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RESPECT: One Rule Fits All

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

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

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

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

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

And a few more photos:

butterflies - 1 (2)

 

 

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Why?

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

What?

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

How?

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

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

These are the paper tiles we used:

Reflection

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

 

 

 

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Couldn’t Make It To Open House?

Couldn’t make it Open House this week? No worries at all!

This is a super busy time of year and one can’t do everything! It was a pleasure to see so many parents and guardians Wednesday night and I appreciate your stopping by to say “hi” and check out the art room. If you weren’t able to make it, please know you can stop by any time. Here is what the room looks like in a 360 Panorama (click on the photo to see the room): 

Open House visitors enjoyed the following video, which shows highlights of last year’s 5/6 Miscoe Hill Art Program and should give you some idea of what to expect this year (click on the photo to see the video):

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 2018

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

It was a pleasure to meet some of you this week and I look forward to meeting the rest of you one day soon, possibly at conferences or at the Art Show in the spring.

Sincerely,

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International Dot Day 2018

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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 #DotDay18. Over thirteen 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 

Always remember:

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We Remember 2001-2018

“No more hurting people – Peace” – Martin Richard

My thoughts this Tuesday morning on the seventeenth anniversary of the terrorist 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:

9-11

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 Tuesday, September 11. My third grade class of 2001 students are now 25 or 26 years old. I wonder what they remember from our shared experience seventeen 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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Managing Classroom Management

“When I was a teacher, I’d walk into the classroom. I stood at the board. I was the man. I directed operations. I was an intellectual and artistic and moral traffic cop, and I – and I would direct the class, most of the time.”  Frank McCourt

Believe me, I know I’m showing my age by quoting Frank McCourt here. The kids may have never heard of him, but we older folks know what a brilliant writer he was. In his 2005 memoir, Teacher Man, McCourt tells his stories about teaching English to high school students. I chose this quote because I think all teachers can relate to it. Many of us feel this way, others of us feel we should feel this way, but don’t.

This post is being shared as part of the Art Ed Bloggers Network, comprised of art educators who post about a common topic on the second Tuesday of the month. The topic this month is Classroom Management.

Rather than talk about traditional classroom management such as behaviors, routines, and room set up, I want to talk about facilitating art classes through learning management systems for centralized delivery of instruction, student accountability, and to make a teacher’s life a little easier. I encounter many art educators who can’t fathom how this applies to the art room, so I’d like to give a few examples. My district uses Google Classroom and I’ve been using it with my classes for the past three years.

Google Classroom is really easy to use. It is intuitive and although Google continues to make changes based on input from teachers, it is easy to keep up with the changes. I love it for the centralized delivery of instruction – the assignment you post can be accessed at any time by students and can be augmented with in-class reminders and explanation as needed to meet the needs of all learners. Also, parents can be invited to follow the class, which is so helpful with school-to-family communication.

I also love the option to assign a question to the class and receive individual responses in private comments or as posts to a stream everyone in the class can read and then respond to when appropriate. Often the quiet kids won’t speak in front of the class and posting privately is a big help in hearing those voices that are otherwise silent. Another way to do this is through Google Forms – surveys for groups or individuals. They can be linked directly to a Google Classroom assignment or announcement.

Of course, Google Classroom is perfect for a centralized delivery of resources as well. Teachers can make them available in folders within the class or through assignments or announcements. Google Docs can be dispersed as one Doc to be collaboratively edited or delivered individually to each of the students.

Other resources easily delivered through Google Classroom are links to websites, videos, or project sites as in the image below, the student page of a project based learning unit Google Site.

Perhaps the most helpful thing about Google Classroom in the art room is the benefit of students taking photos of their artwork and turning it in at all phases of the process, not just at the end. This is also a good option for formative assessment in the art room – for example asking students to draw a still life or self portrait (or something) without instruction. The teacher can see what the student(s) already knows and can plan instruction accordingly. When most art teachers see between 400-800 students per year, this is SO much better than rifling through hundreds of pieces of artwork. Plus there is something about looking at all of the pieces within a class at once that comparisons and groupings can be better created.

Another Google tool I want to use with my students is Google Keep. I began using it this summer and I really like it. For me it will replace BlendSpace, which I use to gather websites, images, articles, etc for a topic. With Keep, one can add all of those things plus direct uploads from Gmail and Docs. I expect this will be a good tool for making thinking visible with my art students, whether individually or in groups.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of working with a large group of teachers (35+) in Florida to facilitate their professional development exploration of Technology in Art Education. I eventually named the session ARTnology. In speaking with the Instructional Technology Director for the district, I learned that they used Canvas as the learning management system. I was familiar with the platform from my job as a  part-time online coach for the past two years with Harvard Graduate School of Education, but didn’t know the ins and outs of setting up classes.

I set about learning the platform the way I always learn – by doing it. I created a class in canvas for the art teachers who would be at the ARTnology workshop. This way, we could both learn the platform. Only a few of the art teachers were currently using Canvas, and as stated above, many couldn’t fathom its use in the art classroom. I posted a few discussion questions to get the ball rolling and the active discussion ensued.

Canvas includes the option to click on “Student View”, which is really helpful and reassuring. I remember when I first started using Google Classroom, asking for a student email address for myself so I could log in and see the platform from the student perspective. This feature is built-in to Canvas (see side bar right below).

The trickiest part of learning this platform was in understanding the terminology and hierarchy such as Modules, which is different from Google Classroom. Although Google Classroom has some changes this year and one of them is the ability to group content together in Modules. I haven’t used it yet, but I expect it will work similarly to Canvas.

As we compared notes in the PD workshop, we found that both of our districts used different grading platforms than the learning management systems we employ. Although grading in Google Classroom can be exported as csv files (comma separated values) which work well with Excel or Sheets, it is not compatible with our grading platform.

One aspect of Canvas that is quite appealing to art teachers is the option for students to create e-portfolios. Students upload their work to their own file and the file follows them through the grade levels.

Classroom Management in the traditional sense is full of systems, routines, and processes. Introducing learning management systems to art classes eliminates some of these and streamlines instruction and accountability for all students. Learning management systems mimic systems currently used in the workplace. Once students are comfortable with a platform, they can take ownership of their work and their progress, and will become accustomed to reflection as a regular part of art making.

When Frank McCourt states above, “I was the man. I directed operations” we probably all share a common visualization – teacher at the front of the room, students waiting for the next instruction, daring not to take their education into their own hands. With learning management systems, students actively contribute to the classroom systems and processes while the teacher provides the structure for them to build upon – like the Wizard of Oz. And if you use it enough consistently, the kids will run with it as if it were their own and will “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

The Wizard Revealed – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1939

Thanks to the Art Ed Bloggers Network for giving me a chance to think about classroom management. Now that this is done I can begin to wrap my head around setting up classes for 2018/19. I look forward to implementing the new elements Google has added to Classroom.

This post is a part of The Art Ed Blogger’s Network: Monthly Tips and Inspiration from Art Teacher Blogs. On the second Tuesday each month, each of these art teacher blogs will post their best ideas on the same topic.

Participating Art Teacher Blogs:

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A Time to Plan, A Time to Reflect on 2017/2018

“To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together” – Pete Seeger (Ecclesiastes)
“A time to plan, a time to reflect” – Alice Gentili 

The first day of school will be here sooner for some than others. This post is part of a series of posts by the Art Ed Blogger’s Network and the topic today is The First Day of School.

Today is Monday, July 9, as I write this here in Massachusetts. Our last day of school was just two weeks ago today on Monday, June 25. On Tuesday and Wednesday that week, I participated in Professional Development on Project Based Learning (excellent!) and on Thursday I spent the day working to facilitate new Arts standards with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (important!). After working all week, Friday was finally a beach day; I worked only on my tan.

Project Based Learning professional development

The reality of summer vacation began to sink in last week, the week of the fourth of July. Actually, it came on pretty strong as a week of solid 90°+ humid days. I set few goals except to not set alarm clocks, to walk daily, and retrain myself to read for pleasure. And get back to the beach.

Sand Hill Cove beach, South County, RI as viewed through Tiny Planets app

So, here we are, two weeks after the last day of school and I’m not quite ready yet to write about the next first day of school. Instead I’m choosing to reflect on the past school year with a look-back at memorable moments unique to the 2017/2018 school year. Over the course of a school year, there are many sweet and sublime moments to be enjoyed in the classroom and in the greater school community. Some are a big deal, others are simple, yet important. I’m limiting myself to the standard countdown of ten. And that rhymes with “zen”.

My one word for the school year 2017/2018

Last September, I posted the graphic above as my one word for the school year. I wanted to provide opportunities for my students to immerse themselves in the creative process while exploring a variety of art media with limited attention to the final outcome – a continuation of a focus on process, not product. I added additional options for choice in each project, while providing creative constraint for those who were not quite ready for all-out choice.

10. First Days

For example, students in classes during the first days of school last year used plastilina modeling clay to form objects to represent pleasant summer memories, or something they were looking forward to in the new school year, or free choice. And chances are, that’s what we’ll do as we start the next school year. It gives the kids a chance to keep their hands busy while they get to know the art room space, make small talk with new classmates, and ease into basic routines and expectations.

9. Abstraction and a concrete mess

Within the first month of school we made sketchbooks/discovery logs as we do every semester. For the cover, the kids were using watered-down tempera paint to splatter paint and to experiment with dripping and blowing it around with a  straw. There were probably 40 cups of paint that made it safely through class after class for a couple of days without spills until in the middle of class one day, I (the teacher) knocked a few of them off the table to land with a splash on the floor. The puddle was huge and the vibrant colors swirled together. Once the kids had recovered from their shock and relief that no one but the teacher was to blame, they grabbed their iPads to take pictures of the beautiful mess. Naturally, I called for custodial help and with mop and bucket, it was taken care of. See for yourself in this video:

8. Fifty Yard Line

In October some teachers and administration attended and/or presented at the annual Massachusetts Computer Using Educators (MassCUE) conference at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots. On the last day, one of the parents in our district who works at Gillette made arrangements to bring us through the team area of the stadium and out onto the field. This was a completely unique, exciting, and memorable moment!

Mendon-Upton takes the field at MassCUE

7. Meet the Press

Part of my responsibilities as Department Chair for the district K-12 Art program is to share news of our students’ participation in art shows and exhibits. I usually send a press release to the local newspapers and asking them to call me if they have questions about what I’ve sent along. This year, a reporter from the Milford Daily News called to speak with me about the Youth Art Month art show, held by the Massachusetts Art Education Association in Boston in February and March. When the reporter called, I was in the middle of a class, but as luck would have it, two students who had work going into the show were in the room at the time. I handed off the phone to them and in the video below you can watch them being interviewed.

Needless to say, I enjoyed stepping away from phone and handing it off to them – they did a great job! Here they are in the group shot with the other Youth Art Month artists:

Youth Art Month 2018
Kate, Natalia, Madison, Mirabella, Kayla, and Ethan

6. Mandalas

When the spring semester started up in January, the new classes spent their first days making sketchbooks/discovery logs. For the cover, students created Mandalas with compasses, rulers, protractors, pencil, and marker. Many of the projects in our art curriculum satisfy the requirements of STEAM, which is the combining of two or more disciplines from Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math, and I wanted to focus on blending math with art specifically for a project. I chose Mandalas for their high interest factor as well as the application of symmetry, balance, repetition, and pattern in the artwork.

I knew there would be challenges because my students had little experience with compasses and protractors, and this project was especially complex for some of my special needs students. We approached the project as a community of learners with everyone helping everyone else, and although the mandalas turned out splendidly, they are remarkable to me because I witnessed the caring, cooperation, and collaboration of my students with one another. For example, one student would hold the compass while another spun the paper, or one would hold the ruler still while another penciled in the line. They kept an eye on each other and helped to make sure everyone was successful.

5. Mardi Gras Hats

This project stands out because it is the first time I’ve done it with kids. Many years ago, at a Ben and Jerry’s Folk Festival in Vermont, my son, then three, and I made these hats. He held on to his for years. I was always struck by the fun process and the recycling of materials to make art. At the festival, just about everyone was walking around with them on their heads, adding a sense of play and fun to the day.

I limited the project to the Art Club, and although I would love to have all my students make one of these hats some day, I’m not sure where we would store them while they dried. We simply crinkled brown paper grocery bags until they were malleable, then rolled up the edge to create a brim. After that it was all about freeform painting and dripping and splattering. So fun!

Mardi Gras hats

4. Hall of Lights

Our school art show is held in mid-April as part of a showcase event for the work done in electives classes. My colleague and I fill our art rooms with art to create a gallery. Our classrooms are clear across the school from the entrance, so to provide a path for visitors we line the hallway with luminaries – paper bags our students decorate in which we place LED tea lights. Although we’ve done this for a few years now, there was a whole new level of enthusiasm from our students about setting it up this year. We had a huge crew of volunteers who we dubbed “Hall of Lights Engineers”. They had the hallway ready in no time at all, and even better, had everything picked up very quickly at the end of the event. Yes, I remember the Hall of lights, but more so, I remember these terrific volunteers.

3. Bucket List Videos

I had the pleasure of traveling to Paris during the April vacation and while there, fulfilled my bucket list item of painting en plein air (outside) in the Luxembourg Gardens.

When I returned, I shared the artwork and my original Bucket List movie I had made years ago in a 1:1 iPad workshop with EdTechTeacher:

I then encouraged my students to create their own Bucket List movies using drawings, iMovie, and narration. This proved to be a wonderful way for students to reflect on their interests and make their inner visions tangible. I’m hoping this brings them one step closer to actualizing the vision. If nothing else, we all got to know a little bit more about each other through these videos. This was a first time project that blended drawing, media arts, and technology, another STEAM project. Here are a few of the fabulous completed videos:

2. Castles for a Friend

I’ve been refining my 3D printed castle unit for the past three or four years. This year, in an effort to help my students grow their empathy for others, I changed it up in two important ways. The first was to have students work with a partner – this had always been an individual project. Kids love partner work and I love that partners can help each other as needed, which makes me more available for the bigger concerns. In the past, students were asked to design a castle using eight classical castle architectural terms. This year they did that, plus they included at least three personalizations based on their partner’s interests, hobbies, and life goals that they learned about through interview. As I facilitated this unit, I was so pleased to see the partnering and the care with which students developed their castles. I’m not kidding when I say the empathy was palpable. Of special note are the partnerships between special populations and their peers and the joyful interaction and acceptance I witnessed.

The castle below was designed by Ethan L for Jake F and after learning about Jake’s plans for the future, Ethan designed the No Homework castle where homework is never allowed, he included a yard for Jake’s dog, and railroad tracks so Jake could practice driving trains to meet his 20 year goal of being a train conductor. Ethan did a wonderful job:

1. My Husband’s Retirement

For most people, a spouse’s retirement would not have an impact on their classroom and school year. When your husband is the maintenance guy though, his retirement makes your Top Ten list of memorable moments throughout the school year. Dick and I met 20 years ago when I started teaching. He was married and I had been widowed five years before we met. He was a good friend at school and a big help always, even for something as seemingly small as removing a mouse from under the plastic container my students and I had trapped it with. When he became a  widow six years later, our friendship grew. A couple of years later we married.

Throughout the past twelve school years we have had lunch together in my classroom almost every day. Early on, when he would go out to get coffee to bring back for break with the maintenance crew, he would bring me a coffee as well. He has been a help in infinite ways, in setting up for our art shows, helping us build display units with our art club, setting aside coveted paper boxes for us, helping me move heavy things, retrofitting an old sheet glass case as a large paper storage unit, even running home to grab supplies or my eye glasses (once) when I forgot them. Not that I need it, but he always brought a treat from the cafeteria to share at lunch…a cookie, or some jello, and in the (good) old days, cake. While I know he has worked hard for a great many years and has more than earned this retirement, I’m going to miss the heck out of this guy at school when we start up again. I’m also going to miss using him as a subject in my silly videos – here he was painting a green screen on a hallway wall and of course I modified it…just another maintenance masterpiece:

Thanks to the Art Ed Bloggers Network for giving me a chance to reflect on the school year we just completed. Now that this is done I can begin to wrap my head around planning for the next one. It will be here before we know it.

This post is a part of The Art Ed Blogger’s Network: Monthly Tips and Inspiration from Art Teacher Blogs. On the second Tuesday each month, each of these art teacher blogs will post their best ideas on the same topic.

Participating Art Teacher Blogs:

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Summer Art Activities: Creating With Nature

Art is born of the observation and investigation of nature. – Marcus Tullius Cicero

And nature provides us another medium with which to create artwork, especially in summer. This post is part of a series of posts by the Art Ed Blogger’s Network and the topic today is Summer Art Activities.

When I think about art making in the summer I do so from personal experience with the perspective of a teacher with the summer off to a parent looking for ways to keep a child actively thinking and creating during the school-free summer months. Summer is pottery time for me because I have a clay studio in an old barn which is not heated, so here in New England, I can only use it the warm months. The clay process demands attention at certain intervals, often of different duration, so time off in summer is perfect for this work.

Summer pottery

With children, combining the carefree days of summer with nature is a recipe for creativity, expression, and (don’t tell them) learning. When my son was seven and I was transitioning to teaching from a career in printing, I hosted six children for an art-based daycare for six weeks in the summer. We would take field trips all over New England to draw and paint on-site. When at home, the children created their own backyard community based on the book Roxaboxen by Alice McClerren with illustrations by Barbara Cooney:

To set up our Roxaboxen, we collected giant quahog shells at Sand Hill Cove in RI, pinecones in the yard, and rocks rounded by sand and salt in Rockport, MA and used them to line the “streets” and define territories. With hammers and nails, the children created seats and tables with old wood scraps and corn crates. They made items to sell and created their own leaf currency for the transactions. They wrote letters to each other and dropped them in the mail box for delivery. They washed “dishes” and hung the towels to dry on a shared clothesline. They helped each other and visited when the work was done. This is how they whiled away the down-time moments of the summer of 1997 and were sad to leave it behind when summer was over.

Doing “dishes”

 

Working together to set up Roxaboxen

Setting up the Roxaboxen

Learning through play in this child-centered mini-community provided hours of cooperative social interaction and opportunities for problem-solving and creativity. Through their exploration of nature and utilization of the natural materials they had discovered, the children enjoyed meaningful experiential learning and observed the world around them as abundant with resources and possibility.

Using nature to create and make one’s visions reality is inventive and empowering. Over the past few weeks, my after-school art club has had an opportunity to create with branches, sticks, and twigs left behind when trees were felled for a green project (solar powered windmill to generate electricity to automatically water a garden bed) in our courtyard at school. As the students worked to bring new life to the discarded wood, I saw in them the same spark of creativity and purpose I had witnessed with the backyard Roxaboxen project.

Felled trees

Choosing branches for building

After careful selection, we brought the sticks inside and the kids used clippers to cut them to size. We used glue guns and experimented with lashing with twine to fasten them together.

Some of the children worked alone, some worked with a partner, others worked in a group.

Gianni, Alysse, Will, Mirabella, and Alyssa worked together to build a tree house with ladders and a swing

The old tree house

Kylie and Kayla worked together to make a hanging plant basket

Mirabella with her bird and birds nest

Allie with her boat

Tristan and his dream catcher

Alysse’s star wand

Peyton’s mushroom

Baby Dil on Kelsey’s swing

The 5/6 Art Club with their creations

I’m writing this post with two weeks left of school. Beyond the calendar, I know this because in the quiet moments my mind is full with end-of-the-year tasks like grading, inventory, and cleaning the art room.  My classes have projects to finish and just a few more classes to do so. And then it will be summer.

My hope for my students is for time to stretch and explore. Time to call the shots on how they spend their time. Time to be bored and through boredom discover something they’ve never noticed before, hopefully in nature. As our man Cicero said, “Art is born of the observation and investigation of nature”… and so is time well spent. Happy summer!

This post is a part of The Art Ed Blogger’s Network: Monthly Tips and Inspiration from Art Teacher Blogs. On the second Tuesday each month, each of these art teacher blogs will post their best ideas on the same topic.

Participating Art Teacher Blogs:

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