I learned about "ArtBots" or "Brushbots" at last year's STEAM focused symposium hosted at Moore College of Art & Design. I left Chris Sweeney's Maker session totally inspired and with a promise to myself that I would try to implement some bots into my curriculum within the next year!
First, I was off to my local Dollar Tree to find a few simple motorized toothbrushes and practicing the art of extracting the motor from the plastic brush body. I admit, it took me a few practice tries. I ended up damaging some of the motor connections on my first few attempts. I definitely recommend practicing on several brushes before your go live with the kiddos!
To kick off the exploratory lesson, I showed a few inspirational videos from YouTube. We particularly enjoyed the advice and antics of of Simone Giertz, the host of ToyHackers. You can check out her endless list of cool toy hacks here.
The bot project was a good way to teach kiddos the parts of a motor. It helped to illustrate key science concepts such as FRICTION, MOMENTUM, CIRCUIT, and WEIGHT. Art wise, it was a super exercise in LINE QUALITY. Our bots made so many crazy, unpredictable lines! The project marries art and science because the students need to, essentially, create a sculpture that is aerodynamic and light enough to be propelled by the small motor. Please enjoy our video below to see our art bots in action!
I recently transitioned from a suburban district into the one of the largest school districts in the country. I'm fortunate to teach at one of most amazing and supportive schools in Philadelphia, yet even so, I found myself really having to get creative when it came to properly managing my extra large class sizes, especially those where students with special needs are included into classes of over 25 students.
My classes represent an extremely huge range of ability levels. I felt torn in a million directions sensing that many of my students with special needs who were included in the art class were feeling frustrated and well....bored! Many of my students with the most severe learning disabilities needed extra support that I could not always manage to provide at the same time I was responsible for teaching grade specific content to their traditional peers.
Early on, I voiced my concerns with one of the Autistic Support teachers at my school. She comes from a creative background and I have suspicions that she is an artist in a teacher costume! :) She took the time to listen my dilemma and helped me to brainstorm an idea that has made a substantial difference.
After securing an old cart from my custodian friend, I purchased a few brightly colored bins from the dollar store. In each bin, I designed a mess free mini lesson that could be completed with little to no instruction. The mini projects include paper sculpture strips, bead stringing, cookie cutters with Crayola puddy, bingo dot markers with easy to follow worksheets, hoola hoop looms to weaving on, sticky foam shapes and backgrounds, cardboard cut outs that can be wrapped with string, and simple felted balls. I have a few additional no mess things on the cart such as a white board, a foam alphabet puzzle, and some colored blocks.
It may not seem like much, but it has proved to be very helpful at getting reluctant students into the art room and has helped some students on the autistic spectrum get instantly engaged and comforted. The cart can easily be rolled out when it is being used, and then rolled back into a corner when it is not needed. The paraprofessionals I work with have told me that they appreciate having some easy go-to tasks they can use while I am giving the sometimes lengthy instructions that accompany the main lesson. Some of my paraprofessional colleagues have even been kind enough to make suggestions about things I can add or update the cart with, such as coloring pages that expressly relate to a student's interest.
I am looking for more simple, no mess mini lessons. Any teachers out there reading who have come up with some tried and true solutions, let me know! This cart has helped immensely but is certainly still a work in progress.
This summer's latest adventure is creating a week long workshop for kiddos interested in developing their cartoon drawing skills. Though I've personally been a long time fan of the comic genre, I've never really taught comics in any kind of formal way in my traditional art classroom. I am here to attest, KIDS LOVE COMICS! They relate to comic characters and scenarios effortlessly and I was surprised to find out how sophisticated their understanding was of classic comic forms like "the one line gag," breaking the fourth wall in a 2-d drawing, and the importance of creating a strong backstory for characters.
I had a good three months to design the workshop.I found the Internet to be rife with information about how to design a comics unit for teens, but the students I would be working with were grades 3-5. Because of this and our limited 4-day time constraint, I felt the need to design a solid, task master flash, curriculum from the ground up.
Did ya ever have a class where the fates align and the class chemistry is just right? For this school year, my last period 1st grade class on Wednesday was bonkers creative, hilarious, productive, witty, and wise beyond their years!
There was that time we all cracked up when one of them accidentally referred to our placemats as mattresses! And the time one of the sweet darling cherubs implied that Ms. Mowery had big feet! Or my personal fav, the time one of the little logophiles used the word "majestic" to describe a cardinal and we all "Oooooed and Ahhhhhed!" at his impressive vocabulary! The kiddos in this class just exemplified everything I love about working with artists this age. Their spontaneous energy can not be contained and they helped me to realize sometimes teachers need to add a little spontaneity to their lives too!
So anyways, after our unit on light, and after being introduced to Sir Isaac Newton and his revolutionary prism experiment, one inquisitive students asked me how I learn all of the art facts I share. Another student quipped, "Yeah, are you like an art jedi, or something?" Hilarity, or course, ensued, and the story of "The Shapes That Came to Life Was Born." I knew I couldn't just let such a sweet idea fade into the abyss and I wanted to reward and challenge the class with a very special and creative final project.
From the initial idea, I helped the students compose the body of the story, opening up Word and typing in large font as the students excitedly came up with each sentence. During the second class, we read through the story as a class and I asked students to raise their hand whenever they hear a person, place, or thing we would need to design as we acted out the animation.
We used the FREE app iMotionHD to record out movie one single frame at a time. I kept the vocab simple just focusing on the words, FRAME, CAPTURE, FPS (Frames per second) and STOP ANIMATION. It took us an additional three classes to create all three scenes and record our voice overs. (I did have a simple, at your seat project for students to work on at their seats while small groups of four came over to work as the production crew.
I edited the sound in using GarageBand and iMovie and VOILA! :)
The exhibit is housed at The Perelman building and is actually five distinct exhibits rolled into one! The works touch on design, architecture, sculpture, textiles, fashion and photography from African-born artists.
If you visit the exhibit, I suggest starting with the “Look Again: Contemporary Perspectives on African Art,” found in the space just inside the Perelman front doors. Somehow my husband I did this section last (Insert joke about "how many 32 year old art enthusiasts does it take?" here!) and I definitely think this section provides rich context about the history of African objects that would be helpful to see before the more contemporary portions of the show. This space is filled with traditional wooden and metal figures and masks. This is where you’ll see dozens of carved wooden “power figures” which are smaller-scale human forms that were created to protect or heal their owners. As a teacher, I like the way the curators broke up the space by asking essential questions, like "Can an ancient art space really ever be recreated?" or "What evidence can you find of how this object was assembled?" I thought it was very kid-friendly and I noticed that several of the younger visitors were absolutely mesmerized by the ancient collection.
And you can’t miss Kéré's mega-colorful art installation, “It Takes a Village,” which he created for the atrium area in front of the gallery entrances. It’s a series of day-glow parachute cords, hanging in hut-like groups from the ceiling, that visitors can walk through. Yes, all you hands on artists, your are allowed to walk through the cords which creates a sensation I would describe as ticklish spaghetti! The best part is, the design of the strings is inspired by the city layout of our own fair city. William Penn would have loved!
Matt's Uncle S is flying in from California to stay with us for a few days before the holidays. This means lots of fun Philly-centric sightseeing, vintage Christmas karaoke, and that I have to CLEAN THIS DREADFUL MESS OF AN ART OFFICE so Uncle S doesn't have to use my un-filed lesson plan pile as a pillow!
In the midst of cleaning, I happened to find this super-detailed watercolor/goache painting I made of the art room I used to teach in before we made the move to Philly. It brought back so many great memories. That art room was a sight to have beheld. It was double-sided for goodness sakes! (One side with six small tables for the lower elementary and one sight for the middle school artists complete with a kiln, and two pottery wheels. The whole room was decked out with this luscious emerald green carpet (that somehow never got permanently stained!) I karumba! Those were the days.
I managed to record every last detail of the art space I had while I was teaching in a sweet elementary school in rural PA . Now I'm a traveling art teacher outside of Philadelphia. While I love my job, the one thing I do not have is a room of my own. Teaching is a lot different today than it used to be in a plethora of ways. It's very rare (in all professions, really) to land a job when you're 22 and stay put there until retirement. Working conditions, benefits, location, relationships, and hundreds of other micro-variables make it hard for new teachers to "have it all." But I digress...
My advice is to try this little drawing exercise. Try to recreate the space where you work from memory. The most meaningful qualities of that space with rise to the forefront. Save that drawing (preferably in a very untidy office where you'll have no chance of finding it for a good year or two!;) Then when you find it a few years later, hopefully this drawing will remind you of all of the wonderful, warm and fuzzy minutia that time has caused you to forget!
Now back to lesson filing for me! If you've ever made a piece of art inspired by your art room, I wanna see it!
I can't help but put a huge amount of thought and love into my first bulletin board design of the year. All art teachers do. It's our way of communicating a message of "Let's do this!" to our young artists. I had been seeing a lot of awesome board designs from Tech teachers who were putting creative spins on apps and iPhone home screen icons. I decided I wanted to make my iPhone 3-D and use famous artist quotes for the messages. I used a FREE online site called "iPhone Text Generator" to create pretend text messages to myself from the likes of President Obama and Salvador Dali!
As for the bright and beautiful emoji artwork, I had the students make it themselves for their very first art project. We talked about expression, pictographs, and the original creator of the emoji concept, Shigetaka Kurita. I handed each student a 4 inch diameter circle and had them design an original emoji from scratch. They could use elements from existing emojis but their emotive icon should attempt to express something completely new. This project was a really great fit with 7th and 8th graders who roll deep in their phone/text culture.
I first learned about PECS, or Picture Exchange Communication Systems, two years ago during my Masters program. Since then, I have noticed this mode of communication being used more and more in modern day teaching environments. I even saw this great video tutorial posted on "The Art of Ed" blog. I looked around for art room specific PECS systems online, but I couldn't really find one that was comprehensive enough to fit my art room procedures and needs. This summer, I picked up my Micron and my watercolor paints and decided to make a list of all the key procedures I would want to communicate to students in my class. I made a visual representation of each concept that fell into four categories
Traditionally, PECS systems are used for identified individuals so I made up a few clip boards with direction sequencing pages, "Today I will...." with three spaces for the student to fill in with pictures and an "I feel....I want....I choose....." Check-In sheet for a paraprofessional to use one-on one with an artist.
In the end, I decided that ALL of my students would benefit from having a visual sequence of directions so I made a large print out with the directions sequence for everyone to see. Each day when the students gather around a for a demo, two students are in charge of being extra expert listeners and they fill in the sequence in the correct order and hang it on our magnetic board. Hilariously enough, the kids love being in charge of this duty and getting it right. It's also good sequencing practice for the little guys.
Making the system took a lot of work, but it was worth it to have an aesthetically pleasing system in place that fit all of my needs. I made my system available by clicking here.
The start of the school year is nigh. It's this time of year that I get all excited about organizing my school bag and reinvigorating my art curriculum! I'm on a constant quest to keep things fresh for my learners and thus, I find myself visiting lots of libraries, bookstores, and art museum looking for inspiration.
Philly is a goldmine for artistic experiences and this year, my search led me to an often over-looked gem on Philly's main parkway. We all know about the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), The Barnes, and the Rodin Museum, but have you ever heard of The Perelman Building? Perhaps I am just out of the loop, but I hadn't! Admission to the Perelman is included in the admission fee of a regular PMA ticket. A short walk down the hill and across Pennsylvania Avenue and you find yourself in front of an Art Deco architectural masterpiece.
The exhibit I liked most was titled Northern Lights: Scandinavian Design and runs through October 4th. As stated in the blurb placed on the wall at the beginning of the exhibit, the Scandinavian aesthetic was rooted in a belief that,"the good design of attractive, well-designed objects could have a positive impact on society." I definitely agree with this statement! This exhibit is a must see for anyone who appreciates the Danish Modern aesthetic that has seen a revival from the hit show Mad Men.
Sunny is an art teacher who is living the dream. The only thing she enjoys more than her curious students are the adventures she has with her loving husband and cat in the fabulous city of Philadelphia!
Artful Artsy Amy
The Department of Making + Doing
The Philadelphia Museum of Art