Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Developing Your Summer Art Classes!

Hello teachers!  For many of you, we are on summer break!  Most of us take the time to chill out and catch up on our PDs and make time for our own art.  Some, like me, continue to teach summer classes.  For the past few years, I've offered summer classes at a local art studio.  Some have been successful, while others were low attendance.  If you're interested in offering classes over the summer, I would like to offer some advice with planning and prepping.

1. Plan your projects in advance.  I find that picking and choosing classes can be very tricky while you're heavily involved during the school year, but the earlier you plan what you wish to teach, the better prepared you are for your classes.  If you're working with a studio, park district, or gallery, your collaborator would also want your class descriptions to plan their next few months as well.  Park districts especially want their classes listed a few months in advance in order to notify the community of upcoming events.

2. Prep your materials in advance.  If you're borrowing non-consumables (like brayers or brushes) from your classes, make sure to pack them up and return them once you're done in the beginning of the school year.  I normally create a checklist before closing up my room and return everything when I head back to set up in August.

3. Prep your examples in advance.  My summer art classes normally take about two hours each day, so projects are more involved than my 40-minute classes during the school year.  As your first year teaching summer classes, you may be spending quite a bit of time creating al the examples, but over time, you will find yourself creating fewer since you may be repeating projects.

4. Decide what you want to charge.  Most paint party classes range from $25-$35 for a two hour class, which covers materials, space rental fees, and a little for you to cover your time (or babysitter). It's good to try and keep a consistent amount so parents know what they can spend.

5. Figure out what time you wish to offer your class.  Classes can be offered any time throughout the day, depending on when you're available.  I was only able to do morning classes, and our studio owner held afternoon classes.  We've discovered that it really depends on when parents are available to bring their children in, so sometimes I have full classes and other times I have 2-3 students.

6. Don't overdo yourself!  Remember this is your break too!  Teaching summer classes is a great way to explore new lesson options with multiple age levels.  It can be fun to teach to a different crowd, but remember not to overdo yourself.

Have fun with your summer classes and PDs!

Here are a few successful classes I've offered in the past!

 This post is a part of The Art Ed Blogger's Network: Monthly Tips and Inspiration from Art Teacher Blogs. On the second Tuesday each month, each of these art teacher blogs will post their best ideas on the same topic.

Participating Art Teacher Blogs:

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Connecting to Nature with Art: June's Stepping Stones

This month, teachers are closing up their classrooms, or already enjoying the beginning of summer break. If you’re still in session or out of the classroom, June is a wonderful time to begin reconnecting with the natural elements and be re-inspired to design lessons for the next school year. Summer break is my time to recharge, and the best way to do that is by being outdoors and enjoying nature as often as possible. This month’s theme is natural environments and I’d like to focus on how to use nature to reconnect and be inspired for the next school year.

(Walking a labyrinth is a god way to clear your mind while being outdoors.  Labyrinths can be found at many conservatories, preserves, or wellness centers.)

Connect to Earth by taking care of your physical self. We put forth so much extra effort during the school year that it takes a toll on us physically. If you do not keep up with a daily routine, consider stretching exercises. Spend time going outdoors, observing your surroundings. Do some yoga, meditate, or just sit in the shade to relax. Besides exercise, summertime is also when most of us have time to create. If you don’t have space at home, look for a local art studio to have a space for yourself. Practice new techniques or create new pieces from what materials you love to work with. Consider bringing some clay home to create sculptures for yourself, as well as examples for your classroom.

Connect to Air by exercising your creative thinking and imagination. The element of air represents thinking, designing, and learning. In the summer months, consider taking your professional development courses to increase your knowledge and experiences. Take time to learn something new. Write down any ideas that come to mind, so when you have time to pursue it, you will not forget the lightbulbs that lit up in your brains. Completing professional development will not only help elevate your status where you work, but builds your confidence in what lessons and processes you teach.

Connect to Fire by igniting your passion for the arts. At the end of the school year, many of our candles are burnt on both ends. It’s not just teaching, but all the extra activities that happen around this time of year, such as graduations, recitals, and more. With feeling worn out, we lose our passion for what we love, which for us, is anything having to do with the arts. Use this time to rekindle your passion. Visit a museum or gallery. Be a student and take an art class. Watch a dance or musical performance. Last summer, I discovered fire dancing, which has become popular as outdoor nighttime performances.

Connect to Water by recognizing the emotions and feelings you put into your work. Are you feeling burnt out after a challenging school year? It’s okay, you are not the only one! Sadly, criticism of showing outward emotion is real, so we tell ourselves to bottle our sensitivity inside. If you feel this way, use this summer to release your emotions constructively through your work. The more you do for yourself, the better you’ll be for helping others. This is why it is so important to take time for yourself, even if you’re a parent of kids any age. On the flip side, if you have a special place to visit (like a vacation spot), you may find inspiration for your own artwork or lessons you teach just by being in a place that makes you happy! For example, our family cottage is on a large lake. I love to sit on the picnic bench with a watercolor pad and paint the scene I see before me. Just by sitting and painting the nature around me recharges my batteries and helps me to recharge for the next school year.

Connect to Spirit by being yourself and recognizing where your inspiration comes from. One of the great joys of being on social media as an educator is that we have found so many ways to gather ideas and resources to use for our classrooms and curriculum. Ideas are inspiring and help motivate you to design more authentic projects for your students. Connecting with other art teachers has also been important because we’ve developed a community support system. This summer, when you’re planning for the following school year, design lessons that inspire both you and your students. The more excited you are about the materials you teach, the more students will be inspired as well. Be yourself and your work will be authentic too.

I wish the best of luck for those who are completing their school years, as well as those who continue to teach throughout the summer. You are all amazing educators and deserve the time to take a step and breath. I look forward to the amazing works our students will create in the following school year!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Fitting Sculpture into Your Art Classes: May's Stepping Stones

Three-dimensional artworks are some of the most fun, yet challenging projects to make in an art class. No matter what material you work with, there are many factors to consider when planning your lessons and creating products that are more than paper or canvas.

For this month’s Stepping Stones, I’d like to focus on planning sculpture projects in your classes. If you are a first year teacher or in a new teaching environment, there are factors to consider when planning your lessons and creating successful projects.

1. Know your space. Not everyone teaches in a permanent art room. Many are on a cart, travel, or share a space with another teacher. If you do not have a space of your own, this is where you get to be a little more creative with planning.

But first, check your space to answer the following questions. Do you have the resources available to work with ceramic or air dry clay? Is there space to work with paper sculptures or papier-mâché projects? Do you have space available to construct a 3D form? Spend some time exploring your space to see if you have the ability to create certain types of sculpture projects.

2. Know your storage. After you judge whether or not your space is a decent place to build 3D forms, plan where you wish to keep the student projects stored during the week. If you’re in your own room, plan to keep labeled bins, boxes, or labeled shelves for stored projects. If you’re on a cart, discuss ways you and the homeroom teacher can store bins or projects away from student hands. If you’re in a temporary space, work with your administrator to find places to store artworks when you’re not at the school.

3. Know your budget. While browsing the art-supply catalogs, you may notice that sculpture materials are some of the expensive items in your supply lists. Although it may be challenging to squeeze clay, glazes or tools into your lists, they are essential items to help a student develop their artistic skills.

Moving students from 2D to 3D is a good step to help with their spatial awareness and creative thinking. Sculpture materials may be on the high end of your budget, but find a way to squeeze in what you can. If it’s a struggle to fit sculpture materials into your budget, consider creating a “DonorsChoose” project. A little extra work advocating for materials can really help with supplies for your students!

4. Explore with the materials available. No matter what your budget is, you can find ways to create sculpture projects in your classes. But before you hand students a wire spool and ask them to create a 3D form, practice what you wish to have your students make. Take the time to create the project yourself before sharing it with your students. In doing so, it will help with working out any complications your students may come across when building their own projects.

5. Explore ideas on social media and blogs. Are you stuck on what to make for your sculpture lessons? Trying to find an artist to teach your students? There are multiple blogs and projects shared throughout art groups on social media! Teachers are always sharing pictures of projects, along with lesson details to help other teachers interested in taking the projects on with their own students! Some of the most exciting projects made in my class were inspired by other teachers around the globe! If you find a project you like, be sure to pay it forward and share an idea that you design down the road! We all work together to share amazing ideas with our classes!

6. Start small. One of the mistakes I made as a first year teacher was not budgeting the space I had available when student projects had to dry or be stored during the week. While pushing a cart from room to room, I underestimated the amount of space I had available and ended up creating projects that were too big to store. Whether it’s paper or clay, make the judgment call on what space you have available and test out how big or little to make the sculpture projects. After creating a few clay or paper sculptures, you will become aware of what space you have and how much further you can go.

7. Consider Collaborations. Sculptures do not have to be individual projects, you can also create collaborative projects that can be installations around your schools! A few years back, the teachers worked together to create a recycled sculpture art walk! Each class created a concept, collected the recycled materials, and created life-sized sculptures that were displayed throughout the school.

Have fun exploring with the 3D materials you have! Your students’ imaginations may surprise you!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Ideas for Early Finishers

Please check out my previous article, "Ideas for Early Finishers" from Arts & Activities Magazine

Your students are in the middle of a project, but some of them are starting to approach you with finished artworks.  There are quite a few options you have for your early finishers that would work for you and your students.

Encourage students to enhance their pieces.  If your students followed all the objectives and finished far ahead, encourage your student to add more. Sometimes those extra finishing touches can make your student’s piece stand out! This is a good opportunity to do a formative assessment with your students to help them see their work from different perspectives.

Use this time for students to write artist statements or self reflections.  Since our school uses Artsonia, I have students include an artist statement along with their artworks.  If you use Artsonia, consider using the student mode for students to add their statements directly to their artworks.  You can also use Google Classroom with the intermediate grade levels, which makes it easy to copy and paste artist statements into Artsonia.

Create worksheets related to the project.  This also works as a good wrap up to a unit!  For many of my projects, I utilize worksheets to help build upon the objectives of the lesson.  

Create a resource center.  A resource center provides additional materials for students to use independently until all the students have completed their work.  Your resource center can be as small as a bin on your cart, or as large as a shelving unit in your room.   In my room, I have an art library shelving unit filled with many options for students to use once they have finished with everything listed above.   Your resource center can hold many of the items listed:

Coloring pages are not just for the kindergarteners! Even though I encourage the kindergarteners to practice coloring in the lines, all grade levels enjoy time to just color without worry.  

Blank paper is always good to have on hand.  There will always be a handful of students to want to use the time to practice their own drawing skills, and what better way to help inspire them to use “How to Draw” books.  

Scrap paper is another resource to have on hand since many kids enjoy making their own collages.  After trimming down paper for project sizes, I always have a pile of multicolor scraps that students love to use.  And if you teach them paper sculpture?  Your scrap bin will empty out faster than you know!

Art games can be fun and educational, without disturbing other students to are completing their artworks.  I have a bin in the art library containing games that students can play with two or more people, such as Art Lingo (a visual bingo that helps students with their art vocabulary), Hue Knew! (to help students match colors), Tangoes shape puzzles, and art puzzles.  The games are labeled in baggies for easy clean up with the art class is finished.

Art-inspired books are also a good resource to have in your stash.  Students love to borrow books from the art library, and many times, I catch them creating their own artworks inspired by the books they read!

What do you do for your early finishers?

Art Teacher Blogs

This post is a part of The Art Ed Blogger's Network: Monthly Tips and Inspiration from Art Teacher Blogs. On the first Tuesday each month, each of these art teacher blogs will post their best ideas on the same topic.

Participating Art Teacher Blogs:

Friday, April 6, 2018

Celebrating Earth Day in the Art Room: April's Stepping Stones

Earth Day is celebrated on April 22nd, which marks the anniversary of the start of the environmental movement in 1970. On that day, we find ways to take care of and replenish our planet. Earth Day is now the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year. There are many ways to recognize Earth Day within your classroom, as well as ways to conserve your materials and give your part in helping the earth. No matter how to try to help the planet, you can be an advocate for Earth Day!

Include recycled projects in your lessons and classroom. There are plenty of project ideas you can find in blogs, Pinterest, and online forums that incorporate recycled materials. Think about what materials are easy to collect yourself, or use materials that have been donated to you. Bottle caps make great murals, and they also make great bug sculptures for Spring projects. If you plan far enough ahead, you can have letters send home to parents asking for materials, such as paper towel tubes, newspaper, unused paper plates, washed out containers, 2-liter bottles, or more! You can also collect recycled materials to use in the art room for water cups, plates, containers, and storage bins. As beautiful as the room could be with color-coded, purchased storage bins, recycled containers will achieve the same purpose.

Design gifts that continue to grow in the classroom or at home. There are many projects that can be designed in the art room that can continue to bloom at home! Ceramic projects (pots, cups, or vessels) can hold plants and can grow seeds (chia seeds, grass, etc.). If you do not have access to clay, you can always use milk carton containers to design, or any other vessel that can hold seeds and plants. You can also have students document the growth of a plant from seeds by having them sketch the stages of growth from seedling to full flower, which ties in science.

Explore the world of earth art. One of the most popular “Earth Art” lesson ideas is inspired by the artist Andy Goldsworthy, who is known for his artworks created from natural elements. Earth art is also known as “Land Art” or Earthworks,” where artists use the natural landscape to create sculptures. Earth art comes directly from the source, such as stones, water, dirt, and tree elements (branches and leaves). Other Earth artists to study would be Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, and Richard Long. April would be the perfect time to take classes outside to create individual or collaborative earthworks within your school grounds. If you receive permission from administration, you can use any collected leaves, branches, rocks, soil or water. Creating a collaborative Earthwork would be a fun project and a beautiful addition to any school or community!

Create a collaborative outdoor rock garden. A very popular collaborative school-wide project that’s been successful in many schools is the rock garden, inspired by “Kindness Rocks” or the book “Only One You” by Linda Kranz. Rock gardens make a beautiful addition to any school and leaves a lasting memory. The project can include all faculty and students within the school. Although rocks are a natural element of the earth, rock gardens are created with painted images on each rock, along with an acrylic spray coating to keep the colors lasting. If you’re ever interested in creating a rock garden of your own, first bring the idea to your administration, then contact local landscaping companies for possible donations. Many would be more than happy to donate pebbles needed for your garden! Please remember to not collect rocks from state and national parks.


Teach your students to watch their waste. Do you have students who want to throw the paper away after one little mistake? One of the main rules I share in the beginning of the year is to watch the waste with paper, paint, and other materials used. Students are shown how to turn their papers over if a mistake is made, as well as how to save space with colored construction paper when creating collage projects. The best way to have students watch their own waste is to follow by example. Make sure to remind students to watch what they use, especially when it comes to paint and construction paper


Recycle! If your school has a recycle program, make use of it! Create a recycle bin and guide students to watch where they place their waste at the end of class. It will help them to remember to recycle throughout the day!

Even with all the consumable materials we use for lessons, we can still teach our students how to be aware of their waste and help take care of our planet. One step at a time!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Research and Collaboration: Creating a STEAM Makerspace

(Image provided by Sciencecosmos.com)

For my Spring break, I'm investigating on how to build a stronger foundation for the "A" in "STEAM"  for my school district.  For the past few years, I've researched how art teachers have already integrated core subjects within our curriculum.  With the rise of STEM learning and the explosion of makerspaces, I want to jump on that bandwagon and assist in supporting the STEAM approach.  After presenting for Education Closet's STEAM conference back in 2014, writing for Arts & Activities and multiple blog posts, I'm more than ready to join my school and assist in designing our own makerspace!

But first, let's visit the main question...

In the article written in Education Week, the author explains that, "children who study STEM develop a variety of skills that are essential for success: critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, communication, collaboration, and entrepreneurship, to name a few."

But in recent years, the idea of adding arts to STEM has been drawing attention.  The argument between both sides of the story is this (shared from the article):

From STEM proponents: STEM lessons naturally involve art (for example, product design), language arts (communication), and social studies and history (setting the context for engineering challenges). STEM projects do not deliberately exclude the arts or any other subject; rather, these subjects are included incidentally as needed for engineering challenges.  The focus of STEM is developing rigorous math and science skills through engineering. How can you focus on other subjects (such as art) without losing the mission of STEM or watering down its primary purpose?

From arts proponents: Engineering and technology can certainly serve the artist and help create art. But if we're talking about how one can use art in engineering… as an artist, it seems we're missing the point and devaluing, or not realizing, art’s purpose and importance. We have it backwards.

The article further explains how we can include STEAM elements within our lessons such as design, performing arts, and creative planning.

When I began learning about the STEAM approach a few years back, I met Susan Riley from Education Closet, plus followed a few conferences offered through the site, which are offered in Winter and Summer each year.

As a strong advocate for the STEAM approach, Education Closet explains that, "STEAM is a way to take the benefits of STEM and complete the package by integrating these principles in and through the arts. STEAM takes STEM to the next level: it allows students to connect their learning in these critical areas together with arts practices, elements, design principles, and standards to provide the whole pallet of learning at their disposal. STEAM removes limitations and replaces them with wonder, critique, inquiry, and innovation."

Education Closet further explains that in order to STEAM with integrity, schools must consider a variety of factors, including:

1. Collaborative planning, including a cross-section of teachers on each team

2. Adjusting scheduling to accommodate a new way of teaching and learning

3. Professional development for all staff in STEAM practices and principles

4. STEAM-mapping for the curriculum design process

5. Alignment and unpacking of standards and assessments

6. Seamless lesson implementation processes and strategies


Time to Research!

With that said, I then began to investigate how to emphasize STEAM projects within my art curriculum.  I've included below many of the podcasts and websites I used in research for this purpose.  I love many of the sites and resources I've provided, and I hope they help you in your research as well.


Artful Practice for Young Makers

One of the biggest take-aways from listening to this podcast was how to create a self-serve area that is age appropriate for kids.  In having centers for Kindergarten through 6th grade, we need to know what materials are appropriate for each grade level and allow those students to explore those materials.  Rachel created what's called an "invitation table" for young students to explore materials available without a teacher guiding a curriculum driven-lesson.

Now, my biggest struggle as an over-organized, type A art teacher is allowing the mess to flow.  Yes, students should be responsible for cleaning up their own messes, but it is recommended to allow the student to explore their own creativity with materials available.  According to Rachelle Doorley, messes come with the territory, but if you don't provide the resources, you're limiting the students from the creative process.  As a teacher, we need to guide the students in learning responsibility with cleaning up the messes.  We already do it in our classrooms with projects, but continue to encourage responsibility for the makerspace.

Also, another big struggle is allowing students to give up and restart when they do not "feel" the project anymore.  Since my projects follow a curriculum with a time frame, it's a challenge with students who wish to restart within that time frame.  Basically, I do not feel I can allow a student to restart right before a due-date, however, if they change their minds in the beginning stages, the student can easily catch up to meet the time frame.

There's also a few good resources listed in the above link!  One of my favorites in the "Ten Tinkerlab Habits of Mind,"  (download available in above link)


Extending the Art Room: Starting a Makerspace

While reading this article, there was a paragraph that caught my attention that made perfect sense, especially since we're always caught up on having the new-and-improved technology:

"As the “maker movement” gains momentum, makerspaces seem to incorporate more and more technology-based tools and materials. 3D printers, Spheros, and Snap Circuits are currently popular but can be spendy choices when servicing a large number of students. The beauty of the “maker movement” is that it doesn’t have to be an expensive mission for your school or department to take on. Tactile activities are just as important as the tech options, and diversity in your makerspace materials leads to more authentic tinkering and exploration." -Tracy Hare

The article provided a good beginner list in collecting materials for a successful makerspace.  Luckily, my school had already begun designing a room to store materials that were already in the list, and we add more to it every day!  

Sometimes, we need a reminder that kids do not need everything right away to have the perfect makerspace.  We can start small, and make our way to bigger things. 


Incorporating STEAM Projects in the Art Room

For this podcast, Ana Dzingle explains not only how to incorporate more STEAM in the art room, but how to we can still be artistic while using non-traditional materials.

Ana tells us that everybody is creative, we just need to find the medium that works best with each of us.  I find this to ring true because of what I see in my own art room.  Not every students enjoys drawing or painting, but they thrive with other areas, such as printmaking, coding, or sculpture.

STEAM projects are great problem-solving projects.  They integrate multiple subjects, which helps students to make connections.  Projects for younger students should also be explorative.  Students are learning materials and processes, which helps them to learn what materials can do.

Ana also discussed how students pick up on how adults model artistic behaviors.  When the teachers and parents get involved, the students are more engaged.

Ana's blog consists of lessons and projects for young students (Pre-K & up).  You can view her blog here for ideas that you can use in your art classes!

Ana also co-authored the book STEAM Kids


How to Incorporate STEAM Projects in the Art Room

In this podcast, Patty interviews Amy Zschaber, author of the blog "Artful Artsy Amy."

Amy explains the difference from an art project and a STEAM project is when we emphasize how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is included within the process of the lesson.  We may be doing STEAM projects without realizing it because we emphasize more of the artistic elements instead of the integrated ideas.  For example, when designing artworks of cities, buildings, or perspective, mathematics and engineering are involved in the design.

Amy also discusses collaborating with colleagues to assist with designing STEAM projects in and out of the art room.  It's about building a bridge between subjects.  


I've been in love with the videos created by OK GO for a few years now, and my absolute most favorite video is for the song, "This Too Shall Pass," which is a gigantic Rube Goldberg experiment.  There is SO much involved with creating their videos, and to assist teachers with inspiring students, OK GO has provided this website to help break down the planning of their videos and how STEAM concepts were involved.  I've been sharing their "Primary Colors" video with my young students, which is a stop-motion video sharing how primary colors are made.  

Many of the resources provided in this site go over choreography, technology, testing, paper mapping,  and shooting the videos.  They also go over collaboration and refining their works, which teaches students how to fine-tune any project, song, performance, or written document they create.


Searching for Local Treasures

I was so excited to find a local company that helps in creating makerspaces!  Spacelab is a non-profit makerspace with a focus on community engagement and maker-centered learning. They host an annual Maker Faire, community workshops, classes, and other events. 

If a company like this is available in our local area, I wonder how many more amazing companies are available for you around the world!


Applying Team Challenges

In creating a makerspace with centers, it's a prime opportunity to incorporate team challenges.  In this article, Amanda Koonlaba shares her insight on how she began using the idea of creative team challenges for teams to solve problems and collaborate.  

Amanda researched why students normally struggle with working together and came to the conclusion that students didn't know how to make decision with other people and share materials.  She continues to say that these types of social skills don't come naturally, and it is up to the teachers to help assist students in developing those skills.

Amanda then explains how coaching and time management helped students in developing skills in team-building and how students enjoyment sky-rocketed.  After reading the article, I realized how much I needed to push for more collaboration in my art classes.  It takes more than just sharing the materials available.  It's planning and building together.


So What's Next?

Now that I've found plenty of sources, it's time to start planning!  I already started contacting SpaceLab1, signed up for classes, and shared information with our administration!  We have our supply storage STEAM room filled, and we'll be planning our makerspace soon!

Discussions have been started on co-teaching, which will help students learn how to design the makerspace themselves, teaching how to design floor plans!

As for my classroom, I want to work more on building team collaboration in my classroom.  Taking time to research helps each of us understand what we can do to help our students for the future in the arts, and to have our students be successful future designers and creative thinkers.


Here's a resource to assist you in advocating for STEAM learning. You can sign up to be a part of the site and others where STEAM is happening and how it's making a difference!


I would like to give thanks to the people who supplied my research for my Passion Project PD and assistance in designing our school's future Makerspace:

The Art of Ed (Tracy Hare)
Deep Space Sparkle (Patty Palmer, Amy Zschaber, Ana Dzingle, Rachel Doorley)
Education Closet (Susan Riley, Amanda Koonlaba)