Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cloud Pictures and Book: "It Looked Like Spilt Milk"

Ah...the lazy days of summer are coming to an end, but you can still enjoy the lovely weather and make some great art inspired by blue skies and fluffy clouds!

I see a dragonfly!
A great book to get your creative juices flowing is "It Looked Like Spilt Milk" by Charles G. Shaw. This book is simple but inspiring! Don't give away the ending--have the children look at the shapes in the book and guess what they are and THEN discover that they've been looking at cloud shapes! I have read it to children in Kindergarten through grade 3 and everyone enjoys guessing what the shapes are and then creating their own cloud shapes.

This is a great activity to learn about art concepts such as contour drawing and positive and negative space. It is quick and a good project to have on hand for a last minute fun project. Combine this with a trip outside on a sunny day to do some real cloud-spotting and you have an awesome time!

Cloud Pictures

Supplies Needed:

  • Blue construction paper
  • Pencil with eraser
  • Elmer's glue 
  • Cotton balls (large, fluffy ones work better than the tiny ones)


1. Draw the outline of a simple item onto a piece of paper. Some ideas include a car, flower, butterfly or dragonfly. The sky's the limit (pun intended!!). Remember to keep it simple--don't include any inside details or make any of the parts too small.

2. Fill in the interior of your shape with glue. Liquid white school glue will work better than a glue stick.

3. Attach cotton balls to fill in the shape you made.

You are done! I told you it was super-easy!!

Flower, tree?

Airplane, butterfly, stingray?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rockin' Robins

In Art/Nature Camp, we talked about birds. We went on a hike and I gave each of the children a homemade pair of binoculars to help them with their bird watching. As we hiked around we looked for signs of birds and, of course, actual birds. Signs of birds included: bird droppings, nests, bird feeders and bird houses. I had a couple of bird identification books on hand in case we spotted birds.

Rockin' Robins--simple and fun!
We discussed what makes a bird:
  • Have bills, but no teeth
  • Have feathers
  • Hatch from eggs
  • Have wings (but not all can fly!)
  • Have hollow bones
  • Breathe oxygen
  • Are Warm blooded
And then we talked about the parts of a bird:
  • Head (with two eyes and a bill)
  • Body (with feathers)
  • Two Wings (more feathers)
  • Two Legs and Feet
We then created Rockin' Robins. This is an easy craft that is inexpensive to make. The resulting bird easily rocks back and forth--it's up to you to sing, though! My students and my children particularly loved hearing me sing "Rockin' Robin" to them (poor guys!).

Rockin' Robins

Supplies Needed:

  • One lightweight paper plate
  • Pencil
  • Crayons (brown and red are what we used)
  • Scraps pieces of brown and yellow construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Eyeball stickers (optional, you could use white paper and draw two eyes)
  • Feathers
  • 5" piece of yarn
  • Tape

1. Write your name on the side of the paper plate you would eat off of.

2. Fold the paper plate in half with the name on the inside.

3. Open up the plate and color a 1" wide border of red around the entire plate. This will be the robin's red breast and belly when the bird is finished.

4. Color the center circle of the plate brown. This will be the robin's back when the bird is finished.

5. Cut a triangle of yellow construction paper for the beak. Attach to the underside of the plate at one of the fold lines for the beak of the bird.

6. Add two eyes to your bird. I found some neat eyeball stickers in the supply closet at PMEC, but you can cut them from construction paper.

7. Cut two brown wings from construction paper and glue to each side of the bird.

8. Glue feathers to the wings and at the tail end of the bird.

9. We taped a piece of string to the underside of our birds to keep the two edges of the plate from moving apart (and make it so the robin was able to rock back and forth).

The underside view of the Robin, showing the yarn
that we taped to the bottom to keep it from flattening out.

Sing the song as your Robin rocks out!

Rockin' Robin (Excerpt)
Originally performed by Bobby Day

He rocks in the treetops all the day long
Hoppin' and a Boppin' and a-singin' his song
All the Little Birds on Jaybird Street
Love to hear the robin goin' "Tweet, Tweet, Tweet!"
Rockin' Robin
Tweet, Tweet, Tweet
Rocking Robin
Tweet, Tweet, Tweet
Go Rockin' Robin 'cause we're really gonna rock tonight!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Art/Nature Camp: Scheduling Play With 2nd & 3rd Graders

The second week of art camp, I taught a group of 7- and 8-year-old boys. Since the camp was art and nature, I designed our days (9:00 am to noon, Monday-Friday) to include exploration and instruction as well as having the boys create a major art project and a minor art project every day. The prior week, I had taught 5- and 6-year-olds and had used centers VERY successfully, but I didn't think the older kids would go for them (I could see them looking at me with raised eyebrows as I dinged the bell!). But I soon found that the boys enjoyed having some structured down time as well.

What a beautiful setting at PMEC!
Here are some of the boys doing what they LOVE the most--throwing rocks!

Revising the Schedule:

The schedule for these older boys was tweaked slightly. We started off outside with a hike or scavenger hunt. This time outside allowed for more extensive exploration (and much rock-throwing into the pond). I tried hard no to rush them. They were, after all, at camp and camp is supposed to be FUN! There were plenty of opportunities to point out things related to the day's theme and I carried magnifying glasses and their sketchbooks with me constantly throughout the week so they could draw the critters we observed out in the field. Many of the boys used their sketchbooks every day, some multiple times a day.

We then moved inside for a discussion as they ate a snack. After snack we did our big art project as a group. Once that was done, they could sit on the carpet and choose an activity to play with while I cleaned up and prepared for the next thing. Since the boys were a bit older, I didn't use the bell or make them switch center activities. The activities I kept on hand that were popular were:
  • Legos
  • Blocks
  • Matchbox Cars
  • Nature-related Books
  • Sketchbooks (they could free draw or use the magnifying glasses to observe and draw specimens)
  • Bubbles
I had the kids make their own sketchbooks (super-easy) and then we carried them
with us constantly to write observations, draw critters we found, do leaf rubbings, etc.
These are great because other pages can easily slipped in as needed.

The Second Art Activity of the Day:

While the boys played quietly, I would set up the second art activity of the day. One day the boys seemed to be playing well and not interested in doing more art (we had also done some sketching in the field), so I let them stay playing with their chosen activity. But, I found that the boys were happy to do a second project if they were allowed to play on their own for a while. This second activity was small and quick (lasting about 15 minutes) and wasn't as technical. One day it was making owls from clay, another it was making bug-themed bookmarks. This way, I was able to reinforce some ideas from the day, have them do a bit more art, but keep it relaxed.

Throwing Rocks (Lots of them!)

After the boys completed their second art activity of the day, we picked up and headed back outside! These boys were very interested in throwing rocks into the pond and streams onsite and looking for frogs and the resident snapping turtle, Bob, so I made time for that before they went home everyday--about the last half hour of each day. That way, they could leave on a high note and get some wiggles out before their parents arrived. The week went wonderfully and I think it was a nice balance of art, nature, exploration and play!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Using Centers at Art Camp

I had read about using centers in the classroom and the idea intrigued me! However, many of my lessons for my 2nd-5th grade students fit comfortably within my one hour class (including discussion and cleanup). So, I filed the idea of using centers away for later.

Using dollar store foil to create sculptures
(You can also supply pipe cleaners to use for arms and legs if you'd like).

Then, I was asked to teach art camp at Peabody Mill Environmental Center in Amherst, NH. I had two sessions: the first week with 5- & 6-year-olds and the second week with 7- & 8-year-olds. There was no set curriculum, so I needed to design an art & nature camp that would fill the time (9:00 am to noon, Monday through Friday) in a way that would allow the children to create art and take advantage of the beautiful, natural surroundings, and allow for free play and exploration. After all, this is CAMP and it is supposed to be fun!

So, the idea of centers came back out of the files!

As you can see in my previously published post on my art camp schedule, we had center time after we did our main art project. I chose to have three centers each day. One center was located inside and was with me. At this indoor art center, students worked on a smaller art project relating to the day's theme such as making clay birds in nests, making a bug bookmark, or doing a craft about tree rings. The art project at the center was one that would take about 10-15 minutes or so.

The two other centers were located outside on a covered patio. They were (sometimes loosely) related to the day's theme as well, but were self-directed play and exploration. I had a helper outside making sure things didn't get out of hand and that no one ran off into the woods, but other than that, the children were free to play at whatever station they were at.

Rules of the Centers:
  1. Stay with your partner at your center
  2. Play quietly and respect the toys
  3. When you hear the bell ding once, it is time to clean up and stand quietly
  4. When the bell dings the second time, move to the next station with your partner

Ideas for Centers:

  • Blocks (mine were wood-look foam blocks)
  • Build-a-bug toy
  • Plastic Critters (One day I had a bin of insects and another day I had a bin of reptiles and amphibians) with a plastic bin of water for the critters to swim in
  • Cloud dough or moon dough with various molds and scooping toys (too messy for my liking)
  • Bubbles
  • A fishing game with little fishing poles and plastic fish that float in water for the students to "catch"
  • Dauber-type paint pens with large pieces of paper
  • Clay (make your own so you can reuse it and keep in plastic bags between sessions). You can have the clay "as is" or give them the plastic bugs to press into the clay or use as reference when making their own bugs from clay

Building with a toy called "Exobugs" allowed the students
to reinforce what we learned about insects and create
some really unique bugs of their own!

How it worked:

Before we started, I walked them briefly through each center, explaining how to clean-up each center. Then we practiced with the bell (the highlight of the day!). Once in a while, I needed to remind a child to stay in his/her center or to finish picking up, but all-in-all it went great! I was able to spend some focused time with the children doing the smaller art project (this was a great time to have the children do a project that might be hard to do as a group due to multiple steps or different paces within the group). Using centers also broke up the "work time" so that the children weren't standing there listening to me walk them through two art projects the whole time--that would have been boring for them and frustrating for me!). By scheduling in some play time this way, the children were able to take a break and play on their own and with their new friends (we also had hikes, played games, and exploration time outside as well).

It was a great experience and something I will definitely do again!

Building blocks was popular with the children and my helper!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Where Have You Been?

"Where Have You Been?!"

Well, I'm glad you asked! I've been enjoying the summer with my four monkeys! We've gone on two camping vacations and they both were great and we had lots of fun.

This week, I've been teaching art camp at the Peabody Mill Environmental Center in Amherst, NH. I have a great group of 5- and  6-year-olds and I'm loving being around that energy! My art classes usually have me teaching children in grades 2-5, so this has been a treat for me (and I've been able to try some new stuff out).

My students modeling their Painted Turtle Costumes
(And that's my helper, John. Thanks, John!)

The folks at PMEC allowed me to design my own curriculum for the week, so I chose to have a different theme for each day: one day we learned about trees, another day we learned about insects, etc. PMEC is a wonderful place that has ponds, streams, trails and a great indoor space. My room, called the "Mushroom," has an adjoining patio for shaded outdoor play, so it is perfect for this age group.

Daily Schedule

I wanted to be able to get a couple of art projects done with the children each day, but also give them lots of time to explore the grounds, run a bit, and play. So, I decided this would be the perfect time to use Centers with the children. I've been wanting to try centers for a while now, but the way my usual classes are structured, I haven't had the opportunity until now. Here's our daily schedule (this isn't set in stone, I allow for wiggle room, obviously!):

9:00: Children arrive and opening announcements as a group

9:10: Let's get going! We go on a hike that allows us to focus on the day's theme. We do an activity in the field such as looking at a book, observing and collecting specimens, sketching, etc.

9:50ish: Head inside for a potty break and snack, while they are eating I read a book (if I didn't outside), we talk about what we saw and I give them a little instruction

10:20ish: Main Art Project as a group (step-by-step instruction)

10:45ish: Potty break, wash hands

11:00ish: Sit and look at an item related to our theme in an "Up Close" way: looking at a model of a bird, a real bumblebee (not alive) with a magnifying glass, a cross section of a tree. Then explain the centers for the day, break into partners and start Center work. 10-15 minutes per center. Minor art project done during this time.

11:40: Head outside for a snack and play (explore the pond, play a game),

12:00 Be at pick up area for children to be dismissed

12:20 Children gone, head back to room for clean up and prep for next day

12:45ish...WHEW! Job well done!

It's really important to not rush through any part of this process. While I don't want it to be a free-for-all, I want the children to have fun. If they are exploring and it's going well, we keep exploring and I adjust accordingly. If they are antsy and having trouble keeping still, we head outside and play leap frop with the carpet squares as lily pads or a game of duck, duck, goose. It's all good!

This schedule allowed us to get lots of stuff done, but also allowed the children to relax and enjoy everything Peabody Mill Environmental Center has to offer!

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