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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Tuesday 03.17.15

Learning Outside the Classroom with my Junior Tribe (i.e. Art Club!)

From: Drew Brown

Binder with her "Munter" pot. Translated from Danish, munter means cheerful, a fitting word for the day

Recently, the Sweet Apple Art Club and I ventured to the Cowgirl Studio in downtown Roswell, Georgia tomeet clay artist Jette Binder. My philosophy is that art students need to experience the world around them by learning outside the classroom. Engaging in experiential learning together also provides us with common experiences sparking interesting conversations and opportunity for reflection. Jette Binder happens to be the mom one of my third graders, and she welcomed us with warm hospitality.

The students were absolutely engaged with Jette’s explanation of her hand-building and glazing methods. They listened and watched intently while she showed various tools and items she uses for molds and slumping. She explained how she rubs and layers her glazes to create “weathered” surface designs. The students had just finished clay pieces at school where they melted glass pebbles into heart shapes, so they were thrilled to see that Jette also uses the same technique. Not only were the students exposed to Jette’s workspace, they were able to peruse her retail space and meet a metalsmith who shares the studio.

Artist Jette Binder showing techniques

Jette invited each child to create a clay piece and take home a bit of clay to use later. (That was really special!) Jette provided skewers for students who wanted to create a piece to embellish a garden or potted pot. With an open-ended invitation and no formulaic directions, my fifth graders made a variety of personal creations. It was wonderful to see the kids meld prior experience with inspiration from Jette, while they played and created in new ways.

Hands on at the Studio

I love to introduce my students to real artists at work. Seeing an artist in their workspace helps us make connections about how artwork is created, where it is made, how artists manage their tools and materials, and where artists get their inspiration.

Immersed in conversation

At our upcoming art club meeting, I will ask the students to reflect and share their thoughts, memories and impressions of the day. Perhaps John Dewey said it best: “There is an intimate and necessary relation between the processes of actual experience and education.”   How do your students engage in experience-based learning? I’ve seen so many great ideas over the years….Feel free to share!

SAE Art Club 2015


Dewey, J. (1938/1997) Experience and education. New York: Macmillan Co., p. 7

Friday 03.13.15

The Raisin, the Almond and the Raspberry (and what they have to do with art)

From: Drew Brown

Going to yoga is a great stress reliever for me. I always feel rejuvenated after a yoga class. Even after a long day of teaching, I enjoy focusing on my yoga practice a few days per week. I have been trying out a new meditation class at my local yoga studio, and I recently gained a great new idea that connected with a recent lesson.

Our instructor, Gretchen, guided the participants through observing a raisin’s texture, form and color. We examined the highlights and asymmetry of the form. I inhaled the soft, sweet, earthy fragrance. I noticed the subtle flavors of the tiny food. We repeated the process with an almond and a raspberry, noticing similarities and differences in each aesthetic experience. In the closing segment, Gretchen asked us to pair with someone we didn’t know and talk about any thoughts or impressions that had risen to the surface during the exercise. My partner said that she had never tasted anything so good. A lesson in mindfulness--slowing down to focus, observe, discover and learn through sight, touch, smell, hearing, and taste.

The raisin, the almond and the raspberry

The education world is abuzz with words like differentiation and rigor. Teachers have long known about the advantages of teaching to different learning styles such as visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile. Through sensorial education, we can help restore “play” into the classroom and turn an ordinary lesson into an extraordinary experience.

In the guided meditation, I was reminded of the rewards of close observation and mindfulness. Recently, my students sketched and sculpted foods of their choice in clay with emphasis on form, color and texture while studying food as subject matter in the works of Oldenburg, Warhol, Thiebaud and more. The lesson was challenging, and my students struggled to figure out the subtle colors of foods and create implied texture on their 3D forms. How could I inspire each and every student to observe more closely, internalize more deeply, and consider more thoughtfully the task-at-hand?

5th grade clay sculpture 1
5th grade clay sculpture 2


5th grade clay sculpture 3
5th grade clay sculpture 4

Next year, I plan try the lesson again and kick off with an exercise in careful and attentive observation using the five senses. Asking my students to observe, touch, taste, and smell simple foods will be a great hook for my lesson. When my students have time to observe more closely and more fully, I hope they will create the mental space in which to consider the world around them, to push the boundaries of their creativity and to exhibit their learning more fully.

Art by Jackson Dunlap, 5th grade Art Club student


Roswell Yoga Life owner Gretchen Griffin, the blogger, and yoga instructor, Jackie Kaminer

Monday 03. 2.15

Happy Youth Art Month Everybody!

From: Drew Brown

As I sit here on a Snow Day in Roswell, Georgia, I can see HUGE snowflakes outside through my dining room window. These big fat snowflakes remind me of the white circles that children often draw in their art when they fill the backgrounds of a snowy scene. This snowfall isn’t exactly composed of big dots falling from the sky, but the white stuff falling now is certainly some of the biggest, fluffiest snow I’ve ever seen! What a great day to stay inside and write for NAEA.

In honor of March-Youth Art Month 2015, let’s talk about art advocacy and how we celebrate children’s art and art education across our nation. I recently attended our Capitol Art Exhibit reception in Atlanta with my two student artists and their families. We met with our state legislators, Representative Jan Jones and Senator John Albers. As the kick-off event for Youth Art Month in Georgia, the Capitol Art Exhibit reception is one of my favorite events all year because I love the way the state legislators honor our students and their art. They take time to talk to each student about his/her artwork, and they make the children feel special. Years ago, I was the chairperson of this exhibit, and I know how much work goes into pulling off Georgia’s largest student art exhibit and reception. Big thanks go to our state chairs, Sondra Palmer and Florence Barnett. Year and year, the Georgia Art Education Association receives positive feedback from the state employees and various attendees who view the art. One viewer summed it up: “Your exhibit spotlights the necessity of maintaining arts education in the school curriculum."

Balde family with Re. Jan Jones
Balde Family with Rep. Jan Jones
Kyla and Rep. Jan Jones
Valerie and Rep. Jones
Valerie and Rep. Jan Jones

I am currently thinking about new ways to celebrate YAM in my local school community. Social media, the good old-fashioned newspaper, and school media are great vehicles for advertising our programs and highlighting student learning in visual arts.  In so many ways, I believe that getting children’s art up on the walls is a huge part of advocacy. As the old saying goes….a picture is worth a thousand words! How do you celebrate YAM?