Monthly Mentor

Andrew Watson (April)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Watson is the Fine Arts Instructional Specialist for the Alexandria City Public Schools in Alexandria, Va., where he coordinates the arts education of more than 15,000 students. He is the recipient of the 2015 Art Education Technology Outstanding Teacher Award and the 2019 Southeastern Regional Administration/ Supervision Art Educator of the Year Award from the National Art Education Association. Click "GO" to read his full bio.

Go

Membership

Join the largest creative community established exclusively for visual arts educators, college professors, researchers, administrators, and museum educators.

Join NAEA Renew Membership

« January 2019 | Main | March 2019 »

Thursday 02.28.19

The Art Lab

By Sandra Cress

I wear a lab coat in my art room.

I wear it most days, maybe I should only wear it on days that I plan activities that are more experimental types of activities, but I really believe that the kids make some mental connection with it that helps them respect art and science more. They associate my lab coat/smock with a “mad scientist” or a doctor. Both, of which they like or hold to high values.

I also add lots of science into the art projects, and I believe the lab coat has cut back greatly on doubtful questioning of “is this art class or science class?!”

The lab coat was originally pure white, and it has a pocket on each side. It is now covered with designs that have been accentuated with Sharpies. This idea came to life after a student got a paint smudge on the coat as I walked by them. Instead of being mortified by the pure white coats new look, I accentuated the blob by carefully outlining it with a bold black Sharpie. Now each time a new blob appears on the coat, it gets outlined and added to with Sharpie making it part of the evolving decoration of the lab coat. The lab coat experimenting Mad Scientists lab coat itself, is itself an experiment. It’s an experiment of creative flexibility, and an experiment to make more flexible young artists.

So far, no students have intentionally painted me so they can see what their blob becomes, but they have asked to do so!

The kids enjoy watching the coats design grow. They are inquisitive about how the new blob got there, and it is so popular with the kids that it is now a reward for 4 students per semester to get to create the outline and often extension of the blob.

The action of accentuating and extending the accidental painting has become a teaching tool and ever-present reminder on how to handle an accident. The first time paint got onto it the student who accidentally touched me with their brush was very apologetic. I reminded them that accidents happen even when we are being very careful and that after all, we are in an art room where the chances of getting paint in unplanned places is likely, and that the with the blob we now have an opportunity to turn my coat into a creative playground that will continue to grow when the inevitable accident happens again and again.

I continue to wear the lab coat in the classroom. This article of clothing is a tool to protect my clothing as well as a tool that reminds my students that:

  • art and science often overlap
  • an accident can become a creative and fun decoration and
  • that even pencil shavings can become experiments for art making materials (follow up on this in the following section)

 

Beyond the Lab Coat, But in the Lab

I would like to share some of the re-create-ive activities that happen in the Art Lab, many of which are completely spontaneous and end up filling the room with energetic expressions of “Woah! That’s cool”. This is immediately followed by “and what if…”and we could also”, and, and, and!...

 This is one that we started last year and is ongoing.

It started out with just collecting the color from the dried out “dead” markers to use as watercolor paints. This activity has evolved through the excitement and creativity of the students and I.

This has come to be known as a “blood extraction” area.

Picture1

When another questioning class/grade saw this “device” they were very inquisitive. So I explained it, and they felt it necessary to repurpose one of my already repurposed containers as a “grave” where the dead markers lay in wait of their turn to have their blood sucked out and to be parted out. They also felt that they needed to have a proper epitaph and gravestone. (The box was already shaped for it.)

Picture3
Picture3

We “harvest” everything from the dead markers including the cap, the filter, the tip, (the guts), and the body.

There are no bodies (the outer tube) in the photo because a 3rd grade class begged me to let them have a homework Creative Challenge. And I work hard to make sure to say YES to an offer to expand ones’ creative ingenuity, even when it costs me quite a bit more time and effort.

They took them home to turn the body into something else. Then they brought them back to share with the class. (Unfortunately, I cannot find the photos of them.)

Picture4

Another experiment we have going it to dehydrate the pigment to turn it into a dry form. We are doing this for two purposes:

1) they are easier to transport, less messy when in a cake style, and

 2) I once saw someone who had watercolor sheets, which are watercolor paint squares lined up on paper, that can be wetted with a paintbrush and used to paint with. We are experimenting with making our own. Stay tuned to see what papers or fabrics we end up settling on.

Here’s a photo of our drying trays. You may recognize the pop-outs from watercolor trays. We are experimenting with refilling those as well. Using a pipette, we drip some “blood” into the wells, let them dry, then repeat.

Picture5

During the few days it took to get this article put together I took a quick moment to share an idea of a new art medium to a 3rd and a 4th grade class.

I have been saving the pencil shavings from the electric sharpener and have collected 2 gallons of them. After showing the bin full they shouted “Woah! That’s cool” then their crazy creative brains started rapid firing ideas and the room was full of “we could…!” and “what if…!”and “we could also”.

So far we have added glue to it and are experimenting with using it as a clay like material that dries hard, like wood, by molding it around flexible plastic that allows it to be removed easily once dried, and molded as clay.

Do you have more ideas or suggestions for classroom generated trash reuse? Or suggestions or ideas for the dead markers and pencil shavings? My students would love to hear them.

- SC

Wednesday 02.20.19

Limerick Painted

By Sandra Cress

Although my first blog was a limerick, I am NOT a poet. The limerick was a cold-challenge to myself to make an introduction to this group of creative, open-minded thinkers.

In the event my novice poetry isn't as successful as I thought it was when I posted it, I will explain it.

 

She’s an art teacher named Sandy Cress

This line is not just a statement that Captain Obvious might make, it’s also there to let you know that I am not a poet; that I don’t even rank as a novice poet.

 

She has a small classroom that’s quite a mess.
She teaches K- Eight
It must be her fate
for it slathers her palette with happiness.

With these lines, I wanted to let you know that, no matter how much I struggle with trying to make it otherwise, my space is perpetually cluttered and messy with an ever-evolving inventory of my own and other peoples trash.

My yogurt cups are a staple receptacle used for paint, crayons, pencil sharpener shavings, dead marker body parts, and approximately, 1,083 other items.

Eighty percent of my art supplies were trash in their recently departed previous life. And it sometimes gets mistaken for what it was in its previous life by other staff, substitute custodians, and new students!

My mess issue is caused by a perpetual battle between my intellect and conscience. Although my intellect loudly disagrees my conscience feels that it must help solve the worlds waste problem by reusing or reinventing the trash of every single human and business that I come in contact with.

It’s kind of like this common issue that many of us have had. You know when you tell someone that you like something like:

hats or

matchbooks or

shot glasses or

things with chickens printed on it

or real chickens

and then everyone who knows and loves you, including your students and colleagues, starts collecting these items (or animals) for you and you aren’t able to tell them that you do like them but you really don’t want anymore.  And you waited too long and if you tell them now you are afraid they will feel bad. Then your house is so engorged with the items (or animals) that your house is the “poster child” for a reality show called “People Who Only Look Like Hoarders, But Just Have Lots of Wonderful Friends Who Like to Give.”

Yes. It’s like that, except:

  1. It’s your art room, not your house.
  2. At school your donor base is exponentially multiplied because they include your colleagues and students and all of their parents, friend’s grandparents, friends, and friends of friends of each who are within driving distance.
  3. This is trash, not trinkets and you refuse to let it go into the landfill without taking heroic measures to divert it from that “ending”.

 

Cross-Curricular Addition:

We shall explain HOW X, which EQUALS A Classroom That's Quite A Mess, came to be:

Screen Shot 2019-02-20 at 9.27.59 PM

Although, I am only in my second year of teaching K-8, I have never felt so at home as I do with these students and the team that I work with.

I don’t know if it is fate, luck, destiny, chance, good timing or consequence. It may be all of those, but only “fate” rhymes with “eight”, so fate does it make.

 

She teaches K- Eight
It must be her fate
for it slathers her palette with happiness.

While long seeking out her career,
She tried electrician, welder and cashier
She’s older, wrinklier and wiser.
And now she’s lead creative advisor
on how to invent like Di Vinci and paint like Vermeer.

 

I was a first generation college student who went to college right out of high school for only one semester and dropped out. I never learned how to study and that made my core classes impossible to pass. I could have made it, but I never learned to ask for help.

In the 10 years between when I dropped out as a freshman and went back to college, I learned to do a lot of really cool things. I switched jobs a lot because once I felt like there was nothing more there for me to learn, my co-workers were hard to work with, or there was no advancement possible, I would seek out something new to learn.

I am nearly twice the age of some of my colleagues and they have the same amount of career time logged, and I also have a wiser approach to many life skills that help me to be an enriching teacher.

 

She’s good at collecting art materials
Like boxes that once were for cereals
With this the kids will innovate
While using said trash to create
A sculptural gadget that may grip, grind or peel.

Much science is used in her Art Lab
Where risks and mistakes are encouraged

 

My childhood of poverty caused me to become inventive and creative. Although, I do not claim to be near his realm of being genius, I can relate to his insatiable desire to learn, figure out, invent, and create.

My eco conscience and awareness of the impact of the ripple that I make drives me to practice and maintain the awareness of environmental, social, and emotional health. This practice becomes a part of my classroom environment and my lessons.

I have a child-like love of and excitement for learning and it shows in my teaching and wears off on my students.

I wear a white Lab coat because my art room feels like an art LAB. We are constantly having spontaneous opportunities experiment with trash. And even when are outcome isn’t one that we really wanted we still end with a positive outcome, because my students have embraced the consequences that come with taking a challenge.


She experimented with a professional bio        
With rhythm, cadence and rhymo.
It’s light and its fun, and it’s how she keeps her kids from being discouraged.

 

This unusual bio is me following a self-challenge to write a limerick as a bio. A limerick is fun, can be rhythmic, and quirky; they can deliver a heavy message, while creating a light. They can use the humor and fun to deliver and make a heavy message more bearable. And that is what I try to do in my classroom. I try to make learning happen while being enjoyable. Which causes kids to be drawn into the fun before they even realize that they are accomplishing things they didn’t think they could do.

Now that it is explained a critique is necessary.

Do you have a favorite critique format that you like to use? If so, try using it on the poem and share the results in the comments.

-SC

Monday 02. 4.19

She’s an art teacher...

By Sandra Cress

She’s an art teacher named Sandy Cress
She has a small classroom that’s quite a mess.
She teaches K- Eight
It must be her fate
for it slathers her palette with happiness.

While long seeking out her career,
She tried electrician, welder and cashier
She’s older, wrinklier and wiser.
And now she’s lead creative advisor
on how to invent like Di Vinci and paint like Vermeer.

She’s good at collecting art materials
Like boxes that once were for cereals
With this the kids will innovate
While using said trash to create
A sculptural gadget that may grip, grind or peel.

Much science is used in her Art Lab
Where risks and mistakes are encouraged
She experimented with a professional bio        
With rhythm, cadence and rhymo.
It’s light and its fun, and it’s how she keeps her kids from being discouraged.

- SC