Leave a comment

A Day in the Life of #MURSDVisualArt

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” – John Steinbeck

And what happens when an artist teaches?  Wonderful magic, of course! Especially here in the Mendon-Upton Regional School District.

I took a professional day on Tuesday to get out to the other schools in the district and visit with the art teachers in their art spaces for a couple of hours each. As Art Department chairperson, I wanted to capture a glimpse of  a “day in the life” of my colleagues and their students.

White on white still life with Ebony pencil

Nipmuc Regional High School

My morning started with a visit to Nipmuc Regional High School in Upton to visit the classrooms of Alison Clish and Kevin Campbell. Alison and Kevin teach on the same floor there, in classrooms separated by the cafeteria. The high school art curriculum is uniquely arranged so different electives meet at the same time with the same teacher. For instance, on the day I visited, Art 1 was meeting at the same time as the Sculpture class with some students from both classes in the room at the same time. This multi-level arrangement allows for electives to be offered throughout the day, thereby affording more opportunity for students to fit an art class into their schedule.

Mosaic sculpture


Projects underway included linoleum block printmaking, copying an “old master” painting, watercolor architecture painting, and taking apart a guitar. Students worked independently, but conferred with each other as needed or desired. This is one benefit of the multi-level, multi-class arrangement – veterans sharing their experiences and knowledge with novices.

Linoleum block carving for printmaking

Linoleum prints

Taking apart a guitar

Alison and Kevin share out about the Nipmuc Art Department on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NipmucArtDepartment

They are also on Twitter at        @AlisonClish      and        @MrCampbellArt     .

Memorial Elementary School

With a big switch in grade levels from former students to eventual students, my second visit was to Jessica Fowler’s classroom at Memorial School in Upton.

Smart board slides on Value

At Memorial, I was able to join both a third and fourth grade class as they explored value in their art making. This was especially nostalgic for me as I remembered my years teaching general education at those grade levels. The groups were working with tempera paint, mixing white and black with pure color to create tints and shades.

The first of the two classes were creating value scale ice cream cones, with the pure color then mixed with its complementary color for the cone. The class got as far as painting the pure color “scoop” and the two tint “scoops”. As they finished and after they cleaned up, students excitedly took their portfolio folders from the bin on the carpet and hurried away to decorate them.

Ice cream cone value scales

The next group, a fourth grade class, were finishing up silhoetted trees and haunted houses on a gradated value background.

Silhoetted trees and haunted houses

When finished with this project, some of the students used the class iPads to upload images of the art to their class’s SeeSaw page. Here one student explains the process to me. Note her use of the phrase “I don’t know yet” to describe a process she hasn’t yet discovered, rather than guessing a “yes” or a “no”.

You can follow Jessica and the happenings in the Memorial Art Room on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MemorialSchoooArtwithMissGrady/

And on Twitter at        @art_with_fowler     

Clough Elementary School

As much as it was a transition from high school to third and fourth grade, it was a big transition to visit Chelsea Greene with first a second grade class and then a kindergarten class. I forget just how young our early learners are! In fact, as I mingled with the kindergarten students, this comic video kept coming to mind as the students talked to me about their art and helped their classmates with theirs:

While that was just for fun, this video is a better representation of our conversations:

As young as they are, though, they are full of eagerness for artistic exploration:


Drawing fruit for a still life

As her students enter the room, Chelsea asks them to stand on a tape line surrounding her demonstration table. This way she can go over directions and show processes without students crowding each other or blocking the view of classmates.

Tape line for introductions and viewing demos

Chelsea has a corner in her room where students can upload their art to Artsonia, using her small group of iPads. Artsonia is a fantastic platform for sharing student artwork and artist statements. The students in Chelsea’s classes will continue to share their artwork when they take art at Miscoe Hill.

You can follow Chelsea’s class Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/InsideTheArtRoom/

Miscoe Hill School

Tuesday passed quickly, so I took my first block of the day (my prep block) to visit my school colleague Jon Hansen. Because our rooms adjoin, we often share a few minutes of dialog each day. This was an opportunity to spend more time than usual in the room while students were there.

Most unique about Jon’s curriculum is his use of gamification where students move up the ranks through the completion of projects and earn extra points through side-quest activities. You can see the rank boards on the wall over the shelves in the photo below.

Clay Ramen bowls and gamification charts

When I visited on Wednesday, Jon’s classes were busy carefully copying master works with tempera on canvas board. They were using plastic plates for paint mixing using primary, secondary, and neutral colors.

Drawing on the canvas before painting a Van Gogh replica

You can follow Jon as he posts about his classes on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MiscoeHillArtHansen/

and follow him on Twitter at @MrHansenArt

To see what the Mendon-Upton art educators are sharing, follow #MURSDVisualArt and #MURSD.





1 Comment

ETTSummit 2017

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust

Sunrise Boston

I’m just back home from two days at the EdTechTeacher ETTSummit in Boston and want to write a few lines to keep the inspiration alive that I felt there. I go to a few tech conferences each year and there is nothing like the vibe at ETTSummit. As an art educator attending ed tech conferences, I am frequently asked, “Why are you here?” as if the asker just can’t understand the connection between art and technology. But not at ETTSummit.

Greg Kulowiec opens ETTSummit 2017

ETTSummit stands apart because it is a carefully curated event which includes some of the best minds in educational technology today. It is also gimmick free – no big exhibit hall, vendor sponsored sessions clearly labeled as such, and an overarching goal to share ways of using technology to increase meaningful learning for our students. The presenters, keynoters, and ignite speakers are impassioned, intelligent, clever, and fun.

Reshan Richards and his clever acronym

Of course there are many take-aways for me to bring back to my students, including new and improved virtual field trip directories (kiddingly called “tinder for teachers” by presenter Kara Wilkins), new or improved apps and their processes, ideas for managing technology in the classroom, and creative uses of electronics and tools, such as wearable tech. This is a just a short list of many teaching and learning tips and tools out of many, because after all, it is a tech conference.

What brings me back to the ETTSummit annually, though, is the focus and enthusiasm around the unbounded possibilities for creativity and learning in education. There is tremendous enthusiasm, positivity, and damn it, there’s joy! People are not afraid to be silly or take a chance to try something new in front of everyone. Watch these:

No wonder everyone is smiling and saying “hello” and gushing about the cool things they’ve tried or want to try!

Fun Promo for the Mendon-Upton Team Presentation

For the first time ETTSummit, I had the pleasure of being part of a presentation with district colleagues. Mendon-Upton’s Director of Technology Integration led the presentation Making that Matters: Projects for the Real World and Real Audiences, which featured projects he has facilitated with our high school students including the compost project (aka Dave’s little horse poop obsession) and weather balloon project. Second grade Spanish Immersion educator, Katie Cardamone, shared her Virtual Tour of Memorial School video project, which she and her class had created as part of a global education exchange with a school in Spain, and I shared my Game Makers project.

While watching Katie and Dave talk about their projects, I was fascinated and realized that prior to that day I never really understood what they were doing or the reasons behind the projects. I had seen snippets on Twitter, but never had a chance to listen to them share the content or processes. I’m glad to have had the chance at ETTSummit.

Earlier in the day on Tuesday, I shared my Game Makers project with a terrific audience who were enthusiastic, curious, and inquisitive.

Game Makers is a project I developed for my 6th grade art students to facilitate a design thinking experience while utilizing a full range of technology tools.

For this project I adjusted the traditional design process wheel to emphasize Revision (Improve) as a necessary part of the process and to provide for an authentic audience through the Share component.

In the spirit of trying new things without fear in front of an audience, I included a couple of prompts to poll the audience using mentimeter.com. They worked out great, yet if they hadn’t, I’m quite sure someone on the audience would have helped until it worked or until we failed forward.

What is your role in education?

Which glass represents your knowledge and experience with project-based learning?

From an educator perspective, the Game Makers project is complex. I will write more about it in a future post. We are currently in the messy middle of it at school, and I want to combine this year’s work with what we did last year before I reflect and post. Stay tuned.

At the end of the day, at the end of ETTSummit, I drove home on Mass Pike, in my little vessel listening to Dire Straits On the Night (inspired by Douglas Kiang’s emoji duet) completely immune to the traffic jams and miles traveled, with an abundance of ideas filling my head. Having just spent two days with so many charming gardeners of the creative ed tech world, my soul had duly blossomed with enough inspiration for tomorrow’s return to school and so many school days that follow. Until then:


Leave a comment

Self-Portraits Published On Artsonia

“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.”  ― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Self Portraits

For the past few weeks, all 5/6 art students have been working in self-portraits. Fifth grade artists have been learning to mix unique flesh tones and show shadows with darker complementary colors, usually blue and purple. Sixth grade artists have been learning to use charcoal pencils to draw themselves and have learned to use blending stomps and kneaded erasers to affect shadows and highlights on their drawings. Art students in both grades have been learning to SEE using dramatic light and “blurration”, which is the purposeful squinting of the eyes to blur sharp details and see light and dark. 

In most cases, using dramatic light results in dramatic drawings. All drawings have been uploaded to our Artsonia gallery accompanied by Artist Statements.

The fifth grade gallery Colorful Self Portraits can be found at: https://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?project=1418610

The sixth grade gallery Charcoal Self-Portraits can be found at: https://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?project=1418611

Here are some examples of what you will see when you visit the galleries:

Charcoal Self-Portraits

Colorful Self Portraits


Leave a comment

Conferences Next Week


It is conference season in the Mendon-Upton Regional School District. Please know I will be available for conferencing on Wednesday, November 8, from 12:15 until 2:30. Please send an email to me at agentili@mursd.org if you would like to set up a time to meet.

Come say “hello” on conference day…


Leave a comment

Sketchbooks and Artsonia

Here it is Friday already and as I look back on the week I think two things: 1. busy 2. hot 


We began the week by making sketchbooks with 23″ x 35″ text paper and 15.5″ x 11.5″ cover stock. Students painted their covers last week using watered-down tempera paint applied with straws (blowing), dripping, splattering, with combs for texture and paper towels for daubing over solid white full-strength tempera applied in a previous class.

Students will use the sketchbooks for daily Creativity Sparks (bellringers), planning projects, and reflection. They responded to the first Creativity Spark over the past two days: If you were not here, doing what you’re doing right now, where would you be and what would you be doing? Although alotted 15 minutes to respond in class, many students need more time, so I will share their work once most students are finished.


Before constructing the sketchbooks, students took photos of their covers with their iPads. Over the past two days they uploaded them to Artsonia and added artist statements. The Abstract Art cover gallery is here.

Students may not have artwork posted for a few reasons:

  1. They missed the class when we made the covers
  2. Their Artsonia account has not yet been authorized by a parent/guardian (contact me at agentili@mursd.org for help)
  3. I sent the work back to her/him to be edited (all work has to be approved by me before it is posted)

Here is a video of the process for uploading to Artsonia, which I made really easily with the new screen casting option on iPads with the ios 11 update:

If they had created a Digital Dot on the iPad (an extension to the augmented reality Dot) students uploaded those to Artsonia as well. The Digital Dot gallery is here.

I also enrolled myself as a student in Artsonia so I could see what parents/guardians receive when authorizing and after artwork is published. These are screenshots of what to expect (substitute your child’s first name for MrsGentili):

Developed by art teachers for art teachers, Artsonia is very secure and concerned with student privacy. That’s a good thing!

Here is a photo of one side of the room showing me their screens so I can make sure we are all ready for the next step of instruction on how to upload to Artsonia:

Next up in the 5/6 art room? Clay! Stay tuned…





Leave a comment

Getting It Done

Mid-way through the third week-ish of school, so nine days in, we are settling in and already having meaningful experiences. Thanks to first day roll-outs of iPads, we were able to get right to work (thank you Mr. Quinn and tech crew). I have been introducing the tech components of our routines through authentic processes and it is going well.

Google Classroom

At this time, all students have enrolled in their Google Classroom (GC) classes, which is new to 5th grade students and parents. I will be using GC to send out assignments, collect images of finished work, and distribute resources and demos. In the art room, students take photos of their 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.

I have enabled parent emails for all of the classes. Parents may sign in to receive summaries of our weekly 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 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!


All student names and parent emails as provided to the district have been uploaded to Artsonia, our online portfolio. I used the first email account associated with each student. Most families have responded to the email received from Artsonia and granted permission for their child to participate. If you are having trouble doing that, please let me know so I can help you.

Art Club

Art Club is starting on September 27. Art Club meets on Wednesdays after school and runs independent of Enrichment, although it follows the same schedule. Please download this file: Art Club 1 2017.18 to register your child for grades 5/6 Art Club.

Flat Clay! What Did You Say?

On Tuesdays after school we’ll be getting our hands nice and dirty with clay. See the description below within the Enrichment brochure and register here.


International Dot Day

I have saved the best for last!Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 12.34.06 PM

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.

As students view their dots with augmented reality, I’ve been capturing them in videos on my iPad. Here is a compilation of some of their artwork and our chats as they viewed their work with augmented reality:

Nice work, right? The video will be posted on the International Dot Day wall and on Twitter with the hashtag #DotDay17. Almost ten million dot makers will participate in International Dot Day this year!

To see a heart-warming story about one a former student and the impact Dot Day had on her, please follow this link: Shea on Fablevision 

And always remember:

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 12.32.46 PM


Leave a comment

We Remember

My thoughts on the Monday morning of the sixteenth 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 Monday, September 11. My third grade class of 2001 students are now 24 or 25 years old. I wonder what they remember from our shared experience sixteen 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.

%d bloggers like this: