Saturday, June 5, 2021

Classroom Campfire

Pinterest has a lot of ideas on how to make a fake indoor fire, and I immediately fell in love with the idea. I already had left over cardboard tubes from paper towel rolls, scraps of tissue paper and cellophane, old Christmas lights, and scrap mat board. All I had to buy was a $2 wreath from the dollar store to serve as a fire ring. I cut out a circle from the board and hot glued it to the bottom of the wreath with a hole off to the side to pull the end of the string of lights out. Then I nestled the rest of the lights in the center. I spray painted the tubes and used brown marker to make the bark texture, before gluing some them around the edge and towards the center to make a tee pee. Then it was just a matter of tucking in the tissue and cellophane with the red in the center, then orange and yellow towards the outside.
I look forward to sitting around it as a class for story time, song time, or maybe just keep in the corner for quiet work time.

Percussion in a Bottle

Old pill bottles turn into homemade music makers in a matter of minutes by simply filling with uncooked rice, beans, pasta. I used colored masking tape around the side of the lid and half way down the bottle for a stripped patter. I glued construction paper circles hot glued to the top of the lid to match the color of the tape, and then smaller decorative tape added a little pattern. Students can use the shakers to keep time with songs during dance or singing time. 
Baby food jars are another free option to fill with things to make sound. This works better for older children because they're less likely to drop and break the glass. Someone gave me a bunch of pecan shells and I found that those made a nice sound.
I spray painted the jars and glued discarded wall paper around the sides for decoration. It can be fun to guess what is inside (plastic beads, sand etc, can add more variation). 
I also made some jingle sticks by just threading jingle bells into a pipe cleaners and wrapping them around dowels. It only takes seconds to make these.
Kids can use their percussion instruments in a drum circle to echo any rhythms heard, or to make sound on the down beat of a song. It's a fun way to add motivation, participation and movement to a music activity without spending a lot of money, using a lot of prep time, or taking up a lot storage space between usage.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Bead Board Upcycling Project

After my family finished a home improvement project, we had strips of left over bead board. I cut many of them into small enough pieces to ship in a large envelop to my distance learning students along with a fat sharpie marker, and the rest I used for the students in my classroom to work together to create a large wall piece of art for the school. They decided to use light blue and peach to create a complimentary color scheme, so they painted the strips in the wood, before creating patterns and zentangle designs with sharpies: variations on spirals, checker board, weaving, zig zags etc. Once the individual boards were nearly full of pattern, we finished the exposed edges with white tape and then screwed the strips together going horizontally and vertically. Basically, we ended up with a fun, 6 foot piece of art that everyone could contribute to and be proud of while celebrating Earth Day!
Students paint large pieces

Personal pieces were made from small pieces

A virtual student shares her finished art from home

Hats Off to Trash Hats

hat from stove top packaging and a little ribbon

As my daily high school art students met to make fashion from garbage, my elementary and self-contained classes joined in on the fun with their hat making project. I started by teaching how to make a traditional pirate hat from newspaper, but students had lots of other ideas and the project quickly developed to making pointed party hats, crowns, and sunshine headbands. Two class sessions is all it takes to realize that there are lots of options on types hats and techniques to making them.a runway show stopper made of plastic cups, hot dog papers and foil.

As a literary component to the lesson I introduced students to one of my favorite childhood picture books: OLD HAT, NEW HAT by Jan and Stan Berenstain. In English class we are taught that a sentence requires both a noun and a verb, and that writers use sentences to write stories. But this book only contains one nouns (spoiler alert, it's "hat") and NO verbs!  It's a book of adjectives, opposites, rhymes, and of course hats! I love it because it's a great book to teach little kids about how to describe as well as having them make predictions using rhymes and context. It also contains a great life lesson about how about how sometimes forget about how great things are for us until we go looking for something newer and better only to realize that nothing compares to a favorite, albeit old, hat.  Maybe our lives aren't as bad as we think. 
So make hats during your language lesson or read during your art lesson, but either way, you will walk out of the classroom with a little bit of style!

Friday, May 7, 2021

Trashion Fashion Photo Shoot

Being an artist means looking at one thing and seeing another, creating order from chaos. A lot of artists find potential in garbage, including my art students for the last week and a half as we upcycled waste to create fashion accessories. Upcycling is to use discarded objects to create something of higher quality.
Sorry about the blue dots. I wish I had permission to show you the beautiful faces of my students.

I introduced my students to Vic Muniz through the film "Wasteland." Muniz is a Brazilian artist who went to the largest garbage dump in the world and recreated masterpieces using people who pick through the garbage for recyclables as models. Then they'd project the photos onto a large studio floor to make the image again using the recycled materials found in the dump. The installations were documented and photos sold. We also learned about El Anatsui, the Nigerian Artist who uses thousands and thousands of bottle caps to create large jewel like wall pieces that drape and sparkle. 

For inspiration on our "Trashion" assignment I showed my students the Fashion Show scene from 80's cult classic, "True Stories." Suits made from grass, dresses in the shape of a wedding cake. What could be more fun than dressing up and pretending to be a model for a morning?

My adorable friends and colleagues, Melanie Thompson (above) and Sara Lynch (below) , share a classroom wall with me. They happened to have a Trash-ion Show assignment for their Environmental Science first period class the same month that I wanted to do an Up-cycled accessory assignment. So we shared garbage, shared students, and collaborated on this interdisciplinary project.

Sara worked her green screen magic to give us fun backgrounds, and we mixed and matched some of the accessories to see what combinations worked best. Lucky for me, magazines don't do "Who Wore It Better?" articles about Special Education Teachers and their students.

Boxes, canisters, cups, and packaging materials, bottles, aluminum foil, bulletin board borders, and egg cartons were all glued, and stapled before being painted. 

The most popular and useful materials were long strips of cardboard and paper hot dog trays (left over from a summer camp). The hoop skirt, hat, and ruffled collar below were made from just these two materials. Lots of Hot glue and  and spray paint  disguise the materials, which then help disguise us as high fashionistas.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Make Your Own Scratch Boards

Scratch boards are easy to make if you have paper, crayons, acrylic and something to scratch with.  My students started the process by filling a piece of paper with patches of color. Some did it in thick stripes, some in simple checkered patterns and others in random patches. The trick is to use a heavy hand when coloring for this project; you want to make a waxy surface.
Once the drawing was done, we painted black acrylic on top of the drawings. It is a strange feeling taking something so beautiful and colorful and covering it with darkness. But it is all part of the process. Once the paint dried, we used bamboo skewers and sharp plastic foil tooling tools to scratch a drawing.
This project is a great way to talk with students about the difference between shapes that are formed with areas of color, and shapes that are formed by lines. It's a way to teach hatching and cross hatching. Sometimes you want color to be bold and dominant, other times you want to use restraint and just let it peak through. Learning the process of making scratch boards is a great way to offer choices for students in the future.


Art Students and Popsicle Sticks

There are so many things you can do with popsicle sticks and the more options you give your students the better. Some of my students made boxes out of them, while others painted them before arranging them and gluing them to painted cardboard, but one of the favorite projects from popstick week was a class quilt. Each student was given a 4.5" X 4.5" square of chipboard. They were to pick out 12 sticks. It helps to limit the color choices between 2 or 3 to make patterns. This was a chance to touch on the vocabulary of color relationships and help them feel good about their choices., "Oh, you  are using secondary colors.", "Yellow and purple are opposite on the color wheel. They are complimentary colors." or "All of your colors are warm."  Some students drew lines, dots or zigzags on individual sticks with marker before gluing them down one at a time, while others glued them into place before adding a simple image or circles form dot makers. Since my students are all blind or visually impaired it is nice that they can feel the sticks and the verticle-horizontal pattern of the squares. Those with some vision, could help me arrange them making sure that the blues were spread evenly, and there were at least two squares with yellow in each row. It's a great way to touch on unity, variety, horizontal, vertical, color schemes, and collage, while letting children make their own choices.


Value Lesson: Tints and Shades


Monochromatic is one of the easiest color schemes to teach. Take a color and add black and you got a shade of the color. Take a color and add white and you got a tint. It's that easy.

I've been wanting to start an Upcycling unit for a little while and when someone left a pile of discarded 3.5 foot strips of chipboard at my classroom door, I decided that painting the strips and  making a chain from them would be an easy way to create something sculptural from something that would otherwise be garbage... all while teaching how to mix paint to create a variety of values.
My elementary school and multiple complex needs students painted green on one side of each strip and blue on the other side of each strip.  We lined up the strips from dark to light and rather than keep just the green or just the blue on the outside, we alternated blue on the outside and green on  the outside, which makes the chain look one color from one point of view and another from a few steps to the side.

I glued the links using hot glue with enough overlap to make the loop slightly bigger than a foot in diameter. It took twelve links to stretch from floor to ceiling.

And then today, on Earth Day Eve, I hung the chain from the ceiling in the hallway outside my room using the colors of the blue seas and green lands that cover mother Earth. It was a great way to discuss the use of value in color and the way we can value the planet that sustains us. It was a great way to talk about reusing materials that would otherwise be thrown away. It was also a great way to build a classroom community discussing how we are each a link the class and world chains and can do our part to solve problems. Happy E-ART-H Day everyone!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Ceramic Dish project

Pressing objects into a clay surface is an easy and fun way for kids to create texture. If you take it a step or two further, that experimenting can be made to a completed project by cutting that slab of clay into a circle, square, or rectangle and curving into a soap dish. Of course my students don't care about soap dishes very much,  so I branded it as a dish to keep their earbuds, keys, or jewelry. Each student added a foot to the bottom, a coil of clay in a circle was an easy way to give a round dish some lift. Some students added 3 balls of clay or taller legs on the bottom of their dish, and rectangular tray shapes, usually had two long coils for stability. Glazing takes the surface up a notch and makes it so that it really can be used for fancy guest soaps. 


Friday, April 16, 2021

Clay Napkin Rings

Clay napkin rings are an easy project and a great way to introduce some important ceramic processes to young children. I had them roll out a thick coil before rolling it with a rolling pin. Edges can be trimmed before or after pressing items into the clay to create texture and pattern. If you wrap each ring around a cardboard toilet paper or paper towel cardboard roll, then they will all be the same size.  They shrink has they dry so I removed the rolls early on in the drying process.

After firing the clay in the kiln, Students painted their rings a solid color and then dry brushed a second coat with a contrasting value or color. It was a fun and quick activity that allowed for a lot of experimentation and resulted in them having functional and charming ceramic pieces to keep.


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Haniwa Project

In preparing for my art lesson on the terracotta warriors of China, I came across other ancient cultures that put ceramic sculptures at their burial sites.  In Japan, these pieces are called "haniwa" which means ceramic cylinder, which was how they began. Later, ghost-like figures, soldiers, animal and house forms were made.
My distance learning students used Sculpy oven-bake clay to create animal or house sculptures. My students who were physically present in class could work on larger pieces to be fired in the kiln. Some students choose to paint their final pieces, while others left the terracotta color. It was a lot of fun to work with the slab roller and use hand building techniques and everyone took a lot of pride in their finished piece.