Friday, November 13, 2020

Build a Bug

As my students finished up our Elements of Art (line, shape, color, value, form, texture) Unit and embarked with Principles of Art (specifically symmetrical balance), we bridged the two with animal kingdom content. This week we studied invertebrates through insect documentaries and articles. They learned about the parts of an insect (head, thorax, abdomen, antennae, six legs, wings, compound eyes, etc.)
Did you know that out of every 4 animals on earth, 3 are insects? There are 10,000 species just of ants and probably 10,000 more waiting to be discovered, each as different from each other as a tiger is to a rhino. Some are hunters, some scavengers, some farmers. But all are symmetrical. 

I had images and magnifiers for students with low vision and plastic insect models for my students who are blind to feel. A line of symmetry can be found on each insect.

Everyone wrote 5-10 insect facts to share before trying to build their own kind of bug. 

If they wanted to switch it up and do a spider, or add more legs, that was their choice. I had craft foam, pipe cleaners, egg cartons, clothes pins, puff balls, wood pieces, paint, markers, google eyes, buttons, tissue paper on hand for students to find their own solution.

The end product was not the display cases of tiny, original, detailed, jewel like insects I had hoped for, but special education is about process. And if they are more aware of insects and symmetry in the world around them, then mission accomplished.

Hybrid Animal Taxidermy Assignment

Teaching form and texture can be fun through this interdisciplinary lesson about the animal kingdom. My class and I spent our week studying types of invertebrates: birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. Students were expected to know characteristics of each group and give several examples. Then they were tasked of combining a couple of animals and coming up with a name: a giramingo or a koalasaurus. They were to invent three animals and explain the habitat and diet of each. This is not a new exercise of creativity when you consider creatures from ancient literature such as the gryphon, pegasus, unicorn, and phoenix. (This is a great way to incorporate literature into the week as well.)  

Ideas were shared, critiques were had and favorites were picked. Some of the problems came from students combining two animals that were too similar: possum and armadillo, ostrich and flamingo. Or they would just attach one head to another's body. That's fine, except that we were doing paper mache versions taxidermy that would basically be mounted heads, so you'd have to have characteristics of multiple animals represented in just the head. Some ideas were used to swap the texture of one animal with another, such as a feathered mouse. (Shown above: pandabull, pigacorn, green scaled sand eagle, and glue feathered mouse.)

Students at home had the options of making drawings or creating 3D sculptures using salt dough. I walked them through the process via video meeting and they were to bake and add texture on their own. One student created an image of her hox (hawk-fox hybrid) on her phone using Ibris Paint X.

 The salt dough recipe is easy: 1 cup of salt, 2 cups of flour and a cup of water. Start with dry ingredients and drizzle the water in little by little so it doesn't get too wet and sticky. You might not need the whole cup of water, but clearly this student's dough is too crumbly so I was watching through video and telling him to add a little more. 

Once the animal is formed it can bake at 225 degrees for a couple of hours. One student made a glittery rainbow snake, which opened the door for me to share Australian Aborigine folklore and origin story of the rainbow serpent.

Festival of Trees: Helen Keller's Garden by Georgia Academy for the Blind

The Museum of Art and Science in Macon, Georgia is now having it's annual Festival of Trees. This is a chance for the community to come together to build bridges, while helping raise funds for the museum. I worked with my art students to represent our school by making paper flowers for our Helen Keller's Garden themed tree. Helen Keller was such a gifted writer, so I printed four pages of her quotes to inspire people during this miserable year, and included a range of colors of flowers to represent diversity. I think people with disabilities too often get left out of conversations about diversity in work places and diversity, so this was our way of advocating and showing that everyone deserves a chance to grow in the garden of humanity.

I taught about "form" and "analogous color schemes" during flower week since we were in our Elements of Art unit, so it all come together: standards and application, form and content. 

Happy Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kawanza and Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Back in School?

Needless to say, this 2020-21 school year has had a rough start for teachers, students and parents across the nation. My daughter's school did 100% online classes for the four weeks of August, and then students, like her, who chose to go back had to wear a mask 8 hours and social distance. She stays home Fridays to take tests and hand in writing assignments online. My husband is teaching his college art classes as hybrids for the first time ever. My sons' college classes have mostly gone online with just a few exceptions, such as art and science labs. For me, teaching art at a school for the blind, was challenging enough; teaching it virtually feels nearly impossible. Hands on experiences are so important. I have a few students coming in person, so I feel like I'm screaming through my mask into the computer to my virtual students, while my face-to-face students sit half way across the room. I've had to create a lot of writing assignments based on videos and slide discussions: big questions like "What is Art?"and "Why do people make Art?" to small questions like, "What is one new thing you learned today?" I've been doing a lot more talking than I'm used to, and my throat can feel it.

We spent the first couple weeks trying to learn the platform: Teams. I posted assignments to Teams, and students could turn their work in there, or to a shared One Drive folder, or email me their work.  A couple of student uses paper and a Perkins Brailler and then read their work to me via video. There are readers on computers to help them navigate and hear the text. I also sent assignments out in Braille. 

Above a student is taking his turn reading (in Braille) a portion of the syllabus while a couple of his peers listen from across the state. 

Putting together weekly care packages of supplies has felt like a part time job. I have to think ahead a couple of weeks and gather materials for several versions of the project, so that students still have choices. And it's been hard to see supplies leaving my room, knowing that I'll never see them again. Plus there's the problem of students who can attend virtual classes from almost anywhere but forget to take their packet of supplies to do projects, or can't figure out where their supplies are or which supplies to use since they're getting materials from other teachers too.

Meanwhile, the students who have come and used the materials I have on the table are able to focus on completing the project and learning the standards without all the distant learning chaos and technical difficulties.

I can't imagine that our schools are going to be functioning full capacity any time soon. Teachers who are feeling end-of-April level of burn out in September have had to push forward, as did the students. But by giving it our best, things have gotten in easier and we're probably better off for having learned more platforms and ways to solve problems.
Above: a virtual student points his lap top camera towards his work so I can walk him through the process of his analogous watercolor composition

It's still not idea, but now that we're in November, everyone has managed
to figure out their own routine. Students have come in and out of quarantine after being in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid, and once the school shut down for 10 days for cleaning and everyone worked from home. The numbers are higher than they were at the beginning of the school year, so we're still taking precautions. Hopefully, everyone will be able to come back for in person school in a couple of months and I can start filling my shelves, and walls and kiln with student work.