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Charcoal Still Life Drawings at the Art Show at the Miscoe EXPO

“All the visible world is only light on form.” Andrew Loomis

For the past few weeks, my fifth grade students have been creating charcoal still life drawings. They began by sketching a still life positioned in the middle of the table, while observing light, shadow, and form in their sketchbooks. We had explored ellipses just before undertaking this assignment, and this was a great chance to employ that knowledge in an authentic project. Students were learning to see, yet also un-see labels on containers and decorative motifs on vases, to focus on light, shadow, form, shape, perspective, and spacial relationship.

Still life

For most students, this was their first experience with charcoal and found themselves either impressed or dismayed by the dark darks they effortlessly achieved. Blending with blending stumps or tortillas was also a new experience, as was using a kneaded eraser. Most exciting was learning that both the stump and eraser could be used as drawing tools, especially when using the eraser to return light to the form.

Maya Williamson: First, I drew out the outline of the shapes I saw from my angle of the table. Next, I shaded and blended in the shapes where the objects looked darker or lighter. I also drew a horizon line, the table, in the background. To complete my still life, I shaded in the background, and erased the finger prints. I feel like I got better at blending, and I learned that things look different from far away. I also had lots of fun making much still life come to life.

Students then took a photo with her/his iPad, cropped out everything but the drawing, and uploaded it to Artsonia where they also added an Artist Statement.

Ryan May: This charcoal still life took about 4 classes to finish but I’d say it was worth it. I had to mostly do shading and lighting to make I look like it had a shadow. I maybe could have erased a lot of the fingerprint marks and marks around the still life but I also feel like if I did was this whole thing again, I would probably do better shading on the shapes. The process to make this artwork was drawing out the shapes, shading them in, then coloring the background, and then after doing the shadows around the still life, blending the all the charcoal together. So, after those 4 classes, I think I did well on this artwork.

Estella Soares

Marley Loucks: First, I started by sketching the still life and drawing the shadows. Then, I shaded all of my sketches and started to do the background. Lastly, I shaded in the background and erased all of my fingerprints off the bottom. I feel like it came out good but I could have done better. If I were to do it again, I would make the background a little bit more down and I would make the shadows a little bit more dark.

Ella Martin: First I drew the objects. Then I shaded the objects. After that I drew the shadows. And finally I shaded and blended the background. I feel that it came out good. I might make the background better next time.

Kaycie Gardner: I made this art by first looking at the still life then I drew it with charcoal pencil. When I was done I started shading to make shadows by using some of the charcoal tools. Then I drew a horizontal line in the back and then shaded on top of it so that it made it look like it was on a table. Then I I made it lighter in some spots and darker in the other spots to make it look even more real. I feel that my art came out good, I may be able to do a little better next time, but I think I did my best and it came out real good! What I might do differently next time is that I might put my shadows in different spots, and I may put the still life more in the middle of the page. But I think it come out good, and that is how I made my art!

Anna Tsuchiya: I think that if I was going to do it again then I would try to get less finger prints on my drawing because I spent a lot of time trying to erase them. I think my still life is pretty good compared to how weird looking some of my art is. My favorite step was the blending because for some reason it satisfied me to see the lines I made combine together. It looks like it could do with some improving but I think over all I did a pretty good job!

Aiden Fayer: I started by making a light outline.Then I made the shading then the shadows and last the back ground.I really like how it came out.The only thing I dont feel goodd about is the background. I woulldd make the background lighter and more blended.

Orianna Murphy: To make this artwork I used a charcoal pencil and a eraser. I first sketched the basic shapes in. I then shaded by blending the charcoal with a blending stick. I finally did the background creating a dark shadow line giving the effect of a table. I feel like this art came out very well, the shading turned out better then I thought it would. If I where to do this project again I would spread the shapes out a little more instead of having them all clustered in the center of the page.

Devan Rankins: I used techniques such as shading, light, shadow, and blending. I don’t think it came out that good. Be neater. I first drew what thing I saw, then I drew some details. After that I started drawing shadows, then the background.

Michael Albert: My process was first I put all of the objects down and then I started to shade then I used the shading stick and then I started to do my backround.How I feel about how it came out, I thought it came out pretty well it just that I need to shade more and try to erase the finger prints. If I were to do anything differently I would shade the objects more.

This artwork and so much more will be on display at the Art Show at the Miscoe EXPO on Wednesday, April 10 from 6-8pm.

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Watercolor Abstraction at the Art Show at Miscoe EXPO

Abstract art enables the artist to perceive beyond the tangible, to extract the infinite out of the finite. It is the emancipation of the mind. It is an exploration into unknown areas.Arshile Gorky

For the past few weeks, my sixth grade students have been working on watercolor still life arrangements abstracted through contour continuation.

Grace Joseph – This abstraction was made at first by looking at the still life. I drew the still life onto my water color paper and then did my contour continuation. After the countour continuation I started to water color each segment of the abstraction. I used warm colors for the still life and cool colors for the background. After I was done with the water coloring I went over the lines with a black sharpie. I think that my abstraction came out okay. I think that it could have been better with staying in the lines with the water color.

They began by sketching a still life positioned in the middle of the table, while observing light, shadow, and form in their sketchbooks. We had explored ellipses just before undertaking this assignment, and this was a great chance to employ that knowledge.

Still life

They then made another sketch, drawing just the contour of the objects and continuing the contour lines beyond the outline of the objects to fracture the picture plane. This was a big jump.

When painting, to differentiate the objects from the background, students applied warm or cool colors to the objects and the opposite to the background. The final step was to go over all the contour lines with black Sharpie. The artists then took a photograph of the painting and uploaded it to Artsonia, where they also added an Artist Statement.

Jessica Clemons – To create this abstraction, I started off by closely observing the still life in front of me. I notice the overlaps and heights, placements and size of each individual object. I then drew what I saw, making sure to represent the appereance of some objects being farther away from others. After I finished that, I used contour continuation, stretching lines from each corner of the objects, and every corner after that, then I was ready to paint. I chose to paint the objects the warm colors, and the background the cool colors. The last step was going in and tracing every pencil line with sharpie, making it look bolder and better. I am very pleased at how this came out and I was to do it again, I was be more careful with the paints, and realize that I had much more time.

Kyle Miller – I think it came out pretty decent. I would do warm colors as the shapes. I could do cool colors as the background

Hayden Gleason – The process I used to make this artwork was still life first because I copied down the objects on the paper. Second, I did abstraction because I drew the objects. Third, I used contour continuation to draw the lines out randomly. Fourth, I used the warm and cool colors. I feel it came out really good. I might go over the colors again because some are dull.

Jocelyn Graham – The process I used to make this artwork is first I drew the still life. Second I did contour continuations to make many lines. Third I water color painted the still life with warm colors and the background with cool colors. Fourthly I used a sharpie to draw on the contour lines to finish the abstract art. I think that the art I made came out pretty well. If I were to do this again what I would do differently is I would make it so there is less white space.

Kayla Vallecillo – I feel great about my still-life abstraction, the contour continuation is complex as well as simple, and the colors are vivid and bright. If I could do this project again, I would make less lines in the contour continuation. I would also add less water to the brush so that the colors don’t sleep into eachother. I liked hot the painting had warm colors for the objects and cool colors for the background. It attracts attention to the objects, and overall I enjoy the final product.

Kayla Aubut – To make this piece, first I drew the shapes, then I used contour continuation to continue the lines to the end of the paper. Then I filled the shapes with water color (the objects where cool colors and the outside was warm colors). Finally, I sharpied the lines. I do like the end product, but I wish it was less blended. I would have painted the squares separately, because the colors bled into each other.

Harmony Melendez-Torres: I think my artwork came out really well. If I were to do it again I would draw the objects larger. I had decided to use cool colors for the still life and warm colors for the background because most people decided to do it the other way around, so I did the opposite for it to be different. I think I did a pretty good job with my contour lines and abstraction.

This artwork and so much more will be on display at the Art Show at the Miscoe EXPO on Wednesday, April 10 from 6-8pm.

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Art In The Valley 2019

Once again, I have the pleasure of congratulating some of my fifth and sixth grade students on having work selected for an art show. Thus one is the Art in the Valley show in Blackstone this Friday night and Saturday until noon.

Art in the Valley

Hartnett Middle School, Blackstone

Friday, April 5, 2019 6:00-8:00 pm, Opening Reception

Saturday, April 6, 2019 10:00-12:00 noon, Show

Sponsored by a generous donation from the Blackstone Valley Education Foundation

Between the 4 K-8 schools in the Mendon-Upton Regional School District, 60 pieces of artwork will be exhibited!

Here are my students who will have work in the show:

Miscoe Hill Art in the Valley 2019 Artists

Top row: Ethan LaRue (7), Ella Halnon (6), Eliza Kurze (6), Theo Bates (6)

Second row: Conor Belleville (6), Sophia Blalock (6), Kassity Walker (6), Finn Lozeau (5)

Third row: Kayla Aubut (6), Molly Dishington (5), Brooke Ferlo (5), Fallon Lozano (6)

Fourth row: Brynn DiAnni (5), Finn Lozeau, Kyle Moran, Mason Kirkpatrick, Irelyn Bradley (5), Armaan Priyadarshan (6)

And their work:

The Art in the Valley Artwork

Let me afford you a closer look at their work:

Theo Bates
Digital Art

Fallon Lozano
Sketchbook ZoneDoodle in Marker

Eliza Kurze
Clay Coil Animal

Kayla Aubut
3D Printed City Buildings

Brooke Ferlo
Charcoal Still Life

Ethan LaRue
3D Printed Castle 4a Friend

Irelyn Bradley, Mason Kirkpatrick, Kyle Moran, Finn Lozeau
Product Redesign Promo Pieces

Brynn DiAnni
Clay Pinch Pot

Sophia Blalock
Clay Tile

Ella Halnon
Vacation Memory in Marker

Molly Dishington
Clay Lion’s Head

Conor Belleville
Digital Self Portrait

Armaan Priyadarshan
Watercolor Abstraction

Finn Lozeau
Digital ZoneDoodle

Brynn Dianni
Clay Coil Pot

All of these wonderful artworks will also be on display at the Miscoe Hill Art Show at the Miscoe EXPO in the Miscoe Hill Art Rooms on Wednesday, April 10, 6-8 pm.

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Reflection: My Wicked SmART #NAEA19 Experience

Teachers believe they have a gift for giving; it drives them with the same irrepressible drive that drives others to create a work of art or a market or a building. – A. Bartlett Giamatti

It has been two weeks since 6000 art educators descended on Boston for the 2019 National Art Education Association annual convention. Imagine 6000 driven teachers who are as driven by their passion for art. Wicked SmART!

This is my reflective post after the event. Given that it was 4 days and 4 nights of nonstop activity, it’s a rather long post. To hopefully make it manageable, I’m dividing it by the days of the week and I’m including a boatload of photos, which will hopefully tell a 1000 words (each).

It was my pleasure to have been part of the hosting committee for the convention. We started meeting last June and have met at least monthly for the past year. When I think back on all the discussions we had and the decisions we made, I am really proud of the way the convention came together.

The Massachusetts Art Education Association’s logo for the convention


Tuesday began as a regular school day except that my suitcases were packed and waiting for the minute I got home from work. I left 3 days of sub plans and had the helpful advantage of going over the plans with my sub during the day. I had been laying down the groundwork for a few classes for the project underway, so I felt pretty good about the students being able to continue their work in my absence. Fifth grade students were working on charcoal still life drawings.

Fifth grade artists at work on charcoal still life drawings

Charcoal still life drawing in progress

When I got out of work, I flew home and jumped in my husband’s truck and off we went to drop me in Boston. When I checked in and got to my room, I was pleased to have a view toward Fenway AND a view toward Cambridge.

My view out the left side of my window at the Sheraton – Citgo sign dead ahead

Later that evening I met my friend Samantha for dinner at the Top of the Hub in the Prudential building. Samantha is a longtime NAEA and Twitter art education friend from Texas, who nominated me for the National Middle Level Art Educator of the Year award. We share a love of water and sweeping vistas, and I knew the Top of the Hub would afford us both of those things. The restaurant and views did not disappoint and as a bonus, it was Restaurant Week in Boston, so the Prix Fixe price was right, too.

Samantha and the view from the Top of the Hub

Samantha and me at the Top of the Hub

The view from the Top of the Hub

Creme brûlée – oh so good


Waking up in Boston with a view of the Charles River and Cambridge beyond

I watched the sun come up over the Charles on Wednesday morning, taking a last chance to get my daily schedules in order before the pre-conference session began with a 7:30am bus ride to the Boston Center for the Arts on Tremont Street. I was excited to participate in the Supervisor Summit Media Arts event.

Usually conventions find me scrambling for food as the schedule is so intense and there is no time for meals. I’m happy to say our sponsor, Davis Publications, kept us well fed throughout the day.

Thanks to Davis Publishing, we ate well all day! This is breakfast!

And this was a snack later on – popcorn with truffle oil – yummers!

After breakfast, we enjoyed keynote speaker Ben Forta, on the topic of The Case for Creativity in the Classroom. Then Rob Sandagata and Karl Cole put the Media Arts in context with an historical overview and lots of imagery. Next up was a tour of the artist spaces at the Boston Center for the Arts. This was invigorating and exciting to see working artists and listen to them talk about their work. Although we didn’t meet the artist of this painting, it was hanging on display. The palette matched my mood:

Touring studio spaces at the Boston Center for the Arts This piece is by Victor F. Ortale

And then there was a panel discussion followed by break-out sessions. The break out sessions were exciting and hands on, which I was grateful for at that point in the day. I especially enjoyed being back in the Apple fold, learning about and trying new apps.

Apple’s Everyone Can Create Teacher Guide

Apps we used during the Media Arts event

Ebook: Fostering Creativity with iPad

Matt Brooks, Apple

I also enjoyed learning about Adobe’s powerhouse trio of Spark apps: Page, Post, and Video, with Ben Forta:

Ben Forta, Senior Director of Education Initiatives, Adobe

It was super fun to be with Barbara Liedahl, who I met at ISTE 16 in Denver, here presenting on paper circuits:

Barbara Liedahl

After the break out sessions there were even more refreshments, including adult beverages, and then we boarded the bus back to the convention. Davis Publications was kind enough to compile all the resources from the day on a page at this link.

Wednesday Evening

Later that evening, I met up with ten friends who I know from the Massachusetts Art Education Association and others from across the country, who I know from Twitter. I had arranged this Tweet-up with a reservation at Summer Shack, right near the hotel. Needless to say, we had a great time:

Wednesday night dinner with Twitter friends: L to r: @ConantArt, @MarottaArt, @smelvin, @GrundlerArt, @stacy_lord, @ArtLadyHBK, @bellafiore3, @MonaLisaLvsHeah, @ArtGuy76, @TheresaMcGee

I loved watching my non-New England friends wrestle with lobsters


Thursday started long before sun up

Thursday was going to be action packed, so I got up pretty early to make sure “all my ducks were in a row”. The first  event was Amy Sherald’s opening address. I wanted to get there early in order to get a good seat.

naea - 1 (1)

On my way to seeking the perfect seat, I stumbled upon (not literally) these two California artsed friends/Photo by Don Masse

Amy Sherald is most well known for having painted Michelle Obama’s official portrait for the National Portrait Gallery. Her reflection on the lack of representation of people of color in art museums and the mainstream culture was poignant and powerful. She is dynamic!

Amy Sherald takes the stage

Amy showed us her progress through her various portraits

Of course she spoke about her portrait of Michelle Obama, now hanging in the National Gallery in DC

Following Amy’s talk, I hurried to the Massachusetts Art Education Association (MAEA) table to help out. Those of us on the MAEA board had signed up for time slots to make sure there was coverage at the table. Every time I reported for duty there were several people there to help out. This first morning, we began selling the MAEA T-shirts right after the Amy Sherald event. The table was packed! We sold out of T-shirts within the first hour! Quick thinking Melissa Mastrolia (President Elect) created an online order option for those who were interested. Last count was somewhere around 500!

Working the Massachusetts Art Education Association table

The shirt was very popular!

At the MAEA table, we also had a free raffle of a Shepard Fairey signed print, 3 paintings by Boston artist, Bren Bataclan, and a Maker tools basket from Mobile Makerspace of Cape Cod. Using a list of restaurants curated by art teachers, I designed a document called Wicked SmART Eats, which we had on display with a QR code to the docs with active links to the restaurant websites. Last but not least, we passed out Wicked SmART stickers. (I passed these out all over Boston, to be truthful).

Our Wicked SmART eats poster

Leaving the table around 11am, I ordered an Uber for a ride to Harpoon Brewery over in the Seaport. I had arranged a tour for 15 people to tour the Autodesk Build Space followed by a tour of Harpoon Brewery with photography privileges. The brewery tour is only offered at 4:00 and I couldn’t reserve tickets ahead of the day, so I wanted to be there around when they opened at 11:00 in order to purchase tickets for the tour to ensure our group’s inclusion. My driver waited in the car  while I ran in and purchased the tickets. They even stuck a Wicked SmART sticker on the bar for good measure.

After my shift at the table I took an Uber to the Seaport to pick up tickets for the afternoon tour group

I had arranged three Boston tours for the art educators. I honestly thought they wouldn’t fill. But they did, all three of them! Two of them were scheduled to take place on Thursday afternoon, and the other one on Friday. Fortunately, Brandy Jackson of Mobile Makerspace was able to cover the Autodesk/Harpoon tour for me. (Thank you, Brandy!)

Next up was a return Uber trip to the convention center to meet the bus for the Harvard Square/Harvard Museum of Natural History tour I was leading at 12:30. My Uber driver delivered me in time and I met the group along with Tom, the bus driver.

Our bus for the Harvard Walking/Sketching Tour

On the way over to Cambridge I shared the landmarks we passed with the people on the bus, and Tom pitched in wherever I lagged. We arrived at the kiosk in the square, unloaded and walked into Harvard Yard. To follow are some photos of our experience.

Our tour group at the gate to Harvard Yard

These two students were so helpful in sharing information about their work, including sharing 300 year old pipe stems and china.

The archeology class in the yard

At the John Harvard statue

On the steps of the Harvard Art Museums overlooking Sever Hall

When we were on the steps of the Harvard Art Museums, Brandon (below) stopped on his way up the stairs and said, “Hey, so I’m already late for class. Is there anything I can help you with? Any questions I can answer?” I replied, “Well as a matter of fact, we are all teachers, and together we could probably write you one heck of a late pass.” We all laughed, but some people did have some great questions. Also, Brandon told us that we were touring on Housing Day, when sophomores find out which dorm they’ll be in for the next 3 years. He had been selected for Mather House (as you can tell by his clothing and headband) and was pretty excited about it.

Brandon takes questions

The next stop for the group was the Harvard University Museum of Natural History to tour the glass flowers exhibit and do some sketching in the exhibit rooms. My friend, Eva Kearney, was taking over for me here as I had to get back to the Back Bay for the awards ceremony. (Thank you, Eva!)

At the Museum of Natural History

Another Uber brought me back to the convention center where I found the room where the NAEA Art Education Technology group were having their awards ceremony. I took a moment to congratulate my friend, Christopher Sweeney, who I had nominated for the Outstanding Teacher award he was about to receive. I was sorry to have missed the ceremony, but I had to get up to the hotel to get ready for the NAEA National Awards.

Stopped by to see Chris prior to his award recognition

The NAEA National Awards were at 4:00 in the Hynes Auditorium. I had just enough time to scoot up to my room at the Sheraton and change clothes before they started. It was a rush, but I made it in plenty of time. Being named 2019 National Middle Level Art Educator of the Year is truly an honor. To be able to receive the award in my home city was even more special. It went something like this:

The awards program




Seth Freeman Photography

With Kim Huyler Defibaugh and Pete Curran /Photo by Sarah Dugan

With Samantha Melvin, my friend and nominator

The beautiful glass award

The certificate of award

The award experience was truly exhilarating and afterward I met up with friends to celebrate. From there we went to the NAEA Opening party, followed by the Artisans Marketplace, where art educators sell their wares, and finally at 9:30 pm, to the Capital Grille for dinner and celebration with longtime MAEA friends. It was a long, awesome day!

Dinner at the Capital Grille


I had an early morning commitment at the MAEA table on Friday. The crowd had calmed down from the day before, yet there was a steady stream of people wanting to buy shirts and asking questions about the area, mostly about food and museums. Maybe in that order.

Working the MAEA table with Kay Furst on Friday morning

After an hour or so, I went to the auditorium early to save a seat  for my colleague, Jess Fowler, to see Peter H. Reynolds. Peter was funny, tender, and wears his compassion on his sleeve. A few years ago, Peter featured one of my students in his magazine Hutch as she told her story about how his book The Dot had influenced her artistic journey.

With Mendon Upton colleague Jess Fowler in the front row for Peter H. Reynolds

Peter H. Reynolds

Peter H. Reynolds

The themes of the books by Peter H. Reynolds

After Peter’s talk, I scurried over to the Boston Public Library where I met my tour group for our docent led tour of the art and architecture of the library followed by a Copley Square tour. The group gathered outside, and once we ascended the steps, we were off.

Our group for the Boston Public Library tour in front of the museum

Gathered in the lobby before going up the stairs

Ascending the stairs under the watchful eye of the lions

Among the murals

Among the murals

The John Singer Sargent murals

In the courtyard

In Bates Hall

It seemed like the minute we stepped outside on completing the tour, the wind kicked up and the air grew cooler. The winds of weather change were in Copley Square, but we were not deterred as we explored Trinity Church, the Copley monument, Old South Church, the Kahlil Gibran and Tortoise and the Hare monuments, the marathon finish line, and Newbury Street.

Standing with John Singleton Copley

Copley Square

Meanwhile, during the tour, the NAEA Eastern Region gathered to have their own awards ceremony. I was being acknowledged as National Middle Level Art Educator at this event as a Team EAST teacher. Because I was leading a tour at this time, Melissa Mastrolia, President Elect of MAEA, accepted my award gifts for me. (Thank you Melissa!)

Program from the Eastern Region award ceremony

A gift from the Eastern Region (Team EAST)

A note from the Massachusetts Art Education Association

Fantastic sketchbook gift from the MAEA

On my return from the windy tour, I was feeling the effects of the sinus infection, asthma, and bronchitis that had started the week prior to the convention. Still on Prednisone for the asthma, I had rallied through the first 3 days, but it caught up to me with the wind in Copley Square. On my way back to the hotel I picked up some hot soup and Tylenol and took a little break to rest up before the Friday night fun began.

Hitting a wall – a little self care

And then Friday night began! I had invitations to many meet ups, four of which were taking place between 4:30 and 8pm. With a little help from Uber, I expected to at least drop in on all of them. The first was with the “way back” MAEA crew:

Tim O’Connor and Eva Kearney – two long time MAEA friends

And then the MassArt mingle in the beautiful Design and Media Center:

Mass Art mingle with Mosie and Eva

Although I graduated from MassArt with a BFA in Painting, not education, my recent interaction with pre-service art teachers made me feel right at home:

MassArt mingle with Billy Claire and Eva Kearney

From there we Ubered up to the Pour House where the #K12ArtChat people were gathered. This meet up gave me a chance to at least say hello to friend, Tricia Fuglestad, who was otherwise busy showing people how to use the Doink products.

At the #K12ArtChat meet up with Tricia Fuglestad

It was good to have a relaxed moment to catch up with Christopher Sweeney and Sophia Georgiou at this event, too:

At the #K12ArtChat meet up with Christopher Sweeney and Sophia Georgiou (Morphi app developer)

From the Pour House, it was a quick walk over to Summer Shack, where the Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) force was meeting for dinner. Although I didn’t eat, I had a chance to say hello to many friends I had met at the summer TAB course at MassArt:

Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) meet up at Summer Shack – pictured here are Kathy Douglas, Pauline Joseph, Diane Jaquith/ Photo by Roni Rohr


Saturday morning view over the Charles to Cambridge

I was pretty excited about Saturday morning. This was the day my education guru, Dr. Howard Gardner, would be speaking to the art teachers! I’ve heard Dr. Gardner speak many times and I always take away something that I end up thinking about for days. I enjoy his humor and I respect his insight. Of course I got there early to get in the front row again and was happy to be seated with my Texas art education friends and Massachusetts art educator, Sarah Tomkins.

Samantha, me, Sarah, Laura and Matt

With Pete Curran before Dr. Howard Gardner

Dr. Howard Gardner

The giant audience full of art educators nearly lost their minds with applause when Dr. Gardner said, “It may be true that going into the arts will improve math scores but we all know that nobody goes into art to improve math scores, they go into it because they love it and they love to use their minds.” Boom

The slide below was Dr. Gardner’s way of acknowledging his wife, Dr. Ellen Winner, who all art teachers know from her work as co-author of Studio Thinking. In fact, when we were making keynote suggestions last June, I mentioned the idea of a shared keynote between Winner and Gardner. That might have been awesome.

Dr. Gardner discussed his work on Multiple Intelligences and pleaded with the audience to please, never confuse multiple intelligences with learning styles.

He also discussed his current work on The Good Project.

Buoyed by an excellent keynote, I went off to find the space where MAEA was having a meet up prior to their awards ceremony. During a hosting committee meeting, when we had discussed refreshments for the meet up, I pitched the idea of whoopee pies (because they’re fun), and I’m happy to say, we got them!

Whoopie Pies

At the event I saw many people I don’t get to see every often:

With Kathy Douglas at the MAEA award ceremony

At the MAEA award ceremony with Ruth Starrett and Kristi Oliver

And I was pleased to be in the room when we remembered our former MAEA leader and friend to all, John Michael Gray, for the first official time since his passing in 2016. It was great to see the book many of us contributed to then, presented to John Michael’s life partner, Tim O’Connor, at the award ceremony. One day I would love to see the book and treasure the memories of John Michael Gray.

MAEA honored the late, great John Michael Gray at this event

After the MAEA awards, I scurried up to my room and gathered my things in order to check out, yet leave my suitcase at the desk. When I got downstairs, I realized I was not the only one doing so, and had to wait a half an hour while the hotel found room for all the luggage. I don’t think they anticipated all the stuff art teachers would make and collect during the convention; it’s probably different for a business convention.

Last shot of the beautiful view before checking out and leaving my luggage at the front desk – note the sailboats on the Charles

My last official commitment was to participate in a panel discussion with the middle level award winners in the various regions. Because Peter Curran, then Director of the Middle Level Division, has done this before, he made it very easy for us, with a brief introduction and then questions from the attendees. It was fun.

Middle Level Award winners

Middle Level Award winners panel discussion

After this session, our MAEA hosting committee was meeting in the Exhibit Hall to take care of any items that were being left behind. Once that obligation was fulfilled, I was off to meet a few friends for beverages before the Leadership Reception a little later on.

I’ve got to say, the “light hors d’oeuvres” were delightful, as were the beverages and the company. It was so nice to relax and know that everything was finished. As pre-arranged, I exited the party at 7:30, gathered my luggage and stepped outside just as my husband, like a knight in shining armor, pulled up to the door. It was seamless. And it was beautiful!

Home sweet home

Waking up the next day to ordinary wonderful things, I was still flying high, but grateful to be home. I realized, though, just how sick I was and that I hadn’t shaken the respiratory issues I’d been powering through. I ended up taking an extra day to get my strength before returning to work.

When I got back to school, my students were about mid-way through the project I had introduced before I left. I could tell by their progress that the substitute teacher had been attentive and followed all the instructions (Thank you Rosa!)

Artists at work

And then at the end of the day, our principal gathered the staff to announce my award and share a congratulatory cake. How nice!

Two weeks later now, it is all officially over. I’m so grateful to the many people who helped me out with my scheduling conflicts. I’m so happy to have spent time with my friends from across the country, friends I maintain relationships with on Twitter and Facebook. I’m glad to have reconnected with many art teacher friends here in Massachusetts and I’m proud to be part of the MAEA, which is growing by leaps and bounds in not only number, but in enthusiasm. I appreciate my school district approving my time away and acquiring a great sub for me. Lastly, I am thankful to the NAEA for the care and thoughtfulness with which they plan our art education conventions. These conventions are truly a shot in the arm that inspires us as we go forward in our work of shaping human potential. Thank you!

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WeRMakers: Product ReDesign In Fifth Grade Art

“A designer is an emerging synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist and evolutionary strategist.” – R. Buckminster Fuller

This is the third fall I have facilitated the WeRMakers Product Redesign unit. This is a project-based-learning unit that utilizes resources from Project Zero Classroom’s Agency by Design. A few colleagues and I  participated in their online course, Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Centered Classroom during the summer of 2016. The course introduces unique thinking routines that foster the primary maker capacities of looking closely, exploring complexity, and finding opportunity. Later that fall, I facilitated the process with the 5/6 Art club, giving me a chance to get my feet wet with a small group of 15 students. After setting up the technology structure and creating a cohesive unit over the summer, I implemented it with all 5 of my fifth grade classes in the fall of 2017, with great success. We just wrapped up this year’s WeRMakers unit in early January.

Inspired by the ideas and routines in the book, Maker-Centered Learning: Empowering Young People to Shape Their Worlds, authored by Edward P Clapp, Jessica Ross, Jennifer O. Ryan, and Shari Tishman, I began working part-time as an online coach for the course. I enjoyed this opportunity to help others with their understanding of the Thinking Routines and to learn from them as they reflected on their experiences applying the concepts to students of all ages in many different types of classrooms around the world. This opened my eyes to applications for the routines I hadn’t considered.

Thank you to all of the people at Agency by Design for all of the ideas and resources you’ve shared. Your inspiration and generosity are deeply appreciated.

What I’ve come to, with my own students, is the process outlined on this document, which I created to explain to colleagues for collaboration. The Thinking Routines we employed are listed and linked in the document, and some of them are included in Spanish.

The structure I provide for my fifth grade students is through sharing resources in Google Classroom, where they are also linked to Google Forms (surveys, reflection, information sharing), and in student-created sketchbooks that are used as Discovery Logs.

Student-made sketchbooks as discovery logs

When I put together curriculum units, I always frame the components into three categories, Explore (introductory “hook”, initial exposure to content, development of “wonders”), Create (ideation, drafting, making, design thinking), and Share (presenting the creation for feedback, developing marketing tools such as a 60-second elevator speech and product posters). Throughout every stage of the process, students are working in learning groups, sometimes the groups are genuinely cooperative and sometimes cooperation requires coaching.

The first step in the Explore stage of the unit is the Design Hunt:

This year I made a worksheet for the students:

And here is what it looks like in the classroom. Keep in mind you can do this anywhere, inside or outside the school.

The next step is to rehearse the Thinking Routine Looking Closely with objects that have very few parts. Inexpensive pencil sharpeners and ball point pens work well. 

Following the Looking Closely/Take Apart experience, student groups completed a Google Form where they explored the Parts, Purposes, and Complexities of the object.

Over the years, I have learned that it takes time and a focused effort to facilitate cooperative learning in the middle school classroom. The above rehearsal of the Thinking Routines and group Google Form completion is also a great opportunity to work through some personality differences that could lead to conflicts later on within a group. Keeping the rehearsal simple and involving concepts that students aren’t emotionally attached to also helps. Lastly, while this is going on, I move around the room casually watching and listening to groups interact, which gives me a sense of where some coaching is needed.

Once the simple object rehearsal is finished, students begin the steps with small appliances. Last year I sent out a call for donations of unwanted small appliances and we received everything from lamps to hairdryers. This year, I stumbled upon a box of classroom phones left in our school storage room.

After double-checking that they were indeed junk, we used them rather than collecting small appliances. In the end, they did the job, but the diversity of many different objects the year before had been more exciting, yielding many unique product redesigns. It was still good, though, and because the students worked in small groups, each of their experiences were unique to the group, it was only from my overview perspective that I noticed similarities.

Once student group were given the phones, they completed the Explore steps of observe and sketch first, take apart, observe and sketch parts, consider purposes of parts. Upload the images to Google Classroom.

Looking Closely at the phone front and back to elicit wonder 

Sketching all the parts and thinking about the role of each and interdependency, beginning systems thinking

The next step in the Explore phase of this project is developing Systems Thinking. Independently, students look at a variety of images from Agency by Design that I’ve prepared with questions in a Google Form here. Once they’ve all completed the form, they talk to their group about their findings and then we go over each of the examples together as a class with the images projected. I enjoy facilitating this discussion and watching the class come to a consensus on the definition of a system, usually something like, “A system is made of many parts working together. Within a system, one part affects the others.”

Students then work together to consider the systems involved with their appliance and make a list. They then make a list of people involved with the systems in making and using the parts and item, from end users to manufacturers to disposal, considering how one person’s role affects the next person in the system.

Because all groups were working with the same appliance (phones), the Systems Thinking conversations were rich with connections made across all groups, compared to each group having a different appliance. I really liked how the whole class could offer inout on the different users and people interacting with the product in the phases of Manufacturing, Distribution, Purchasing, End Users, and Disposal. With an older group I would add Source Mapping to the system.

Students then choose one group from their list of people who interact with the product and then use empathy to understand the relationship between the person they’ve chosen and the product. I assign this as a question in Google Classroom, which elicits a group discussion. One person from the groups records the responses in a handwritten list.


Groups choose one person or user within the system. They consider ways a person or group of people interacts with the appliance or in the manufacturing of the item. They use empathy to consider possible problems the people may have within their role with the product.




Groups consider how they might make the product more beautiful, efficient, effective, or ethical for a user or user group or manufacturer. Notes are taken, the plan is shared with another group. Designs are drafted.

This group chose to focus on the Distribution phase of the product, choosing to invent a plane specifically designed for better cargo space, heating and cooling fans, and a customized ramp for loading and unloading the product.

Groups choose from the draft sketches of the newly revised product then work together to create a poster advertising their product.

Other group members work on a scientific diagram as if they were going to have a prototype made.


Students work together to write, rehearse, and record a 60 Second Elevator Speech to promote their idea. They recorded the video in the DoInk Green Screen app and added a photo of an elevator interior as the underlay. Once recorded, this is uploaded to FlipGrid and Google Classroom.

The video is shared with the class audience and then each group shares their Product Poster and Scientific Diagram with class, first explain which group of people they chose and how they made the product more beautiful, efficient, effective or ethical for the group.

Irelyn B., Mason K., Kyle M., Finn L.

For closure on the unit, students are asked through Google Classroom to fill in a Google Form with their feedback. I use this feedback to inform my planning for the next facilitation of this unit and while creating or revising other curriculum units. Here are some examples of the feedback: From Explore to Create to Share, this cross-curricular unit takes about 15 classes, each 50 minutes long every other day, to facilitate as a Visual Art project. This is one-third of my time in the semester with my students. It is well worth it for the success skills being learned including cooperative learning, systems thinking, public speaking, to name just a few. It is also an opportunity to practice skills inherent in visual art and design including design thinking (design process), creative process, and graphic design in an authentic task. It would be an effective collaborative unit across disciplines, and I look forward to restructuring it as such in the future.




Miscoe Hill 5/6 Artwork at Youth Art Month in Boston

“I really believe that if you practice enough you could paint the ‘Mona Lisa’ with a two-inch brush.” – Bob Ross

Speaking of Mona Lisa, an art masterpiece, I am happy to announce the 2019 Youth Art Month artists and masterpieces by my students at Miscoe Hill School!

Top row: Paul Van Norman, Kylie French, Alden Genovese, Samira Evens, Zuleica Booth Bottom row: Matthew dos Santos, Nolan Mann, Elizabeth Scharn

The 2019 Youth Art Month exhibit, sponsored by the Massachusetts Art Education Association and titled, “Your Art, Your Story”, is begin held at the Massachusetts State Transportation Building, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, from February 11 through March 27.

The exhibit will be open to the public on weekdays, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., February 11 – March 27, 2019 and is closed weekends and on Presidents’ Day, Monday, February 18, 2019. Entrance to the exhibit is free. Parking (for a fee) is available at the building.

A Family Celebration will take place on Sunday, March 3, 2019 from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m, with the YAM Ceremony at 12:30 p.m.

The Artists and their Artworks

Paul Van Norman – Paul, a sixth grade student, designed his 3D printed buildings for the Imaginary City project-based learning unit last June, when he was in fifth grade. While his cooperative learning group was busy preparing the city map for their project, Paul focused on the design of buildings using Morphi app. It is important to note that all of the designs were created by combining and subtracting primitive 3D forms, rather than by downloading ready-made objects. Paul seems to have a knack for designing community spaces à la Frederick Law Olmsted, and may one day apply these skills as a landscape architect or civil engineer.

Paul with his 3D printed Imaginary City

While I love this whole piece, I am especially in love with the park, with its bench by the pond.

Kylie French, Alden Genovese, Samira Evens

This cooperative learning group worked collaboratively to design the game pieces for their board game created during the Game Makers project-based learning unit this fall. Kylie employed whimsy and fun in her design of the mustache and banana. Alden used his love of ice cream to create the delightful ice cream cone. Samira create the pizza slice dripping with sauce. Of note was the lesson learned about the way a 3D printer builds in layers as Samira’s first effort, with the tip of the slice facing downward, wouldn’t print because there was not a shelf for it to build on. She flipped the triangle and voila(!), was met with success. I’m hoping she will remember this concept when learning about Frank Lloyd Wright and cantilevered construction one day. This group chose to add detail to their models with acrylic paint before attaching them with velcro to a non-scaled replica of their game board.

Kylie French, Alden Genovese, Samira Evens with their 3D printed Game Pieces

“I mustache you a question – do you scream for ice cream?”

Zuleica Booth

Zuleica (Zoe) created her ceramic snake using the clay hand-building coil method. Zoe has a generous artistic spirit with all mediums, and has an especially expressive way with clay. She tames her creation with elegance and fluidity resulting in a graceful rendition produced with a single coil of clay, which rests gently on a slab ceramic base. Zoe finished her piece with Mayco Stroke and Coat glaze.

Zuleica with her ceramic coil snake

Zuleica’s single coil snake

Matthew dos Santos

Matthew is in the seventh grade. He last had art class with me in fifth grade, where he learned to design 3D models. He sent an email to me a couple of weeks ago showing me this model he had designed while home sick one day and mentioning that although he hasn’t had art class for a year and a half, he remembered the app and wanted to explore it more deeply. I was amazed. Keeping in mind that each piece of this dragon design is a single form attached with other forms to realize the whole model, one can’t help but to reflect on Aristotle’s statement, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Whether designing 3D models of dragons, snow persons, castles, or buildings, this early, non-academic exposure to 3D modeling can lead to future application in designing prosthetics, mechanical parts, or whatever the artist can envision.

Matthew with his design for 3D modeling

Matthew’s Dragon model as seen in Morphi App

Matthew’s Dragon model as seen in Morphi App

Matthew’s Dragon 3D printed

Matthew’s Dragon 3D printed

Nolan Mann

During a study of self-portraits vs. selfies earlier this fall, 6th grade artist, Nolan, created his self-portrait with the Rotoscoping technique used in animation, where the artists traces over images to create the stills that when multiplied, become animation. Nolan took a serious pose, painted it in AutoDesk Sketchbook app and added a photographic background. I especially love the painterly moments of shadow and light.

Nolan with his rotoscoped self-portrait

Nolan’s self-portrait

Elizabeth Scharn

Elizabeth truly enjoyed the Digital Art on iPads unit this fall. This piece is a SuperImposition of two images created in Autodesk Sketchbook utilizing the layers and opacity options within the app. She has overlaid an image of a Halloween parade on top of an image of a coral reef. She adjusted the opacity of the silhouetted Halloween image to be translucent enough to show the coral reef through the figures, with a sophisticated sensibility as she created a lively texture of shape and color. Elizabeth is in fifth grade, and I look forward to her continued work in the art classroom.

Elizabeth with her SuperImposition

Elizabeth’s SuperImposition

2019 Youth Art Month Boston Exhibit

Each of these pieces has been matted, mounted, labeled and packaged to begin their journey to Boston courtesy of my colleague, Jon Hansen, who delivered them to Franklin High School yesterday. From there they will be transported with artwork from regional schools to the exhibit site in Boston.

All the artwork packaged and ready to go to Boston

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Happy New Year! Bonn Ane!

Good News To Start The New Year!/Bon Nouvèl Kòmanse Yon Ane Nouvo!

Around this time last year, five members of the St. Gabriel Haiti Ministry visited our sister parish, St. Anne in Sucrerie Henri, Haiti.  As well as being a pastoral visit to maintain our twinning relationship, we went to see how our monetary support is being used throughout the parish. We reported on our findings on the trip later in the spring. Based on our interviews with Father Didier and the parish council, and what we had seen for ourselves, we set some goals for future monetary support.

One of the goals was to finish rebuilding Bellevue chapel, which is high up on a mountain. Due to the difficulty of bringing construction supplies up the mountain construction had lagged. Our delegation’s visit to the chapel site last January seemed to provide inspiration, because as of November, the Bellevue chapel building has been completed. The interior and embellishments are all that’s left to finish. Here are a few photos:

The next chapel to be rebuilt is Terre Neuve, which you may remember is directed by the first female chapel director at St. Anne Parish. We are not sure when that work is scheduled, but we will keep you posted. Meanwhile, we have wonderful news about the chapel schools!

In our report to St. Gabriel last spring we stated –

Eventually, we would like to see the schools reopened at all of the chapels. To start, we would like to add two elementary classrooms at one chapel plus cover the teachers’ salaries. The costs are estimated at an initial one-time $1000 for classroom furniture, $500 per year thereafter for school materials, plus $1000 annually for teacher salaries.

With your generosity, frequent communication with Father Didier, and his dedication to providing an education for St. Anne’s children, we were able to reopen three chapel schools – Corail, Mercier, and Loufranc, and by doing so, we have put 156 children in school who were not in school last year! Here is the breakdown:

St. Anne Parish Chapel Schools

Needless to say, we are thrilled about this. We were able to accomplish this with an $8000 directed project funding. Typical tuition for Haitian students is approximately $130 per year including uniforms. We are able to provide an education for 156 students for just $8000, which would normally cost $20,280. Each student receives a uniform, a backpack, a pencil, an eraser, and a copybook. Each of the teaching chapel directors is being paid $785 for the school year. To see more about the school at St. Anne, visit this post, which was published right after last year’s visit: https://monalisaliveshere.me/2018/02/06/the-weight-of-his-hand-on-my-shoulder-st-gabriel-trip-to-haiti-2018-two-five/

Here is a photo of Father Didier with the children at Notre Dame de la Merci at Chapel Mercier:

Children at Sainte Catherine at Chapel Corail:

And students at Saint Antione de la Padoue at Chapel Loufranc:

The Haitian Ministry Committee is happy to report this wonderful news at the start of the new year! Happy New Year! Bonn Ane!

About education in Haiti: Illiteracy is a major problem in Haiti. According to the UN Development Fund, approximately one-half of all Haitians age 15 and older is illiterate. The quality of education is generally low, and 85 percent of schools are run by private entities that charge school fees that can be prohibitively expensive for low income families. More than 500,000 children and youth remain out of primary and secondary school. – World Report 2018, Human Rights Watch: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/haiti

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