Sunday, August 17, 2014

2014 State Fish Art Contest

1st place oil pastel drawing of a Channel Catfish in the Mighty Minnows age group
Last school year I continued the tradition of offering the students a choice between the Jr. Duck Stamp program and the State Fish Art Contest. Both programs focus on teaching conservation through art and have a focus on habitat and observational drawing. This year I was floored when my students swept the awards for the Mighty Minnows (K-3rd grade) and 4th-6th grade age groups. If you teach in Kansas, please tell your students about this contest. They need some competition. :)
2nd and 3rd place in the Mighty Minnows age group.

Starting in the 4th-6th grade age group, students are judged on an essay about their fish species in addition to their artwork. My 5th grade 1st place winner made her essay more interesting by making interesting comparisons, such as the size of a bluegill to her hands.
1st place in the 4th-6th grade age group.
 2nd and 3rd place winners in the 4th-6th grade age group.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

World Elephant Day

Apparently today is World Elephant Day. Here's a post about elephants to celebrate!
A few years ago I let my 3rd graders paint like elephants and it was a lot of fun. Soon after I found out that my local zoo, the Topeka Zoo, occasionally paints with their elephants, Tembo and Sunda. Last month I was finally able to get my kids to the zoo at the right time to see the painting process.

The keepers helped one of the elephants hold the brush in her trunk while she moved it around on the canvas. There was an excited crowd watching and the elephants seemed to enjoy painting. Or at least they enjoyed the treats..... :)

The trip to the zoo reminded me that I wanted to let my 3 1/2 year old try painting like an elephant. The day before school started we finally did it! I taped a paintbrush to a paint stirrer, expecting him to hold the brush in his hand like my students did. That's not what my son had in mind! He stuck the stick in his mouth because he thought that was more elephant-like. He figured out how to manipulate the stick/brush to get the colors he wanted and to make shapes.
 At the end of the painting session, he decided to dip his nose in the paint, which I think is what he pictured all along when I asked if he wanted to paint like an elephant. I forgot to take a picture of the finished painting, but the nose smudges are definitely my favorite part.
It's fun to follow your kid's lead!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Eco Art

Last April the Art Walk in my hometown fell the same week as Earth Day. One of our Art Walk people decided to put out a call for Eco Art- Art made by recycling or repurposing. I love having an "assignment" and got a few ideas in my head right away.
The first two ideas were ducks! I have an interest in ducks as you may have noticed if you've been hanging around this old blog very long. I decided to make a torn magazine paper collage of a mallard based off a photo I took over spring break. It went pretty smoothly. I sketched the basic outline and proceeded to find colors to tear, arrange, and glue to the paper. I enjoyed trying out that style of collage. The mallard collage was donated for a fundraiser to help with future art walks. 
For my next duck, I focused on a drake wood duck coming out of the water. I started off using the same approach as the mallard- I sketched, I tore, I glued. I tried painting the background of my cardboard panel. It wasn't good. It was too flat. I had to make the hard decision and come up with a new plan. I like the look of corrugated cardboard and figured since the theme was "eco" art, there was no reason to try to hide the material. I used an exacto knife to cut around the duck and then started to peel the top layer of paper off. After I had removed the top layer, I painted over the corrugation to get my finished piece. The hardest part of this project was actually finding magazine papers to match the colors close enough. Wood ducks have a LOT of different colors and those colors aren't always easy to find.
The last project I created for the eco art challenge was a simple gouache painting on a small cereal box covered with gouache. I used Elmer's Art Paste for the papier mache process. I used to go with liquid starch but after reading about how the art paste goes a long way and will last quite a while I decided to give it a try. I still have a whole bunch in a sealed gallon ice cream carton waiting for my next project. After I had covered a few boxes with newspaper, I let them dry and then gave them a coat of white paint. On this box I decided to paint a picture inspired by a barn that I see on my drive to school. Of course I always end up making my colors brighter than they are in real life. I hadn't used gouache since college but I think I'll pull out those little tubes more often. I love how quickly it dries! This little painting sold after the art walk.
I hope you enjoyed this little peak at some of my artwork. Recycling has become a priority to me since becoming a parent and doing it through art is a fun solution!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Peace Poles

Have you heard about the Youth Art Peace Pole Project? I was introduced when I saw a post mentioning they needed a Kansas teacher to make a Peace Pole with their students in time for the 2014 International Day of Peace. I read an article in SchoolArts Magazine that explained the concept. Peace Poles are one of the most recognizable symbols of peace and can be found all over the world. The designs vary, but they always share the message "May Peace Prevail on Earth" in a different language on each side. My students learned about Peace Poles, proposed designs, and helped paint the collaborative project that I designed based on their proposals. This September our Peace Pole will represent Kansas and be displayed at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site before returning to school where it will permanently reside. 
I chose 3rd graders to work on this project because they are the oldest grade I see weekly. This would have been better suited to an older grade level but the schedule just wouldn't allow it! To begin our lesson, we spent a bit of time talking about "Peace". What is it? What isn't it? It didn't take long for students to think of a big non-example in schools- bullying. I hoped that they would think of bullying. We talked about examples of bullying- physical, name-calling, excluding people, etc. I really wanted to make sure that we touched on bullying because I think it will help them better understand discrimination when they learn about the Brown v. Board case that ended legal segregation in public schools. Thankfully the lovely people at the Brown v. Board site and the students' new principal (they switch schools between 3rd and 4th grade) are excited about planning a field trip to the NHS this September when the Peace Pole will be on display. I only hope it can be scheduled on a day that I'm at the intermediate school so I can attend, too!
After our Peace Is/Peace Isn't discussion and intro to Peace Poles, the students set to work on their own designs. I gave the students narrow paper to help them think of the vertical peace pole design. They also had transparencies to look at with "May Peace Prevail on Earth" translated into something like 60 different languages. When the drawings were finished, I dug through them looking for designs that stood out with interesting visualizations of peace and for common themes. I sorted the strongest designs into 4 piles that eventually became the 4 sides of our Peace Pole.
Students were invited to add thoughts to the giant paper Peace Sign brainstorming chart sometime during the first class period. It had great visual impact in the hallway and also helped to remind the students and inform others of our preparatory activities.
I drew the designs out on our Peace Pole with a sharpie and the students painted with acrylic and a bit of tempera. I called one table up at a time to let students paint. 
This is where I had to give lots of gentle reminders about not rushing!

The above pictures are two of my favorite parts of our Peace Pole. The ocean section was totally designed by one of the 3rd graders. She made the octopus' legs spell out "Peace" and the sea horse's bubbles form a heart. The next photo shows one of the languages we chose. English and Spanish were the most obvious languages as they are the most common in our area. I had asked one of our ELL teachers about languages common in our school district and I was surprised to find out that American Sign Language was toward the top. Of course I realize that someone who uses ASL can likely read English, but we still thought it would be fun to represent sign language on our Peace Pole. Our interpreting para signed "Peace on Earth" for me to photograph and I went from there.
It's hard to get a good photo of the Peace Pole since it's 7 feet tall and skinny. I merged 8 photos together to show what it would look like flattened out. Hopefully you can enlarge and see some detail. I think that a Peace Pole would be a wonderful addition to any park or garden. I'm going to see if we can get one made at my intermediate school this year!