Third Grade + Paper Mache Animals

These paper mache sculptures were made during our Art Club, by some of our third graders. They used balled-up newspapers, cardboard tubes/flat pieces, and lots and lots of masking tape to create these sculptures. At the end, they were able to paint it with any colors – their choice. They looked at examples of Pedro Linares’ Alebrijes and the large animal sculptures of Felipe Archuleta for inspiration.



1st Grade Arctic Animals

IMG_4613IMG_4607 Twice a year the school curriculum delves into a Project-Based Learning curriculum for several weeks. The theme for First Grade this year was “The Arctic”. When possible, I try to integrate the art curriculum so that the students can apply what they are learning in other classes in art as well. It’s great because it builds excitement when they can make these connections and as an art teacher I think it helpful because the background knowledge is there – you just have to build upon what they are already learning.

While I would’ve liked it to be even more “experiential”, we didn’t have too much time for planning. We had been exploring clay for several classes and practiced “scratch and attach” and “pinch and pull” techniques for attaching clay parts together. Students then chose an arctic animal to create using clay. I created a folder with laminated photos of different animals so they had something to look at, but for the most part they seemed to create with a mix of what they knew and what they saw. I really loved how the painting of the animals became something of their own.

We had been looking at Jomon coil pots previously, so we also looked at Jomon dogu for this unit – small animal-like figurines that are thought to be part of some kind of ritual (unclear!) The dogu was not the most obvious connection, but the students looked at how details were added using different tools to make lines, as well as how the figurine was created.

The love that the students have for these animals has made this unit one of my favorites this year. Also, I just can’t get over the amazing job they did!


Kindergarten Pinch Pots

We don’t have a kiln at my school and my biggest fear with air-dry clay sculptures is having to have a clay clinic where I end up gluing back everything that is falling apart. So for the most part, Kindergarteners learn about different techniques in clay without ever keeping any of the projects. The pinch pot is the exception! We painted with tempera and I coated each one with Modpodge (toxic so absolutely do not give this to the kids to do on their own!). While it was time consuming, it almost looks like a glaze. Though this project is simple, I like to think each of our kids brings their own creative personality to the pot and make it their own. I gave them mixes of bright colors and they were allowed to make their own designs with polka dots or simply swirling the colors. I made the steps to the pinch pot a chant so they could remember it better: (1) Make a ball (2) Make a hole (3) Pinch all around. Simple!


View from the top!


View from the side

Kindergarten “Not a Box” Paintings

After several classes of exploring color mixing, I have to admit that I was a bit stumped about what comes next. I love how Kindergarteners can simply explore and make beautiful paintings, but it would be nice too if they could have a starting point. A colleague of mine introduced us to collage paintings where a child glues down a shape and then, inspired by the shape, creates a painting. Some will paint over it. Others will paint a design around it. It is always a nice surprise to see what they come up with.

As an introduction for these paintings, I used the simple but imaginative book “Not a Box” by Antoinette Portis. At the end of the book I ask how the rabbit changed his box, and usually they respond by “using his imagination” – cue intro to lesson 🙂






Kindergarten Line Sculptures




Kindergarten recently finished up their unit on sculpture. One of the explorations was wire and so they used pipe cleaners, straws,  and a model magic base to explore the different types of line qualities they could make as well as to compare the different possibilities with each material (rigid vs. flexible, soft vs. hard, etc.) Usually people say to use a styrofoam base but we didn’t have any and model magic seemed like a good fit. We also looked at the work of Alexander Calder for inspiration.

The only downside to this lesson is that some of the bases were too thin and the wires would fall out! But knowing our kindergarteners, the most important part was the process, not the product 🙂

Inspired by this post here at Panther’s Palette

1st Grade Storytelling through Painting

From here on out, this blog’s main and only focus will be the artwork of my students with the occasional dose of me. It is my first year teaching at a brand new elementary school – only K and 1st grade at the moment. I expected this year to be challenging with lots of tears – and not from the kids! – but it has been absolutely rewarding. We’ve done a lot already so far but currently we just finished a narrative painting unit.

This unit was inspired by Nancy Smith’s book Experience and Art. While it was difficult for many of the students to paint figuratively, it made a lot of sense because of where they were developmentally. The most awesome part of the process was the process, so the kids were simply inspired by the question of the day and off they went. I tried to stay out of it as much as possible!

FamilyPainting1“Me and my dad playing racecars”

FamilyPainting0“I like to camp with my family”

Dear Megan

Dear Megan

There is a room
Look closer
Can you see them?

In this world there is a house, which sits on a hill, on top of a table
Books unfold from little cards
The small ones sleep in tissue paper from the living room
Try to catch the frog eggs as they float across the fountain
Each crack in the floor is a valley for the ants
Mosquitos bite, they bleed through the night.
Under our green nets, you said,

“Tell me a story.”

Sometimes the city feels tall and unrelenting
A disconnect that I relate to sinking into a black hole
In which I can hardly breathe.
I close my eyes. I remember this place.

In which case then, I think of you.



view in transit, january 2012, disposable.

there are new images of some sculptures I’ve been working on here

a note from today:

spin around
until you lose consciousness
try to eat
all the questions of the day

a drop of shame
mixed with a drop of water
take in a small amount
before crying

– excerpted from Spirit Cooking, by Marina Abramovic, pub. by Jacob Samuel. On view at MoMA’s “Print/Out” exhibition.

exploring chinese new year

student with dragon! age 5

there’s a general shudder that goes around the class whenever there’s talk of a craft-based lesson. it’s the last thing any art teacher wants to do in their classroom – a lesson full of pre-cut shapes and instilled ideas that the student is completely clueless about – the worst is that every project looks the same, with no hint of the students’ own ideas or process.

this week at TCCS, our teachers thought it might be interesting to introduce the students to Chinese New Year. we live in new york city, and there’s a parade and many other big celebrations in chinatown and all over. the concern however is, how do you introduce a cultural holiday through an art activity, and moreover, how do the students connect to it? can it be relevant to them?

the dragon is an important symbol in both chinese culture and when ringing in the new year. it’s interesting not only because of its’ mythological and spiritual importance, but also because in many ways it is representative of the ultimate being, imparted with a number of traits from different animals – scales like a fish, the claws of a bird, horns of a deer, etc.

in that sense, our dialogue touched on each student’s own vision of their own dragon to bring in the new year – what kind of parts could it have? how did they imagine it? how would they show it? students were given pieces of paper and cut out their own “head” and “body” while using various types of paper (tissue, cellophane, and construction/scrap paper) to collage. We then added sticks to the puppets so they could hold it similar to a stick puppet (although much larger)!

so, while we introduced chinese new year a bit, the students ultimately created their own magical dragons in their own way. special thanks to the amazing people I work with at TCCS: annie, deb, jesse, and our teachers, sara and laura.

on a personal side note, I went to chinatown for the new year for the first time and popped a confetti thing. I loved it 😉

Food for Thought – Arts Education

This post was written December 18th, but it’s taken me weeks to take a second look at my rambles.

It’s finals week at Teachers College. Obviously, I should be working on major papers due next week, but I thought it might be interesting to take a moment and reflect on the semester, what I’ve learned, and what has been inspiring.

Our program at TC is based (so far) on a lot of developmental philosophy. Art, and drawing in particular, as a way of recording their world and how they perceive it. ideas evolve out of experience and exploration with materials, just as their artworks are initially drawn from their own previous experiences. Instead of introducing adult art works immediately, one of my professors said it’s best to show that artwork later in the sequence, to allow students to first make their own, express their own, and then they can look at this artwork and relate it back to their own work. There is a certain amount of guidance, included in the motivational dialogue that precedes the lessons.

I could go on, and on, but I’ll spare myself. Anyway, if anything, I’m learning a lot of about how you “scaffold” lessons to create an overall learning objective, and how these layers can add different, and important, elements that lead you to accomplish these different objectives in different ways.

However, when I went into this program, I had thought a lot about contemporary art and artists. How do they fit into this picture? And why is it that the two exist in such different universes? It’s a bit unfair to assume art teachers aren’t artists themselves (or to be bitter, artists who couldn’t make it!) – but I do think it’s necessary, as an art teacher, to continue your own practice. It should inform your practice as a teacher, right?

We had a lecturer last week who spoke on the matter of including Contemporary Art in a Social Studies curriculum – and the inclusion of Contemporary Art in Art Education. In their book History as Art and Art as History (Dipti Desai, Jessica Hamilton) they state seven principles of post-modern artists (appropriation, juxtaposition, etc.) and Dipti asked us, “we teach children the principles and elements of art, but do all artists today use these elements and principles today?” – the answer is, no, they don’t. I think we were all in shock. Contemporary practice in art today is diverse in method and material..and process. Artists do historical research, they take existing material and recreate it for their own purposes, digitally and traditionally. there are so many infinite ways we work now. It isn’t to say that what we are learning isn’t right – it is. you can’t sit a child in front of a Haegue Yang installation and assume they will understand that she was clearly addressing the relationship between karl marx, the wife, and the mistress – but can the ideas be taken into the curriculum and translated somehow for students? I don’t disagree with my program at all, but there is reason to ask why sometimes the world of art education and the world of “artists” exist in worlds apart. I think there are initiatives and non-profits that change that, but at least in the discourse of our program, I’d like to have more of a connection to the studio art side sometimes. In my own work, I am curious to discover more about curricula and objectives that can fulfill both the material exploration as well as foster a relationship with the way art can exist right now. with everyday objects. in new media. etc. etc.

I am nervous with this post because it is quite honestly a lot of generalizations and bits and pieces from readings and coursework from my first semester at Teachers College. I’m learning quite a bit about education and the arts, and much of it for the first time. The truth is, teaching art itself is an art quite separate from the studio art pedagogies we’ve been exposed to in our undergraduate years; it’s a different training. Just because you’ve been taught to draw and paint doesn’t mean you necessarily understand how to teach it; I think that can be exemplified by the first class I ever taught at the museum – it’s a whole other subject matter and realm with different ways of thinking. Not that I haven’t always known that, but in that way, our studio classes within art education are different and the approaches to art making are very different. I sometimes wonder what’s best. Isn’t the root of it all from the first time we started scribbling with crayons? How do you transition? Everyone is an artist, but in the art world there are “right” ways and “wrong way” and “ironically wrong but right ways”. Sometimes I miss the toughest critic in the room from the studio art days, but at the same time, it’s been a joy to be part of such a supportive and open-minded community. We seem to be all part of this for the greater good, and because we love it absolutely more than anything else we’ve done so far.

I love you underneath the moon.

Hands on the radio.
We left too soon.
We left you in the afternoon.

I hurt somebody.
I love you too.
I love you underneath the moon.
I love you underneath the moon.

This town is my favorite and I promise I’ll come back.
Girls, I promise you.
Boys, I promise you too.

With hands on the radio, we’ll get there soon.
We’ll get there in the afternoon.
Fans in the stadium, they leave too soon.
They always leave in the afternoon.
They always leave in the afternoon.

This town is my favorite and I promise I’ll come back.
Girls, I promise you.
Boys, I promise you too.

This town is my favorite and I promise I’ll come back.
Girls, I promise you and boys, I promise you too.

– Chris Garneau, Hands on the Radio


you better run, you better run.

from my processes and structures class. the class is meant to inform our practice as teachers, but instead I think it’s having more of an effect on my own process. somewhere in the years since school, or even during then – the aspect of playing with material and understanding how the process can guide you – was lost and now found again in this class. yes, it’s paper mache, or lino cutting, or simply just paper and a piece of charcoal. but the exploration is incredibly different from what I experienced in undergrad and is giving my ideas a breath of fresh air.

mexican blue.


You’re like a saint’s song to me
I’ll try to sing it pure and easily
You’re like a Mexican blue
So bright and clear and pale in the afternoon
I saw you riding on your bike
In a corduroy jacket in the night
Past the hydrangeas that were blooming in the alley
With a galloping dog by your side
When I was hungry you fed me
I don’t mean to suggest that I’m like Jesus Christ
Your light overwhelmed me
When I lay beside you sleepless in the night
And when you dreamed my guardian spirits appeared
And the moon stretched out across your little bed
They said they’d started to get worried about me
They were happy we had finally met
We had finally met

A mysterious bird flies away
Seemed to be calling your name
And bounced off the top of a towering pine
And vanished in the drizzling rain
There’s a mockingbird behind my house
Who is a magician of the highest degree
And I swear I heard him rip the world apart
And sew it back again with his fiery melody, melody

When you were mad at me I didn’t care
And I just loved you all the same
And I waited for the wind to push the hurricane
Out to sea, and the sun could shine again
Oh I don’t mean to give you advice
Its just liek Delia said, “oh, Jesus Christ”
Just don’t get so high you leave the ground
Everything is so much better when you’re around
Just don’t float so hight you drift away
Stand tall, with your feet on the ground
I love your songs, I love your sound
Everything is so much better when you’re around

When the moon is as clear as an opal
And the amethyst river sings a song
I’ll remember all your dreams and the mysteries
You have borne in your crystalline soul
That you sing from your golden throat
That you shine from your sparkling eyes
That you feel from the goddess in your thighs

You’re like a saint’s song to me
I’ll try to sing it pure and easily
You’re like a Mexican blue
So bright and clear and pale in the afternoon
In the afternoon

there is good.

Melody searching for seashells..

I know it goes something like this; a conversation from last week – how sad it must be to see our lives from afar, to feel small.

It’s only a longing that sticks to your being if you allow it..a tug and a pull that says, there has to be more.