The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity. Learning in the arts requires the ability and a willingness to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds. – Elliot Eisner
Once again I am happy to showcase six middle school artists who will have work on display at the 2018 Youth Art Month exhibit in Boston, hosted by the Massachusetts Art Education Association. The Youth Art Month exhibit will run from February 5 through March 27 and is being held at the State Transportation Building at 10 Park Place in Boston. Exhibit hours are from 9-5 weekdays (except for Presidents Day), with a family celebration on Sunday, March 4.
Every year when this exhibit comes around, I am proud of the quality of work my students display. This year, I am especially proud of the variety of work being submitted from traditional portraiture to ceramics, to 3D printing, including one collaborative piece from our Game Makers unit. True to the words of Elliot Eisner above, these artworks show a controlled response to the many twists and turns of the creative process.
Here is a closer look at the artists and their artwork:
Katelyn Julian • Grade Six • Self Portrait in Charcoal
Natalia Manzolini & Madison LaCortiglia • Grade Six • 3D Printed Game Pieces
Mirabella Romano • Grade Five • Self Portrait in Colored Pencils
Kayla Vallecillo • Grade Five • Ceramic Sharks in Melted Glass Water
Ethan Herron • Grade Six • 3D Printed Castle
When you see these students, please congratulate them on their fine work!
“Life is full of sniffles, sobs and smiles. With sniffles predominating.” ― O. Henry,
But not on Christmas. Especially this Christmas. It is what you make of it, isn’t it? You do the things that fill you with Christmas spirit from listening to favorite holiday stories to preparing gifts for others. And all the while, you count your blessings.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, a dream/vision/idea came to me as I slept, not unlike one of Scrooge’s ghosts. It arrived as a result of a synchronicity of events, beginning with our cleaning out our barns over the summer and ending with my son moving out of the house this fall. It tapped the agency as makers my husband and I have in common. And for once we had a spare room, not yet refinished, to use as our Santa’s workshop.
Here is the story in storybook form, which is how we presented it as a gift to my son and his girlfriend this Christmas:
Details about the Making follow the story.
Always a sucker for a happy ending, this story did not disappoint:
The Making Part
When I first broached the idea for the project with my husband, Dick, he listened and I could see the wheels turning as he thought about it. I gave him a few days to think about it while I started sketching out ideas. We swung by Lowe’s Home Improvement one night to check out the PVC possibilities.
Dick is a maintenance worker at my school and we have lunch together every day. The next few lunches were consumed by the desk topic. I shared a sketch, and the next lunch, a revision. Dick even made a sketch (goldenrod paper) and then I got out the grid paper.
Early on, Dick was dubious about the PVC pipe being able to hold the weight of the sign. He also worried that we would go to all this trouble to realize an idea that was no more than a vision, only to have the recipients think it odd and “too different”. Accustomed to working with wood, this medium was uncharted territory for Dick. With blind faith he followed my lead and we went back to Lowe’s and bought the PVC pipe and many connectors. I had to order the 4-way connectors from Amazon, and they arrived in just a couple of days.
We also bought PVC glue, but decided in the end that it was not necessary. The sideways joins are supported by vertical pieces, so the weight of the shelves coupled with gravity holds the whole thing together quiet well. The beautiful thing about this is that whatever you build with PVC can be taken apart to be moved around corners and through doors as needed. We also added a few screws to join the large desk shelf to the PVC to stabilize it.
We built the desk the weekend before Christmas, sawing the PVC and boards in our 3-season pottery/woodworking barn, and then put it all together in the house where it is warm. I refinished the sign indoors as well. As we tabulated the quantity and sizes of pipes to cut, Dick made the most important statement, “I’ve been building things for a long time and I know you have to adjust the size for the connections”, which is something I had never thought about. In fact, we gained as much as 2 inches with the connectors, so had to downsize the length of the pipes accordingly. That was a good save.
We finished it up by Sunday night. It was exciting to watch it come together.
And then we put together the chair and added the baskets to see how it looked all together.
What a great project. Our next project is to redo the spare room into something wonderful. I already know the theme will be Peacocks. I’m thinking I’d like a standing desk in there, so I’m glad I saved the plans. I’m also thinking the desktop will be plywood collaged with images of peacocks and decoupaged. How fun!
We’re so glad Dylan and Anna Theresa not only like the desk, but have already thought of many ways to utilize it. It was our joy to give them this gift. It is also our joy to have collaborated on the project, each contributing from our strengths. We are glad to have agency as makers. And it feels good to use our abilities to make something for someone else.
“For it is in giving that we receive.” – Francis of Assisi
“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.
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.
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.
Alison and Kevin share out about the Nipmuc Art Department on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NipmucArtDepartment
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.
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.
The next group, a fourth grade class, were finishing up silhoetted trees and haunted houses on a gradated value background.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” ― Oscar Wilde,
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:
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 email@example.com if you would like to set up a time to meet.