Monthly Mentor

Jody Boyer (August)
Jody Boyer is a visual artist and arts educator originally from Portland, Oregon. In her studio practice she explores the broad interdisciplinary possibilities of traditional and new media with a specific interest in personal memory, cinema, landscape and a sense of place. She received her B.A. in Studio Arts from Reed College, her M.A. in Intermedia and Video Art from the University of Iowa, and her K-12 teaching certificate at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  Her artwork has been shown in over 25 exhibitions across the country. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Friday 08.18.17

Stress, Change, and Mindfulness at the Start of a School Year

From: Jody Boyer

Last Thursday the new school year began for me at Norris Middle School in Omaha, Nebraska. Norris is the largest middle school in Nebraska with over 1,150 kids between the ages of 11 and 14. This is a lot of adolescent energy! But this year is also a little different. Our building is in the middle of a multiphase, multiyear 30 million dollar renovation. This is terribly exciting for my educational community. Simultaneously it is stressful...very stressful. My classroom has changed location three times in the last eight months. I feel blessed to have the privilege of a new room with natural light and enough space to truly explore arts education in ways I have not before. But all of this is a great deal of change and a little bit like riding a roller coaster: exciting at first, but now I just want to get to the end as soon as possible!

My amazingly gorgeous new art room, near completion, in the summer of 2017

Before work this morning while doing my morning swim the feeling of a roller coaster came back to me as I went through the long “to do” list in my mind. Check off this, I missed that, so on, and so forth. Then the voice of Dennis Inhulsen, Chief Learning Officer for NAEA, butted into my mental ramblings. It was his voice leading Western Region leaders through a mindfulness activity this summer: “Breathe”. Yes, that is what I need to do. Find some balance, and just breathe!

Mindfulness, deep breathing, thinking with intention. In times of stress I try to remember these three things. Interestingly, at the Western Region Leadership Conference, Dennis also shared that the most popular NAEA webinar this past year was about mindfulness and creativity. It seems that balance and mindfulness are on the minds of a great number of art educators across the country!

Thus, in this hectic week of moving and unpacking my new art room (yeah!), this week’s blog post is focused on a few tidbits that may help you stay balanced and begin to explore mindfulness in the coming school year!

Strategies for finding balance in the teacher work/life mix:

1. Create a routine that gives you space, time, and respite in your work day. Even a few minutes can refresh your soul. During my plan time, I often walk two laps around the exterior of my campus when I need a little space and time to think. This only takes me 10 minutes, but does wonders for my bank of patience and helps clear my mind before the next set of kids come in.

2. Pick two to three days a week where you do not take anything home and you leave the building in a timely manner. If something is not done, don’t worry, it will get done the next day if it has to be!

3. Give yourself a treat budget. Then hide a few gift cards for your favorite splurge in your daily calendar, agenda, or even in your supply room! Better yet, have a friend do it for you so you don’t know when they are coming!

4. Build a buddy system within your building and outside your building. I have a few trusted colleagues to go to when I need a good laugh or a really good cry.

Resources to get started with a mindfulness practice: 

1. - This is a great resource to explore mindfulness from a broad perspective.

2. - This organization is offering free mindfulness training for schools!

3. Mindfulness, Creativity and Art Education Webinar from NAEA. If you missed it, the webinar was recorded and is available to view on demand by members for free here!

Happy Beginnings to a new school year!


Tuesday 08. 8.17

Reflecting on the Unknown, Perseverance and Discovery at the Cedar Point Biological Station

From: Jody Boyer

Nearly 10 days after my artist residency at an active field station I am still pondering how to connect scientific investigation to my classroom pedagogy. What exactly does that look like? Is it the creation of STEAM lessons, alignment to standards, or integrating the scientific method into my arts classroom? While thinking through these questions this morning I distracted myself from the complexities of the problem by reading a wonderful article in which writer Maria Popova explored how artists work in the realm of the unknown. Popova quoted sculptor and installation artist Ann Hamilton  from her essay “Making Not Knowing” – “One doesn’t arrive — in words or in art — by necessarily knowing where one is going. In every work of art something appears that does not previously exist, and so, by default, you work from what you know to what you don’t know. “

As I reflected on the first day of my art residency at Cedar Point Hamilton’s words rang true. That first  morning I felt an overwhelming sense of the unknown. I had researched and created for myself a framework of investigation for the week, brought a myriad of supplies with me and set up my workspace. Everything was prepared. But standing at the beginning of the metaphoric path of the artistic process all I felt was lost. Lost in the unknown. I often feel this way in my studio practice. But in a new environment, free from distractions of family and work, the aura of not knowing was sharp and knife-like. Instead of wallowing, I did what I had come to Cedar Point to do, I got to work. That first day I experimented, got frustrated, kept pushing, and created 12 small mixed media pieces. Those first 12 pieces are clumsy studies exploring a new amalgam of materials and processes. I am not happy with any of them. But they are a starting point in a new way of making. They are a discovery into the unknown.

Boyerwk2_photo1Artwork is Progress: Alternative Photography Experiments Exposing Under Plexiglass at the Cedar Point Biological Station

While thinking about discovery my mind also wandered to lunch on the third day of my residency where I overheard a group of students discussing their frustrations in regard to their search for parasites within dragonfly larvae. One student in particular, Silverio Barrio, mentioned he had collected and dissected 24 dragonfly larvae before he found a single parasite to analyze. Barrio’s frustration was clear, but so was his sense of accomplishment at discovering a parasite on his 25th dissection. One aspect of a field station is to bring scientific research to life by giving students an authentic experience of field research. Clearly an authentic experience was at times not what the students were expecting. This reminded me of aspects of practicing and teaching the artistic process and I was curious.  How is it that scientists continue to push forward when they face difficulty? Where does the drive to continue come from when the process seems to be not working, potentially even failing? What feeds the will to continue when faced with seemingly endless barriers?

After lunch I visited the Cedar Point biology lab and introduced myself to the young man I had overheard. I asked Silverio if I could chat with him about his frustrations. With grace he immediately apologized thinking I was concerned about his demeanor, but I expressed that I was interested in how he managed his frustration. In our conversation he mentioned that other students in the course had dissected over 100 dragonfly larvae before finding a single parasite specimen.As I looked down into a jar of dragonflies, I was reminded of my own visual research back in the Lubber Lab on the other side of the field station.  The day before I too had felt a road block in my creative process. Silver and I discussed how we approached these instances of scientific and artistic frustration. We both are driven by a sense of discovery and find solace in the perseverance of working toward our goals.

BoyerWk2Photo2Silverio Barrio, at center in red shorts and blue shirt, and other students searching for dragonfly larvae in a Rural Ogallala Pond.

Now thinking back to my initial question of how to incorporate scientific investigation in the visual arts classroom. Perhaps it is not the alignment of standards, the use a traditional scientific method or STEAM lessons that I need. From my time at an active field station I learned that scientific investigation and artistic investigation are really not that different. What I need is to foster a classroom environment framed by the quest for discovery and builds perseverance for failure. Whether you are searching for new parasites in the guts of dragonflies or embarking on the creation of new art the quest for meaning and understanding likely starts with jumping into unknown waters and often requires you to keep searching regardless if you can see the bottom of the pond.

BoyerWk2Photo3Standing at edge of a Rural Ogallala pond, wondering what is in the water.


Tuesday 08. 1.17

A Media Detox at the Cedar Point Biological Station

From: Jody Boyer

Last week I had the privilege of completing an artist residency at the University of Nebraska’s Cedar Point Biological Station. Since 1975 Cedar Point has functioned as a field research facility and experiential classroom for the biological sciences, geology, paleontology and most recently the visual arts. Since 2014 Cedar Point has included an artist-in-residence program that invites artist to stay for a week, giving artists the space and time to create new work, observe research at the station and experience nature from a new perspective. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some of the experiences and insights I gained as an artist and arts educator during my residency at Cedar Point. 

The drive into Cedar Point descends down a long road just to the West of the 3.1 mile long Kingsley Dam, which created Lake McConaughy, one of the most scenic lakes I have visited in the Midwest. In the midst of all this sudden beauty I grabbed my cell phone, snapped a photo, and proceeded to send the image to my kids. Or that is, I attempted to do so. The rocky cliffs that surround Cedar Point interfere with cellular service and I was officially off the grid. In that moment I truly felt in awe of Cedar Point. I also felt how deeply and possibly too connected to the interaction of social media I have become.

BoyerPhoto1_Week1View of Lake Ogallala from the Cedar Point Biological Station

Once I arrived, settled into my cabin, and took in the enormous beauty of Cedar Point I made a decision. I would disconnect in order to reconnect. For the next 48 hours I did not check my email, social media, upload photos, or consume anything from technology. I took a two day social media hiatus in the woods and immersed myself in the production of art. Minus the need to share, connect, upload, or validate my actions through social media. A media detox in the Sandhills prairie of Western Nebraska.  This was one of the best choices of my recent adult life.

BoyerPhoto2_Week1Lake McConaughy at Sunset

One of my take-aways from Cedar Point is the need I have for space and time in nature, to think and rejuvenate. As I reflect on the coming school year I wonder how I can create the sense of solitude, focus, and serene productivity I experienced during my artist residency, both for myself and for my students. How do I bring the feeling of a nature-infused environment to my classroom? Many ideas have popped into my head, but I am not sure if I have the answer yet. My hope this coming year is to explore how to bring aspects of my Cedar Point experience to my students, including making a space for disconnecting from media overload and reconnecting to our natural world. I invite conversations from other arts educators who are exploring similar interests, perhaps together we can collaborate on this adventure.

In the meantime if artist residencies, field stations and the natural environment are of interest to you here are some resources to explore.

To find out more about artist residencies in general and in your region and across the globe, visit the Alliance of Artist Communities

To find a field station in your region, look at the Organization of Biological Research Stations.

Consider investigating local Nature Centers for possible artist residency opportunities. A good place to start is to look at the Association of Nature Center Administrators, they wonderful listing of its member organizations across the globe.

Researchers Working Sandhill Prairie of Western Nebraska

- JB

Wednesday 07.26.17

Overcoming Challenges to Integrating Visual Art

From: Dr. R. Darden Bradshaw

Two of the biggest challenges noted for why teachers choose not to integrate the visual arts into their curriculum is time and fear. Both of these barriers can impact our classroom space. For most of us, time is a key factor in our lives-both inside of the classroom and outside. It is a finite resource. Perhaps you, like me, rail against the inevitability of its passage and the fact that there never seems to be enough time!  Sure that is true but as a wise gentleman once said, “there is time enough!” 

In my role as an arts integration specialist, when I would propose collaboration I often heard teachers say that they always felt pressed for time. To them, taking one or two valuable class periods to “play around with art integration” would mean one or two less days for them to “cover” their content. Yet in my experience, finding ways to integrate the arts makes learning exciting and engaging-both for the student and teacher; this inevitably means more time! I, like most educators, have seen that when learners are engaged they learn the concepts more deeply and are able to transfer that knowledge to other contexts; for most educators, the worry about having enough time to ‘cover’ one’s content becomes moot

Fear is another major challenge I’ve encountered in arts integration. While it shows up in many ways, today I am going to focus on fear that stems from a lack of knowledge. Because “substantive arts integration” requires deep investigation into varying content or disciplinary areas, sometimes a fear of not knowing can stop us from moving forward. Embracing the collaborative nature of art integration allows us to share and actually multiply our knowledgebase. Rather than feeling isolated and responsible for everything, art integration allows us to work collaboratively, becoming life-long learners alongside our students. For instance, I recall a math educator sharing her knowledge of geometry while learning amazing strategies for integrating dance and movement into her classroom when she worked with my colleague Rick Wamer, at Arts Integration Solutions in Tucson, AZ. Rick, a talented teaching artist and theatrical mime who holds an MFA in Theater, brought his knowledge of the art form of dance to the table. And the teacher, brought her expertise in math. As the two educators talked about students’ challenges in understanding planar geometry, they collaboratively arrived at an engaging lesson that taught graphing and the x-y-z coordinate planes, moving beyond the two dimensions to three, through physical movement.  

Picture1Rick Wamer (L) working with Rover Elementary School students to embody their learning through arts integration.

Watching children using their bodies to demonstrate various plots of x, y, and z coordinates was thrilling.  And, more importantly, for those learners who previously struggled to comprehend the concept when it was taught only on paper, the embodiment of learning stayed with them and empowered them! By stepping outside her comfort zone and asking another to share their expertise, this teacher modeled that when we set aside our fear and work collaboratively with others the benefits far outweigh the risk!


Marshall, J. M. (2006). Substantive art integration = Exemplary art education.  The Journal of Art Education, 59(6), 17-24.

Tuesday 07.18.17

Selfies, Tourist Gaze and Authenticity: Engaging Middle School Students

From: R. Darden Bradshaw

All teachers, regardless of the age of their student, work toward and often question if we are meeting the needs of those students (Goswami, Lewis, Rutherford, & Waff, 2009).  I frequently wonder if I am doing all I can to prepare them for the complex, contemporary world in which they are living. This iterative cycle of questioning, adjusting my teaching practice, and evaluating the results of said practice supports reflection. For some teachers, especially those of us who work with middle schoolers, students can seem like “aliens in the classroom” (Green & Bigum, 1993 cited in Bigum and Rowan, 2009) and finding the right ways to get through to them can feel daunting.  I have found art integration to be a practice that celebrates multiple answers, encourages various ways of teaching, and results in students developing creative solutions (Bradshaw, 2016).  Art integration serves as a philosophical guide that supports the iterative cycle of reflective practice while also being a teaching process that celebrates the complexity of preparing students for their future.  In the current educational climate that asks teachers to move away from a focus on skills and shine the light instead on ways to help students develop “dispositions” that facilitate and foster the ability to acquire knowledge, respond to the demands place on them in their future work, personal and social lives, and critically and creatively question the world  - art integration stands at the ready.

For example, Megan Newton, a middle school art teacher in Miamisburg, OH has an opportunity each summer to travel abroad with a small group of middle schoolers and their parents through EF tours.  This summer, Megan says she noticed the interactions students (and even the adults on the trip) had with historical monuments and landscapes – specifically in the way in which they used photography.  In this setting, rather than simply extending their arm in a typical pose and snapping a photograph to document the moment, she notes,

“These students on tour were models! They would ask someone to take their photo and they would twist their body into perfect position--turn slightly to camera, bend a leg, tilt head, and put an arm on the hip. It was magical to see them whip these poses out in seconds.” 

Xailey Atkinson posing for her photo. Photo credit: Megan Newton

She continues, “One of the students even instructed another student on tour to take candid photos of her. She wasn't looking for the traditional posed photo. She was hoping for a more authentic photo of her experience. But is it authentic when she's instructing someone to do so?

Newton inquired further and states, “I also noticed that the adults were the ones doing the "typical" selfie. Is the traditional selfie out? Is this only something "old" people do?” 

Selfie of Megan Newton at Stonehenge, UK

Considering these questions, Newton had conversations with students about their photos asking them

* Why did you take that photo?
* Which one is your favorite? Why?
* What photos will you show your parents/post online to depict your 11 days in Europe?

Posing questions and engaging students in deconstructing their experience, Newton demonstrated the way adolescents need social interaction and ‘chit-chat’ to make sense of imagery (Buckingham and Sefton-Green, as cited in Duncum, 2002).  In asking students these questions, Newton states,

“I wondered about their ideas of authenticity. Were they taking tourist-y photos? What was their typical subject matter? These questions led to some great conversations with adults about the selfie culture, especially from the tour director who noted, "selfies are more about the action, not the image."

This statement encouraged Newton to pause and consider how to develop an art integration unit around authenticity, Tourist gaze, and selfie-culture for her students this coming fall.  Using their local community as the site in which their ‘tourist investigations’ will occur, Newton has begun developing the integrated unit as follows:

Lesson 1=tour downtown Miamisburg and take photos. The goal is to show someone who is visiting what Miamisburg has to offer--similar to a visitor’s guide

Lesson 2=print out photos and organize them by common themes in class. Discuss and deconstruct “tourist gaze” and “selfie culture”. Invite students to reorganize photos based on this new information. 

Lesson 3=Return to downtown Miamisburg with our new tourist lens and take another set of photos

Lesson 4=print out photos and reflect on the ways in which new information informed, challenged, or confirmed our ideas of “tourist gaze” and “selfie-culture.”

Newton was not just inspired by her interactions with students but she used her experience and their engagement as a springboard for curricular investigation.  The questions she is asking students to answer through this integration unit will allow them to become agents in their photographic choices, not necessarily followers and unconscious participants. 

This is a perfect example of the power for classroom transformation from one of the “emphasis on teachers covering material, getting through curriculum and transferring knowledge from their minds into the vacuous minds of students who must perform well on standardized tests” (Hinchey, 2004, p. 92) to one in which students are engaged in active creation of meaning, problem-posing and solution, and critical analysis of authentic understanding.   


Bradshaw, R. D. (2016). Art integration fosters empathy in the middle school classroom.  The Clearing House:  A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues, and Ideas, 89(4-5), 109-117. Taylor & Francis.

Bigum, C., & Rowan, L. (2009). Renegotiating knowledge relationships in schools.  In S. N. and B. Somekh (Ed.), The Sage handbook of educational action research (pp. 131-141). London:  Sage.

Duncum, P. (2002). Visual culture art education:  Why, what and how.  Journal of Art & Design Education, 21(1), 14-23.

Goswami, D., Lewis, C., Rutherford, M., & Waff, D. (2009). Teacher inquiry:  Approaches to language and literacy.  New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Hinchey, P.  (2004).  Becoming a critical educator:  Defining a classroom identity, designing a critical pedagogy.  New York, NY: Peter Lang.


Sunday 07. 2.17

Art Integration: Reflections on Challenges and Possibilities for Art Education

From: Dr. R. Darden Bradshaw

I began my career in art education sixteen years ago teaching at the higher education level. I worked as an adjunct in Foundation programs teaching 2-D design and art history to freshmen and sophomores in college. It was a challenging and fun place to start my teaching career. Yet the longer I taught these foundation courses, the more I became aware that many of these students had little to no exposure to or classes in art beyond middle school. What happened in middle school, I wondered? As a part of my investigation into middle school art education, I eventually sought and obtained my post-baccalaureate teaching license; I then jumped feet first into the role of an arts integration specialist in a middle school in the Southwestern United States. As a part of my job I was tasked with researching and developing curriculum that served as what Julia Marshall (2006) calls “substantive” art integration in which two or more content areas are taught through a mutually reinforcing pedagogical practice that celebrates and honors the unique aspects of various disciplinary foci. I discovered that art integration was a powerful philosophical approach to teaching art and an even more dynamic means of collaborating across the educational silos entrenched in schooling. It became clear to me that it had the potential to excite students in their pursuit of art beyond middle school. My time as a middle school educator created spaces for me to discover my true joy and passion as an art educator-building bridges between and among the arts and other content areas - and sharing that with future art teachers. 

Over the last few years, art integration has become a greater focus within our field. I have seen a marked increase in presentations on art integration at NAEA and local state art education conferences, as well as publications about art integration including the engaging Art Centered Learning Across Curriculum: Integrating Contemporary Art in the Secondary School Classroom (2015) by Julia Marshall and David M. Donahue. In this month’s Monthly Mentor Blog, I will focus on a different aspect of art integration in each post. These will include the challenges to integrating visual art, the value of art integration for preservice art educators, strategies for teacher collaboration across disciplinary boundaries, the different ways in which art integration supports critical thinking in various K-12 settings, and the power of art integration as a tool within University study abroad programs. I am an art integration practitioner; ever learning and finding new paths to better integrate the arts to foster empathy, support learners in making meaning of their worlds, and creating spaces where students comment on and critique their world through creative visual means. In sharing my experience here, I invite dialogue. Please send your thoughts, comments, questions, and concerns via email at


Marshall, J. M. (2006). Substantive art integration = Exemplary art education.  The Journal of Art Education, 59(6), 17-24.

Marshall, M. & Donahue, D.M. (2015). Art Centered Learning Across the Curriculum:  Integrating Contemporary Art in the Secondary Classroom.  New York, NY: Teachers College.


Friday 06.30.17

Copper Point Drawing and Da Vinci: A STEAM - Renaissance Connection

From: Carrie Jeruzal

As June quickly slips into July, I find myself happily reminiscing about an amazing Professional Development experience that I had last year at the 2016 Summer Teacher Institute at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

"The Teacher Institute is a six-day seminar that helps K–12 teachers (of all subjects) strengthen their knowledge of art history and integrate visual art into classroom teaching. The program features lectures, gallery tours, teaching strategies, and hands-on learning experiences."

This was my classroom for 6 days:


I would highly recommend this experience to all art teachers, (really any teacher), that can connect curriculum back to the NGA’s featured collection and is looking for an authentic, enriching and inspiring professional development experience.  The variety of instruction, resources and time with the art is really unparalleled.  I met 24 other wonder colleagues from around the country and I am confident they would say the same! 

The theme of the 2016 Institute was, The Renaissance.  Throughout the course I immediately saw strong correlations between the ideals and philosophies of the Renaissance and the methodologies of the Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics, (STEAM), art education movement.  I began to see Leonardo Da Vinci and other Renaissance artists like him as the original STEAM innovators.  

I made many curriculum connections from the knowledge that I gained at the NGA Institute, but for this blog post I would like to focus in on one in particular, Copper Point Drawing.  Before my NGA Institute I have to admit that I did not even know that the metalpoint technique existed!  I quickly learned that Renaissance artists like Da Vinci used to draw on a grounded surface, (usually gesso made from ground animal bones), using a drawing instrument that we might call a silver “stylus” today.  It was a kind of pencil with a silver “lead” instead of graphite or charcoal.  The silver would scratch the surface of the gesso, leaving a very fine, delicate, soft image.  Lines scratched in the surface of the gesso would retain residual silver and that silver would oxidize over time thus slightly darkening the image as it aged.  There is no erasing this medium but the artist could draw darker lines over other  lines and even paint over them, allowing the silverpoint drawing to function as a kind of preliminary sketch or as an under-the-painting-drawing.  The silverpoint drawings are minimal in color but communicate artist intentionality in a gentle and intimate way.

Here is a silverpoint drawing by Da vinci:


To begin my Junior High / High School STEAM lesson I introduced my students to the scientific studies and meticulous medical illustrations by Da Vinci.  We discussed the importance of observational drawing for scientific purposes.  We looked at Da Vinci’s drawing of a dog’s leg compared to that of a man as well as other examples from his journals. 

Then I gave students the chance to do the same type of scientific/artistic observation.  Silver was out our price range so I fashioned copper styluses instead by stripping copper utility wires donated by a parent that works in construction.  I cut them 3 inches long or so, and then taped them to thick, unsharpened primary pencils with adjustable electrical tape.  I prepared pieces of gessoed mat boards and borrowed a whole slew of bones, both animal and human, both genuine and faux, from the science department. I discussed with students the importance of treating the remains with dignity and respect as they once belonged to living creatures in order to avoid misuse and inappropriate handling.  Finally, students were given the opportunity to draw the bones from close observation using the copper point technique.  To enrich the experience and authenticate it further to the Renaissance time period, I invited a local guest musician to come in and play Renaissance music on a lute while students drew.  Aside from cell phones and laptops, my classroom began to look and sound like a real Renaissance atelier! 



Because erasing isn’t possible, I gave students a number of days to experiment and build confidence with the media.  I encouraged them to practice with paper and pencil first to warm up.  Students learned that it wasn’t easy and the task required immense focus and intentionality.  Students not only had to address artistic problems such as proportion, value and texture, but they also had to think like a biologist and consider; How does this bone move? What is its purpose?  How does its shape or spatial relationship to other bones help accomplish its function?  How do different bones compare? Etc.

In this STEAM lesson inspired by the Renaissance collection at the NGA, students not only honed their drawing skills, they also practiced discovery through scientific observation and illustration.   Just as my authentic encounters with the art at the NGA inspired this curricular approach, students were given a truly Da Vinci-like experience.     



Monday 06.26.17

Redesign: Make it Bad, Then Make it Better

From: Carrie Jeruzal

Just like great art, great art education is often inspired by personal experiences. But, not always in the way one might expect…. 

A couple of years ago my oldest daughter’s class was holding a bake sale during a community event as a fundraiser for a field trip. I don’t have much confidence or experience in baking so I thought this one “treat recipe” that I found online would be cute, easy and perfect for a busy mom like me. Well, it wasn’t so easy and I messed it up terribly. Turns out candy kisses look the same slightly melted as they do burnt and one should not let them stay in the oven, “just a little bit longer!” 

So I took a deep breath, ate some burnt chocolate, regained my strength and senses and decided to persist by getting creative with my odd sense of humor. So, tongue-in-cheek, I created a new recipe embracing the struggle. I called it,

Mommy Can't Bake Mix

Step 1: Wait till the last minute to make baked goods for your daughter's bake sale. Go to the store at night when most of the other crazies and overworked moms are out. Step 2: Look up easy recipe on phone that literally requires two minutes of baking time. Step 3: Screw up baking and throw tantrum / blame husband for no reason. Step 4: Pout for a minimum of 5 minutes. Step 5: Think to self, "Failure is Impossible,"- Susan B Anthony. Step 6: Throw failed ingredients into a bag anyway along with random treats found in cupboard like pretzels, m&ms, crackers, marshmallows, croutons, cough drops, glitter, etc. Step 7: Get computer genius husband to make cute labels. Step 8: Put it on social media like a legit baking mom would. The end.


If these treats were going to be bad, I was going to make them really bad. It became fun and funny. They became a novelty. I hoped people would buy them, not for the “treat” that was inside, but for the clever concept behind them. I ended up selling 5 bags! Turns out homemade brownies taste and sell better than clever concepts, however, I still counted success points in creativity!   

So, what did I learn from this “lemons to lemonade” moment, and how did I apply it to art education? I learned that when the objective of a problem becomes to make something really bad, the doors of humor and creativity become wide open. That’s where I got the idea for my middle school “Redesign” learning unit.

I start by introducing my students to the concept of object/product design, design thinking and the design process. We look at examples of everyday objects and talk about the differences between good design and bad design depending on factors such as the object’s intended use, intended customer, cost of materials, durability, demand, etc. All students share a story of a time when a product broke or failed. We also look at and describe the evolution of a product’s  design such as a car, the telephone and the vacuum cleaner. Students get concrete examples as to how visual arts have inherent relationships to everyday life through these product designs. Then it’s time for students to engage in a 2-4 day performance task.

I start the task by asking students to all select a different everyday-manmade-designed-object by having them cut one out of a magazine ad. I have also modified the task by asking all students to start with the same object such as a shoe. I have instructed students both ways and by settling on one object for everyone to focus on I do sacrifice the variety of outcomes, but I also save on time and the need for cutting and pasting materials. Either way, once the object is selected students are asked to reflect upon and explain the current relationship of the object to everyday life.

Then begins the fun part. Instruct students to make it bad. Invite them to redesign the product so that it is truly terrible by transforming it into something impractical, unappealing, and/or harder to use. In order to do this, the student must recognize the object’s intended use and successful design attributes and design against them. I tell my students that as long as their ideas are school appropriate, (no potty humor, nothing mean spirited or overly violent), that there are no limits to their creativity! At first some of my more regimented students don’t quite understand me, they don’t believe that I’m actually telling them to make something bad. I have to clarify that they are exercising their creativity in a new way by thinking about a design problem from a fresh perspective. By exploring what makes something really bad, you in turn are also open to exploring its opposite design, what might make it really good.  Then lightbulbs. Then students sketch truly creative results that they can’t wait to share with the class.

One of my favorites created by a 6th grade girl was a design that we quickly knick-named, “Shark Shoes.” What would make a pair of shoes the most uncomfortable shoes ever? Well, the answer is tiny sharks swimming in the bottom of your shoes that would bite your toes all day, of course!  Pair that with slippery seaweed soles and fish hook laces for added discomfort and you have a terribly creative design!


Students overwhelmingly enjoy this part of the process. They will fly around the room to share their ideas with everyone and anyone, each trying to one-up the others. It’s like I’m giving them permission to be silly and a little naughty and they love it! They reflect on their design through this verbal exchange and then in writing.

Then the next day the instructions flip. Students are asked to reimagine the design of their object to be even better than the current design. They must solve the problem of how to improve it. Again, there are no restraints to their creativity and they must reflect upon their design once it is complete. Below is a “good design” for a shoe that can not only adjust the temperature of your feet cooler or warmer depending on comfort zone required, but can emit four different pleasant fragrances including lavender and grape fizz from a secret compartment in the heel.


In conclusion, instructing to develop student creativity doesn’t always take a safe and expected path. Just like in real life, approaching a problem from a fresh point of view can open our minds and force us to think in new and interesting ways. Design problems can be fun and silly. Our best ideas sometimes arise from our failures when we give ourselves and our students the opportunity to flip the measure of success.   

This task is one that I wrote for the Michigan Arts Education and Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) project. Here are links to the complete task booklets available on the MAEIA website.

Teacher Booklet
Student Booklet


Monday 06.12.17

6 Reasons to have a Stress-free Summer Student Art Show!

From: Carrie Jeruzal

Remember that art show that you put together in (insert month), at the same time you were teaching (insert number), different classes each day, coaching or advising (insert after school activity), as well as dealing with that one personal drama (insert any problem of humanity), all at the same time? Remember selecting artwork, organizing, matting, mounting it on the walls and hoping it doesn’t fall down, labeling, typing up artist statements and filling out other paperwork still spelling that one student’s name incorrectly, sending home letters and invitations to parents, notifying and typing up a press release for the local newspaper, posting it all over social media, coordinating judges, handing out awards, making cookies and punch for the reception, and finally hoping that your students, parents, staff and administrators have time to take notice in between all of their usual duties and disasters in order to marvel at the art and appreciate it all? That’s a lot of work, right? Even though many of us don’t get paid for coordinating art exhibits, and the endeavor of putting together a student art show is completely stressful, I think many of us can agree it is also completely worthwhile. What if you could downsize, regroup and make this process a bit more stress-free by doing it in the summer? Whether you move your one “big show” to the summer season or are looking to add in a “supplementary art show” to reach a wider audience and promote your program, this blog post asks you to consider just that and offers 6 reasons why you might want to give it a try!


1. You have the time.

To say teachers don’t work in the summer is really a farce. In the summer teachers may take Masters level courses, attend or instruct Professional Development sessions, work on organizing their classrooms, plan and write curriculum, get a summer job and/or become full time caretakers of their own families. But the school work done in the summer is typically well balanced, reflective, mindful, and re-energising. It’s not as fast paced or taxing. You can actually choose to focus in on a single task instead of feeling the strain of being pulled in multiple directions. A Summer Student Art Show provides you with the option of putting together an exhibit at a time when you are typically not bogged down with a million other school related duties. You aren’t in a rush. As long as you remember to hold back from sending all the artwork home in June, you actually have time to be mindful of the curation and installation processes. Getting the work done at a slower summer pace means you may even enjoy it!   

Flyer: Social Justice Issues: Art Objects and Installations
Flyer: Traveling Art Exhibit: Character Creature Features!

2. It can be small, flexible, manageable and non-competitive.

The summer art show does not have to feature one piece from each student, keep it small. I recommend that you perhaps discern by featuring a single class, a single assignment or narrow your number of artworks under a unifying theme. Perhaps your selected pieces need to simply fit in the venue space provided or be strictly 2D or 3D. Either way you decide to structure your show, set it for a time that works for you. Set it up when you can and take it down when you can. With three months to choose from, coordinating with a venue in the summer can be much more relaxed than during the school year when other teachers are also trying to “fit it all in”. Consider making the show unjuried; non-competitive. This removes a whole layer of pressure for both you and the students. It’s less work for you and allows for more freedom in selecting conceptual pieces that might not be your typical “judge-pleasers.”

3. The venue needs you.

Get the art out of the school. Select a venue that gets some summer traffic. Contact your local arts council, public library, theater, or bank. The venue can be non-traditional. If it doesn’t work out that you have access to a typical gallery space, settle for alternative display spaces such as lobbies, waiting rooms, and vestibules. You may find that your little art show is just what the venue needed to fill a void while professional artists are busy claiming summer residencies or caravaning through art fairs. Whatever the arrangement, the venue can only benefit from the summer flair of student artwork.  

4. It gives your students’ art a wider audience and advocates for your program.

I first started doing small summer student art shows three years ago when I felt the overwhelming need to offer my students’ work to a wider audience. At first it was 7th grade/3rd grade technology based collaborations that triggered student-made videos through Augmented Reality. And then it was powerful visual metaphors for Social Justice Issues created by my high school students. Their art was so good and so powerful I was compelled to get it out of the school and share it with the world. Also it was a solution to timing and space. Artwork that is created in the Spring was too late to fit into my annual Spring art shows and much of it didn’t actually physically fit into the art display cases. The summer show gave this work and these students the opportunity to share with the greater community which in turn advocates the quality and necessity of my art program.   

5. Reception optional.

Don’t have a reception. Or do. Consider this element of a student art show as a nicety that isn’t always necessary. Try a set it and forget it approach. People are busy in the summer, especially high school students with summer jobs, so allow them and the community to view the artwork at their convenience whenever the venue is open to accommodate its usual summer clientele. If you can arrange the artwork to be on display for a month or more it’s likely that more people will see it over a longer period of time rather than all in the same night or week anyway. This way you can avoid giving a speech, baking all those cookies, cookie fingerprints on the art and all the inevitable awkward conversations with parents (I’m terrible at small talk!). However, if you do chose to hold an official show opening or reception try to couple it with another event at the venue instead of a stand-alone soirée. This way you can share a budget for food and advertisement, accommodate the venue’s schedule and once again attract a wider audience.   

6. It elevates collaborative art.

In education today, we as educators, are facing tremendous pressure to embed collaborative learning in our classrooms. Yet there are very few opportunities for collaborative art to be displayed in traditional art shows. Collaborative artwork is inconvenient to judge and makes awarding prizes, scholarships, and traveling opportunities expensive or impossible. There may only be one ribbon to hand out, one scholarship to award or one opportunity for a free master class. I am happy to report that the Vans Custom Culture Contest and the Meijer Great Choices Film Festival are two exceptions to this rule against collaborative projects, but still, these platforms are very specific in media and process. Plus, they are highly competitive. Collaborative learning is research based, inclusive and offers insight into the “team process” that is practiced by most renowned art contemporaries. Consider that artist Ai Weiwei didn’t make all those ceramic sunflower seeds by himself, so why should we as art teachers only honor student artwork made by a single person? The summer art show offers the perfect solution to promote, highlight and elevate the amazing collaborative work created by my students.    


Tuesday 06. 6.17

Chunk and Bundle: The Bundled Assessment Approach for Demonstrating Teacher Effectiveness

From: Carrie A. Jeruzal

Navigating the world of assessment can be daunting, especially assessment in the arts. Arts assessments come in a variety of forms all dependent upon a variety of factors: resources available, specific arts discipline, grade level, etc. While information and research regarding assessment in the arts begins to mount, and the importance and pressure of reporting data from assessments becomes critical for demonstrating teacher effectiveness, I would like to offer up a “take a deep breath,” “let’s get organized and take it one step at a time,” practical approach to Visual Arts Assessment in the secondary classroom. Chunk it and Bundle it.

I teach K-12 Art in a small rural public school that serves just under 300 students in the entire district. I teach 2 hours of High School Art, 2 hours of Junior High Art, and 2 hours of Elementary Art each day. Just writing that makes me tired! Providing data on all these students at all of these different grade levels is too much and would literally become a full time job on its own. So to keep data management realistic I have selected a small portion of my population from which to pull my data. Since my High School students have a summative exam already worked into their semester schedule, the practical choice for me was to start with a selection of 16-25 high school students from which to pull data. That’s right, instead of trying to pull data from all 200+ of my students, I focus in on a manageable set. 

The data that I collect from these students is a bundle of 4 chunks:
    * MAEIA High School Level 1 Visual Art Performance Assessment Data
    * Digital Portfolio Performance Data using Google Classroom
    * Pre and Post Knowledge Data using Google Forms and Flubaroo add-on
    * Pre and Post Perception Data using Google Forms and Flubaroo add-on

This style of data collection requires forethought and organization at the very beginning of the school year. I often incorporate my assessment plans right into my curriculum maps and I store the data digitally. I also use an Student Learning Objective (SLO) document to serve as a kind of roadmap for my bundled approach. Although this type of document may not be necessary in every district, I do find getting organized in the very beginning very helpful. Also I feel using a bundled approach gives my students many options and chances for demonstrating their growth as opposed to relying upon a single assessment that may not be holistic. It’s comforting to know that my students have multiple opportunities to demonstrate their growth by using 4 different assessment methods.    

MAEIA Performance Task
This year my High School year long curriculum consists of three-dimensional art and design. The MAEIA assessment that I selected was the V.T409 3-D Wire Sculpture. MAEIA stands for Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment. After administering the task to my students, I collected performance assessment data by way of digital photos submitted to students’ Google Classroom Accounts.  I also collected numeric data (point scores or grades), based on the rubric included in the MAEIA assessment. This process lasted approximately 5 class hours. 

Digital Portfolio
The second chunk of data that I collect is actually collected by my students. Students post all of their work into a digital file organized and housed in their Google Classroom accounts. When reporting my data I often have students select, print and document their own pre-proficient work and also proficient work. This method allows students to visually self assess their own learning and report that learning in a visual manner. I use the 5 C’s strategy (Content, Craftsmanship, Creativity, Communication, Composition) to guide students through this evaluation process midway through the year and then again at the end of the year. 

20 Questions Pre and Post
This set of data regards Knowledge Data. Think of a traditional multiple choice exam. I select 20 questions mainly focused on knowledge of key terms, concepts and image recognition. It is given within the first two weeks of school and then again during the final exam. I use Google Forms to administer the test and the Flubaroo add-on to grade the assessment and then chart and report the data. This chunk of data is collected fast; It only takes the students 15-20 minutes to complete. Technology is a huge timesavers and the forms can be reused again when I reteach the same curriculum.   

Perception of Growth Survey
The final set of data I collect and report is Pre and Post Perception Data. This answers the questions: Does the student know and realize when he or she is meeting a standard?, Is he or she trying to meet a standard?, and, how does the learner perceive his or her own growth? This is where a student offers up a short narrative of his or her perceived growth. There is power not only in the numbers and visuals of student growth data, but also in the student’s own story. Confidence, knowledge, experience, goals and learning in the arts are addressed in the student’s own voice. 

Bundle up all these chunks of data in a cohesive digital dossier and present them to your administrator during your final evaluation to demonstrate your effectiveness in not one, but in four different ways. This kind of data bundling presents visual, numerical and reflective narrative that all highlight the growth and learning of your students through cohesive methods.   

For more information on the Michigan Arts Instruction and Assessment project as well as additional assessment resources, please visit