ArtMuse67

Musings about the importance and impact of art and art education in the 21st century.

Musings about the importance of art and art education

New Art Centers

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Every year when I order the following years supplies, I always try to order a handful of new items that I think would be good to add to my center repertoire. Over the past 3 years of trial and error, I've found a few guidelines are helpful when thinking about whether a center item will be successful or not.  Here's what I've come up with: 

1.  Can the children easily set it up and put it away?  Things that require a lot of directions, steps, or guidance from me are a NO GO. The whole point of centers is self-directed, open ended exploration...if they need me every 5 seconds, it's not a successful center. Tied into this, is the level of mess it makes.  If there's an opportunity for the children to get really dirty, chances are it will be fun, but chances also are that you'll have to watch that group like a hawk for misbehavior or a little too much "exploration".  Again, if it doesn't run smoothly and with minimal teacher interruption, I'd say skip it.

2 Is it open-ended and exploratory?  If the activity is too structured and the product-based, chances are, the kids won't have time to complete it, and will be bored in the process. Also, if there are too many "right" or "wrong" steps they're guaranteed to get confused and discouraged (see also, # 1). 

3. Would it work for grades k-5, or at least grades k-2 or 3-5 If the activity is too centered on one specific age or ability level it won't work in the majority of situations.  Flexibility and adaptability are the name of the game in center activities, so if it doesn't suit a broad grade range, skip it.  

4. Does it keep the children engaged for a decent amount of time In a typical 40 minute are period I usually have the class switch centers 1 time.  The breakdown goes something like this: Five minute for reviewing center rules. Five minutes for setup,  transitions, and cleanup, and 30 minutes for center time. So, any more than 2 switches and the kids really don't have the time to explore the center. This means it's got to keep them engaged for at least 15 minutes. 

5.  Is it individual based or does it have opportunities for collaboration?  I will try a center activity that is based on solo work, but I particularly like the activities that give the kids the opportunity to create something as a group if they so choose.  Most of what I do, and from what I've seen, other art teachers do, is individual work, and so it's nice if the children get the chance to work together on something.

6. Will the materials hold up?  Delicate, quickly used, and/or easily breakable materials may make for a fun activity but if you have hundreds of students like I do (almost 600 to be exact) the materials aren't going to be worth the investment if they don't make it through a school year. Granted, I don't do centers that often, but I still want things to last, preferably for a few years.  So anything flimsy might prove to be a short-live budget buster. 

7. Lastly, and most important.  Are the students flexing their creative muscles?  For instance, kids love color by numbers, picture searches, word searches etc.  But you have to ask yourself, is this activity even worth it?  Now, some may argue the educational value of centers in and of themselves.  If you do a center day once in a while don't expect that the kids are going to learn a wealth of knowledge from a 15 minute session of exploratory play. But in my opinion, a little open-ended exploration and creativity is a great thing, especially in this day and age.  That being said, if the activity doesn't foster some modicum of creativity, leave it out.  Busy work has no place in center time!

Here are a few new center ideas I've tried this year: 

Dry Erase Boards with Dry Erase Crayons

I've found the early childhood grades smash the perfectly new marker tips into oblivion, so I figured I'd try crayons.  
Final Verdict: They're so-so.  They draw well, but are really hard to erase! The typical dry erasers don't really work on them. You need the rags that come with the crayon, and even then, the crayons are particularly persnickety to wipe away.


Magnetic Architecture Boards

A magnetic set comprised of a variety of pieces to create difference "buildings". 
Final Verdict: Great for grades 2-5.  The pieces are tiny and may be too small and difficult for kinders and first graders to manipulate. One set has enough magnets for 4 kids but you need to buy 3 extra magnetic white boards to go with the center because the original set only comes with one magnetic board.  I got mine from school specialty. Wonderboard also makes a magnetic bug makers set I'm going to try next year. 



Project Bricks 









 I think I thought these had a variety of shapes when I purchased them, but they only have the rectangle shapes unless they are cut. 
Final Verdict:  Underwhelming at first but surprisingly creative when given a chance.  My second graders took one look at these and gave a unanimous sigh of "underwhelmingness", but once they worked together and started to build with them, they got surprisingly into it. Something like this would be light years better if it came in color.  (Although, they would make a pretty good sculpture material for a real project) 


If you are still interested in my explorations into the land of art centers, click on 'Centers and Games' on the link to the right or  use the direct links below to  read previous center posts I've written: 

Art Centers

Art Centers-Take 1 

Art Centers-Take 2 

Art Centers-Take 3




Something shiny in the spirit of the holidays

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This has nothing to do with the holidays, but it is shiny!  This was an enormous work of art that my 2 art teacher colleagues and I collaborated on with our elementary art students for a local recycled art contest we all participate in every year.  At the end of the contest and exhibit the projects usually get scrapped, which really is a shame considering the amount of time and planning that goes into them.  So I was pleasantly surprised to see this hanging in the administrative building of my district the other day.  I'm glad it's getting  a little more exhibition time!



In the spirit of ninja turtles

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 Yesterday I saw the new teenage mutant ninja turtle movie (yes, yes, I'm a kid trapped in a 34 year old's body), and while watching I couldn't help but get a little nostalgic.  To think that over 20 years later the kids in MY classes would be wearing the same ninja turtle t-shirts and carrying the same ninja turtle backpacks and lunchboxes that my brother and I did as kids.  Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, my brother and I used to use the tin and then plastic, lunch "boxes" and nowadays they're all fabric, but I digress.....Anywho, in the spirit of ninja turtles, I decided to post a few turtle-themed art projects.  Enjoy!

Ceramic Turtles 
From the blogs "Art Education Daily", "Chin Colle", "Oogly"

Aboriginal Style Turtle-Dot Paintings
Sources Unknown

 Black Glue and Chalk Pastel Turtles
From the blog "Princess Artypants"

Close-up Turtle with frame 
Source unknown

Foil Embossed Turtles on painted paper backgrounds
Turtle-and-Fish-Craft-Gallery
From the blog "Deep Space Sparkle"


Camouflage Turtles with chalk pastels and oil pastel outline
From the blog "Artisan des Arts"




 Line Design Turtles
From Pinterest and the blog "First Grade Schoolhouse"

Oil Pastel and Watercolor Resist Turtles (with salt)
Two images are from the blogs "Kim & Karen: 2 Soul Sisters" and "The Art Teacher's Closet"   


Simple Notan in 5th grade

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I used this project as a kind of "mini-lesson" to introduce positive/negative space to my fifth graders. Now that they've finished it, I'm going to introduce a patterns in nature project where they create  white tree silhouettes surrounded by different designs inspired by patterns found in nature.  Originally, I had hoped that the notan would take one period, but silly me, NOTHING, takes only1 period in art! So here's how the 2-day project broke down:

I began by showing them this PowerPoint.

Patterns in Nature PP


More presentations from Tarabelle


(You can also access it HeRe on authorshare)

In the PowerPoint I had links to two videos: one by the Virtual Artist, on positive and negative space and the other is a video on how to create notan.










2nd Grade Matisse Goldfish Bowls

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 Henri Matisse Goldfish


My leave replacement did these, and they look particularly great on the peach bulletin board paper.  I like how clean these came out.  The cut-out shapes aren't to small and they are layered just enough to add depth and interest without being overworked.  The fishbowls were watercolor with salt effects and the fish themselves were cut from textured painted paper using paint scrapers.  Btw, if I haven't mentioned this before, I LOVE paint scrapers!. 

An example of watercolor with salt sprinkled on it while wet:






I've also taught a different version of this project.  You can find it HeRe



3rd Grade Aboriginal Art

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I'm not sure why I never thought of this, but pencil erasers make GREAT "dot painting" tools. Here area a few from my leave replacements lesson:The kids really got into making the dots.  I had to stop the lesson and let them know it's o.k. for them to leave some brown paper around their animal, otherwise we'd still be doing this lesson from September!







5th Grade Giacometti Sculptures

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This project was done by my fab leave replacement.  I'm always searching for ways to incorporate more sculpture into my curriculum.  I feel like it's very easy to get caught up teaching 2D work to the detriment of 3D work, so I was really glad she was starting off my fifth graders year with this project.


The sculptures are based on Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti: 

"All the art of the past rises up before me, the art of all ages and all civilizations, everything becomes simultaneous, as if space had replaced time. Memories of works of art blend with affective memories, with my work, with my whole life." 
 

 More information can be found: Giacometti at ArtStory

 The sculptures were done using cardboard bases, thin armature wire (I like it to be thin enough that the students can cut it with scissors and not pliers), paper towels, mache mix, and black, brown, and metallic paints. The project took about 6, 40-minute periods.  








FYI, I stumbled across the site mentioned above while researching a bit on Giacometti The sites mission is to explore art in "a fresh and clear way".  Hmm, it may make for a good resource!
Another great site is the Giacometti Foundation