. Here is a special gallery of “affiliate” Make A Chicken submissions:

Sarah G of New Boston, NH – Granddaughter


Nellie M of Denver, CO – Great niece

Julia G of New Boston, NH – Granddaughter

Jayne M of Somerville, MA – Sister in Law

Pam S of Bridgewater, MA – Second Cousin

Penny S of Raynham – First cousin once removed (my father’s cousin)

My father’s cousin, Penny Sawyer, not only shared the quilted chicken (above) with me, she shared the story of the original quilt maker, Barbara LaFlamme. Barbara was a friend of Penny’s who I had also spent time with visiting quilt shows with Penny and my mom. Barbara passed away after a long illness in June 2019. When Penny introduced us, she knew we would enjoy each other’s company because Barbara was a former teacher, retiring after 30 years of teaching art. In her spare time she enjoyed quilting and crafting. And indeed we did enjoy each other’s company, especially when Penny and Barbara would drive up to visit the Thimble Pleasure quilt show at Blackstone Valley Tech with my mother and me. The photo below is from a visit to my home after the quilt show, apparently around St. Patrick’s Day, 2018:

When Barbara’s family was going through her home after her passing, they found some unfinished quilts, including a collection of chicken squares. As Barbara and Penny often worked together (at least conspiratorially) on quilts, Barbara’s family gave Penny the unfinished quilts.  Penny took the chicken squares and sewed them together to make this beautiful quilt:

Barbara and Penny’s Chicken Quilt

I especially enjoy the stitched sayings around the edges(Penny) and the incredibly detailed stitchery and beadwork on the individual squares (Barbara):

I’m grateful to the Make A Chicken project for taking on a life of it’s own as I stumbled through the middle weeks of COVID19 enforced Remote Learning. I have enjoyed sharing the creations across social media where I believe they were enjoyed by all. As we go forward into the final six weeks of remote learning, I’m focused on maintaining the joy, creativity, and humor the Make A Chicken project fostered. I thank everyone for participating and once again thank Chuck Stigliano for the idea. Thanks for reading, “peeps”:

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5&6 Art Show at the Miscoe Hill EXPO 2020

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Before quarantine, tonight I would have hosted the annual Art Show at the #Miscoe Hill EXPO for my 5&6th gr art students & their families. Believing exhibition is important for young artists, I created a virtual show via ThingLink and my students and I would be honored if you could attend. Simply click on the photo below to get to the virtual art show. Once there, click on the targets to view the artwork and read project descriptions. Thank you for viewing! Enjoy!

Click on the photo to go to the show


“Do You Feel The Vibes?” Art Club Interactive Bulletin Board

“Do you feel the vibes?”

In October 2019, the Miscoe Hill 5/6 Art Club created an interactive bulletin board to represent emotions through paintings and music. They traced each other in positions that represent the emotions they were trying to convey and then used tempera paint on cardboard to fill the tracings in with color. They then selected musical compositions from around the world and tied them to each figure with a link via QR code. The mural was designed and executed by the Art Club members from vision through QR codes.

Left half of the interactive mural

Right half of the interactive mural

Center section

Art Club


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At Home With The Every Day Drawing Challenge

Happy Saturday! I’m happy you can join me for this presentation! Please feel free to add comments below the video. I’ll respond just as soon as I can!

Thank you for coming!



Drawing Act 150: Let’s Celebrate

“Drawing depends upon two faculties – understanding and taste; skill being the result of practice or experience. It is of the utmost consequence that the first faculty should be developed in harmony with the second.” – Walter Smith

Massachusetts Drawing Act of 1870

This May we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Massachusetts Drawing Act. On May 16, 1870 legislators in Massachusetts signed into law “An Act Relating to Free Instruction in Drawing”, also know as Massachusetts Drawing Act of 1870.

The Massachusetts Drawing Act of 1870 is regarded as a benchmark in the history of American education. With ratification of this legislation, Massachusetts became the first state to mandate drawing education in its public schools, thus placing drawing alongside eight other subjects required in Massachusetts public schools during the late-nineteenth century. These subjects were orthography (the study of spelling and word structure), reading, writing, English grammar, geography, arithmetic, the history of the United States, and good behavior.* (Richardson & Sanger, 1860, p.215)

Drawing Act 150 Celebration

The Representative’s Conference Room at the MA State House

In my position as Advocacy Liaison for the Massachusetts Art Education Association, I was invited to a meeting at the Massachusetts State House on February 13 to discuss a possible statewide celebration for the anniversary of the Drawing Act. State Representative Mary Keefe (Worcester) and Massachusetts College of Art Chief of Staff, Susana Segat, worked together with their staff to pull together a group of collaborators from various arts affiliates to be known as The Drawing Act Coalition*. Together we developed a celebration called Drawing Act 150, to be celebrated at the State House in May*. All of the information can be found here:


A PDF of this flyer can be found here: Drawing Act 150 call for art 2020

Please note: Keeping in mind that schools have recently been closed throughout Massachusetts until at least April 7, our plans for the Drawing Act 150 celebration may change. I will update this post when that happens.

MAEA Drawing At School 1870-2020 Exhibit

In conjunction with the State House observation and celebration of the anniversary of the Drawing Act, the Massachusetts Art Education Association is hosting an exhibit at the State Transportation Building in Boston at the end of April. All details and registration for this exhibit can be found here:

Note: Again, should exhibit plans be altered by current school closings, I will update the information.

Walter Smith, Art Master

In order to facilitate implementation of programming for the then new Drawing Act, Massachusetts hired Walter Smith of England to serve as the State Director of Art Education. Smith was also named General Supervisor of Drawing in the Boston Public Schools. The first order of business was for Smith to develop a program of study in drawing and to create resources for classroom teachers to use as they instructed students in drawing.

“What we are trying to do in our lessons is to make the children know how to draw, not how to make drawings, and I hope you see the distinction. And the great reason for them to draw is, that the process of drawing make ignorance visible; it is a criticism made by ourselves on our perceptions, and give physical evidence that we either think rightly or wrongly, or even do not think at all.”* – Walter Smith

Walter Smith authored several books about drawing instruction, and over the past few months, I have acquired a few of them through eBay and abebooks. I am especially pleased to have acquired an original 1872 edition of The Teachers’ Companion to the American Drawing-Slates and Cards by Smith.


Original 1872 edition

To add to the excitement, the book is inscribed by J.W.C. Gilman to Lucas Baker on November 17, 1872.

It also includes these notes on the otherwise blank first page of the text:

And there are margin sketches throughout the book presumably made by Lucas Baker. I love that!

I was able to find the book through the digitizing of library books by Google. I downloaded the book, cleaned up the digitizing by discarding sloppy scans, added a copy of the cover, and uploaded it to my drive. you can see the book and download it in its entirety here.

In researching J.W.C Gilman, I learned that he is a co-author of Manual of Freehand Penmanship published in 1877. I was also able to find this book through the digitizing of library books by Google. You can see and download the book in its entirety here.


Drawing Cards

I have an especially keen interest in the Drawing Cards (see more about the Drawing Cards below). I am curious how my fifth and sixth grade students would respond to learning to draw this way. With that in mind, I isolated the Drawing Card images throughout the book and compiled them in a new document to share with my students. The collection of Drawing Cards can be found here.

Drawing card

As the Drawing Act was instrumental in establishing art education in public schools, it is understood that teachers of the lower grades taught all subjects, spending the full day with their students. Therefore, whether or not the teachers possessed an ability of their own, they had to learn how to draw well enough to demonstrate for their students.

Teachers carefully made the drawings on a blackboard, and students imitated them using chalk on slates. Walter Smith’s recommendation was for drawing instruction four times per week of a half an hour each or six of twenty minutes each for children under 10 years of age. Older students could have longer, less frequent lessons.

From The Teachers’ Companion to the American Drawing-Slates and Cards

Drawing Slates 2020

Because I now have the document containing all of Walter Smith’s Drawing Slates from The Teachers’ Companion to the American Drawing-Slates and Cards, I will be sharing it with my students through Google Classroom. Imagine how Walter Smith would react to that! I am going to encourage my students to follow the sequence of the cards and to draw in their handmade sketchbooks using pencil. I am excited to hear how they respond to the challenge and to see their drawings. here are some more of the Drawing Card images:

Passion Project

When I first heard about a celebration of the Drawing Act, I was immediately interested. It wasn’t until I started researching the act and those who implemented instruction that I realized I had included a paragraph about the Drawing Act in my Master’s thesis back in 2002! No wonder it was so familiar to me!


Master of Education in Art Thesis

For the past few months I have been busy searching out resources and reading the books I’ve acquired. This has become a bit of a passion project for me. Along with the digital books with links included in this post, I have physical copies of a few others:

At this point in the process I am ready to attempt the drawings along with my students. I am looking forward to starting my own sketchbook of drawings and promise to share as I go. I’ll be posting on social media with the hashtag #DrawingAct150 Please join me!

* Notes courtesy of Billy Claire

*The Drawing Act Coalition affiliates include Massachusetts House of Representatives, MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, MA Department of Higher Education, Mass Creative, Mass Cultural Council, Massachusetts Art Education Association

*See notes above about possible changes due to state mandated school closings


Sketchbook Cover Constellations

“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.” –  Stephen Hawking

Creating constellations on sketchbook covers and editing images for presentation

Sketchbook Covers

We started a new semester (2 terms) on January 23. After making folders to hold artwork for the next few months, we made sketchbooks as we do each term. You can read about the why and how of sketchbooks in my program here. This time, we used a dark blue tag board for the covers. As we had used oil pastels on the first semester covers, I wanted to expose the kids to a different, highly visible medium – metallic Sharpies, and wanted to integrate another subject – science/social studies – so decided to explore constellations.

Marker racks made with 2×4 and drill press

For resources, I provided packets of constellations along with images of city skylines at each table. The students first sketched constellations from the packets in their sketchbooks and experimented with drawing skylines after being encouraged to create their own unique city skylines. I also showed a 5 minute video from BrainPop about constellations and the myths and stories they represent. Once the students had mastered replicating 4 traditional constellations, they were encouraged to create their own constellations to represent themselves or the contemporary world around them. Seeing their inventions was my favorite part.

When they felt ready after growing their confidence by practicing with the materials on scrap cover stock, students opened their sketchbooks to draw on both the front and back covers and sketched everything with white colored pencil, which showed up better than regular pencil. Once they had filled the space to their liking, they added silver Sharpie for the stars and window light, gold to outline the constellations, and bronze for the buildings. Creative constraints included: at least 4 traditional constellations, at least 4 invented constellations, a skyline with windows, and stars to fill the voids. They did a fantastic job!

Editing Images with iOS 

We are a 1:1 iPad school, and as such, students have tremendous technological capabilities, although sometimes the bast options are the simplest. The editing tools within the iOS Photos app have recently been updated, allowing for a big range of editing options that incorporate traditional photography terms such as exposure, highlights, shadows, saturation, etc. Many of my fifth and sixth grade students have never experimented with the editing options and this project was perfect for editing. I demonstrated the tools on my own example for each class, focusing primarily on cropping, highlights, contrast, and vibrance.

My edited example

Students edited their images before uploading them to Artsonia. They also created Artist Statements.

Artist Statements

While I enjoy watching my students develop their art skills and master visual art concepts and I think I know them through observation and conversation, I am always pleased to get to know them even better through their writing. I downloaded the following student work and copied the accompanying artist statements, resisting the urge to edit typos and spelling/grammar issues. I hope you enjoy them:

Alesandria Carneiro

I made some zodiac signs and some things that inspire/inspired me. Such as dogs, smiley faces,rainbows, Kobe Bryant’s Jersey, ballet shoes and much more.I feel ok with it, because I think I could have drew everything better and line up the actual sketch book better. But I really like the lighting, because it looks like a real city at night. I used it out of sharpies, my sketch book, and best of all, my skillz! I really really love art because it inspires me to put my imagination onto my work. I’m getting better at it each day. This scene is supposed to be things that I love as stars in a night sky, in a city. I hope it’s amazing!! – Alesandria Carneiro

Savannah Carr

This is a night sky with lots of constellations and different stars.The constellations that I made up show what things I like. Like, sports, vacations, and personality. I also drew zodiac signs to represent may best friends. This scene makes me feel happy because I see all the things I enjoy. – Savannah Carr

Lyla Hill

I drew this because I thought that it represented me the most. The one I like the most is the wave because during the summer me and my family love going to the beach. It was a little challenging because I did not really think that I was going to think of my own constellations. – Lyla Hill

Samantha Crotty

This project was really fun to do because I really like using sharpies I think it made it look a lot batter and pop out. The constellations I did all have a meaning. The sun means a lot to me because I really like warm weather because I do a lot of camps with my friends and it’s really fun. – Samantha Crotty

Adam Hanna

This was very harsh because I had to be neat. It was also hard because if u mess up u can not erase it. The easy part was drawing down stars. – Adam Hanna

Nick Martin

These are constellations on my sketch book cover. I have an American flag, a truck, a wrench, a Little Dipper and Big Dipper, a bear, my initials and a cross. First I drew everything in white pencil and then I did everything in sharpie. – Nick Martin

Kayleigh Fountain

This project was so fun. I got to see a bunch of constellations that I’ve never seen before. And I even got to make up some of my own. All of the dots were silver, all of the windows and buildings were bronze, and the outline of the constellations were gold. – Kayleigh Fountain

Colton Kelly

First I made all my constellations in my sketch book. Then I put them on my sketchbook cover in white colored pencil. Next I made the building to make it look like a city scene too. Then I traced the white colored pencil with gold and bronze and it came out like this! – Colton Kelly

Kaycie Gardner

I made up some constellations then I copied some real ones and drew some stars and a sky line. – Kaycie Gardner

Bridget LaRue

I really like my artwork. I think it turned out good. If I were to change something I would make my Spongebob better and neater. I like the way my minion turned out. I think I would also add another tiny constellation in the right hand corner. – Bridget LaRue

Sarah LeClaire

I started with sketching 4 or more different constellations and a few of my own on a scrap paper. Then I drew the sky line with white colored pencil, after I traced it with sharpie on my cover. I started by drawing the moon. Then I tried to fill in as much space as I could with different constellations. I drew stars around my folder to look more like a sky. – Sarah LeClaire

Ayden Joseph

This artwork’s difficulty was mediocre. I do not think it was too hard, but it was not easy. I had a lot of fun doing this art project. – Ayden Joseph

All of these artworks and many more have been posted by the artists on Artsonia for your viewing pleasure: https://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?project=1948114

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Winter Scenes

“I got all my boyhood in vanilla winter waves around the kitchen stove.” – Jack Kerouac

Yesterday was March 1. Spring is just 17 days away. Yet, except for cold air, it hasn’t felt or looked very wintery around here. Fortunately, my fifth and sixth grade art students can create winter from memory and their imaginations.

Baby Yoda’s Christmas by Christopher Goodwin

My drawing is Baby Yoda’s Christmas. He is warm next to his campfire and has 3 big presents. He is enjoying his time by eating cookies. Baby Yoda is inside of a mouse hole for his house. I started out by drawing presents because at first I just wanted to fill my page with Christmas stuff. I wanted to draw Baby Yoda and ended up giving him a little home. I thought it would be funny to make him be in a mouse hole. I am extremely happy on how this came out and hope I draw this good in the future. If I did it again I would not change anything because I love it the way it is. – Christopher Goodwin

We started our third term on January 23. This is the day when the middle school students switch electives and I receive nine new classes. We always start by making folders to hold artwork and works in progress throughout our two terms together.

The folders are made by folding an 18″ x 24″ sheet of 60 lb. drawing paper in half to 12″ x 18″. Students then measure and draw a 10″ square, centered on the front page. This term’s theme or prompt was “Draw something winter” with the added instruction, “whatever that means to you”. As you’ll see below, the kids had no trouble coming up with winter memories and experiences and depicting them in colored pencil.

All of these artworks plus many, many more are on display on our online Artsonia gallery and each is accompanied by an artist statement like the one about Baby Yoda’s Christmas above. You can see them here: Winter Scenes

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Youth Art Month 2020 5/6 Artists

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” – Michelangelo

It is my pleasure to announce the artworks and artists for this year’s Boston Youth Art Month show!

YAM collage

Top l to r: Brynn DiAnni, Molly Dishington, Connor Downing Bottom l to r: Andrew Brown, Kaycie Gardner, Jayden Lilburn, Ella Martin, Emerson Boissonneault, Owen Kerr

The Massachusetts Art Education Association sponsored Youth Art Month exhibit will be on display from February 10 – March 26 at the MA State Transportation Building, 10 Park Plaza, Boston. Viewing hours are from 9-5 Monday through Friday except Presidents Day. There will be hundreds of artworks from across Massachusetts on display in observation of the nationwide celebration of Youth Art Month.

Here is more information and a closer look at the art:

Brynn ‘s Penguins

Brynn designed this penguin scene as part of the Cardboard Creatures 3D design project. The penguins and igloo were designed in Morphi app on an iPad. They were printed on a New Matter ModT 3D printer and painted with acrylic paint.

Brynn’s Penguins

This is what they look like as models in the slicing app, Astroprint:

And here is how Brynn and her team first created the penguin with cardboard:

Cardboard Penguin

And how Brynn envisioned an environment for them using the Autodesk Sketchbook app:

Molly’s Digital Reimagined Book Cover

Molly created this digital artwork as an extension to the Reimagined Book Cover project. Students were encouraged to translate this project digitally using their choice of either Canva or Vanilla Pen for the graphic design component. They then did some “appsmashing” by creating drawings in Autodesk Sketchbook to import to the graphic design layout. This extension brought the creativity to a new level.

See Molly’s painted Reimagined Book Cover below:

Connor’s Digital Space Scene

First created as a cover for Connor’s sketchbook using oil pastel on purple tag board, he took the design to a digital level with his Digital Space Scene. You can see as you look at the two images, certain components remained while others changed or were added.

Digital Space Scene

Oil Pastel Space Scene Sketchbook Cover

Andrew’s 3D Designed Bird

Andrew designed his 3D model to replicate his group’s Cardboard Creature.

The 3D model was the third phase of the project, to design a model for 3D printing using Morphi app. Phase two was to use the Cardboard Creature as the subject of a video using green screen techniques. The final phase was 3D design superimposed on a photographic environment, which Andrew had no trouble envisioning, as you can see here:

Kaycie, Jayden, Ella, and Emerson’s Cardboard Creature

This group worked well together from sketch through 3D model as they brought to life their vision of the Princess Pig, Carla.

They worked hard to explore attachments beyond the glue gun and their Cardboard Creature (including the tutu) continues to stand strong with their effective solutions.

3D Model

Initial Sketch

Owen’s Reimagined Book Cover

The Reimagined Book Cover project was an opportunity to connect art students with reading and imagination. You can read more about the project here. Owen responded well to reimagining the illustrations for the book with his carefully wrought painting, readily grasping the art of lettering, and using it to emphasize the title while differentiating the sub-title with size.

Should you see any of these artists in school or in the community, please congratulate them on setting their aim high and reaching it with their fine artwork! If you find yourself in Boston during Youth Art Month, stop by and see the show!


Reimagined Book Covers

“The illustrations in picture books are the first paintings most children see, and because of that, they are incredibly important. What we see and share at that age stays with us for life.” – Anthony Browne

Over the past few weeks, my fifth and sixth grade art classes have been reimagining book covers for their favorite books. We started by creating lists of up to ten books that had secured a place in our memories either through the story told, the images on the pages, or both. We then shared our lists and engaged in conversation with each other about the books. This activity will go down as one of my favorite moments this school year. I enjoyed the lively conversations, the reminiscing about early childhood stories, about memories derived from time spent being read to and learning to read at home and at school.

As book chatter filled the classroom, I couldn’t stop my own nostalgia for read aloud moments as a child and later as a parent and teacher. My mother had been a first grade teacher before she started her our family and relished read alouds. Many of my seven siblings and I would gather together around my mother on the couch or floor to listen to a story.

When there were only five of us. I’m on my mother’s lap.

I especially remember these moments happening when one of us was sick and the house was more quiet than usual. Our books of choice were usually selected from our many Golden Books, which were both inexpensive and fairly predictable in content. Affordability was key with a large family in the 1960s.

My two sisters and I had one particular favorite, Three Little Horses by Piet Worm, 1958, which we read over and over together and acted out with our farm animals, Barbie (and Scooter and Ken) dolls, and our brothers’ Tonka trucks.

We took turns “being” the different horses, identified by color *, although I remember being Blackie most often. Oddly enough, all these years later, we have three alpacas in the same array of color on our little farm. And I’m the one who chose them from hundreds of alpacas when I purchased them for my husband for Christmas several years ago. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this was probably not a coincidence. Here they are in our photo from this year’s holiday card:

No, alpacas don’t have antlers.

As a former regular education teacher in third then fourth grade, I know kids love books and I’m always amazed by the effect a good story has on them. Read alouds unite and sometimes divide, leading to thoughtful and passionate discussion, ihich is what happened when my students made their lists of favored books and then shared them at their table. Such rich discussion!

Reimagined Book Covers

The next step was to choose one of the books and try to rethink the illustrations (if there were illustrations). Students who chose chapter books had a chance to fully invent the drawings. Students who chose picture books had to first remember the illustrations enough to change them completely. Imagine the Cat in the Hat without his tall red & white striped hat! As one child in class said, “He could be wearing a fedora!” Indeed.

After preliminary drawings and some demonstrations by me on block lettering and margins (yes, a little math integration) once students’ planning drawings were approved, they took a sheet of 11 x 17 chipboard and began ruling it up for the book cover. I find my students have little exposure to learning typography, yet they attempt it regularly on posters for their other subjects.

The next demonstration was on painting with this medium. We used tempera cakes for the paint and Sharpie as an outliner where needed. Rather than mixing colors on a palette, the challenge was to create new colors by layering different colors. For instance, blue plus orange and a little white  = sand color.

Layering paint rather than mixing it

The covers took a while to create (about 6 classes), but I think you’ll agree that the time spent was worthwhile.

Here are just twenty-four of the book covers, which are on display in the school lobby. The artist of each Reimagined Book Cover is identified in the lower right hand corner. Click on the first photo to see them all in a slideshow. Fabulous!

All the rest of the Reimagined Book Covers are on display at Artsonia here. Please stop by the Miscoe Hill lobby and the virtual gallery to see all the work!

Digital Reimagined Book Covers

Many students were able to translate this project digitally using their choice of either Canva or Vanilla Pen for the graphic design component. They then did some “appsmashing” by creating drawings in Autodesk Sketchbook to import to the graphic design layout. This extension brought the creativity to a new level.

These fantastic digital artworks can be viewed on Artsonia here.


I’m so glad we did this project for so many reasons. As I mentioned before, I loved the conversation about books the project generated. I loved that every student could arrive at a favorite book without resistance or hesitation. I enjoyed integrating literature  into the art curriculum in a meaningful way. Lastly, the personalization of this project that builds on the interests of the child makes it an empowering platform for self-expression.

Admittedly, sustained work like this can be a challenge for fifth and sixth grade art students who are typically accustomed to one or two class directed projects. Aside from the required use of typography, margins, and the skill set of mixing color by layering, the only other creative constraint was the 11 x 17 chipboard. Students were able to choose the orientation for their book cover and 99% chose portrait orientation. The ruling up of the board was also challenging, with many students possessing only rudimentary ruler skills. I did a lot of ruler holding while the kids traced and also reminded them to measure from the end of the ruler (zero), not the one inch mark.

In a sustained project like this, success skills abound, including perseverance, design thinking, taking time to plan, problem solving, ideating, reimagination, and critical thinking. Technology skills include learning to photograph artwork in a rectangular form (not a trapezoid), editing, and uploading. Students also wrote reflective Artist Statements on Artsonia.

On personal level, I had read many of the books as a third and fourth grade classroom teacher, but certainly not all of them. Thanks to this project, I’ve added to my reading list.

*  Three Little Horses was written in 1958. Had it been written today, the names “Blackie, Brownie, and Whitey” would not be acceptable due to keen and justified attention to racism. Please know that when my sisters and I enjoyed the book in our childhood, the horses names were simply the colors of their coats.

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Cardboard Creatures – Phase Three – Design for 3D Printing

“There are 3D people stuck in a 2D world” – Katherine Douglas, Choice-Based Art Education in the Classroom (TAB), (Douglas & Jaquith, 2018)

“…especially in school art classes.” – Mona Lisa Lives Here

I am blessed with a son who participated fully in an entire childhood filled with art making experiences, from extra-curricular classes I offered at our school or other schools after school or workshops I ran during the summer. He willingly explored all mediums, and although he never really claimed to be a good artist, he did some pretty awesome work. He was a LEGO guy early on and could build and construct with pretty much any material. As a matter of fact, one time in middle school, he and a few friends received thirteen break detentions for each of the plastic forks they used to construct a model of the sun from an unwanted apple at lunch, using 3 for the tripod stand and 10 poked in all the way around the middle for the rays.

While I’m not condoning wasting an apple or the plastic forks, I do know this sort of activity fit my son’s nature and interests. I think it’s because of this, the quote above by Katherine Douglas resonated with me at TABweek in the summer of 2017. As a child, my son was a 3D maker in a 2D world. I believe many of my students think in 3D and lack opportunities to exercise that propensity.

In this post I’ll share the recent work of my students who were introduced to 3D modeling a few weeks ago. They had hand-crafted Cardboard Creatures, which were then used to star in stop motion/green screen animation videos. The Cardboard Creatures were also used as models for 3D design. This is the last of the three posts about the Cardboard Creature project. The first post – about Phase One – Making the Cardboard Creatures is here. The second – about the stop motion/green screen videos starring the Cardboard Creatures is here.

It has been six years since I started exploring the artistic creation potential for 3D printing in the classroom. When a grant opportunity (from MakerBot and DonorsChoose) presented itself in November 2013, I jumped in quickly and it was funded within 24 hours. 3D Printing in the art room (outside the engineering lab) was unheard of in 2013. However, I could immediately see its potential in my middle school art room because I had students who were 3D thinkers just like my son.

2013 MiscoeMakerCrew

Initially I formed an after-school group of students (the MiscoeMakerCrew) to learn this new technology with me. Printing was one thing, designing models was something else altogether. When we first started designing for 3D printing, we tried Blender, an open source program for 3D creation, which is amazing, yet too complex for my then fifth and sixth grade MiscoeMakerCrew. These polite, compliant kids worked for an hour in our computer lab to try to create with the program. They were uncharacteristically quiet and by the end of our time that session, I could see they were frustrated and annoyed by the complexities of the program. Then I found 123D design by Autodesk – an app that worked well on the iPads the kids were already using. Unfortunately, after a few years, Autodesk discontinued the app, moving to online platforms such as TinkerCad, which we tried at a time when our WiFi was unreliable, so it wasn’t successful. Meanwhile, Morphi app was being developed by Sophia Georgiou and partners. It is kid-friendly, intuitive, has some pretty great features and we’ve been using Morphi on iPads ever since.

I introduced Morphi to the students this year on the day before Halloween and on Halloween. The skill builder intro project was to create a Jack O’Lantern using the app. Creative constraints and objectives included using primitive forms only, subtracting one form from another, and changing the color of the model. It was a one day, 45 minute activity to familiarize the students with the app. It was a good introductory activity with minimal stress and a focus on exploration rather than mastery. Some of the kids took it pretty far.

Holden P.’s Jack O’lantern with iPhone

Once my students had explored the app and finished their stop motion/green screen videos, it was time to mimic the design of their Cardboard Creature in a 3D model using Morphi. It is important to note that the model should reflect the completed Cardboard Creature, not the original design for it. This is because original designs were modified due to the limitations of working with cardboard. What resulted were primitive 3D forms of cardboard such as rectangular prisms, cubes, spheres, cylinders, and triangular prisms. This coincides perfectly with the primitive forms in Morphi app.

Primitive forms used to model a Cardboard Creature – Riley R

You may have noticed that the giraffe above is in the company of giraffes. This was the other component of this phase of the project. When students were ready to take a photo of their finished model using the in-app camera, I encouraged them to eliminate the background (transparent like a PNG) and the grid. This way their model could blend into a background of their choice. This was yet another way to mimic the green screen process, but we used layers in Autodesk Sketchbook instead. Yes, another concept introduced through this project!

Brynn D.’s first photo with background

And then she turned the model in Morphi and took another photo of the backs of the models

An aerial view

And using scale and transform controls in Sketchbook

Fantastic job, Brynn! Many students showed tremendous imagination as well in placing their models in natural or supernatural surroundings. I really love every one of them!

Andrew B.

Annabel P.

Ben M.

Brady U.

Brooke F.

Camden E.

Camden E.

Gretchen M.

Hailey P.

Holden P.

Jack C.

Jason G.

Kenzie E.

Kylie C.

Liam D.

Liam D.

Matthew H.

Miriam H.

Molly D.

Owen K.

Riley R.

Samantha C.

Tyler C.

Once these models were finished, the big Cardboard Creature project was also complete. Sigh. I hated to see it go. We had spent a month in all on the project, which translates to twelve 50 minute classes taking place every other day. I loved the focus my students brought to each of the three phases of the project, and the familiarity they developed with their Cardboard Creatures through all of the manifestations along the way.

Ella, Kaycie, Jayden, Emme

3D Design and imposed background though layering in Autodesk Sketchbook


I think this project scratched the itch of the 3D thinkers in my classes. I also think this project gave the 2D thinkers a chance to look at the world and their potential as artists a little bit differently. Most importantly, this project was open ended enough to include an abundance of imagination and creativity, yet a multitude of skills were confronted and developed. Lastly, this project sustained the attention of nearly 200 11 and 12 year old children for an entire month as they tried new things and added to their toolkits as learners, artists, and makers. Mostly, it was really fun.

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Cardboard Creature Project – Phase Two – Stop Motion/Green Screen

“My filmmaking really began with technology. It began through technology, not through telling stories, because my 8mm movie camera was the way into whatever I decided to do.” – Steven Spielberg

Starting with a quote by Steven Spielberg may seem like a lofty way to begin a post about video making by upper elementary students. To clear that potential misconception, know that this post is about the exploration of video making tools – stop motion and green screen – by novice filmmakers. More than that, it is about the joyful, creative, and willing spirit with which my fifth and sixth grade art students embraced and approached the idea of using their hand-crafted Cardboard Creatures as the stars of short films. Back to Spielberg though, this post is also about using technology. Teaching in a 1:1 device school, where every student has access to an iPad all the time, both at school and at home, compels me to help them understand how to use the technology as yet another vehicle for self expression.

This is the second of three posts about the Cardboard Creatures. You can read about how they were crafted in Phase One here. You can read about how they served as models for 3D Design for 3D Printing here.

Stop Motion Animation

There are many ways art students can create animated videos with iPads. We have been using Stop Motion Studio for years, and although not super fancy, it is intuitive for my students and is also free. The Cardboard Creatures were designed to have mobility as one of the Creative Constraints  – precisely because of the animation process. Stop motion animation requires several continuous frames with the subject in a slightly different position for each frame. As an example for the students, I used a wooden artist’s mannequin and posed it in various positions in front of a green screen. I then dropped it into iMovie In green screen mode (a new option in a recent update of iMovie*) and also added audio.

*iMovie added the option for green screen/blue screen in June this year. Many of my students have access through school to DoInk Green Screen app and used that for their videos, as was my original plan. If not, they used iMovie. Going forward, I would just use iMovie. They will be compelled to add audio with iMovie, too, because it is so easy (and fun).

My example video was certainly enough to get the wheels turning for my fifth and sixth grade art students! In many of my classes I have 25-30 students for which I knew the three green screen painted walls we have at the end of our hallway would not be enough. I also wanted to keep the majority of my students in the classroom so I would be available to help them. With this in mind, I took six large empty boxes from a recent cafeteria delivery and cut off the flaps and ends to make filming booths. I picked up a gallon of Behr #1753 Sparkling Apple latex wall paint ($34 at Home Depot – traditional green screen paint on Amazon was $90):

I did buy some green screen gaffer’s tape from Amazon to use to tape up the seams of the box. I made six of these filming booths.

One day as I glanced over at them just sitting there, it occurred to me I could use the filming booths to alter the reality of the classroom space. Dream imagery came to mind. Indulge me, please…:

Thanks. The filming booths ended up working quite well as students with smaller Cardboard Creatures were able to work right in the classroom at one of our six tables. Fortunately, student groups were finishing their Cardboard Creatures at different times, so they would also start filming at different times.

Because so many groups used the filming booths, just a few groups with larger Cardboard Creatures used the green screen walls in the hallway. I also ordered green screen cloth to drape over large boxes to use as stages for the stop motion work so you wouldn’t see the floor.

Mary wanted me to mention that her outfit is in support of Pink Out Day, a day when we wear pink to increase awareness of breast cancer.

Green Screen

When groups were finished filming their Stop Motion animation, they saved the video to their iPad camera roll. From there it is easy to import it to either Do Ink Green Screen or iMovie. They could then adjust sensitivity of the green screen (Do Ink) or add music or sound effects (iMovie). Sound was not required for the project, so many videos don’t include it. Once edited, the videos were turned in to Google Classroom by one student from each group. Below you can see some of the final projects for this phase. They are fairly primitive and amateurish, but most evoke the playful quality of creating with imagination. You’ll see one student name at the top of each video (a Google Classroom construct), but each represents the work of a group. Here are several:

Tell me, how fun are these? I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! Many of these videos represent first experiences with animation and green screen for my students. Remember, even Steven Spielberg had to start somewhere…


Cardboard Creature Project – Phase One – Build

“The most sophisticated people I know – inside they are all children.” – Jim Henson

The photo above is of me and a whole bunch of cardboard on October 8, 2019 as I waited to introduce our Cardboard Creature project to an incoming class. It was all down hill from there!

Here’s how we did it:

I introduced this unit by showing Caine’s Arcade, a film by Nirvan Mullick. I’ve been showing this video to students for years, but this is the first time we’ve followed it up by working with cardboard. And I’m so glad we did!

Students started by responding to a bell ringer prompt in their sketchbooks: Design a figure you could make 3D. This prompt is purposely vague and open-ended, allowing for creativity and active imagination. It also initiates first consideration of thinking in 3D. This was a great opportunity to differentiate between creative drawing and scientific diagrams, although they both require creative thinking. These are a couple of the responses:

After sharing designs with those at their table, students formed groups based on friendship, like-mindedness, and similarity of creature design. I encouraged groups of three, and when necessary due to class size, groups of two or four were formed. During their first group meeting, students compared designs and discussed possibilities for a design that either combined individual drawings or elaborated on one of the drawings.

Together we also looked at the cardboard artwork of artist Justin King:

Cardboard Animals By Justin King

And after a couple of classes as an inspiration boost, we also looked at the work of Monami Ohno:

Cardboard Sculptures By Monami Ohno

I also shared these three attachment attachments with the students through Google Classroom. We went over the various ways to construct 3D forms with cardboard so it becomes a mechanical endeavor, well thought out and conceived for prime support and bonding.

Students then began the design process with one person sketching for each group. I asked students to show me their plan for mobility for the figure and for attachments.

This went very well. Clearly there is no shortage of imagination in the 5/6 art classes! Here is a small galley of some of the group drawings:

The Creative Constraints for this project were:

  1. Attachments must be made with attachment techniques and hot glue
  2. Creatures must be self supporting and have mobility
  3. Finished creature width and depth must fit within the designated box

Checking the size of the creature against the designated “size checker” box

Groups were able to start building as soon as their design was approved by me. We were using Canary Cardboard cutters and scissors, glue guns, yarn, and brass fasteners. No tape. We discovered along the way that fishing line was helpful for Phase Two: Stop Motion/Green Screen (shared in a separate post). A couple of groups also used sand for ballast on top-heavy models.

The cutters were arranged in little “toolkits” with 4 cutters and one scissor in each, enough for one toolkit at each table. At the end of every class students returned the tool kits and the glue guns (also one per table) to the supply table. I took a quick inventory to make sure they were all accounted for as I didn’t want these tools to leave the classroom.

I was thorough in going over the potential hazards of the cutters and glue guns. Early on there were five or six minor cuts and about the same amount of minor burns, for which band-aids and/or cold water soothed all. Fortunately, nothing was serious, and the accidents tapered to zero after a couple of classes. Experience and confidence seemed to build resistance to injury.

Here are some photos of the cardboard artists at work:

Checking the size of the cardboard part against the designated “size checker” box


And a video of one group explaining their project as they put it (her) together:

I teach nine different classes over two days. Classes are 50 minutes long. It took most groups between five and six classes to make their cardboard creature. As groups finished, they started Phase Two – Stop Motion/Green Screen, for which I had demonstrated the apps and process around the fourth class as some groups neared completion of their build. By October 30, most groups were finished building and we took a break from building/filming so I could show them Phase Three – 3D Design (shared in a separate post); how to design for 3D using Morphi App. I was also concerned about working with hot glue and cutters while the kids were wearing costumes on Halloween; I know my own costume was too “drapey” to be messing around with hot or sharp things.

Notorious Ruth Bader Gentili with the cardboard creatures

As the Cardboard Creatures were completed, they graciously posed for photos before being herded to the school lobby for display there. As two students and I were finishing up the display near the end of the block, students were pouring into the hallways for lunch and recess. We were mobbed with excited kids looking for their creatures.

Above photo credit: Jennifer Mannion

And now (drum roll, please) here are some of the Cardboard Creatures:


If I could bottle the energy the kids brought into the classroom for this project, I would apply it to some of the traditional art projects that cause some kids to check out, disengage, and mutter, “I’m not good at art”. Everyone was at home with this project. It was so different and challenging we all knew and accepted failure as part of the process. The class atmosphere was truly one of discovery, exploration, and true collaboration.

And if I had a nickel for every time a student asked, “Can we just stay here and do this all day?” I could pay for all of the glue sticks we consumed. Kidding not kidding. We went through about 200 glue sticks, necessitating a next day Amazon order in the middle of things to keep us in business. That’s completely my fault. Working groups can get away from you quickly. While you’re helping one group sort out structural issues, another group is using the glue to fasten one edge to another, which intuitively seems like it would work, but doesn’t. Cardboard is heavy and one bead of glue along the edge doesn’t support the weight. Mini-demos about this popped up in the middle of classes as I saw the mountains of glue on certain pieces. What’s the alternative? Tabs, flanges, and Lacing:

Much has been written about the important role of play in child development. This felt like play for all of us. As the teacher, my job was to facilitate the project and interactions. I would intervene with building help or smoothing group dynamics as needed. With group work, certain students struggle to maintain the balance between leading and being led. That’s where the teacher has a role in defining possible tasks within a project and helping groups to either separate out a little to make sure all are busy with defined jobs or to go all-in on one task. For instance, early on, EVERYONE wants to use the glue gun, and the teacher helps ensure that everyone has a chance.

Over the past few years I implemented group projects in November. The past few years, my fifth grade classes were engaged in the WeRMakers Product Design unit and the sixth grade classes incorporated 3D printing in the Game Makers unit. Typically we would have accomplished the important first tasks of creating a portfolio folder, making sketchbooks with covers that are also artworks, learning to photograph art and upload it to Google Classroom and our online gallery, Artsonia, as well as completing at least one additional independent art lesson before moving on to group work.

This year I shook it up a little, going from portfolio folder to sketchbook with cover artwork right into the Cardboard Creature group project. One reason is because at the end of the last school year, when I took inventory of my supplies, I also took a look at the materials I had collected through the years. I had an abundance of cardboard, including large sheets from the packaging of white boards throughout the school. As the project took shape in my mind, I reached out to my colleagues for more. It turns out Gary, a custodian at my school, is the keeper of the boxes from food deliveries, and there is a pretty good assortment in a space right outside the school kitchen. He kept us in cardboard throughout the project. Thank you, Gary!

I liked this scheduling shift a lot, as it tuns out. The group work enabled classes to get to know each other more quickly. This is especially important for my fifth grade students who come together from two different schools when they get to middle school. It also helped them to know me as a teacher earlier in the year – to learn that I value originality over sameness, exploration over duplication, and that when I get their attention, I say what I have to share and then get out of the way. This is a nice foundation to have established as we go forward into the school year.

Lastly, for me personally, I learned a lot about constructing with cardboard. I learned a lot about my students as individuals: the natural leaders, the forceful, the followers, the easy-going, the always helpful, the determined, the rays of sunshine. I enjoyed being in the art space with students, all 200 of them. No  school day or cardboard creature was the same. It was fun.

Holden waves “hello”

Brandon’s Mini-Mona Lisa

My demo for how to make a rounded form ends up as a hat/helmet, of course…

And it was magical. When I would lock up at the end of the day, I’d glance back thinking I might catch all these little creatures coming to life for the night. And when I opened the door in the morning and threw the lights on, I could feel a shift in energy, as if they had suddenly become still…the secret life of Cardboard Creatures.



Out Of This World Sketchbook Covers

“To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit.”Stephen Hawking

As I curate the student artwork for this post, I just can’t stop downloading pieces from Artsonia because they are ALL OUT OF THIS WORLD!!!

We just wrapped up this project and most students have had a chance to upload their work to Artsonia where they are on display in this gallery: https://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?project=1822853

Miriam Harrati

These are the covers for the sketchbooks we made two weeks ago. Space scenes are first sketched out with white colored pencil on purple tag stock after the book is made. Students opened the books flat on the tables and treated both outside front and back covers as one panel or scene. Color was added with oil pastel and blended with blending stomps.

Kylie Connolly

This was a super engaging project for all due to (I think) the tactile quality of the oil pastels, the freedom of imagery, and the huge success of overlaying one color on another as it hides a lot of missteps.

Jack Oleksyk

Students were given a few resource sheets of planets, meteors, comets, rockets, and constellations. From there they were encouraged to create their own unique space scenes. Martians welcome.

Sean Lewinsky

This was a great opportunity to talk about the difference between an artistic rendering and a scientific diagram. Come to find out, some sixth grade science classes had made scientific diagrams of the solar system recently, and this project helped to foster further connections with the topic of space.

John Nakamura

This project also generated discussion about perspective. Rather than draw themselves surrounded by space, students were asked to imagine themselves being immersed in space where every time they turned their heads, all they saw were planetary and other objects, not their own bodies.

Grace Sabo

The relaxed yet eager work sessions generated a lot of conversation (no surprise – Area 51 was a frequent topic 😊) contrasting with periods of total silence except for the music air-playing to the speaker (I’ve been stuck on Jack Johnson in the classroom lately).

Ella Martin

As students finished, they used Autodesk Sketchbook on iPads to create digital space scenes. Those will be posted in a few days.

Matthew Haley

Meanwhile, enjoy these vibrant space scenes! I hope you love them as much as I do!

Greyson Michael

Tyler Loo

Lia Romano

Jacob Poirier