Monday, March 4, 2013

There's a Bass in my Art Room!

My primary and intermediate kids have just finished their artwork for either the Jr. Duck Stamp program or the State Fish Art contest. Snow days messed up the scheduling a bit so I had to extend the deadline for some of my 1st-3rd grade students to this week. We have a teacher work day on Friday and the majority of my time will be spent photographing and preparing the artwork to mail in. I felt like I was able to be more thorough in my instruction this year after I learned so much at the Jr. Duck Stamp ambassador workshop in Utah last September. (Read about that here and here.) I was able to add many more reference photos to my collection.
My addition to the fish program was to borrow the Catfish my dad caught when I was 19 months old! Phyl may have a dragon in her art room, but I have a Channel Catfish in mine! There were a couple awkward attempts to explain how taxidermy works, and a few students thought the fish was "gross", but the main reaction was interest and awe. Most of my students have never had the opportunity to go fishing so they haven't seen a real fish outside of a zoo or aquarium. I left the fish out for a couple days but after it got knocked over- twice- and the tail cracked, I realized the students just weren't aware enough to keep their distance. The fish retired to my closet and was just brought out for specific students who were brave enough to draw from it instead of a photo.
I had a table set up with reference photos for each contest, organized by species. The State Fish Art website has cool fact sheets about each species that helps remind students of what would make an appropriate habitat for the background of their artwork and also helped with essays.

Fish photos are pretty easy to keep organized since I only chose the 3 species the students would be most familiar with in our par of Kansas. I have many more duck reference photos and last year simple stacks were too hard for the students to keep organized. This year, I taped labels to the table thinking that if the students couldn't recognize the proper place from their photo, they could read the species name labeled on the back of the photos and match them up. This helped a bit... or maybe after the second class period that I made the students go fix the mess they created, they just started to pay more attention. To help with habitat, I printed a bunch of reference photos I took at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah. Some are "zoomed out" and some are close up photos of wetland vegetation. I also took a cue from the State Fish Art contest and created "bio" sheets for each of the waterfowl species I have photos of. I asked the students to read the bio for their bird before they drew the background to give them clues. Wood ducks nest in tree cavities? Gee, maybe you should draw the duck standing on a fallen tree instead of that rock at the zoo in the photo.
It looks like I forgot to take a picture of my big display on my fancy new classroom bulletin board but it was basically a combination of the displays from last year seen here with some new materials I picked up on my Ambassador trip.
Students are always excited to see artwork I've made so I brought in some examples. Wood Duck watercolor painting on the left, colored pencil Canada Goose I made for an example a few years ago, and a mixed media picture of a hen Mallard and ducklings on the right.
I can't wait to go through and see the results of all the students' hard work. I just wish we had more Art time to devote to the project. I had students waiting to work in the Art room every time I had open slots available for them on my days at the intermediate school. :)


  1. I think I said it a few years ago...but I still love the watercolor of the wood duck that you made!

  2. Thanks for allowing the kids the extra time to finish! And for nurturing their love of art!