Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Friday 03.29.13

The end of our journey…

I cannot believe yet another month has flown by, and April is just around the corner. I have enjoyed the rigorous activity of preparing what I hope have been meaningful “conversations” this month. Thank you for joining me along this journey.

As you begin a new journey with April’s Monthly Mentor, I would like to leave you with these thoughts…

· Celebrate art! Even though March is officially designated as Youth Art Month, celebrate art and the learning going on in art rooms every month.
· Find a passion. Art Education offers a vast array of niches. Find the one (or two or…) that really get you fired up and read, read, read about that topic. Find ways to share that passion with your students.
· Art matters. YOU matter. NAEA matters.
· Attend your state and national conventions.
· Make time to be an artist amidst the craziness of life.
· Explore non-traditional ways of reaching students through an online course offering.
· Make connections! Join a PLC or PLN and connect with others who share your interests and passion for art education.
· Communicate with your parents and community using innovative technologies.

You’ll notice that each of these thoughts is an action, so go out there and be a champion for arts education…and have fun doing it! [You may (or may not) want to don a cape as now Past-President F. Robert Sabol did at the convention earlier this month. Just saying…]

Maybe we went down more than two or three paths this month, but I hope you have enjoyed the journey.

—Ronda Sternhagen

Wednesday 03.27.13

Creating QR Codes

As promised in my last post, here are the instructions on how I have students create an audio file that is linked to a QR Code. I apologize to the PC users out there, these instructions are for Mac, because that is what we have at our school.

How to Record Audio Files and Create QR Codes using GarageBand, Dropbox and […and maybe iPhoto]
Open GarageBand.
Choose New Project and Select Voice.
Save project file on your hard drive…and remember where you have saved it.
Click red round Record Button and begin recording.
Click Stop Button to end your recording.
When finished recording, click Share, then Export to Disk.
Compress using MP3 encoder. Export.
Upload MP3 file to a public folder on Dropbox.
Click on the file in the public folder.
Copy public link.
Go to (or any other QR code generator)

[These directions are for]
1. Data type…click on Dropbox.
2. Content…paste the public link in the Website URL box. Click on “Use our URL shortener”.
3. You can select the color of your code. [I just always use black.]
4. Download the QR Code. [I download the QR Codes, then rename the file with the student’s name and drag the files into iPhoto to print a bunch of them at one time as a Contact Sheet with the file name printed below the image.
The entire lesson plan, artist research page, and rubric can be found at

Until next time…our last time together.

—Ronda Sternhagen

Monday 03.25.13

Communicating Learning with Parents & the Community

Today's post is likely motivated by the fact that this week we have Parent/Teacher/Student conferences in our district. I am proud to say that we have an amazing turnout for our conferences K-12. Many districts have high turnout for the elementary grades, but we have outstanding turnout for our middle school and high school grades as well. Much like the elementary, we have scheduled conferences for each of our middle school and high school students. This year, I am a senior class advisor and have tracked, or followed, my group of seniors from their first day as a freshman. They are my little family, and it is so rewarding to watch them grow from that first day of high school all the way through graduation.

Beyond scheduled conferences, how do you communicate with anyone outside the walls of your classroom about what learning is going on in the art room? As educators, we communicate through building or district newsletters, the local newspaper, or perhaps social media outlets like Facebook or Twitter depending on your district's policy on the use of social media. We diligently display work in the halls or perhaps in other locations in the community or other educational agencies in the area. I know many of you utilize other outlets like Artsonia to display and share work being created in your classroom.

I think of these ways of communicating with parents and the community to be the norm or more traditional. (Yes, even Artsonia is becoming a somewhat traditional way of sharing work.) So how can we share learning that happens in the art room in a less traditional way utilizing today's technologies and puts sharing more in the hands (or voice) of the students?

The final project that I had my 8th grade students create during the 2nd trimester was to research an artist and create a cardboard guitar that emulated the work of that artist. The research students completed was very simple and to the point: Artist's name, home country or origin, birthdate (and death date, if applicable), period or style of art the artist was known for and five interesting facts about the artist. They looked at a "collection" of work done by the artist, and we researched a variety of guitar shapes. They selected or designed a guitar shape that was similar to shapes found in the artist's work, created their three-dimensional guitar from lots and lots of corrugated cardboard, painted their guitar in a style representational of their artist, and added details like fish line strings, cardboard and toothpick tuners and more. They turned out fantastic!

There seemed to be a piece missing. If they did this research, why not have them share what they learned? I had dabbled in using QR Codes for my high school photography assignments, so students could have the assignment in their pocket when they went out of the classroom on shooting assignments. Then it dawned on me. Could I use QR Codes linked to an audio file of the student sharing the information about their artist? No one I asked seemed to know how to make that happen, so I turned to my Internet family and found some basic instructions that I tweaked a bit to fit my available technology and set up. The students made their recordings, and I put the QR Code on their guitar for parents and the community to access. I put the finished guitars on display outside the auditorium during the spring show choir and jazz band show, and they are currently on display for our Fine Art Festival of work created by all students in the building. It was a huge hit! I can see many, many more applications for using QR Codes to have my students share their learning with the world beyond the walls of the art room.

Artist Guitar Sample Artist Guitar Sample QR

What are some non-traditional ways you share learning with parents and the community?

Perhaps my next post will share the entire lesson and how to create audio files that are linked to QR Codes (at least how I know how to do them on a Mac)...

—Ronda Sternhagen

Friday 03.22.13

PLCs and PLNs

Education, in general, is filled with acronyms that utilize nearly every letter of our alphabet.

Some of the acronym buzzwords are PLC (Professional Learning Community) and PLN (Personal Learning Network). Either way, both are designed to improve instruction and learning, no matter what subject matter you teach. One could think of it in this way…a PLC could be more local in geographical area, PLN could span around the globe through today’s variety of technologies.

The reason I bring this topic up today is that I will be meeting with my Cedar Valley West (CVW) PLC this morning in a neighboring district. This PLC is made up of high school visual art educators in six neighboring school districts, four of which work collaboratively as a whole throughout the school year with nearly common calendars and professional development schedules. Four of the six districts also have a stake in the semi-centrally located Western Outreach Center where high school students take a variety of Community College credit classes.

Our CVW PLC has focused on finding common ground this school year…what courses do we teach that are the same. Right out of the gate, we discovered that we really only teach one high school course that is semi the same…some call it Art I, some call it Foundations, others Fundamentals of Art. Nonetheless, we found common threads of what those courses hold. Think of it as a mini conference about once a month...refreshing.

I am a technology immigrant, not a technology native like the younger generation of educators. The idea of connecting with others outside my local bubble is exciting! Many of you I only know through the Internet, but consider you valuable pieces in my professional development plan.

If you have not yet joined a PLC and/or PLN you should check it out and see what it is all about. If you are a Tweeter follow the hashtags #NAEA, #artsed, or #arted to get you started.

You can connect with me on Twitter as @simplyronda.

—Ronda Sternhagen

Wednesday 03.20.13


So now that the class I’ve described is no longer in its infancy, and I have tweaked a number of unknowns when I began. What is next? My principal and I have talked about the possibility of this becoming a solely online class.

I know many of you are cringing right now…an online art class? You are probably thinking, “but that is not art class. Art class is about human interaction and expression.” Yes, I agree. However, there are a multitude of factors in a student’s high school career (remember, I teach at a small rural Iowa school) that might prevent a student from taking an art class, even if their personal and/or academic desire is strong:

· being active in multiple sports (sometimes in even more than one sport at a time),

· rigorous imposed college entrance requirements that rarely include the arts of any discipline,

· concurrent high school/college courses that lead to students (and parents) often having a semester of college complete (and paid for) before graduation,

· work outside the school day, and more.

Sometimes we have to meet our students where they are, even if that means for online learning. Granted, there are even more unknowns if the class goes 100% online, but that is a challenge that I accept openly.

What are your thoughts on online art class?

—Ronda Sternhagen

Monday 03.18.13

Visual Culture...The Class

You have seen lots of words about this Visual Culture class, so I think it is time to show you some images. Here are some samples of work created by my students during the launch of the class in the fall of 2009.

Grant Wood’s American Gothic is often used to make comment on issues in society. The charge for the student-created work to go along with our study of American Gothic was to create a magazine cover that addressed a social problem. Students had to research opposing sides of their chosen issue and highlight them on their magazine cover, as well as compose a short paper citing their research and points of view.

In studying Leonardo daVinci’s The Last Supper students researched the personality traits of the disciples and then came up with their own version with people who fit those same personality traits.

As you can tell, there is significant intertwining of cross-curricular subjects in these samples. This is common throughout the class.

Students are quick to discover Lichtenstein’s repeated use of “Brad” in a number of his works. Ironically, the name of this young man’s dad really was Brad.

Brad's My Dad

Students become quite proficient in using the multitude of Photoshop tools to create their works.

So, who would like and take the class? *Wink

—Ronda Sternhagen

Friday 03.15.13

Visual Culture - Part 3

OK. Spring Break is winding down, so let’s get back to Visual Culture. Where did my passion for Visual Culture lead? A newly developed class for my high school students, of course.

I was fascinated (and somewhat mesmerized) that Kerry Freedman was January’s “Monthly Mentor” as I read many, many references to and the research of Freedman as I developed my own research for my MA thesis that lead to the development of this new class.

My interest was to examine artworks that have been infused into mass media, and to develop a course of study that spoke to the art history of such images.  My high school students examine images (still or motion) that contain or expropriate famous artworks and make personal interpretations of those images in regard to the intended message. Secondly, they are exposed to the original artwork contained in each image and examine it via print or electronic media and discuss the artist that created the artwork. The students are also challenged to create their own mass media-type images infusing artwork during the course (see samples in my next blog post), and give oral or written reflection on their personal creation.

The development of a course of study involving art history that utilizes technology into what is often a lecture-type course has the students more enthusiastic to examine and learn the materials. Bringing art history to life through a variety of mass media images engages students through observation, discussion, and reflection, as well as production of personal mass media-like images for peers to interpret.

I am fortunate to teach in a small rural Iowa school district that values technology. Our 6-12 grades are 1:1 with laptops; the staff have laptops and iPads; my classroom has a huge flatscreen TV, Apple TV, Lumens Ladibug document camera that projects on the TV and can record hands-on demonstrations,* and eight digital cameras dedicated to the art room. My technology coordinator has crowned me “Iowa’s most spoiled Art Teacher” on more than one occasion…I’ll wear that crown! The class is taught nearly 100% online (in a face-to-face setting) utilizing Photoshop, Canvas (a content management system) and whatever other piece of technology we can get our hands on to get the job done. It is a blast!

*Visit my youtube channel (rsternhagen) to see some of the hands-on demonstrations I’ve recorded with the Ladibug (and edited in iMovie). The lessons, however, are not for the class I’ve been describing.

—Ronda Sternhagen

Wednesday 03.13.13

March 13

Ah…Spring Break…what a nice way to end the NAEA convention. I have a few extra days to debrief, regroup and put all the things I did, saw and learned into a format that will benefit my students.

So, what exactly is Spring Break? It wasn’t that many years ago that we did not have a Spring Break built into our school calendar. Granted, we probably ended the school year a week sooner in the spring, but I think we’ve all gotten used to a Spring Break.

Spring Break can be a time that families vacation, some people stay home and putz around the house and maybe do a few special activities, or some people just take a break from crazy schedules.

My family has never vacationed in a way that you might typically think of taking a vacation. We do generally slow down and maybe venture a few hours away to visit my parents at the farm. (That truly is a vacation for my two boys, and I really enjoy being “home.”)

I am spending Spring Break this year being an artist. That might sound like a strange statement…I am an artist all the time, but sometimes it is hard to work in being an artist for the pure enjoyment of creating during the school year. I know there are many of you who are more disciplined about your own art making than I am. I have a small studio space in our basement that needed some love and attention (aka organization), and now it is time to create up a storm down there.

Here is a little something I’ve been working on for a while that is now finished. I plan to donate it to the local county 4-H raffle this weekend, along with some of my jewelry pieces.


What do you do if you have a Spring Break?

—Ronda Sternhagen

Monday 03.11.13

The Convention - Part 2

Wow! What a convention! Texas definitely does things in a BIG way. Hospitality reigns supreme in the Lone Star state.

As I sit at a DFW termina on Sunday afternoon, I start my reflection of the last few days.

Texas brought us together from not only the United States, but also from a large contingent of countries. It was quite an impressive list when President F. Robert Sabol gave his address to convention goers. And speaking of Dr. Sabol's address, he took us all down memory lane to the "beginning" of his artistic career and challenged each of us to go on a similar personal journey. Do you remember your early artistic experiences?

I remember elementary art that was held in the old bus garage on the ground floor of the three-story brick school building. Ms. Bornholdt transformed the space into a room full of amazing art materials and visuals. I still have a few of the projects I created in that room, and I will admit they bring a smile to my face when I look at them. It was just a great place to be and a time I always looked forward to in the school day. We always participated in the fire prevention poster contests and the like in the community, and I do remember my classmates often admiring my work.

Later in my school career, I changed school districts and Mr. Dosen became my art the unattached bus barn. (What was it with the art room inheriting the bus barn as a space?) The art room was in that space for a number of years, and I will admit it was a bit refreshing to be in our own space. It didn't matter how loud we were in making our art, and we could roll up a garage door and throw our pottery on the wheel in fresh air. The room was later moved above the newly built locker rooms. I remember many hours spent on the fire escape drawing the Iowa landscape.

I was one of those students who fulfilled most of their "academic" graduation requirements early. That meant my schedule was wide open to be spent in the art room. I even spent some of my day in the kindergarten room as an associate. No one could believe that my post-secondary plans did not include becoming a teacher. I guess they could all "see" it in me, it just took me a little longer to figure that out...and I am ever so thankful that I did figure it out.

So what does all this reminiscing have to do with Dr. Sabol's address? It matters. Art matters. YOU matter. NAEA matters.

Lastly, I must thank the NAEA office staff, Executive Board and all those involved in organizing this year's convention! It was a most memorable experience....a job well done. The matters! So, see you in San Diego? I hope so!

2013-03-07_15-26-48_659This was the ceiling in the room where Dr. Sabol gave his President's address. What a stunning site! It pays to look up (and down, and all around). It matters.

—Ronda Sternhagen

Friday 03. 8.13

March 8 Convention

I believe the convention will be path #3 for us this month, but fear not. We will get back to Visual Culture a little later in the month.

This isn't my first time in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but it already proves to be a memorable experience.

While ya'all (thought I'd better talk Texan while I'm here) were reading my post on Wednesday, my travel buddy Dr. Barbara Caldwell from a Iowa State University and I were on our way to the Lone Star state. To be honest, the roads were a little dicey in north central Iowa (school was delayed 2 hours), and I was certainly glad to have my husband driving me to the airport.

Upon arrival at DFW International airport, we fumbled our way around until we stumbled onto one of many Texas treasures...our van driver to the Trinity Railway Express (TRE) that would take us to downtown Fort Worth. As we were boarding his van, a passenger departing the van gave him a gift...a painting he had done. How ironic that his next passengers would be four art educators (two others from Vermont and Maine...sorry gals, I didn't get your names). He played a few numbers games with us to pass his time and ours, and none of us could guess the number, but he decided to pay the gift of the painting forward to us and gave us each free tickets to ride the TRE and challenged us to each pay it forward also. What an awesome way to start the convention before even picking up the registration materials. For those of you that visited me at the Artisans Gallery last night know that I paid it forward by having people try to guess what recycled material I used to make a particular piece of jewelry and awarded a bracelet to the correct guess.

In an earlier post I mentioned that perhaps my passion for Visual Culture and the convention would intertwine. Well, I was right! Dr. Karen T. Keifer-Boyd was inducted as a Distinguished Fellow and my travel buddy, Barbara, introduced me to her.
Sternhagen_keifer-boyd_schulteThat's me on the left, Dr. Keifer-Boyd in the center, and Dr. Christopher Schulte (who led me to my Visual Culture passion) on the right. How's that for an incredible moment?

I ran into someone else pretty incredible at the convention also...

Ronda_warholI just don't understand why Andy doesn't seem thrilled to see me...

Seriously, this has already been a fantastic convention. I hope you are here to experience it in person, but if not I hope you are following all the activity on twitter with the hash tag #NAEAart matters. You're here with us in spirit.

Monday I will share more about the convention...the things I learned, did and saw.

—Ronda Sternhagen