Saturday, September 29, 2012

Jr. Duck Stamp Ambassador- Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

I am very honored to have been asked to serve as an Ambassador for the Jr. Duck Stamp program. I am currently in Utah, along with 4 other ambassadors, for a three day workshop put on by the Fish and Wildlife Service to help us learn more about their programs and how to better connect Jr. Duck Stamps with "Adult" Federal Duck Stamps. Why Utah? To start, Weber State University in Ogden is hosting the judging of the Federal Duck Stamp contest. We watched and helped with the first day of judging today. Tomorrow we'll see the 2nd and 3rd rounds of judging and the next Duck Stamp will be selected! (You can watch it stream live starting tomorrow morning here: I will share more about the judging process and the amazing artwork in the next day or two, but first, I wanted to tell you about our adventure yesterday.

Mountains at Sunrise
Utah is home to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. The refuge is a 76,000-acre area of protected habitat for over 250 species of birds and many other animals. We enjoyed the auto tour through the wetlands where we saw many different species of birds and mammals, learned about some invasive plant species (a big thumbs down to phragmites!), and experienced tons and tons of non-biting mosquito-looking insects called midge.
 The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is a perfect example of what Duck Stamps can do. Duck Stamps are not just about hunting, they are about conservation. 98 cents of every dollar generated from sale of Duck Stamps goes to securing lands for protection. The refuge is an important haven for migratory birds in the middle of the desert. Without the habitat, well, things would not be looking good for these birds.
I took a ton of photos that will be great references for my students when we talk about wetland habitats at the beginning of our Jr. Duck Stamp project in the spring. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to photograph some other wildlife besides ducks and geese like pheasant, grebe, avocet, herons, pelicans, coot, and even a raccoon. I've deleted some photos and now total 376 from yesterday, which is obviously too many to share, so I'll just post some of my favorites.

I'm not used to seeing mountains everywhere! I love the Kansas landscape and think it's beautiful, but this is beautiful in a different way.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Happy Little Landscape Paintings

I still think PBS's Bob Ross Remix is the best video on YouTube. If you haven't watched it yet, do it now. I'll wait. You won't be sorry.
The video is so positive and fun! It is just full of positive statements including:
"I believe, I believe, every day's a good day when you paint"
"We don't make mistakes. We just make happy accidents."
"Believe that you can do it, 'cause you can do it."
 My 3rd grade students think it's pretty cool, too! They loved watching the video as the jumping off point for some landscape paintings. After all, one of the lines in the song is "This is your world, you're the creator. Find freedom on this canvas." After watching the video and pointing out how Bob Ross was very positive and talked about "happy little clouds" and "happy little trees", the students discussed how Art could make us feel happy. The students were asked to think of a landscape that would make them feel happy because they would soon be painting it!
The schedule was really funky in August and the beginning of September. My Tuesday classes ended up having 3 class periods to paint, Friday classes had 2, and Monday classes only had 1. After the remix, the Tuesday and Friday classes also got to watch a short YouTube clip of Bob Ross' technique for painting clouds. My student teacher or I demonstrated painting a simple sky and the best Ross cloud technique we could muster using tempera paint, then the students painted their clouds. The next thing we asked them to do on the first day was to paint their ground and other big shapes. The details, and more demonstrations on things like plants and adding texture came in the 2nd class period.
I've been so obsessed with inspired by the remix that I decided this project would make a good bulletin board display. Let me tell you, I've had more comments on this bulletin board than any other I've ever put together! Teachers seriously stopped in the Art room when they weren't even dropping off a class to tell me they liked it or share a memory of watching the Joy of Painting on PBS. 

I like creating QR codes to put on my project description signs. I don't think anybody ever scans them, partly because I don't think a lot of people know what they are. I decided to add a little explanation this year. Underneath my QR code, it says "Wondering about the weird black and white squares? Scan them with a free QR code reader on your "smart" device to be directed to the website." Hopefully the explanation will be helpful.

Check out a few of the students' happy little landscapes. I am very behind on posting artwork to Artsonia this year so these are all I have photographed for now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Texture Hunt

Last week my student teacher wanted to do a texture exercise with 3rd graders to lead in to her next lesson. We were thinking about taking the students outside to find nature textures in the courtyard, but the grass was soaking wet. Luckily, there was a plethora of texture on the playground! I never thought about all the textures we would find there before that morning. We called the lesson a "Texture Hunt" and Miss Bennett showed the students how to collect the textures and create a nonobjective composition, thinking about what textures they were putting where, and how they created new textures when overlapped. 

Playground Texture Composition
Discovering texture on the bottom of the swings.
I created a grid and filled each space with textures for reference later. I could have filled several more papers.
I knew the students would enjoy having Art class outside, but I was surprised by how much they got in to finding textures. They were experimenting and discovering and collaborating. We did have to remind a couple students that it wasn't recess time, but overall, they did very well.

It was kind of a gloomy day last Friday so our 3rd graders that day found textures in the Art room. We did put out a few rubbing plates but the students found several textures that were already in the Art room.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Taking Care of Supplies

I haven't had time to blog much lately. I won't give you excuses- you know how busy life can get, especially at the beginning of the school year. I did want to take a minute to post one my supply care bulletin board. Inside my primary school classroom, I have 4 square bulletin boards around the room. I rarely change these during the year as I use them to display important things that need to be visible to the students. On my supply care bulletin board, I have a Mr.Brush poster that I picked up at a KAEA conference and three signs I've made. At the top right, we have "Be Kind to Your Erasers" inspired by the Fugleflick, the bottom right has my "Dip the Tip" poster, and at the bottom left, we have the glue bottle that says "Just a dot, not a lot!" 
I started saying "Dip the Tip" when we use tempera paint because I noticed students trying to scoop up as much paint as they could at once. Now they are catching on and repeating the saying. I find that short little rhymes and sayings really catch on and help the students remember what to do. A saying that my student teacher coined, and I'm totally going to continue using when she's done, is "Pencils Down, Thumbs Up!" I like to have students give me a "thumbs up" when they finish a step (writing their name, etc.) and are ready for more directions. Some of them like to keep playing with their pencils so Miss Bennett added the "pencils down" part at the beginning.
Now that I've finally gotten caught up on reading my Art Ed blogs, I can see that everyone's off to a great start with the new school year. Mine is flying by so far. I'll be flying to Utah at the end of the month for a 3 day workshop and I'm excited/nervous/not-quite-prepared-yet. I'll write more about that later. For now, I'm going to let myself take the rest of the evening off from school and homework. :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Right Brain Bulletin Board

This is my latest bulletin board! I was trying to think of an idea on the way to school last week when "spend some time in your right mind" popped in my head, so I ran with it! I was really inspired by the Mercedes Benz Right Brain/Left Brain ads that came out a couple of years ago. Looking at their visuals helped me develop my plan.
 I do wish I had finalized my plan a little earlier because I was really rushing to get this done before Open House last Thursday. Forgive me for not using the same form of each word. :)
 In the middle of my brain, I wrote a little description of each side's job. I think our brains are pretty cool.
 This also reminded me of some of the smART quotes I recently ordered from The smARTteacher! I used some PTO money to invest in both sets. One set has general words of wisdom from artists, and the other has quotes about art and creativity.

Here's the smART quote that is the most applicable to this post. (Shout out to Painting with Brains!)
 I can't wait to start hanging these around my classroom, I'm just waiting on a new bulletin board to show up!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Incorporate Visual Culture in the Art Room this Election Season

Over the summer I took a graduate course titled "Visual Culture and Studio Practice". Since it's an election year, political ads were a big focus. I've been thinking about how some ideas from that course could translate into the upper elementary Art room.
The second assignment in my class was to design two different posters about political/social issues using a similar composition. We had to incorporate one of our photographic self portraits from the first assignment. Since I had taken a photo posing with a hayfork (I think, I'm not a specialist in farm tools) and conservation is important to me, I decided to make my first poster about conserving native plants. I used the phrase "preserve the prairie" first but decided that "protect the prairie" was a little more forceful and fit the tone of my photo better.
For my second poster, I decided to work with breastfeeding. I was still nursing my son at the time and there had been recent stories in the news about nursing mothers being treated unfairly. I think we have problems with this for two reasons. One reason is that there is a totally undeserved negative stigma with breastfeeding in our culture. People who don't understand think it's "icky". I think the second reason we have problems is women not knowing their rights. I wanted to make a poster that would encourage breastfeeding women to know their rights, and stay strong when faced with public "opinions".
I decided to use a photo of my son and I sitting on a swing and a tutorial from Layers magazine about painting with text. The custom paintbrushes I created in Photoshop included: "breastfeeding", "parenting", "nutrition", and my personal favorite, "stop staring". *The background text is from a La Leche League article on breastfeeding legislation in the US, found here:
After I had finished the swing design, I found out that I had to start with the exact same photo, though it could be altered. After some problem solving, the poster below was what I turned in.
So how could this be used in the classroom? If you taught older students and had photoshop, you could have them incorporate a self portrait into a poster for an issue that is important to them. If the timing works out right with my older students, I'd really like to have make a poster with something like drawing, painting, or collage. The poster topic wouldn't have to be political, but I would ask them to chose something to promote. If you wanted to tie in with the election, I would have the students make a campaign poster promoting either a fictional candidate or themselves. 
The capstone assignment for my class was to produce a VIDEO campaign ad as if we were running for president. I've gotten comfortable photographing myself but video is a whole 'nother story. I was surprised that I was the only "candidate" in my class who used being an Art teacher as the main selling point. (One of my male classmates dressed in full theatre makeup as two opposing, mudslinging candidates in a pair of ads. It was pretty cool.) In my faux ad, I talked about standardized tests, turning STEM into STEAM, the 4 "C"s, and say that if we want to improve education, we should try putting an educator in the white house. In preparation for making our own videos, we watched a LOT of campaign ads (real and satirical). I know that there is a whole team running each campaign, but until I tried to make my own ad, I never thought about just how carefully wording is chosen, and how difficult it must be for the candidates to present themselves as they desire. I found it hard to achieve the right tone- trying to sound firm but friendly, down to earth but an expert. I filmed my video using an iPad and edited in iMovie. I wish I had something that would have allowed me to change the pitch of my voice for the voiceover, but honestly, I would probably feel awkward no matter what!
How cool would it be to have students work in teams to create a video campaign ad? There are so many possibilities and I think it would help them be more aware of the strategizing that goes into the ads they see on TV.
I can't believe I'm posting this video, because I feel pretty silly, but if you would like to see my faux presidential ad, watch below! 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Common Core Cubes

When did you learn the "magic trick" to drawing a cube? I'm pretty sure it was one of my 5th grade teachers who taught me. I've shown students before if it happened to come up and they asked, but never any students younger than 4th grade. Apparently the new Common Core math standards say that 2nd grade students need to be able to draw a cube! The 2nd grade teachers asked if I could help with this and I was very happy to assist.
My student teacher, Miss Bennett, teaching about cubes.
In the students' first "real" Art class after handling all of the first-day-of-Art-class-business, we talked about cubes. I drew a square on the board and asked the students to identify it, which they did easily. Next, I held up a cube, which the students also identified. Then I asked the students what the difference between the two is, and they were eventually guided to the answer of shapes being 2D and forms being 3D. The students didn't really know the word "form" before, so I told them that in Art, we call things that take up space "forms". I think our district's paperwork say "3D shapes" but I refuse to call them that. One of our district level curriculum ladies said that Art just has a more specific vocabulary in that circumstance. Anyway, after covering the vocabulary, I told the students that there is a "magic trick" to drawing a cube that makes it look 3D. BUT, before I showed the students the magic trick, I wanted them to try to solve the problem of drawing a cube on their own.
I passed out blocks so that each student had a cube to observe and do their best to draw. This was a great assessment that helped me see how students "see", how they approach problems, and if they had any prior knowledge of drawing forms. There are about 130(ish) 2nd grade students and I think that 2 of them figured out the trick. It was really interesting to see their approach. Some drew squares inside of squares, some drew each side like they had cut the cube apart and flattened it, and several tried to trace the cube, only to find out that just makes a square. :)
After about 5-10 minutes of the students trying on their own, I finally showed them the "magic trick". The most common source of confusion comes from which lines to connect and which to erase. I asked the students to match up one set of corners at a time (top left to top left, etc.) and connect with a straight line. When it's time to erase, the students have to erase the inside of only one square which looks like a "Y" then erase a horizontal and a vertical line, each from inside the resulting rhombuses. If you keep your cubes looking transparent, you don't have to worry about it. If there was enough time left, the students traced the lines that stayed with crayon and colored each "face" of the cube a different color.
I mentioned in my last post, almost 2 weeks ago (it has been SUPER busy around here!) that I have a student teacher for 8 weeks this semester. Miss Bennett started on August 20th but it seems like she has been here so much longer than 2 weeks. She's doing a great job. She just observed in the first class and started jumping in to help after that. By Friday of her first week, she was teaching my lessons. Last week, she started teaching some of her own lessons. She's a natural. A rock star. The first lesson she taught was to 2nd grade and built on the cube drawings. She reviewed the information about and process of drawing a cube then talked to the students about "composition". I had always just told students that composition means how things are arranged in a picture, but Miss Bennett has been describing it as "Artist Choices". I like her description a lot better because it is more complete. Then, she had the students create their own composition by drawing cubes in different sizes, oriented differently, and overlapping. I was at first excited about mentoring a student teacher, then I got nervous. I was concerned about philosophies and personalities clashing, thinking it could be a long 8 weeks. I'm happy to report that were getting along famously! I'm sure I'll be sharing more of Miss Bennett's ideas in the coming weeks.