Friday, September 25, 2015

Hey I'm Back! And Obsessing over the Mayans...


After a kinda long and crazy year last year (there was surgery involved) I am back to being my spunky self and the first finished artwork of this school year is going up!

This year I am particularly pumped about a Mayan inspired project I've been doing with Third Grade.  As you might know, I do a global continent theme with the kids, and Third Graders study Mexico, Central and South America.  This summer, during a teacher workshop, we had lunch at Chipotle, and I saw their awesome Mayan glyphs in the restaurant.  I thought, "I am in love with these, and I bet the kids would be, too!"  So here's what I did:

First we had a whole class dedicated to talking about and exploring the culture of the Ancient Mayans.  I showed this video:

And we talked about Mayan numbers, and the calendar, and so forth.  It was so fascinating to me and the kids that time went by super fast, and we had just enough time at the end of class for them to write Mayan numbers in their sketchbooks, and practice drawing a few simple glyphs for common Mayan words:
This one means "sun."  Obviously the sun played a huge role in Mayan beliefs and culture.  Their calendars are amazing!  And no, they weren't wrong about the world "ending" on December 21, 2012.  They didn't predict that at all; just the end of a very long cycle and the beginning of a new one.  :)

This one means "maize."  The Mayan Creation Story is fascinating and explains why maize was so important to the Mayans.  Check this video out.  (May be a little gross for littles)

And this glyph means "moon."  Notice the three dots in the middle?  I think their arrangement may have something to do with Orion's belt and the Orion Nebula, which was also possibly very important to the Mayans.

This was one of those lessons that prompted the kids to investigate on their own.  They checked out library books, and did internet searches to learn more, just because they wanted to!  They asked me questions as we passed each other in the hall.  They came up to me before and after school.  This was a hugely engaging topic!

So then the time came for us to create their glyphs.  I decided to use the Mayan syllabary chart to convert their names into syllabic symbols.  (Sort of like Japanese I guess)

This Pdf was a fantastic resource for me, and I read it, and was basically able to do the project from there.

We practiced breaking their names into syllables and writing their respective syllabic symbols.  That took another entire class.

The following class, I demonstrated how to combine their symbols into one glyph.  They then cut themselves a small piece of recycled cardboard, about 3x3 inches.  I didn't bother asking them to make perfect squares, and this turned out to make them look WAY better as a result.  I love the way they look displayed in a clump.

Anyhow, after cutting their cardboard, they traced the shape of it in their sketchbooks.  Using that shape, they drew their glyph in pencil, then cut out the sketch, which was then the exact size of their cardboard.

I cut a piece of gold tooling foil and wrapped the edges of it around their cardboard.  Then, they taped their paper pattern to the foil and traced it onto the gold foil.  The resulting impressions were pretty darn cool looking, but I wanted to make them look "ancient."

So the next class, i had them use a tiny tiny bit of black block printing ink (this was what I had on hand.  It's probably easier to use india ink if you have that.) and stippled it onto their foil just in the areas where they had indented lines.  Next, and this may sound weird but it worked GREAT, I gave them a blob of Germ-x squirted right onto their project.  Using their fingers, they smeared the ink into the grooves they'd drawn, then wiped away the excess with paper towels.  This was messy, but awesome.  :)  Some of them wanted to polish theirs a bit more, so we used Clorox wipes to do that.  Turns out the Clorox wipes removed a bit of the gold color on the foil too, and that made them look even more interesting in my opinion!  

I had them stick magnets to the back of the project before we inked them, but this is completely optional.  My intention was to display them by sticking them to this metal railing at my school, but they didn't stay very well, and I ended up duct-taping them to the wall instead.  Here's my finished example:

And here's how they looked on the railing:

And now clumped on the wall.  I used a twisted long piece of duct tape to stick them on and they have stayed up very well so far.  I like this look better, but if you've got a good spot to stick these with the magnets, that might look fabulous, too.  

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Happy August, Everybody!

School's already started back?  WHAAAT!?  Seems like it's earlier every year.  Anyway, here's a little update on me.  

Our school is pretty severely overcrowded at this point, and I'm still in a mobile Art situation.  At the end of the year last year, I was asked if I would prefer to move to the former concession stand near the gym and the music room, and I jumped at the chance.  My previous office was small and had carpet.  This one is twice the size, has linoleum flooring, lots of countertops and cabinets, and best of all, a sink!  So it's much more conducive to arty-ness, even though it's still not the same as having an actual classroom.  This location is pretty ideal for me, being near the gym and the stage for theatre things, and near the music room for collaborating with my Fine Arts buddies.

There are moments when I still feel overwhelmed, but I do feel like I'm better equipped this year to make the program work.  And yes, that is the TARDIS on my office door.  At first, I did that for me, just to add a little personality to the space, but then I decided to make it relevant and cuter by adding "Imagination makes you bigger on the inside," above the door.  Already had some compliments on that!

This year we are on an 8 day color rotation.  And since the specials teachers almost all have an additional part time teacher, that makes the planning piece very complicated.  It's going to be pretty near impossible to coordinate on a lesson that keeps pace and is consistent across a grade level.  So my co-teacher and I have decided to have her teach her own self contained lessons, focusing primarily on art criticism, since that's what I tend to leave out due to time constraints.  I will let you all know how that turns out!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Spring Play

This is the time of year when my students start bringing me fun sized Snickers bars.  It's a  bit of an inside joke, actually.

I am the sponsor for my school's Drama Club (which we change the name of just about every year).  And it's almost time for our Spring performance.  We already have one show under our belt as a group:  the Vaudeville Variety Show we put on in November.  It was super cute.  We had a ventriloquist, and a dancing gorilla, and George Burns, and Abbot & Costello.  It was a way to sing and dance a little, get some stage experience and teach a bit of history at the same time.  Did I mention I teach at an ELEMENTARY SCHOOL?  Yep.  I'm pretty sure I'm the only Elementary Art teacher in the known world who is brave (read: crazy) enough to take on directing a group of 42 aspiring actors in 3rd thru 5th grade on top of teaching full time.  But it's something I've always done since I started teaching.  (Guys...I'm so sleep deprived right now that the first time I typed that, I wrote "teachering.")  In fact, I think it's what helped me get hired in the first place.  In my interview I asked if the school had a program like this, and mentioned that I would love to create one and help the music teacher with her shows, etc.  So after growing up as a theatre kid, here I am instructing young minds on how to project their voices whist wearing itchy, homemade costumes and sweating under our stage lights.  

Anyway, back to the Snickers.  I explained to my theatre kids that when we get close to performance time, Miss Teacher morphs into a fire breathing dragon who thinks you're about to steal her gold.  She is tired and cranky, and even though she still loves you, she isn't herself.  She might yell at you for making a minor mistake, or maybe for a huge mistake, but she probably is just HANGRY.  She just needs a Snickers.  Thus, these adorable and hilarious kids have started investing in some  Snickers Insurance.  On Valentine's Day, one student brought me the biggest Snickers bar I have ever seen.  She said, "Just in case you need it this afternoon when we're blocking that crazy scene."
Show is in 10 days.  Eep!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Black Glue (tested and improved)

Most of the time when I use something from Pinterest, I test it first.  But as things are now, being a mobile teacher, I don't have much time to test things before I just have to throw them into my lesson.

Thus the black glue mess.

I was trying to do a Kandinsky-inspired lesson with the kinders.  I coordinated with the music teacher and we did a joint lesson about Jazz music and how that relates to Rhythm in art and the artist Kandinsky.  Then I had the kiddos draw with crayons to re-create the feeling of the jazz music we were listening to, keeping them focused on making lines and shapes; abstract, not representational.

Then the plan was to edit their crayon drawings, and pick what we liked the best, then recreate that on a new piece of drawing paper using the black glue you see all over pinterest, then color in between the dried glue with chalk pastels.

"Oh, it's so easy!  Just mix some black tempera or acrylic with your white glue and away you go!"


Wasn't that easy for me.  First of all, I had to find the right kind of glue.  The Elmer's worked fine, but the off brand melted the black paint and wouldn't mix at all, nor would the crayola glue.  (It was too thick.)

So once I had a billion little bottles mixed up, I gave them to the kids and woops!  "MINE WON'T SQUEEZE OUT!"  "MINE'S COMING OUT GRAY!"  "MINE'S BROKEN!"

Don't you love it?  My glue is broken.  Lol.

After dealing with all of that, I then realized I would have to refill the bottles for the next couple of classes, because they got used up pretty quickly.  And refilling the bottles with glue AND paint and mixing them before the kids had to use them?  Nope.  Didn't happen.  There just wasn't time.

So here's what I did:

I made use of an almost empty bottle of black tempera paint; the one that still has paint in it, but not enough to be pumped out by the gallon paint pumper, and I poured a bunch of bottles of Elmer's into it.  Then I closed the lid tightly, and rolled it up and down the hallway, and shook it up.  It mixed up great!  That was WAAAY easier than mixing 30 individual bottles!  Now I can refill the black glue bottles from my big one, and I know the mixture will be the same consistency with all of the bottles!

I did this in the hallway, too, by the way.  Lol.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Homeschoolers Welcome!

It's come to my attention that a fair few of my followers are homeschoolers (or just regular parents) looking for arty project ideas to try at home.  How awesome is that!?  Way to go, you, for nurturing your child's creativity at home!  If I had a Super Parent badge, you'd have earned it!

Of course my blog isn't really designed specifically for you guys, but I am glad to have you here!  My main intention is to share lesson and process ideas with other teachers who are working with large groups of kids.  I just share my experiences, and the choices I have to make given my specific situation, and what's available to me at the time.  So just because I didn't think to use something that seems like it would work better for you, don't be scared!  In fact, I'd love it if you would share that idea with me!  Comments make me feel all fuzzy inside!

Faux Batiks with First Grade, Cleanline Resist and Lumi Inkodye

I've had some interesting results with my faux batik project.  We began by studying the batiks of Africa, which is our theme continent for this grade level.  I then gave the kids a piece of muslin fabric.  By the way, if you ever have to cut 150 or so pieces of fabric for some reason, remember it is WAY easier to tear it than to cut it.

The kids traced the outline of their fabric in their sketchbook.  Then, using that as a guide for sizing, they made a very simple drawing of an African animal, and perhaps a little decorative border.  In hindsight, I could have skipped this step, because they definitely made their drawings more detailed than they could ever recreate with the glue.  But it helped them to visualize their idea I suppose.

The fabric was see-through, so they were able to place it on top of their pencil drawing and "trace" it with the glue.  Drawing with glue is tricky, and that's why the images have to be super simple.  You may get better detail if you try using gel glue instead of white glue.  But I have that lovely crayola white glue, and I tend to reach for that most often.

After letting the glue drawings on the fabric dry, we painted over them with tempera. We used one color to help alleviate my logistical issues, but you could use as many colors as you want!

Then, the next week, when the paint was dry, I washed them in the sink with warm water.  I did this for each kid individually, so they could watch the paint come off the glue and stay on the fabric.  I didn't try to remove the glue from the fabric completely, because it would have just taken far too long.  I did that for my example, and I had to wash so much that the color faded too much for my taste.  But depending on how your operation is set up, it may be best just to throw all the batiks in your washing machine without detergent.  The tempera will stain the fabric, and the glue should be completely removed.  I haven't tried that.  I wasn't going to put 150 of them in my washing machine at home for obvious reasons.  :)

I removed the glue from the fabric completely.  But my piece of fabric was about twice the size of the ones I gave the kids.  I tried to do a little gradient with the black and the blue, but it didn't turn out very evenly.  It has sort of a tie-dye look, though.

And here's a kid example.  The color is much brighter, because they dried for a week before we washed them; plenty of time for a nice stain to set into the fabric.  And you'l notice that the white lines are a bit shiny, because the glue is still there.  The kids were happy either way, and this kept the color nice, so we went with this method.

Overall, I'm really happy with these results.  I've been wanting to do a faux batik lesson with kids for years, but I never quite found my groove with it.  I've tried this similar technique on paper before with mixed results, and I've tried the chalk and glue method too.  Here's a link to the Frank Lloyd Wright project I did a few years back.  

It is also noteworthy that if you are doing this with older kids or for yourself, you might want to try Cleanline Resist instead of glue.  It's designed more for batik.

I used a brush to apply the resist to fabric, testing how much detail I would get, and what difference the thickness of the applied resist would make.  You could then use the tempera method described above, or dye of some kind.  You might want to try the Inkodye.  It's a light sensitive dye which can be used for anything from batik to t-shirts, to faux cyanotypes.  I added the dye over my resist, laid it out in the sun and then washed in the sink.  Here's the result:

Because I'm a photography nerd as well, I am gonna have to try this with film negatives!  The instructions make it look super easy.  Now I just have to wait for the SUN TO COME OUT!  :)

Let me know about your experiments with batik!