Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Dream Rocket Project

My 2nd and 3rd grade students spent the majority of November working on the Dream Rocket project.
In 2008, the IFC launched its current project, the Dream Rocket. The Dream Rocket project is a large scale collaborative fiber wrap. Up to 8,000 fiber panels will be created by individuals from various regions of the world, and then combined to wrap the Saturn V Moon Rocket in Huntsville, Alabama. The designated theme of the panels, “Dare to Dream”, challenges individuals to expand beyond the present state of the world and imagine the future. Perhaps most importantly, individuals are challenged to imagine their contribution to that future. These individual dreams and aspirations will combine to create a monumental work of fiber art of unprecedented size, providing a tangible demonstration of the beauty of individuals collaborating to meet universal challenges.

*I chose 2nd and 3rd grade students because of our schedule. This project is NOT just for elementary students, and not just for schools. A lot of community groups representing all ages have participated.
The basic idea of the Dream Rocket project is that students work collaboratively to create 2x2 foot panels based on one of many "dream themes". The suggested themes include Space, Imagination, Art, Music, Science, Conservation, My Favorite Story, etc.
I decided that there would be 3 projects for each 2nd and 3rd grade class which made a total of 15 for 3rd grade and 21 for 2nd. I showed some example panels off the Dream Rocket website and explained that we would be participating before the students started brainstorming ideas. I pulled up a blank document in Microsoft Word and typed their ideas. I asked each class to pick one for "My Favorite Story" since there is a chance the local library could pick one to display on their Bookmobile. Brainstorming ideas before splitting into groups let me make suggestions and offer guidance, and combine similar ideas. The students voted until there were three themes standing, then I assigned a theme to a location in the room and the students split themselves into equal groups.
I'm not sure if this was the best idea overall. I had a lot of bad combinations of students put themselves in the same group. Though the 3rd graders handled the group project better than most 2nd graders, it made for a pretty frustrating month. I spent half of my time trying to mediate disputes and I was really thankful for the help of Paras when they were assigned to a class in the Art room.
At the end of the first class, the groups made plans within their chosen theme and some started to sketch on their panels. 3rd grade students used 2x2 ft pieces of canvas given to us by the Dream Rocket coordinators and the 2nd grade students worked on 2x2 ft pieces of donated sheets that I primed with discounted off-white house paint. The 2nd and 3rd classes were spent painting. In the 2nd class, I thought it would work well for some students to work on the background while others worked on the subjects to spread out the work. In the 3rd class period, I got smarter and asked everyone to work on their background until it was totally done, then move on to the rest. In the 4th class period, the students finished anything that needed to be finished with oil pastels and filled out the "entry form"- marked their theme, titled their artwork, explained their idea, and recorded the materials and group members.
Here are some of the more successful panels, the ones where the students found a way to work together and make compromise.  Some of the other panels... well, let's just say you can tell there were a few too many "bosses" in those groups. Looking back now that I've had some recovery time, I'm glad we participated, excited that the students' artwork will help cover a real rocket, and not in a big hurry to work on a primary grade group project for a while! :)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

1st Grade Presidential Posters

The week of the 2012 US Presidential election, my first graders started working on campaign posters. We viewed and discussed some of the campaign posters I collected on my Pinterest board. We talked about symbolism (red/white/blue, flag, white house, eagle, etc.) and design features including the composition, year, name, and portrait. I also used the famous Shepard Fairey "HOPE" poster to touch on copyright. (If you don't know the story, read a summary here.) The students' assignment was to think of someone they would like to be president- it could not be someone really running- like a family member, friend, or his or herself.
I didn't go over facial proportions, but we did talk about including all of the necessary features. It's amazing how many students skip noses and ears! We had a lot of self portraits, siblings, parents, and a couple animals. And, if you look a little below, you'll see that one student put me on her poster! This was a fun lesson, and fairly simple. The only needed supplies are paper, pencils, sharpies to outline, and crayons.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dragon Bulletin Board

I finally used all the plates saved from the Kindergarten Swirly Color Wheel project to make scales for a bulletin board dragon. This bulletin board is pretty long and in a hallway so it's really hard to photograph. You can't tell from the glare, but the signs just explain how Asian dragons are different from Western dragons, why dragons from China, Japan, and Korea have different numbers of claws, and the third addresses whether or not dragons are real. The Kinders argued that it was a caterpillar, not a dragon, until I got the head stapled up with the rest of the body. :) I just wish I had been ambitious enough to make scales!
Dragon "scales" before they were trimmed.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2nd Grade Asian Dragons

 My 2nd graders learned about Asian dragons during our East Asian study this fall. I used the same PowerPoint with 2nd grade and the 4th grade dragon lessons. 
Dragons are a great way to show the students how the "same thing" can be very different in another part of the world. After the PowerPoint presentation, I showed a video of a Chinese street vendor making a sugar painting of a dragon. Today I found a shorter version of the same vide. Seeing how this man draws a dragon in about 2 minutes using flowing lines was really helpful.
The students could draw any style of Asian dragon they wanted to. We reviewed the number of claws- Japanese dragons have 3 claws, Korean have 4, and Chinese have 5- and the students decided where their dragon should be from. The dragons could be any color or pose, as long as they were Asian style instead of European.
I originally planned to have the students draw their dragons on the black construction paper, outline with color sticks so it would be easier to see, then paint parts with tempera paint. I only did this on one day because the students were having a really hard time controlling the paint. The classes that started with tempera ended up needing an extra day while the others were done in 2. In the other classes, the students used construction paper crayons and/or color sticks to complete their dragons and then if there was time, I let them add touches of metallic gold paint. Dragons are magical, after all. The metallic paint was a HUGE hit and it cost me less than a dollar to let all 130-ish 2nd graders embellish their artwork. I just picked up a small bottle of acrylic craft paint at WalMart and even have some leftover.
I don't have photos yet of the top dragons since I was in a hurry to get them to the Cultural Heritage Week art show and following display at our district office. I'll try to add photos of my artwork "winners" when I get them back in January.
Students checking out dragons at the Cultural Heritage Week Art Show.

Japanese Family Crests

Japanese Family Crests are similar in concept to a Western Coat of Arms. They were the inspiration for my 6th grade East Asian lesson for Cultural Heritage Week. If my internet sources are correct, Mon means "crest" and Ka-Mon means "family crest". 
I introduced the lesson with a PowerPoint, we discussed, and then I gave a quick demo. We focused on crests starting with a circle since many examples we saw have radial designs. When I was researching, I drew parallels between design elements in the crests and Yin-Yang. I found that Yin-Yang started in China but was used in Japan. That seems to be a trend in Japanese Art- adapting things that began in China. I don't know if any experts would mention Yin-Yang and Mon, but it made me feel like an Art Historian to see a possible connection and research it. :)
The students found the center of their paper by using their paper to connect diagonal corners (the center of the resulting "X" is the center of the paper) and used that dot as the center point for drawing a circle with a compass. I always suggest that the students hold the compass steady and swivel the paper. That seems to work better for most of us than trying to rotate the compass without adjusting the size. After the circle was created, the students had tons of freedom as far as how to create their crests. I just ask them to try to achieve a balance of positive and negative space (we talked about how patterns are a good way to do this.) If the students didn't know where to start, I suggested they think of something that represents them or their family and simply that into a symbol or look through the examples for inspiration. Example: One student is really into Boy Scouts so he used a canoe paddle as the central image in his design. I found a great PDF with a lot of examples* that was easy to print off enough copies for each table. The PDF was a great resource for the students. After our quick reminder discussion about inspiration vs. copying prior to starting, everyone did a great job. This website also has a lot of images and this one has history and compares Japanese Crests to Coat of Arms.

*It's a small world! One of my students was really excited that he found his family crest in the PDF. He said his mother is half Japanese. I've seen a wide range of estimates about the number of Family Crests that exist and 10,000 seems to be middle of the road. What are the chances that I just happened to print off a PDF with a very small sample of Japanese crests and one of my students in Kansas found HIS family's crest? Pretty cool!
The first day was reserved just for drawing with pencil. Most students needed the majority of the second day to finish planning. I asked them to lightly mark with pencil which areas would be filled in black and to let me check it before they started with marker. I told them it's always good to have another set of eyes check to see if your patterns make sense. After getting their plans checked, the students set to work filling in the designated areas with black permanent marker.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Life- Family, Art, Grad School, Writing!

You may have noticed that I haven't posted as regularly the last couple of months. Now that my current graduate class- Art Education Research Methods- is basically finished, and I'm feeling better (more on that in a minute), I hope to get caught up on blogging! Here are some photos and tidbits you might enjoy from this fall.
Here's my little guy in his homemade Halloween costume. He's supposed to be the lizard (Liz) from the Magic Schoolbus and I was Miss Frizzle if she subbed for Art class. While he looks pretty darn cute and I did a decent job for winging it and making my own pattern, nobody knew who/what we were! Most thought he was a dragon, which is pretty cool, too. Everybody thought I was just going as an Art teacher. :)
Here's our big announcement! We are having another baby, due at the beginning of June. My just turned 2 year old is getting even more into Art so he made a painting to announce the news to family and friends. And the pregnancy is the biggest reason I've been slacking a little. I honestly don't remember being this tired when I was pregnant the first time, but this time has just been a lot different so I shouldn't be surprised. I usually do homework and blog after my little guy's bedtime but I was so exhausted that I would fall asleep reading my textbook and most nights ended up in bed shortly after he did. I'm finally feeling better and have a little more energy. I'm enrolled in another graduate course January-April then I will take Summer and Fall 2013 off to adjust to being a mom of two. :)
One of the best things as an Art teacher mom is seeing the milestones that some people might not realize are milestones! I'm so glad that my son is into Art. He's been painting for a long time- usually I let him choose a couple paint colors and a piece of cardstock and he goes to town. No finger painting around here, he wants to use a brush like Mommy. A couple years before he was born, I bought a kiddie easel marked down to $12.50 after Christmas. One side has a chalkboard, the other a dry erase board, and there is a big roll of paper at the top. This weekend was the first time I had ever unrolled some big paper for him to draw on and he loved it. I was watching him draw and taking a little iPhone video, when he turned and said "Look! Bat, ball!" I was so excited! He is obviously still in the scribble stage which is perfect for 2, but he named something in his painting! Milestone! Later he pointed to the black line toward the bottom and told me again, "bat!"
The last thing I wanted to share with you tonight is that I had an article published in the December issue of Arts & Activities! It was a quiet goal of mine to submit something to Arts & Activities or SchoolArts but I could never decide what to submit. When you're asked to submit a specific idea, it makes it a lot easier! Writing the article wasn't as intimidating as I had built it up to be, not much different than writing a blog post though I tried not to ramble as much. It definitely made me want to submit more articles in the future. If you don't subscribe to Arts & Activities, you can read the article online here:
If it starts you at the beginning, just click through to page 25.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

1st Grade Paper Koinobori

My 1st grade East Asian lesson for Cultural Heritage Week was based on Japanese Koinobori. Koinobori are Carp Windsocks flown in celebration of Children's Day (May 5). Why carp? While in the US carp are an invasive species and undesirable, in Japan, they are respected. Carp are thought to have qualities that Japanese families hope their children will possess- they are spirited, energetic, strong, and determined. Apparently Children's Day used to be known as "Boy's Day" but I read somewhere that it is now used to celebrate the health of ALL children. 
Our Koinobori are not authentic (obviously), more inspired by Koinobori. There are traditions of certain colors of Koinobori being flown to represent different family members, and most do not have streamers for tails. Since we don't have wind inside and I wanted the students to understand they are windsocks, I decided to go ahead and use crepe paper streamers for movement.
Some of the Art teachers in my district ordered Koinobori kits that had the paper shaped like a carp so the students could just add their designs. Since my schedule means I have to make my budget stretch twice as far, we used construction paper, tempera paint, glue sticks, and crepe paper streamers. I picked up 6 or 7 big rolls of streamers at Hobby Lobby in different colors and have enough left to be a good start if we do this lesson again next year. The pattern we used is to the left. I just experimented a bit until I found a method that worked well. The template I came up with is on the left.
On the first day, we got started by looking at some pictures of Koinobori, finding Japan on a map, talking about the symbolism, and then talking about the design elements. After the introduction, the students painted the eyes and patterns to represent scales, using whatever colors of paper and tempera paint they wanted. Well, almost any color they wanted. I let students chose any color of construction from a variety pack except black or brown and set out paint in each primary and secondary color. I gave a quick demo so I could demonstrate paintbrush care and control. We did not draw the designs in pencil first, just jumped right in with paint. I did draw the pattern really big on the board to remind the students about the eye placement. The eyes should be centered close to the top, about 1/3 in from each side. I demonstrated sort of a wavy line but the students could use any kind of line. Some really got into making patterns and using as many different kinds of lines as they could think of. Most students didn't have any trouble getting all the painting done in one class period and I was really impressed with their care in using good craftsmanship! If I noticed a student was painting a little slowly, I suggested that they use one color for all the lines and more colors for the extra designs. I also made sure to remind the students not to give their fish a mouth- in the second class period the paper is formed and the hole becomes the mouth!
In the second class period, the students glued crepe paper streamers in place. You need two short streamers for the fins, a medium streamer for the dorsal fin, and 4-5 longer streamers for the tail. We folded the fin streamers in half and used a glue stick to glue in place (look at the pattern above for placement) and glued the longer tail streamers from the back. I am so glad that one of the Paraeducators saw me measuring and cutting the streamers, though I wish she would have seen me sooner because she gave me a tip that saved a TON of time! She suggest that I tape an end and wrap the streamers around a chair back a bunch of times, then cut. This allowed me to quickly cut a bunch to the same length! I ended up using 1/2 of the loop for long streamers* and cutting the other halves in half again for the shorter streamers. Just try the chair thing and experiment until you find the right length. *Because I ended up hanging these on the top strip in the hallway, I did have to trim the tail streamers to prevent them from covering other artwork.
If a student missed the first class period, they used crayons or markers to make their design on construction paper before gluing the streamers. I asked the students to neatly write their names on the front now that the paint was dry so I wouldn't have to try to look down the center to find the names later. The next part is where an extra helper or volunteer would come in really handy. As the students finished gluing their streamers, they got in line so I could staple their fish for them. Older students would probably be able to staple their own. I experimented with changing the placement of the staples to give the koinobori a little shape. I basically just wrapped the tail end a tiny bit tighter. After I stapled, the students were given a long piece of yarn to thread through the center of their cylinders and tie in a knot. I showed how to tie the not and if a student was struggling, they got help from another student who was a masterful knotter. 
Potential "management issues" with this project
  • Where to store the koinobori? I have a giant box turned "picture frame" in my room that we used as a fish tank until I found time to photograph the projects and hang them in the hallway. 
  • Photographing the projects- if you use Artsonia, you'll definitely want to photograph these but it can be a bit tricky. When I photograph 2D artwork for Artsonia, I have a list of my roster and after checking the students' name on the back, I flip it over and photograph with the name on the roster just above the list so that it can be cropped later. With regular 3D work like clay pieces, I write names on strips of paper and set the names within the frame of my camera. For work that has to hang, my best solution was to hang it on a magnetic hook on my chalkboard and erase names when I was done with each.
  • Hanging the work- These would look awesome hanging from the ceiling... but there were potential problems with fire codes and motion detectors. Plus, moving a tall ladder to hang approximately 120 koinobori in the hallway did not seem feasible. I just ended up hanging the projects by stapling the yarn  to my bulletin board strips.
Try this lesson! The students loved making the projects and learning a little about Children's Day in Japan. Plus, if your curriculum focuses on the elements of Art, this is a fun way to cover "Line".