Sunday, February 26, 2017

Screen Printing Camp T-shirts

My school stayed open last weekend for students who wanted to participate in a "short course weekend" experience. Orientation and Mobility was the official course focus since it is part of the Extended Core Curriculum for students who are blind. But music came into enough of our activities that we titled the weekend "Moving and Grooving." Activities included learning how to call and take a cab, taking a downtown walking tour of all the important music sites in the area (like where Little Richard, James Brown, and Ottis Redding got their start, or where Gregg Allman proposed to Cher), Kamikaze Karaoke, learning line dancing, and going on a scavenger hunt.

Our budget kept us from ordering pre-printed t-shirts, so I used the art budget to buy a $4 long-sleeve t-shirt for each student. We organized students into 4 teams, so I got a different color shirt for each team. My husband helped me design a logo, which I sent to my friend, Matt Forrest. He not only got a mini grant to buy a T-shirt press, but he processed the screens, and brought 3 college students as volunteers to help my students print their own shirts. We used hair dryers to dry the ink. It was a great project for a great weekend!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Clay Rattles

Even little kids can learn out to make a pinch pot from a small ball of clay, and a pinch pot is just a couple steps away from making a clay rattle or shaker. The first step (after rolling clay into a ball) is to push a thumb into the center the clay. I recite the Little Jack Horner nursery rhyme as I do it.  Demonstrations are hard to do for blind students. So much of what is learned is learned from observation.

I have students pretend their hands are hand puppets that they make talk with their fingers close together, fairly straight and pushing against their thumb, that way I can see if they're ready to start pinching the edges of the clay to stretch the walls thinner and make a bigger hole.
Once the pot is big enough, they can add tiny balls of clay made the day before by a previous class. I find that dried out pieces of clay are much less likely to stick to the fresh clay, but another technique involves wrapping balls of clay in some newspaper inside the rattle to prevent sticking. The paper will burn in the kiln, freeing the balls to rattle. If the students didn't make the pot opening small enough to easily pinch close and smooth out, a small lid can be used and blended into the edges.

The first batch ended up looking like a bunch of rocks, waited to be painted after firing. But by the second class, I figured out that students enjoyed carving a little texture, or adding small ornaments like a clay worm, a bee, a butterfly, a heart, a flower, or a favorite letter.  A few added handles, but the shaker fits so nicely in the palm of the hand, that almost everyone felt happy with their little treasure. The fact that it makes sound adds another layer of pleasure, especially for my students, who hear much better than they see.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Braille Name Plaque Craft

 This week my school hosted a statewide competition call Braille Challenge, where kids were able to show off their Braille reading and writing skills. This was my third year making crafts with the Braille Rookies. These are the youngest group of blind students who are just starting to learn their alphabet and they are adorable!!!

This year, I thought it would be fun to make name plaques that could be hung on a bedroom wall or door, something that they could be proud of and that would encourage them to continue to learn braille. I bought wooden shapes at Wal-mart for about a buck each, and had them paint them with acrylic.  It didn't take more than a few seconds before one little boy complained that the girl next to him had painted his hair, by accident of course.  Thank heavens for large, cover-up t-shirts, aprons, and wet paper towels. The plaque drying processes was sped up with a heat gun.
We took the painted plaques outside where each Rookie chose a color spray paint and a stencil to create a background for their name. I helped them use the spray paint, which dried almost instantly. And then they used large foam sticky dots for their initials or small ones to braille their name or nickname. They chose and cut a piece of ribbon for me to hot glue to the back, and viola! It took 45 minutes for them to finish the product. I look forward to see these students back at the school in upcoming years as they go from rookie status, to apprentice to master. Braille on, young Rookies, braille on.