Monthly Mentor

Benjamin Tellie (September)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Benjamin Tellie is an art and design educator at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS) in Rockville, MD. He has served in many visual arts teaching capacities at various intuitions, and is currently a doctoral student at The George Washington University. Ben was named 2019 Eastern Region Middle Level Art Educator by NAEA. Click "GO" to read his full bio.

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July 01, 2019

Art in the Outdoor Studio

By Rachel Valsing

As the school year ends for many in our community, I would like to wish everyone a happy summer vacation! This is a great time to rest, reflect, and make time for creating artwork. And what better way to get in the groove of working on your own work, than to spend a day with your colleagues exploring the natural environment? This year two plein air painting and drawing workshops were offered to Baltimore County art teachers in the first few days of summer break. I was fortunate to join one of these trips at the Days Cove Nature Center, an environmental education facility for Baltimore County students and teachers. Equipped with sketchbooks, canoes, and paddles, our group toured the Cove by water, taking a break to draw and observe the landscape that was active with many birds including bald eagles and ospreys.

This year our AP Studio and Intermediate art students painted landscapes on the school campus. The unit took place during AP testing and provided students a welcome break from the classroom during the beautiful days of early spring. Having two different levels of studio class work on this assignment provided great opportunities for co-planning and students to give each other feedback on their works. The teacher workshop at Days Cove left me reflecting on that experience and wondering about ways to engage other disciplines through art making. The workshop included prompts based on Keri Smith’s How to be an Explorer of the World, and we had a long conversation about connecting art and science through observation and recording sketches. I think there’s great potential in having art students join our environmental science classes on their annual trip to Days Cove in the fall. Working outdoors can be challenging in terms of choosing the right materials and being flexible with all the variables that nature can provide. Visiting the Days Cove site and getting the chance to create, prototype, and explore the space was a great way to prepare for teaching students.

I find that in the summer I can fit more time to complete the creative projects that may have gotten started throughout the school year, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. A change in scenery with time to sketch and connect with fellow art teachers was a perfect way to jump start a summer of making art and planning for the school year to come.

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- RV

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