Great Question: Why Are We Designing Games In Art?

As he entered the classroom yesterday, one of my sixth grade art students asked, “Mrs. Gentili, why are we designing games in art?”

“That’s a great question, ” I replied, “Let’s talk about it with the class once everyone settles.” And we did.

We have been engaged in a project-based-learning unit on Game Design for the past few classes. Students are working in cooperative groups to learn about board games (Explore), design board games and 3D printed game pieces (Create), and develop marketing materials for the game (Share). Guardians of my students can follow along by accessing Google Classroom summaries. The driving question for the unit is: Can we design a board game with 3D printed game pieces that is fun to play?

To start the discussion, I asked the class, “So, why do you think we are designing games in art class?” My students had terrific responses including the need for color and attractive game boards and using one’s imagination to develop games, which were all excellent springboards to talk about the role of designers in product design today. Too often we talk about STEM in education, but as I explained to my students, the most brilliant automotive engineer could design the most brilliantly engineered vehicle, but without style and comfort, it will not sell. Style = Design and that’s where we come in. And that is why STEM has officially been changed to STEAM (A for Art). Including art in the product design process incorporates aesthetics and empathy for the user experience.

Last Saturday I attended my 40th high school reunion (would you believe I graduated at 10?). When I graduated from high school, jobs for those with a degree in art were limited to teaching, layout and design, interior design, plus a few more. Keep in mind that specialized Masters degrees were not sought routinely as they are today. My parents groaned when I decided to go to art school, telling me I would never find a job and that I should go into education instead. I stuck to my guns, went to art school and entered the printing industry while in school. I didn’t go into education until twenty years after graduating from college, after twenty years in the printing industry.


Most Artistic

Now, forty years later, due to the advent of technology, there are infinite career choices for art students, and one of them is product design and development. This is why we are designing games in art class. Artists have been using the Design Process in their studios as long as there have been artists in studios. Applying the Design Process to collaborative game design, as we are doing in class, not only meets the visual art standards, but also meets the standards for technology and engineering. In addition, the 21st Century skills of collaboration, communication, and creativity are fostered and students apply their social and emotional learning strategies while working in groups. Please see the end of this post for the standards.

The Design Process

The Design Process – Source: http://discoverdesign.org


I wrote the Game Design unit over the summer. This class of sixth grade students are piloting it for me. After this trial run, I will tweak the unit as needed (design, test, revise) and share the unit with my 3D art education professional learning network. Energy is high as my students work together on this unit. Games and game piece design are fun, after all. Much more fun than designing door stop wedges, which is the other unit I wrote last summer…not even kidding.

MA Frameworks Visual Arts

2.10  For shape, form, and pattern, use and be able to identify an expanding and increasingly sophisticated array of shapes and forms, such as organic, geometric, positive and negative, or varieties of symmetry/Create complex patterns, for example, reversed shapes and tessellation

4.4    Produce work that shows an understanding of the concept of craftsmanship

4.9    Demonstrate the ability to conceptualize, organize, and complete long-term projects, alone and in group settings

•       Conceptualize: plan, generate ideas, make preliminary sketches, participate in discussions, imagine outcomes, and set goals;

•       Organize: choose materials and techniques to attain the desired look and feel; maintain work space and personal schedule; review progress of work with others; and revise work appropriately;

•       Complete: prepare work for presentation or exhibition

4.10  Demonstrate the ability to develop an idea through multiple stages, responding to criticism and self-assessment

ISTE Standards for Students (2016)

3.d       build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.

4.d    exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.

7.b    use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.

7.c    contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal.


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October Is Here – It Must Be Google Classroom Time

October means many things in the art room, the first of which is getting all of my classes on Google Classroom (GC). I will be using GC to send out assignments and collect finished work. In the art room, students take photos of her/his artwork at varying stages and post the photos to GC for me to see. Students will also write artist statements to reflect on their work. My students and I have found GC to be super helpful over the past couple of years with the centralized instruction and efficient sharing of resources it offers.

You may sign in to receive summaries of our activity. You may not actually participate in the class, but instead observe what we are doing. For information on just how to do that, visit the Guidelines for Guardians. Please know if you ever have questions about your child’s class, you can always email me at agentili@mursd.org.


These codes have been altered and won’t allow access to classes…muahahahaha!

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International Dot Day 2016

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In the Miscoe Hill 5/6Art room we have had a blast creating dots and watching them come to life using the Quiver app on iPads. Why create dots? Because of the book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. Here is a narrated video of the story:

We colored in templates made by Quiver and then used the app to view the dots we have made. Quiver uses Augmented Reality to transform the dots into dynamic, moving dots. You can download the Quiver app to any mobile device, print the template, and view the dots with augmented reality. Here is a video how it works (please substitute “Quiver” for “Colar” because the app has changed hands since I made this video:

As students view their dots with augmented reality, they’ve been capturing them in photos and videos on the iPads. Here is a compilation of their artwork:

Nice work, right? The video will be posted on the International Dot Day wall and on Twitter with the hashtag #DotDay16. Over seven million dot makers will participate in International Dot Day this year!

Always remember:

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Reflection: September 11

My thoughts on the Friday approaching the fifteenth anniversary of the attacks on 9/11/2001:

As I walk through the halls of my school, the same school where I was teaching third grade on that day, I think: “We were here when it happened.” As I pass by classrooms and see the teachers with whom I shared shock and horror on that day, I think: “We have never been the same.” And as I look at the students going about their normal student lives, I think: “None of these kids had been born then. They will never know the fear and anger their parents felt as the drama played out for weeks and months following the event. And they will learn about this in class and in books, as removed and dispassionate as my generation was in learning about historical events when we were young.” 

The following is from my social media post on September 11, 2013:


Flag pins made by third grade students following 9/11/2001

I wore this “flag” pin to school today, as I have for the past 12 years. I was a third grade classroom teacher on 9/11/2001 and had a lovely class of 26 or so kids who I had just met a few weeks earlier. We were just settling in to our school day when an urgent announcement was made for all teachers to check their email. The email informed us of the terrorist attacks and asked to keep our cool and not to talk to our students about it. That was a tall order. We had so many questions. We had email, but few of us had cell phones or cell service then, so we didn’t have access to news or each other. The school internet was shut down almost immediately. Teachers talked quietly in hallways, in doors between classes, and at lunch we gathered around a TV in the teachers room and watched in horror as the planes hit the towers, over and over again. And then we returned to our classrooms. Numb. What a long, difficult day it was. 

My son was in the same school with me, at that time in a fifth grade classroom with a teacher I trusted and respected. Still, somewhere in the middle of the day, I snuck a moment to go across the school and up the stairs to simply look at him, to see for myself that he was okay. I had to see him.

Later that day, the administrators went class-to-class in the 5th and 6th grade classrooms to tell the kids what had happened. I grew concerned for my third graders, who rode the same buses with the older kids. Although they are young adults now, I can still visualize their little faces as we gathered around for circle time at the end of the day. “You will hear stories from other kids on the bus about bad things that happened today,” I told them, trying hard to keep it together, “Just promise me that you’ll try not to listen, and wait until you get home to let your parents be the first ones who you talk to about what happened.” 

The days that followed were full of questions, theories, and patriotism. My classroom became a safe haven, a respite from the incessant news reports. My students had a great need to “do something to help”. We made the pins in the photo above and sold them for $1 each. We also made a simpler version with just 6 large beads on a large safety pin. Entire extended families worked on the pins at home. Parents gravitated to the classroom and helped my third graders produce pin after pin. Together we raised several hundred dollars for George Bush’s “America’s Fund for Afghan Children” .

Today is Sunday, September 11, 2016. My third grade class of 2001 students are now 23 or 24 years old. I wonder what they remember from our shared experience fifteen years ago. I wonder if they or their families still have the pins we made. I wonder what they will tell their own children about that day as they bring them into this world over the next decade. Lastly, I hope I did well by them and their families on September 11, 2001 and in the weeks and months that followed.

We remember.

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Couldn’t Make It to Open House?

No worries at all! This is a super busy time of year and one can’t do everything! The following video shows highlights of the 5/6 Miscoe Hill Art Program and it will give you some idea of what to expect this year.

Also available was the back-to-school letter containing a breakdown of grading criteria and my contact information. Here is a link to the letter: Welcome to 5/6 Art

Speaking of contact information, I emailed every address I had for my students’ parents last week. If you did not receive an email from me, please let me know at agentili@mursd.org 

Lastly, some students have been bringing sketchbooks to class. We will be making our own sketchbooks, so please keep the purchased sketchbooks at home for extra-curricular drawing. I had communicated this to the front office during the summer, yet I think it may have ended up on the supply list nonetheless.

It was a pleasure to meet some of you last night and I look forward to meeting the rest of you one day soon.






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My Slight Obsession With Mona Lisa

Welcome to my website. As you’ll read on the other pages, it is named after a wall of Mona Lisa replicas executed in a variety of mediums. I am slightly obsessed with Mona Lisa, especially Mona Lisa parodies. Thanks to a curious student last year, I now know there are forty-two versions of Mona Lisa on the wall. While my students and I come and go from this classroom, those Mona Lisas Live Here. Every day.

To welcome students this week I showed a Prezi presentation while a student took on the role of narrator. It is a fun presentation made up of various Mona Lisa parodies I have found online (thank you to all the artists who created the parodies).  Once at the site, click on the arrows at the bottom to go forward or backward: Oh Mona

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Have a terrific long weekend and we’ll see you right back here next week!

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Welcome to 5/6 Miscoe Art!

Look who is driving the bus and wishing everyone a fantastic first day of the 2016/2017 school year! Buckle up!

Mona Schoolbus

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