Wednesday, November 26, 2014

3rd Grade Ceramic Bird Nests

3rd Grade Bird Nests Drying in the Art Room

This week, third grade finished constructing their own ceramic bird nest using various sized coils of clay to build and texture a bowl shape.  Students then added anywhere from two to four eggs.  Before we created the nests, the students learned about Juan Quezada, a famous potter from Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua in Mexico whose pottery saved his village from poverty.  As a boy, Juan discovered some pots made by his ancient ancestors in a local cave, found the sources of their clay and colors, and learned to construct these beautiful works of art himself.  After an American anthropologist discovered Juan's work in a New Mexico secondhand store, he found Juan and helped create a market for his masterful pottery in the U.S..  Eventually, Juan taught the townspeople of Mata Ortiz to become expert potters like him, and today the village's pottery is world-renowned.  We'll glaze these nests before the holiday break, after they've had some time to dry and be fired.

1st Grade Calder-Inspired Turkeys (or Peacocks?)

This lesson was an opportunity to teach students about the whimsical, moving sculptures of Alexander Calder, including his infamous, miniature circus made entirely from wire and wood figures that "performed" for audiences throughout America and Europe in the 1920's.  We looked at photos of this work and Calder's even more famous mobiles, and read the children's book, Sandy's Circus, which Ms. Shopmyer had available in our media center.

Is it a turkey or a peacock? (Or something else entirely?)  I had discovered a similar lesson online that had students creating a turkey, but it seemed a little, well, boring in the color department.  So I dug out a bunch of old, donated calendars that featured the colorfully-dressed people of Guatemala and cut multicolored circles from their clothing.

Students folded their circle to make their bird's body.  Then they colored an index card on both sides and cut strips from it to make tail feathers.  I gave them a pipe cleaner for a neck and a double sided, pre-cut head to which they added eyes, a beak, and colors.  Students glued their tail feathers to the body at one end and folded and glued the paper head to an end of their bird's neck.  Then I helped them attach the other end of the neck to their turkey/peacock body.  The result was a flock of colorful (and rockable) birds and hopefully a little learning about Alexander Calder - and how sculptures don't always have to stand still!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

4th Grade Styrofoam Sheet Prints

Artwork by Jack P.

Since becoming an art teacher, printmaking is probably the medium I've had the most fun learning about and letting the students experiment with.  In this case, the fourth graders watched a fascinating video demonstration of linocut printmaking by Chapel Hill artist Bill Fick, then created their own pair of printing plates using 4"x 6" styrofoam sheets and semi-dull pencils to etch in their designs.  The only parameters I gave them for their designs were that the images should be related to each other and that they should fill up their backgrounds in some way.

In a second class session, I set up printing stations with different colors where students inked their plates with brayers (rollers).  During printing, I emphasized that using the right amount of ink on the plate and pressure onto paper for a good print take practice, and that the students should simply aim for improving their images with each successive print.  It was really gratifying to see this kind of learning actually happening as prints were laid down and upon examining their finished works.  For example, in the work below by Katee S., the first print is the one in the upper left corner.  The rest show how she quickly picked up the right technique.  Nice work, Katee!

Artwork by Katee S.

Artwork by Janiah T.

Artwork by Isabelle J.

Artwork by Delaney C.

Kindergarten Bubble Wrap Fall Trees

If you were wondering why the recent request for T.P. tubes, here's one answer.  Those tubes are now the trunks of these trees created by our kindergartners.  The leaf canopies of the trees were created by pressing bubble wrap painted with fall colors onto cardstock - a little introduction to the medium of printmaking for these students.  In a second session, the students cut out the "leaf part" of their tree from the cardstock and added holes and bark texture to their trunks with sharpies.  Mr. O cut a couple slits into the trunks and the students put their trees together.

Kindergarten Pinch Pots

If there's one thing almost everyone remembers about their elementary school art class, it's making a clay pot. Though a few of our kinders have already had some ceramics experience, this is my introduction to ceramics for our youngest students.  Kudos to New Hope Elementary Art Teach Sarah Finman-Jones for her suggestion of having the students use popsicle sticks to start their initial hole in the clay when their little thumbs aren't quite up to the task.  Worked like a charm.  I'll be working to get these wrapped up for safekeeping so that they can make it home in time for the holidays, as I think a lot of kinders plan to give these as gifts!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Endangered Species Poster Contest

An endangered species biologist with the State of North Carolina, one who also happens to be the parent of two of our dolphins, brought this poster contest to my attention over our fall break, and I decided to work it into my lessons for our upper grades kids.  It is sponsored by the North Carolina Zoo as a way to raise awareness of endangered species both in North Carolina and throughout the world.  After the students selected their species, we've been dedicating a couple of class periods per grade to creating our posters.  

In early December, our biologist mom and I, along with some help from our administrators and perhaps a guest judge or two, will select a first, second, and third place winner from our school.  Mr. O will award these three winners an art-related prize and forward their posters to the zoo where they will compete against other entries from the state in the 3rd-5th grade category.  Of the many poster contests I come across annually, I thought this one was appropriate to spend some classroom time on given the student-friendly subject matter, the nice tie-in with science (it has spurred some good discussions on habitat loss and other reasons why certain animals are in trouble!), and the small poster size (8.5"x 11").  I'll post some more entries after they are completed.  Many students have taken their posters home to finish them, so parents, please help me get them back before Thanksgiving!

1st Grade Leaf Rubbings

Artwork by Nichole P.

What better way to learn about real texture in art than to take the texture of a natural object and transfer it to paper by rubbing with the side of a crayon.  I imagine there are a lot of parents out there who remember doing this in their own art classes!  (I initially stuck with fall colors for this lesson, but then figured "what the heck" and threw in some others when the kids were clamoring for them.)

Artwork by Ian M.

Artwork by Meg P.

Artwork by Cale K.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Kindergarten Spiders in the Dark

This was another Halloween-inspired project that I used to reinforce the idea of creating drawing by using simple shapes and lines.  In this case, the kinders drew ovals for their spiders' bodies, crooked lines (four on each side ideally) for legs, circles for eyes, and straight or curvy lines for silk to dangle into the picture.  We then colored our spider bodies with construction paper crayons, which did a better job of resisting paint than regular crayons but allowed for more precision coloring than oil pastels.  The students created their dark backgrounds with blue tempura block paint and were encouraged to paint right over their spiders to witness the resist affect of the crayon.  I think the results are awful cute.

4th Grade Symmetrical Jack-o-lanterns

Just a quick, Halloween-inspired lesson and project to reinforce the concepts of symmetrical balance and positive/negative space with the 4th graders.  We started with a 12 x 18 sheet of black construction paper and a 9 x 12 sheet of orange. Students drew half of a jack-o-lantern on their orange sheet and cut it out.  I challenged them to cut out their pumpkin's eye and eyebrow with an X-Acto knife, a new tool for most of them.  (Despite the utility of the X-Acto, I'm hesitant to ask elementary students to use one after the Great and Horrible Soap Carving Project of 2012 -- seriously, it wasn't that bad, but we did go through more than a few bandaids.)  Elements that were cut out of the orange had to be placed onto the black half of the jack-o-lantern so that the entire image would be as symmetrically balanced as possible.

If students had time left in the class period, they used black and white colored pencils to add symmetrical designs to their jack-o-lanterns.