Monday, February 11, 2013

Top Five Storm

This post is mostly for my curious mom who called every few hours from Florida to check on us during the storm here (outside of Boston). My brother works on Long Island taking down trees for the electric company, so I am sure his storm stories are more interesting than mine. Nonetheless, we survived, if only a little worse for wear. And I appreciate the calls, even if mom was on a beach!


Thursday afternoon, before parent/teacher conferences, school was cancelled for Friday. Honestly, we may have been able to get a half day in, but not all teachers have the two mile commute that I do, so it was probably safer to call the entire day. 
I spent my day taking pictures every couple of hours, doing graduate school homework and cooking in anticipation of loosing power. The above collage is the view from my living room window throughout the day Friday when the snow started around noon and didn't stop until Saturday afternoon.

Saturday morning

Second floor bathroom window facing south, Sunday morning

We lost power sometime after 10pm Friday night. As the hearty New Englander that my boyfriend is, he had shoveled at least twice Friday, but we promptly we out Saturday morning to dig out even more. Two hours later, we managed to clear a path to our downstairs neighbor's front door and wiggle our cars out of the driveway (not that we are going anywhere!). Our issue, much like our last apartment, is that there is no where to put the snow!

After shoveling, the house felt warm, but the temperature quickly fell. We spent the remainder of the day huddled under the blankets. I somehow slept for most of the day. No sooner had I started to read, did the power go back on around 4pm. My aunt, who lives in the next town over, had called about an hour earlier, offering us a warm bed and food for the evening, once the driving ban was lifted. I was happy to call her back to let her know the heat was blasting and the power was on!

The picture above was taken Sunday morning before we ventured out for groceries, which is part of our normal Sunday routine. However, the mile drive to Stop and Shop was pretty awful. There was still snow packed on the roads and since school is cancelled again for today, I am assuming that the city has had trouble figuring out where to put all the snow too! 

Our street, driving home from the grocery store. Thankfully, it is a one way!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Creative Minds: New group, New ideas

We took a brief hiatus, but my Creative Minds group is back in session!
Its taken us a couple of weeks to get back into the swing of things though, perhaps due to the fact that I actually PLANNED activities. One Saturday morning, before my graduate classes started, I sat down with the schedule and planned out almost ten weeks' worth of activities. I then promptly made a shopping list and tried to procure everything we may need that I don't already have. Now that classes have started, I am really glad that I had enough foresight to plan. (Thank GOD for this snow day too, because I used most of it to read for grad school and prepare/cook in case we loose power) However the first couple "meetings of the minds" didn't go as smoothly as I planned, not that the kids cared!

Week One fell the week of MLK Jr.'s birthday. February also holds President's day, so I purchased the Mini Great Americans Murals from Art Projects for Kids. This activity was hit or miss. I had one or two who were really up to the challenge of a coloring page with oil pastels while others couldn't stand to get greasy. However, adults and students alike are amazed with the results. Our principal even wants to frame the finished products! But poor ol' Washington remains unfinished since enough students were thoroughly uninterested after the first page.
   Week Two was just a flop. Typically, I will take out a handful of materials, present a few ideas and let the students take off. If they want to complete the ideas I presented great, if they have other ideas for the materials, even better. We are "creative minds" after all!
Week Two was crayon based. I provided sand paper, crayons and irons to do prints and three hair dryer stations to melt crayons/ crayon "en-caustic." Everyone wanted to melt crayons, but I let the students who volunteered to peel crayons (not knowing what we were doing yet) go first. I had also hoped that the George Washington mural would get done, but after the previous week, I knew there was no interest. After a demo and strict safety speech, I had all three hair dryers going with teams of students helping each other for about five whole minutes. Then we blew a fuse.
While waiting for the custodian, I explained one of Week Three's projects in hopes to keep the preteens' attention. Thankfully most found themselves busy and under the kind custodian's suggestion, we kept it to two hair dryers plugged into different walls of the room. We were successful and while the kids had fun, I just laughed and hoped for better luck next week. 

Week Three was much better. Or at least I think so based on how engaged students were. Who knows, maybe they were bored out of there minds, but cool things happened from my point of view.

There were multiple painted paper options available, as the plan next week is to use the painted paper for various Valentine's Day themed crafts. We used the box tops that come with reams of paper and loaded them with construction paper and paint covered marbles. Old school "marbled" paper! I also cut up some paper towel tubes and showed students how to fold them into a heart shape for stamping. Finally, we brought back the hair dryers and kept it to two going at once. Below is a student's "en-caustic" after adding water color and dabbing with paper towel for texture. Can you tell his favorite color is blue?

"En-caustic" in progress. This student has a great eye for color. Ignore the smock... my boyfriend donated all his old plaid shirts to the art room.

Now that we seem to have our routine back, I am looking forward to what these folks create. I have grand plans for paper mache and perhaps some Chihuly inspired sculpture in between holiday crafts and silliness.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Wolf Kahn Inspired Landscapes

There's a little, independent bookstore we like to poke around in whenever we visit Woodstock, VT. I tend to gravitate to the kid's section since I can't resist a good picture book. Right next to the kid's section are spinning racks of beautiful stationary. The bright colors of the Wolf Kahn prints have caught my eye on numerous occasions so I knew I needed to create a lesson and pass on my inspiration to my students. After a visit to the MFA, I purchased (with my student discount!) a calendar of prints and began formulating my ideas.

I think this lesson is suitable for all age levels, but I geared it towards my eighth grade students. One of our "units" of study in this grade is Invented Worlds. The formal elements I attempted to teach here were meant to carry over to the next lesson which is one point perspective. (We've been working on one point perspective cities and rooms now for over a month! I also added a surreal twist and hope to post some soon)

I began this lesson with a Power Point. I think slide presentations can be ineffective, so I try to make them interactive by asking students questions about what they see and calling on students to read the brief informational texts. I've also started developing "viewing guides" to go along with my presentations. Not only does this encourage students to be more accountable for the information being presented, but it also promotes literacy. This is a big buzz word lately in education. I'm currently enrolled in a graduate class (one of my last!) focused solely on "new literacies." While initially nervous about taking a course so focused on reading and writing, I am excited about the possibilities and the new ideas I can bring to my classroom.

I know I am digressing from the lesson, but after two short years in my school system, I really want to validate art as an integral component in the well rounded education of my students. Right now, the arts are supported, but sometimes I feel like its only because the work "looks good." Like, "thank you for beautifying the school" and "how awesome are those art works!" In reality, it needs to be more about the process, thinking creatively, learning skills that can apply in other situations outside the art room and an appreciation.  A LOT needs to happen, like getting a department head, before the system can get there. But I feel like the more I learn, the more I can try, the more my students will get out of art class. Back to Wolf Kahn...

After viewing the power point, students were asked to use the vocabulary to fill in the blanks. I gave students a hand out that looked like this:


Wolf Kahn

Middle ground
Horizon line

1.     Where water or land meet sky is the  _______________ and at the viewer’s eye level in a work of art.
2.     Parts of a work of art that seem closest to you are called the _______________.
3.     Parts of a work of art that seem to be between objects in the foreground and the background are said to be in the _______ _________.
4.     Wolf Kahn’s artwork became famous because of the ______________ or _______________ colors that he uses.
5.     Using ________________ can also create the illusion of space in a work of art.

Use the above vocabulary to create 2 landscape sketches. You may use color pencil to experiment with unusual or extraordinary color combinations. Attempt to BLEND colors.

The presentation, vocabulary and sketches took about one and a half classes. During the second class, students were told that they had a choice of materials for the final image. They had a choice of oil pastels (I had florescent available), chalk pastels or watercolor with oil pastel to create a resist. There was scrap paper so that they could experiment with the different materials first. The only real requirement for their image was to include foreground, middle ground and background. During each class, I put laminated calendar pages at their tables so they could have a visual as well.

I feel like the landscapes most reminiscent of Kahn's were the ones completed with chalk. The florescent oil pastels I had were terrible if blended with any thing else and not very opaque. The mixed media images came out with more softness and a nice balance but the colors were not as bright. Overall, I think it was a successful lesson. I am confident that when my students go on to high school, that they will know what a horizon line is (I have students at that level now who do not). I was happy to see that the majority of my students did NOT put the horizon line right, smack in the middle and only a handful had the happy little sun in the corner. By choosing their own materials too, they had some more ownership. For some the openness was overwhelming, but I'm pleased with the results and proud of my students.