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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Monday 04.16.18

One Tool to Reach All Four National Visual Arts Standards

From: Nichole Hahn

Our National Visual Art Standards have encouraged us as Visual Art Teachers to create an experience for our students that allows them to create, present, respond, and connect. In most Art experiences, the process of creating can easily be obtained. Presenting is a natural consequence of creating and therefore, often obtained with ease by Visual Arts Curriculum. I have found the most challenging part of our National Art Standards is the connect and respond aspects of the standards.


I would imagine many of the Art Teachers reading this have similar situations to me. In my district, in the elementary setting, students have a 6 day rotation that allows students to have Art Class 28 times in the year. Our middle school (6th grade through 8th grade) allows them to have one quarter of Art each year, roughly 45 days. In high school, Art is an elective and if students continue to practice the Visual Arts in school, they will have class 90 times in a school year. So where do we find time to create connection and respond?

I would like to share my favorite way to respond and connect. I have found a tool that works well in my setting and perhaps will in yours too. I used Seesaw in my classroom to quickly share the deeper processes of the Visual Arts with the stakeholders of my classroom (the parents of the students I teach). It works to explain what a modern Visual Art classroom looks like and therefore advocates your program LOUDLY!


Seesaw is an app that can work on both apple and android. It is like a Facebook account between the classroom and the guardians of the students in my classroom. It is private to only you, the other teachers on the account (other specialist, homeroom teachers…), the students and the students guardians. More information about this app can be found here, but I want to talk to you mostly about how I use this app with some of my youngest Artist.


Many times after students are finished with their projects I have them record their thoughts about their project using Seesaw. Students use an iPad, take a picture of their work and often they are required to say specific things about their process. This allows students to explain their process, parents to understand the work coming home a bit better, and allows me to assess students work in a very authentic way. Here is a post about ‘training’ students how to use Seesaw and here is a post with students actually reflecting on their ‘Clay-d-bug’ project and another on their ‘Farm Animal’ project.

Here are the tools I have that make Seesaw a successful application for my classroom. I am fortunate to currently have 10 iPads in my classroom. However, I did use seesaw on only two iPads in the past (here was my set up). I have a set of headphones with a microphone for each iPad and a iPad stand (from Justand) that is beneficial, but not a necessary tool. My school is also a ‘Seesaw School’ K-2 (and boy do I wish it was K-8). This means that we have paid for the service, class lists are loaded in and managed by the app. Helpful, but again, not necessary. I have used the free version for classes as well and this is a great option when just trying this out.


The only reason I share this tool with you in this post is because I think it is the most bang for your buck. If kids are trained as a whole school, Seesaw become second nature to students. It’s a digital portfolio, an advocacy tool, and a assessment tool all in one. It’s a way to quickly communicate with parents and it gives voice to your students. They are responding and connecting their creations by presenting it to their parents. WOW… All four standards in one little tool… not bad.


Tuesday 04.10.18

Connect Effect

From: Nichole Hahn

Art Connects! I have shared that in the last blog post that I wrote about Artist Trading Cards. I want to share today how to connect our community and families to the Art Studio. So often we are overwhelmed with the numbers of students we teach in the Art Classroom. Many times, we teach hundreds of students in a week. It is hard to feel connected to them in such masses, but to make a difference in your students life, a connection and relationship is going to help make every student feel welcomed and safe in your school and classroom.

I work hard to connect and unite my students with each other, other schools, Artist, and Community members. As I mentioned in the Artist Trading Card post, I have found ways to connect students to other student Artist. Students and teachers from all over the world benefit from the Connect Effect using ATC’s.

More locally, I want to connect students to local Artist. It’s hard however to invite a Visiting Artist in for residency due to payment, and organization of scheduling. It’s worth it for sure… but I have found a way to connect my students in a different way by using a virtual interview. We can connect with so many Artist using YouTube but it means a lot more if you visit a local artist instead. When giving my students the experience of being a Culinary Artist, we interviewed and recorded a visit to a local Bakery. This gave the power of the word ‘Artist’ to a local craftsperson and allowed students to recognized this local, now celebraty as part of our schools community. Read more about this experience here.


Another way that I like to connect our students to their community is by inviting ‘Community Experts’ into our classroom. Recently, I chose to tackle fiber sewing for the first time in my 4th grade classes. I was nervous because I knew this new skill would be a challenge. I can not ask for smaller class sizes to make this more successful so I increased the teachers instead. I wrote the families of my 4th grade and a local ‘retirement organization’ to seek out volunteers for the sewing project. I had on average 4 additional helpers in my classroom. They listened to the instructions with the class and simply became the ‘calm’ for my students. They were cheerleaders, they encourage, they reminded. I was calm, my students were calm and engaged, and we made connections with adults that we would have not otherwise have had. Read more about community experts here.


Another way that I have connected with families in our community is by asking them to share a member of their family with our classroom for a day. That’s right, their pets. I requested that families bring in ‘table top pets’ into my classroom for a six day rotation. It was amazing! The pets would come in and every class had the opportunity to do some observational drawing using the animals. We wrapped this experience in with standards and concepts. This was a huge project that led to several great lesson plans. Please read more about the Pet Project here.

Every classroom is different but don’t let yourself be isolated. Find ways to connect with Artist, other classrooms, and your community. Create amazing opportunities for your students and allow them to touch the world beyond your Art Studio. The Connect Effect is powerful!


Monday 04. 2.18

Artist Trading Card Swap

From: Nichole Hahn

Art connects and unites! As Art Educators we know this. We know that you don’t need to speak the same language to communicate when using the Arts. This idea of connecting people through Art was the spark of MiniMatisse Global Artist Trading Card Swap. This year we completed our 3rd Annual swap and will be announcing our 4th swap on in August of 2018.

Many years ago I started experimenting with the idea of trading Art online. I used different online platforms such as Seesaw, Artsonia, and Creatubbles. These platforms work nicely for many purposes, but I found the kids weren’t as connected as I had hoped by sharing Art online. I then started to work with some schools in which I had connections to. My class traded large format Art to Japan in 2009 and then to Australia in 2010. These were incredible experiences, but they were physically too large to continue trading. Plus, the students had a hard time sharing a work of art that took them several hours to complete, understandably.

I read an Article in School Art Magazine about 5 years ago talking about Artist Trading Cards. These cards are 2 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches. They are the same size as a baseball card. This was a perfect solution to my needs. We would create small works of Art and trade them with other classes.


After many years of ‘practice’ I have created a good solution for classrooms to trade Art with one another. In August, participants sign up to participate in the swap. They then have until February 1st to send the cards to my classroom. The cards are packed in groups of 10 and wrapped in a sleeve that explains a little about the process or the location the cards are coming from. There is also information about the teacher like emails, and social media tags so teachers can connect after the trade. If a school sends me 100 cards, they will get 10 groups of 10 cards sent back to them from 10 different locations.


Once the cards have made it to their final destination, teachers celebrate online sharing where the cards have ended up. There might be a post on instagram stating that cards from Italy have made it to Texas. The teachers are able to connect online as well as sharing lesson plan ideas physically. The best part is, every student who gets a card, receives a card back from another student. We have students of all ages, all ability levels, from both public schools and private programs. They come from all over the United States and we have had participants from Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Jordan, Italy and more. In 2018 we had over 100 schools participate and over 14,500 Artist Trading Cards be exchanged.


Once the cards are in the new owners hands, classrooms discuss about the art, they create art inspired by the cards, they display and identify the areas that the cards come from. This is exciting for all involved and it connects people through Art.

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How can you use this idea? First check out MiniMatisse or our hashtag #ATCswap on Twitter and Instagram for some amazing lesson plan ideas. You can have students create art within the classroom and swap amongst classrooms. I have invited parents to create a card that they will trade with their student. I have seen schools trade art amongst their district schools. Making connections on social media is a great way to set up a swap. Or, you can sign up to participate in the 2019 Artist Trading Cards swap on in August. Connecting through Art is POWERFUL!