Monday, December 9, 2013

Mind Blown: Teaching For Artistic Behavior

During the course of my most recent class at Plymouth State University, "Elementary Methods and Materials in Art Education" with Alexis Eynon, I needed to observe an Elementary school art room. I had the pleasure of observing two. 

The first was Claire Provencher's art room at McDonough Elementary school in Manchester, NH. I had met Claire a couple years back through the NHAEA and really liked how she structured her lessons and included art history. So, I asked to observe her room. However, right before I was scheduled to go in to observe, I was doing my research on her and her school (like a good observer does) and noticed that this year she completely changed the was she does things in her classroom! This year she has made the transition to the Choice-based Art Room or Teaching For Artistic Behavior.


I hadn't heard of this, but I am so glad I was able to check it out! If you haven't heard of this before, I HIGHLY encourage you to check out the following links and books. This method of art education has been around for about 30 years and is very intriguing to me (and a bit scary)--students are now in charge of their learning and projects. The art teacher is a facilitator and art director--not the one in charge of every project. Students choose materials, subjects, and more.

Now wait! I know you have objections! I did too! I know you are thinking, well that won't work for me (or my students). But, I ask you to just check it out. It really is cool and doable! I was also able to observe Holly Rousseau, an art teacher at Highland Goffs Fall Elementary School in Manchester, using Choice-Based learning in her art room. It can be done! And, I think, is a valid way of teaching creative thinking and higher order thinking skills that definitely should be considered. I even wrote a Research Paper on it called "Choice-Based Art Education for the 21st Century." I can send you a pdf of it if you'd like.

So check out these resources. They are VERY thought-provoking....

Article: "Smoke and Mirrors: The Art Teacher as Magician" by Nan Hathaway (pdf)
This is the article that inspired Claire Provencher to look into TAB/Choice-based learning.

• Website:  Teaching For Artistic Behavior, Inc.
This website is a treasure-trove of information on TAB teaching/learning!

• Book: "Engaging Learners Through Artmaking: Choice-based Art Education in the Classroom," by Katherine Douglas and Diane B. Jaquith
A great read and has many testimonials about how this method of teaching/learning can be achieved in the art classroom.

• Book: "The Learner-Directed Classroom: Developing Creative Thinking Skills Through Art" by Diane Jaquith and Nan Hathaway
A compilation of articles from a variety of teachers who are using this approach in their art rooms from Elementary school through High School art rooms. Also a quick read and very accessible.

But as LeVar Burton used to say on Reading Rainbow "But you don't have to take my word for it!" Go observe a TAB/Choice-based art room near you! And let me know what you find!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ten Things This Art Teacher Learned From a Tech Conference

Yesterday I attended one day of the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference in Manchester, NH. I was lucky enough to have recived a one day scholarship to the event and I joined one of my colleagues from Plymouth State University and five Undergrads from Plymouth's Department of Elementary Education & Childhood Studies for a day of technological fun! 

A bit of info about the conference:
From the site: "Christa McAuliffe was our New Hampshire "teacher in space" astronaut who died in the Challenger shuttle launch on January 28th, 1986.

In Christa's memory and in keeping with her spirit this conference is designed to highlight the sharing of successful technology practices among educators. The conference serves as a forum for exchanging technology-based success stories, integration tips, instructional strategies, technical solutions, and management techniques, that really work in the learning environment."
Christa McAuliffe Experiences Weightlessness During KC-135 Flight
(image from wikipedia)
A bit of info about technology and me:
OK, so, I have to tell you--I'm not techy. I mean, I have to have my 11-year-old do all the tech work on my iPad, computer, and cell phone (which isn't even a Smartphone!). SIGH. But I'm learning! I attended so that I could learn how to include technology in my classroom as well as help the Undergrad students I work with at Plymouth State incorporate technology into their lessons.

But I have to say, I was a bit nervous about attending this conference. I'm not sure why--it isn't as though someone was going to stop me and ask me to reprogram their computer or something!

So here are the Top 10 things This Art Teacher Learned From a Tech Conference:

10. I'm not alone. Look, I cannot even get my remote start on my van to work (I stand outside the car door clicking the switch and locking and relocking the car over and over). And I don't run into many artists and art teachers during my day. But, I was surprised when the keynote speaker for the day, Kevin Honeycutt (Hi Kevin!), started off his lively presentation by sharing that for thirteen years, he was an art teacher! This conference is for educators, no matter what they teach! Not only was I not the only art teacher in attendance, I was surrounded by other educators who want to find a way to include technology in their lessons. If I want to make sure art is kept in the schools--I need to make sure I'm at as much stuff as possible, talking with people, sharing ideas, and KNOWING that all subjects need art to bring it all together!

9. Don't wait until you're perfect. This one is also from Kevin Honeycutt. Imagine if people didn't do anything unless they'd be perfect right away! Is that what I teach my students? Is that what I teach my own kids? NOPE! I cringe at the first posts on my blog and I still drool over blogs where people have professional-looking photos, but I'm here and sharing my stuff. I didn't wait until I had made tons of claymation movies to teach a class on animation--I fooled around for a few seconds with the program, showed my students a couple of short animations, and then set my kids loose on it! They taught me and taught each other. Seriously, if I wait until I KNOW what I'm doing, I'll be left behind. I can always ask a student to teach me! :-)

8. Keep track of what's important to you. Kevin Honeycutt might check out this blogpost. Am I so cool that a person with 21,000 Twitter followers would check out my humble blog? No, but he uses Google Alerts to track the things on the web that are important to him. So, whenever anyone mentions his name, his son's name, etc., he's receiving an alert. I could do this if I was interested in claymation, or 3D printing, or iPads in the art classroom. I'll have to experiment to make sure I'm not receiving a million unnecessary emails, but I could always do alerts on myself and my school. Let's see what people are saying. 

7. Every student is a person. Again, thanks, Kevin. I mean, I KNOW that the students I teach are people, obviously, but am I really treating them--all of them--with respect and showing them that I am glad they are in my class (I think so, but now I'm going to be watching). How am I reacting to students? Even the little things make a difference. If I sigh whenever a student asks me a question or don't try to reach a student who just sits there, head down, I may be missing out. What if I am the only one who ever shows a student that have worth, just by being who they are? This works with my own kids too.

6. If I wanted an easy job (and wanted to be rich)--I shouldn't have chosen teaching. This teaching business is a lot of work, both in and out, of the classroom--YOU KNOW THAT. And even when I am done my degree, I'm not done learning. It isn't like I think of 100 lessons and I teach those until I retire. Every day I am going to be thinking and changing and learning something new for myself and my students. But if I want to teach my students to be lifelong learners, I need to model that!

5. You need to make time to try technology, but you don't have to do it alone. Kathy and Laura from Antioch University spoke about that. There's a lot of technology out there. It's overwhelming, I know. But, baby steps! I need to talk to others, see what they've tried, try a few APPs, websites, and programs and share what I've learned. I can also have the students review things and share their findings--I don't have to go it alone! I can ask for help!

4. We need to teach students HOW to behave on their "digital playgrounds" and be open to change. I know students are using technology, but it can be used for so much more that social media! They know how to use the devices, but I'm going to teach them how to use these devices for so much more! Think of all the teachable moments that will arise when students are experiencing this new way of working. Those teachable moments can BE the lesson! Also, I need to not be so worried about what software or APPs I'm using, APPs come and go, what I am teaching my students is bigger--how  to be LEARNERS, no matter what the tools.

3. Make it relevant for the students--projects and technology can help! Kathleen McClaskey from Ed Tech Assoc. spoke about that. I'm trying to give my students more choice--I know, it's scary! But when I personalize learning to the students, I allow them to make the learning relevant to them and take ownership of their learning. I'm starting small by having students choose the subject matter (while I choose the media) and vise versa! Also making technology one of the tool choices in a project or two. Some students won't choose it, but some will--maybe even those students who "don't like art."

2. Grad credit can be found in surprising places! Ok, so this one may not interest you, but it was pretty neat to me! As I've said before, I'm going to Grad school at Plymouth State University. At this conference, I noticed THREE different ways to earn grad credit--just for learning things I wanted to know already! If you decide to go back to school, check out the options your school offers for alternative options for earning credits--you can customize your learning to suit your needs and interests. Thank you PSU!

1. There's so much to learn! And learning can be fun! Attitude, attitude, attitude! Do I want my students to be overwhelmed by all of the stuff they need to know? Trust me, some of them are already! And sometimes I feel this way about all the stuff I need to know to include technology in my classroom. But learning can be fun! Hopefully my students don't think I know everything--'cause I most certainly do not! But *hopefully* they are seeing me be interested in learning and trying new things. Sure, not everything I do is successful, but that's OK, and it's OK for them too.

Of course, I learned so much more! I learned about all sorts of APPs and websites and techy things to check out. Did I need to go to a Tech Conference to learn the things above? Probably not, but If I hadn't gone to this conference I wouldn't have met the amazing people I did and get all jazzed up by learning all of these wonderful things all in one day!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Neat photo my 3-year-old took

All of my children have digital cameras--my mother bought them cameras for Christmas one year. They love them and, over the years, have documented important events such as their Grandma's 70th birthday and a little sibling's arrival into the world.

I remember my own 110 camera and Disc camera! Man, I loved those cameras!

When children are allowed access to their own cameras they also will document other things that mean something to them: my children have taken lots of pictures of Lego creations, favorites toys, and me in my nightgown (argh!). They also took pictures of our cat, Marty, before he died (he had cancer and kidney failure). It really helped them with the grieving process, I think, to cuddle with Marty and they often look at the pictures of themselves with Marty when they miss him.

Of course, I've deleted many a digital photo--like the series of close-ups of the couch or the rug taken without knowing! But here's a neat photo my 3-year-old recently took of our German Shepherd, Ruby. I really like it.

So, if you are looking for a Christmas gift for a child in your life--consider a digital camera (and possibly, a camera case). Prices for digital cameras are much more reasonable now and you can get one for under $50. We have a couple of the Fisher-Price ones that can be dropped (and they have), but a child over 7 or so may want a camera that looks more like a grown-up one. Either, way, it is a wonderful way for your child to experience the world!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Book Review, Kandinsky & Synesthesia

Kandinsky is one of my favorite artists. I love all of the colors and shapes and lines in his work. Just recently, in grad school, I learned that he could hear colors, something that is called synesthesia

Synesthesia is when one sense triggers another. This enhanced "5th sense" can manifest in different ways: some people see colors when they see numbers, others hear colors or taste a certain flavor when experiencing everyday noises or music. Just about any possible combination of the senses is possible. Many famous musicians and artists are synesthetes, Lady Gaga, Jimi Hendrix, and Duke Ellington, just to name a few!

When I was at my local library, I saw a book called "The Girl Who Heard Colors," by Marie Harris, a New Hampshire author. I picked it up and, to my surprise, it was about a little girl who has synesthesia. She hears colors when she experiences everyday noises.

When I read this book, I immediately thought of Kandinsky and thought it would be wonderful way of explaining synesthesia and Kandinsky's work to younger children. I was so excited, I started talking about it to my children and explaining that Harris has met other synesthetes. She often asks, "What color is seven?" to her young audiences. Most children won't know how to answer this, but some will say "yellow" or "blue" (there's no "right" answer for seeing a number as a color, it is personalized). My children all went "hmmmm," except for my 6-year-old who was playing Legos in another room and yelled, "Seven is black. Five is yellow." He says he only knows the colors for 1-10 and promptly listed them for me.

Does my son have synesthesia? I don't know. What I do know is that he has trouble hearing (he is partially hearing impaired) so I find it intriguing that he can see numbers as colors. I wonder if his brain decided to start making sensory connections in other ways. 

I think this book will give your students something to talk about. The story encourages seeing things from another's point of view and being sensitive when people have reactions to things that we may not understand. In one part of the book, Jillian is overwhelmed by the cacophony of noises in her classroom and puts her hands over her ears--the sounds and resulting bombardment of colors that she experiences are too much for her. 

Sometimes we think everyone is experiencing the world just like we are. This book does a wonderful job teaching a bit of empathy in a sweet way. Check it out!

Friday, November 8, 2013

My Bear Mask With Plaster Gauze

I'm going to Grad School at Plymouth State University in NH to become certified to teach art. I'm having a great time and learning so much!

This is meant to have the face be vertical,
but my background wasn't big enough! Sorry!

The class I'm taking this semester is Art Methods and Materials For Elementary Education and it is SO FUN! We get to make art! Oh yeah, and write lesson plans and research papers...BUT, MAKE ART!

As a mom of four and doing all sorts of other things over the years, I don't make time for my own art--I'm not sure what my own art even is after all this time. But, I've been enjoying making art for this class. The last project we did was create a mask using plaster gauze. I had done this about a million years ago when I was in high school, so I was excited to think about possibilities for my grown-up mask.

We were challenged to create a mask that represents us in some way and it needed to have some sort of extension of some kind (we could use Cellu-clay, plaster gauze, cardboard, etc. to make the extensions).

Ahhh...the possibilities! I started to think about what I would be known for at the end of my life and I thought, "Well, people would say I was a mom." Of course, this is among other things, but I take my mom job very seriously :-)

I thought about creating a totem pole on my mask of all of the totem animals of my children, husband, and I, but as I designed it, I didn't really like how it was going. Then I focused on me. My totem animal, right now, is the bear. So here I am wearing a bear mask over a human mask, because there's always a part of me that I keep private.

I love constellations, so I have Ursa Major and Minor in the night sky. I love silhouettes too, so on the left, under Ursa Minor, you'll see my four little cubs. My daughter's the last cub scurrying to catch up to her brothers. My oldest son is turning back and watching over his siblings (just like in real life). And, on the right, there's mom, under the constellation of Ursa Major.

I'm happy with the way the mask came out--I had wanted to incorporate twigs and beads and such, but I stopped here to rest for a bit and think. I really enjoyed making this project and I could see making a series of masks: a marriage mask, a Mrs. P-only mask, an artist mask...I think it would be interesting to see all of the masks I wear.

So what are you making lately? Are you inspired by the projects you teach your students?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fall Leaf Prints and Art Education Musings...

Around this time of year, I have a project I like to keep on hand for early finishers. I've posted about it before and it is originally from Deep Space Sparkle. When I first saw this project, I thought "WOW! How striking and different!" I love the contrast between the white leaves and the black paper. The colors in the negative space really pop!

The project is easy-to-do and once you give a quick-demo, students from first grade through fourth are good to go and can do the project themselves (my kind of early-finisher project!). Here are some of the results from my "Fall Into Art" Class....

I super-love these! They look so nice!

But...I noticed something after this last class did this project. Maybe it is because I'm going for my Master's and have been reading all sorts of articles about creativity in children and revamping arts programs and all that (that stuff will mess you up! ;-) ), but I think I may need to alter the way I present this lesson...
  • Children always ask: "Why are we painting the leaves white? They aren't white--they are beautiful colors!"
  • And I think, "Hmm. You're right, children. But trust me, the project is awesome and the white leaves look so great with the black can put all those beautiful colors in the background..."
  • And then a few always say, "But do we HAVE to do it this way?"
So, I did an experiment...I reversed the colors and changed the papers and tried it in a way that would seem more real to the students and allow them to observe and connect with the colors outside the window and represent that in their's what I got:

So above you'll see my test of different colors of construction papers with the revised color combinations. I think the light blue works well, BUT, I *absolutely HATE* the new temperas I bought from Michael's--they no longer carry the brand I like there and these are seriously the worst (and the only choice at our local store). So, I'm sure that when you all do your versions with quality temperas you'll be much happier.

The revised version isn't as striking as the Deep Space Sparkle original, I truly do love her version more, but this version above might be one to keep in mind when working with with younger students and getting them to really look at the world around them. Just some food for thought...

BTW: The image above was marked up using Skitch, an APP for the iPad. I love it! Although this isn't the best representation of what you can do with it.

"Drawing With Light" at the NHAEA Fall Conference 2013

It's that time of the year again! Fall colors and the NH Art Educator's Assoc. Fall Conference!

I love going to the conference and connecting with art teachers from all over the state! It's truly inspiring! And this year was no exception!

My morning session was "Using Photography in the Elementary Classroom." This session was led by Katie Poor, a teaching artist currently working at the Providence Children's Museum. She began by describing a lesson on cyanotypes that she teaches. Then she walked us through a very interesting lesson where she teaches children to "Draw With Light" using flashlights and digital cameras. She brought in some digital cameras of her own and we spent the remainder of the session experimenting with the technique.

She showed us a few examples--the most famous, I guess, would be Picasso from LIFE magazine in 1949. Check out the link to see all of the inspiring images...

We experimented by making shapes, squiggles, letters, drawing images (which are actually harder than it looks), and entire words...while we played, I think we all started thinking of ways this could be used across the curriculum.

My session partner and I experimented with using the white board and a dry erase marker to draw the idea first (either an image or a word) and then use the flashlight in our hand to "trace" the dry erase marker lines we had made on the board. You can see an example of this further in this post (the "art rocks" image) and a few more of our experiments on Katie's blog (link below). We were MUCH more successful doing our "drawings" this way versus trying to imagine an image and draw it freehand in front of us like Picasso did. After trying to draw freehand, I REALLY appreciated Picasso's drawing with light images!

To check out the photos from the session and see what we did, click on Katie's link:
And just look for the most recent posts (there are two that contain our examples).

I was fortunate to bring my camera from home to the session (it was in my mobile art closet/minivan so I was able to grab it). I had Katie advise me on setting my aperture and shutter speed and, although my camera isn't as fancy as the ones she brought (her cameras allow for 30 seconds of exposure, but mine allows only 16 seconds), I was able to go home and have my children "Draw With Light" a bit.

This is such a fun lesson, I really think I'll need to get into a classroom and teach this soon!

Thanks, Katie, for the great idea!

This should say "art rocks" but my my camera only allows for
a shutter speed of 16 seconds--I bet I could have traced the whole
word if I had tried again (the more successful attempt is on Katie's blog).

3-year-old draws a circle

6-year-old tries for a square
(it's harder than it looks!)

6-year-old tries for a star

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fall Compositions With Elmer's & Pastels

Fall is my favorite season and I have been LOVING driving my hour-an-a-half drive up to my Grad School twice (sometimes three times) a week...I pop in a book on tape and enjoy the beautiful fall folliage that New Hampshire has to offer! Ahhhh!

The focus of my after school art class for my 1st-4th graders is "Fall Into Art"--fall-themed art activities...last week, we drew apple still lifes inspired by Cezanne, and this week we took advantage of the nice weather and beautiful fall displays outside the school that had been donated by the Amherst Garden Center in Amherst, NH. The Garden Center had flanked the entrance of the school with pumpkins and gourds, hay bales, scarecrows, and beautiful mums! I couldn't ignore all of the visual stimuli out there ready to draw!

We spent some time looking and touching the displays, then we sketched them. We moved inside and selected one the things from our sketches to "draw" on black paper with Elmer's glue. The students were VERY skeptical when I told them we'd be drawing with Elmer's and you should have seen the surprised looks when I did my demo and piped glue along the lines of my drawing!

I had seen this Elmer's glue/pastel combination online before but had never tried it. I think it would be great for winter snowmen as well...

Anyway, we let the Elmer's glue dry (they rode around for a week in the back of my minivan--the mobile art studio.

The next week, I showed the students how to color in the non-Elmer's areas--the negative space--with the chalk pastels, encouraging them to add highlights and shadows to make their pictures really "pop" and look more realistic. I suggested using my "use at least three colors in each section" rule...

The students were VERY pleased with this new "technique" and, at the end of class, we discussed some other compositions they could use this technique on. The fourth-graders were very specific with their questions about materials: where I purchased the materials, what they are called, how much they cost. They want to make sure the next time they go to Michael's Crafts Store they purchase the proper things so they can do this technique again--THAT (to me) is a sign of a successful art lesson--my students wanted to take something they learned in class and go with it.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cezanne's Apples and Composition

We are all into fall over here and I thought this week would be a nice time to do a still life with apples with my after school art class. This is the first time we've met this school year, and the group has 1st-4th graders in it. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, it's actually a combination of two lessons I saw out there:
My 1st grader's example with Cezanne's reproduction.
I can't show you the still life--he ate it!

"Still Life With Oil Pastels and Baby Oil" (2 posts) from Fine Lines

That was pretty much the lesson I used, but I modified my talk in the beginning to be about Paul Cezanne's work showing them "Still Life With Apples."

I then used the talk I found on That Artist Women: "Open vs. Closed Composition"

I really like how she shows real art examples in her post. I showed those to my kiddos as well.

Then I gave them time to experiment with arranging the apples (and one girl's donated pear) into closed and open compositions. There were three students to a table and the table needed to agree on a composition they liked best.

And then we were off! I walked them through drawing, demoed how to use the oil pastels and baby oil, and gave a quick watercolor demo.

These are their creations! Beautiful! They are so proud (me too!).


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Welcome Fall! Birch Tree Project

The leaves are starting to change up here in New England and I love it! I was looking in our local paper this past weekend and they ran a great article about vacationing in Minnesota written by Laurie Hertzel and I just LOVED the beautiful images! Check it out here at the Star Tribune.

This beautiful photo, below, caught my eye especially, since the Birch Tree is the state tree of New Hampshire. 
This photo of birch trees in the Fall taken by Laurie Hertzel at the Star Tribune
inspired this birch tree craft.
This project uses a couple of fun techniques. First, the black lines of the birch bark are made using a hair comb (I saw that on the blog ARTASTIC: Miss Oetkin's Artists), and second, the colorful leaves are sponge painted on the background paper. It's quick, easy, fun, and just a bit messy. I hope you enjoy this craft and this crisp fall weather!

NOTE: I had my son create the birch trees on paper that was being held vertically and then place them on a background that was horizontal--this allows you to have the tree trunks touch the edges of the paper if your child puts them on tilted--some other lessons don't allow for this and there's a gap at the bottom edge of the trees. Sorry, no floating trees here!)

Fall Birch Tree Paint Project

Supplies Needed:
  • 1 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of white card stock
  • 1 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of yellow card stock
  • Tempera paints in black, yellow, orange and red
  • A plastic hair comb
  • A 1" piece of clean sponge
  • An old magazine to use as a palette
  • Newspapers for your work surface
  • Scissors
  • Elmer's glue

1. Make the trees: begin by placing the white card stock vertically on your work surface. Put a little of the black tempera paint onto the magazine palette. Dip the teeth of the comb into black paint and scrape it across the surface of the white card stock back and forth horizontally. Make sure you don't use too much paint or you'll get large areas of black on your trees. Also, make sure you go right off the page--you'll be using all of the white paper, so you'll want those little black scratch marks to be all over. Once you are satisfied, set the paper aside to dry.

2. Make the leafy-background: place the yellow piece of card stock on your work surface horizontally. Remove the page of the magazine that had your black paint on it so you have a fresh page. Put a bit of red, orange, and yellow on the palette. Dip your sponge into the paint and dab it all over the yellow piece of card stock. Don't blend the colors too much, or goop on the paint too thick. Check out the photo above to see how the colors blend. When the background is covered to your liking, set it aside to dry.

3. Cut the trees: Take your scissors and cut the white card stock into long, vertical strips (they should be 11" long by about 1/2"-1" wide). These don't need to be perfect, they are your trees, so don't get out a ruler and measure them! Cut strips out of all the white card stock (you may not use all of these trees).

4. Put a line of glue down the back of the birch tree strip and place it onto the horizontal background. The birch trees will extend past the edges of your background, but that is OK, it allows for you to tilt the tree a bit, as in the picture (and real life). Glue as many trees as you would like to your background.

5. Trim the excess bits of the trees that extend beyond the background and discard.

Enjoy this lovely bit of fall!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Technology in the Art Room: Digital Books

The other day I posted about Books In The Art Room. I've since heard of a couple additional sites that you may want to check out. Trust me, they are worth it!

Here are a few sites that have digital picture books to use in your classroom:
  • (SAG Actors read children's books)
  • (a colorful, interactive site for traditional read-along stories)
  • (Las Vegas celebrities read children's books)
  • (like youtube but without the commercials. There are read alouds and picture books as little movies. Search other topics such as "Kandinsky," etc.)
  • (I like: hunt around for additional online stories
  • (you could get lost in this resource--there's so much!)
  • (you'll need to register to use this site, but it is pretty neat and there are lots of free popular books you can read online. Their selections do change, though, so make sure the book you want is still available before you present your lesson!)
(Thank you to Program Associate & Technology Guru, Tiffany Dube at Plymouth State University and Selina Smith at Classroom Magic for their help with this list).

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Colonial Leather Jugs and Mugs With Printable PDF

When I was with my family at Plimoth Plantation, I saw a craftsman making these neat jugs and mugs entirely from leather. I didn't actually see any of the people at Plimoth Plantation using these, but the leathersmith said that he was relatively new there and starting to supply the Colonists with these.

In the background you can see one of the mugs that haven't been dyed.
The mug in the foreground still needs the inside finished.

Here's the bottom view of the colonial leather mug.
See how there are two rows of neat stitches--this is all done by hand!
He had them in various stages of completion, they are cut from leather, sewn by hand, colored using a variety of dyes, the insides are then coated with a pitchy substance and they are ready-to-go! This was an interesting project and I thought my students (and my children) would like a variation of this.

The leathersmith suggested I check out Tandy Leather for kits for my students, and there sure are a bunch of kits on their site, though I didn't see a kit for making a leather mug. I'm just not sure that we are ready for real leather just yet.

So, I thought of an easy, inexpensive alternative that will get my students to understand the idea of crafting this product, along with the cutting, punching and sewing, that the real process has, but without the expense of buying leather and fancy tools. They can even use this project afterwards! You know they'll be excited about that!

So, here it goes:

Colonial Faux Leather Mug

Supplies Needed:
  • 1 9" x 12" piece of brown craft foam
  • 1 9 oz paper cup (I bought mine from Walmart as a pack of 10 for $.78)
  • Template pdf (hopefully this template uploads well below!) *needs to be printed on 9"x12" paper, so download the file and have printed on larger paper and trimmed-sorry for the waste! 
  • Pencil or pen
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape, optional
  • Small hole punch (mine is 1/8")
  • Hot glue gun, optional
  • Braiding cord or any thin, strong cord you can sew with
  • Metal needle in which you can tread the cord through

1. Print out the template on 9" x 12" paper (sorry, that is the size paper that matches the craft foam sheet). And that's the size that works with these standard size paper cups.

2. Cut out the cup body and the bottom circle from the paper. Punch holes in the paper template using the hole punch wherever you see a little circle.

3. Place your prepared template onto the craft foam, I hold it in place with a couple rolls of masking tape. Use your pencil or pen to trace around the outside of the template. Before you remove your template, make sure you trace around the inside of the mug's handle.

4. Use scissors to cut the cup body and the bottom circle from craft foam. Cut out the inner shape of the handle and discard. These pieces would have been cut from thick, tanned leather in Colonial times.

5. Use the hole punch to punch holes into the craft foam, using your paper template as a guide. Hold the template and the craft foam together and punch through both layers. The leathersmith would have used a tool that looks like a multi-pronged wheel with a handle and roll it along the leather to make little pin pricks nice and even along with path he wanted to sew. Then he would take a sharp metal awl and poke through the leather, making a hole every place he wanted to stitch.

6. This is where I do something that is not-so-Colonial, but helpful for little sewers (you can skip this step, if you'd like). Fold the cup body in half, and line up the handles. Use a couple dabs of hot glue to hold the two layers of the handle together, making sure that you aren't getting hot glue in any of your sewing holes. Make sure you only tack near the sewing holes--don't glue to cup totally together! This will hold the cup body together for you to begin sewing, so you don't have to manage holding the pieces and sewing stitches at the same time. Older kiddos won't need this step, probably.

7. Take a length of cording and knot it at one end. Hide the knot inside the two layers of craft foam and begin sewing the two layers of the handle together. Sew around the handle and down the side of the mug (it will look like an uppercase letter "D"). Leathersmiths would use strong string they imported from England and other parts of Europe to sew the pieces of the mugs together by hand. I'm not sure of the stitch they used, but I used a running stitch.

8. Position the bottom of the mug and, using the photos as a reference, begin sewing around the bottom edge of the mug. Make these bottom stitches snug, but don't pull too hard or you will pull the cording right through the craft foam.

The bottom view of my mug.
9. When you are done, knot your thread and hide the knot inside the mug, if you can. You can secure the knot with a little hot glue, if you'd like. I know, not very Colonial, but bear with me! Colonial leathersmiths would now dye the outside of the leather mugs. The dyes are made by putting metal shavings in vinegar. Once that has oxidized overnight, the dye is painted on. The mug continues to patina as it is used. 

10. Slip a paper cup into your craft foam mug. With this design, the rim of the paper cup is visible. I did this because I wasn't sure that children should be putting their mouths on the craft foam, with this design, the child's lip touches the paper cup. Obviously, this mug should NOT be used for hot liquids, this project is for fun. Colonial leathersmiths would now pour a thick, tarry substance inside the mugs to make them watertight, thankfully, we are using a paper cup that should be watertight already!

Enjoy your handmade faux leather mug!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

There's a BOOK For That!

I got up early this morning to head out to our town library's annual book sale.

Of course, I went right for the children's book, and $20 later, I was on my way home. I spent the morning sipping coffee and dreaming of art lessons as I looked through my new treasures. Because for me, books = inspiration. I have found this true for my students as well. there's no denying how the illustrations and stories of books can get a child's creative juices flowing, activate background knowledge, and really help concepts hit home.

Even as an art teacher, I gather more than just art books. I rarely buy books on technique, but I collect lots and lots of other books. I think of this as job security. Yep, I do. Take a look at my lessons on this blog. My students don't just make a pretty picture to hang above the sofa--art connects to all subjects. So, while I read books to my class to create a rich, multi-sensory learning experience, I am also incorporating math, social studies, science, physical education, music and more into my lessons. When I do this, I inspire and engage my students, and tell everybody, "Art connects to ALL subjects!"

So, what do I look for in a book? Many things, and that is why I have so many books! As I said, I don't have many books on art technique, but if you are a classroom teacher, you may find these helpful. I don't like to own more than I have to, so you may be able to find many "how to" videos and tutorials online.

All of the books I decide to own must have a great story and great visuals (illustrations, photos, etc.). I like books that aren't too wordy and are easy-to-read. Simple picture books I can read word-for-word, but more complex books, I summarize as we look at the pictures. Hey, we need time for art! The pictures should get us talking.

Art/Art Movements/Artists Books
I collect books on artists (such as Van Gogh), art movements (such as Fauvism), and more. I use picture  books as read-alouds (sometimes) and grown-up books for reference (I'll show pictures of the artist's work from a grown-up book). I also grab old, worn-out books and rip out the color plates for my files, laminate them for visuals, use them for posters, etc.).

Book About Time Periods/Cultures
Visuals, visuals, visuals! I like folk tales that are nicely illustrated in a style that we'll be applying in class. I love photo books that depict a child from a certain culture moving throughout a typical day. I also grab any of the DK books about a culture or time period. They have lots of great pictures that inspire my art projects!

Math Books
I collect books about math concepts such as counting, shapes, forms, patterns, matching, etc.

Science Books
I am a sucker for a good science book! I collect all sorts of nature-inspired books about insects, plants, animals, etc. Books about the seasons are great, along with more sophisticated science ideas such as optical illusions.

Music Books
There are many great books about music as it relates to art (colors, rhythms, patterns). Some books are illustrated versions of songs and that is cool. I also have a nice little collection of books on how to make musical instruments.

Language Arts Books
I like stories that inspire and have great images. Sometimes the illustrations connect to specific techniques I want to show the children such as collage, cut paper, linocuts, etc. Or deal with themes I think would make great art lessons such as quilting, family history, colors, feelings and more.

Reference Books
As I said above, I grab any DK book about pretty much any subject for reference. I also have visual dictionaries and Nature Encyclopedias. These are helpful when students want to draw a certain type of animal and they want to draw it accurately. 

Early Finisher Books
I make most of my books available to my students if they finish early. Usually I'll select a few books that pertain to the theme we are dealing with in art (say, Egypt) and leave them as selections for the children to peruse if they finish early. There are some books, however, that I know I may not use for a lesson, but I grab them specifically for the early-finishers. These would be the I Spy and Can You See What I See series of books.

My loot from today's sale! I think there must be at least 10 art lesson ideas
in this pile of books. And notice my new favorite book: "Paddle-to-the-sea."
I found multiple copies of this classic--enough to share with some
teacher friends of mine.

How do I get these books?

I'd be broke if I bought all of these books new. So, a couple tips for acquiring books:
  1. Try it before you buy it. You don't need to have every book! Also, a book that earns rave reviews from one teacher, may leave you flat. Look at the book--will you really use this?
  2. If you can get it used, do it!
  3. Be patient! You aren't going to get every book your first year teaching. These things take time. Get what you can as you go and borrow the rest. Gradually add when you can.

My sources for books:

Borrow (FREE): Borrow from other teachers you know, ask your friends and family to lend from their personal collections, and USE YOUR LIBRARY! 

Seriously, your library is the best! I have a card at my local library which allows me access to their books and the resources from many other libraries in the consortium they belong to. Intra-library loans do take some time, so you need to plan ahead, but you can borrow movies, books, audio books and more. One library near me even lends artwork. 

Also utilize the library at the school you teach at as well as the school you are an alumni of. I can borrow books from my Undergrad library as well as my Graduate school library and the public library in the town I work in. I don't use all of the resources, but I could.

Find it (FREE)! My local transfer station (dump) has a used book area where people can leave books (and keep them out of the landfills). I have found so many resources there--and the return policy is great. When I no longer want the book, I bring it back. Online groups such as are also great--you can join and ask for books (and other resources you need)--who knows, maybe someone out there has something you need that they no longer want.

Go digital (FREE): I'm just starting to use online books, so I know this isn't a huge list. But here are some sites to check out:
(Thank you to Program Associate & Technology Guru, Tiffany Dube at Plymouth State University and Selina Smith at Classroom Magic for their help with this list).

Buy Used ($): Yard sales, book sales, online (,,, thrift stores and used book stores such as Goodwill

Buy New (With a Discount)($$): If you shop online, you can get reduced pricing on new books and some places have free shipping if you buy enough. You can go to publishing house sales (get on their mailing lists and they'll let you know when they are having sales). You can go in with a group of teachers and get a group discount. Discount/overstock stores such as Building 19 and Ocean State Job Lot also have new books for a couple dollars each.

How do you get the books you need for your classroom? Do you know source for great children's books to read online? Please share your sources here and help fellow teachers out!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Plimoth Plantation and Wampum Belts

This past weekend my family and I took our final camping trip of the season. We camped in Plymouth, Massachusetts so we could explore Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum. There are a few different sections to the place:
A view from the fort at the top of the hill.
One section of Plimoth Plantation has a recreation of the first settlement of the pilgrims with people dressed up and acting like pilgrims. It's pretty neat and the children enjoyed watching woman working in the kitchen and got a tour of a surgeon's garden where he pointed out all sorts of plants and their medicinal properties. My husband and I thought there could have been more work happening. We wanted to see people baking bread and making clapboards for siding, mending fences, etc. But my children liked chasing the chickens and looking at the goats and talking with the people.

Another area of the museum is a craftsman's area. This was not part of the reenactment area. Here there are modern craftspeople working creating all of the neat things the pilgrims are using in the settlement: pottery, leather cups and jugs, and wooden chairs and chests. There were two craftsmen there that day, one was making leathercrafts and was very talkative, knowlegable and helpful. The second, the potter, was there but wasn't working at that time. There was also an area for a person who might have been doing Native beadwork, but that person wasn't there. So, while that area could have been interesting, it wasn't as active as it could have been.

Another section of the museum was the Wampanoag settlement. This area was a reenactment of a Native settlement from the time of the pilgrims and, while there were real people dressed as Native Americans doing things here, they do not act like they are from the 1600's--they are themselves as Native representatives. I have to say, they were super-talkative and super-knowlegable and I loved this area most of all. We saw a lady making dinner for her children (her children were actually there running around and playing with other worker's chidren). She was roasting corn over the fire and making a stew that all of the children were going to eat when it was done. She had a baby on her hip and, as he started to get fussy, she laid a fur on the ground and he took a nap.

There was another lady making woven mats for the homes on site. Beside her were a number of toys that Native children may have played with: a canoe, a couple of dolls, and a game made of bones that is like the "ball and cock" game that we played as kids.

Here are the mats inside the longhouse. This is the winter house.

There was also a man creating a canoe by burning the wood center out of a log. We got some serious time looking at that! My boys were fascinated!

And finally, there was a lady in the longhouse talking about pretty much anything you'd like to know: what Natives would eat, who lived in the long houses, what they wore, how they repelled bugs, how they prepared their food...the list went on and on. We sat in that longhouse for while just listening to her talk about all sorts of stuff. This area of the museum felt real and comfortable to me. I think I could have spent all day there. My oldest (a 6th grader) whispered to me:  "When I grow up, I want to be a Native American and work here."

Now, the Wampanoag people are from the Massachusetts area and I've mentioned them before on my blog. One of the artforms they are known for are their Wampum beads that are made into Wampum belts and other items. See my post about a cool art/math/social studies project you can do on this theme here.

While I was in the gift shop at Plimoth Plantation, I noticed all sorts of jewelry made from Wampum--the shell of the quahog clam. But alas, real wampum is too expensive for this art teacher (even as a tax write-off...What? It's for a lesson!). But I was able to get a real quahog shell for $2--and that price is just right!
The humble quahog shell...

Enjoy this repost of the Wampum Belt project!

Wampum Designs

Wampum are beads made from the quahog shell and strung on string in intricate patterns of purple and white (although some sources say that red and black beads were used sometimes too). Quahog's are endangered today and, I guess, artisans can only get one or two truly purple beads per shell, so one wampum bead costs around $5--way too pricey to use for large belt designs. The beadwork we did today had 72 beads per child so each child would have used $360 worth of beads for their project. The children loved hearing that!

We used plain old pony beads I bought from Michael's for our designs. I had been looking for a way for students to easily realize their own bead designs without sewing or doing crazy things with string (my students are in 2nd-4th grade) and I finally found a solution on the blog Mrs. Erb's Art Page. Mrs. Erb uses pipe cleaners (chenille stems) to hold the beads in each row. Perfect! I had the children fit them onto matte board that had been donated to me. This allowed a nice way to display their original designs along with the finished wampums. They came out great and didn't take long at all.

Beaded Wampum

Supplies Needed:
  • Worksheet for practicing designs
  • Crayons in purple (and red and black if you want to use those)
  • Six chenille stems-white
  • Purple and white pony beads (ours were more royal blue)
  • Matte board (ours were red and about 8" square)
  • Clear tape (I used packing tape because it's stickier than regular tape)
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick

1. I passed out the worksheets and instructed the children to create a couple different designs using geometrics shapes and using pattern. My worksheet had two 6x12 grids so the children could try out a couple of designs before beginning to bead. We looked at real wampum for inspiration. Word of advice: only put out the crayon colors that correspond to the colors of beads you will be using. If you are only using purple beads, only put out purple crayons for them to diagram with. Trust me.

2. Once they had a couple of designs down on paper, they could bring them to me and we'd discuss which one they wanted to do. 

3. Our designs were 6 rows of beads, each with 12 beads per row. My directions will reflect that. I had them start off with the first pipe cleaner (which represents the first row) and follow their diagram to place 12 beads on it. After that, they worked down the rows, using their diagram as a guide. I cautioned them to keep their rows in order so they didn't get mixed up. If you are doing this with a group you could have them label the chenille stems with a piece of tape or prepare the matte board (as in step 4, below) and have them transfer each row, as it is finished, to the matte board.

4. Once all of the rows were completed, I had them affix them to matte board, again using their diagram as a guide. The way I did it was to cut 1/4" slits on the right and left side of a piece of matte board. Since we have 6 rows, I cut 6 slits in each side of the board (one for each row). The children then slipped the chenille stem in the slits (pulling tight) and we wrapped the ends around the back and secured them with the packing tape to the back side of the matte board. I thought this looked tidy, although there was space enough for the children to do a much larger design (maybe they could repeat their design twice next time...).

5. I then had the children cut out the diagram they had used to create their wampum and affix it above the beadwork on the matte board using glue stick.

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