Monday, November 26, 2012

Stone Soup and Grandparent's Day

On Tuesday November 20th we celebrated Grandparent's Day at our school.  We spent several weeks prior to the big day talking about Stone Soup.  I told the story of Stone Soup to each of the primary classes and we sent out a sign up sheet asking for our families to bring in a variety of things to add to the soup to reenact the story as a community and to remind each of us that sharing and opening our hearts and cupboards in the joy of giving is what really makes stone soup delicious.

 The children spent several days carefully cutting vegetables into small pieces for the soup.
On Monday evening, we place all the ingredients (plus stones) into two crock pots and left them to cook over night.
By the time we had returned on Tuesday morning the school was filled with the aroma of SOUP.  Grandparent's arrived throughout the day and when they visited the studio they shared a bowl of soup and some amazing soda biscuits made by Mary Untermeyer (THANK YOU MIMM!!).
 As an activity, I had prepared birds and stars in tag board to receive our blessings and gratitude's. 

The grandparents worked with their grand child to write down and illustrate the things for which they feel particularly blessed and then hang their star or bird from the waiting blessing trees.
 It was a lovely day and a wonderful celebration of family and community.

self portraits

Our local art museum is featuring the art of Vincent Van Gogh and many of the teachers have been talking about his life and work in the classrooms and the children have been introduced to a variety of his paintings.  The museum has used Van Gogh's self portrait with a straw hat to publicize the show.  In the studio we began exploring self portraits at the easel.  Self portraits are a wonderful excercise in observational drawing and a great opportunity for me to model and scaffold the process of looking.
When a child self selects this work, he is first introduced to a series of reproductions of portraits by Van Gogh, including a few self portraits and then we spend some time looking at the face in the mirror.  There is only a 6B pencil and a piece of heavy weight paper available initially.  We spend a lot of time looking at the face.  It's shape, where the eyes are, their shape, the number of circles in them, how many lips we have, how many ears, where our nose is and what shape it is. The child draws each part as it is fully seen.  Then we add hair and really notice where our hair is and what it looks like.  Is it only on the top of the head of does it fall across the forehead?  Can you see your ears or does your hair cover them.  Next, we look at the neck, where it is and how we might represent it on our drawing.  Where are the shoulders? etc.  Until all the details are in place.  Then I give them the paint.  The paint is a mixture of shaving cream and liquid water color.  It is applied using a modified palette knife to imitate Van Gogh's impasto technique.  All of this may take up to thirty minutes and the results have been beautiful.
Amy has piggy backed on this exploration and is asking the children if they can express themselves differently through the media of clay.  Her table, covered with a drop cloth, is prepared with several mirrors.  The children are first asked to do a detailed observational drawing of their face and then to interpret what they have seen in clay.
The process is both intriguing and inspiring.  It will be interesting to see where we go from here.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Amy discovered this incredible corn plant growing from a wad of clay made by one of older students and kept moist for future use.  Our student had employed an ear of indian corn to make impressions in the earthy mound.  Some of the kernals obviously found their way into the creation and this beatiful gift was the unexpected result.  When we first saw it we both knelt in front of it, awed by the determination of life.  The children have enjoyed viewing this plant as it stretches toward the light.  A few of them intentionally added some kernals to their own clay and now we have a series of similar miracles growing on a shelf in the studio beneath a propped up plastic bag.  A breathtaking reminder of life's tenacity.

Friday, November 9, 2012

rotting pumpkins

What happens when a jack-o-lantern is left in the studio over a long weekend?  It CHANGES.  These changes provided such a wonderful opportunity to investigate and explore the process of decay up close.  I am always surprised by how reticent children have become to getting messy.  So in the pursuit of science, I put out rubber gloves and we spent a day examining a rather mushy pumpkin.
Not only was it slimy and juicy and odoriferous, it was growing a fabulous layer of mold.  The children and I photographed and drew our observations and some theories emerged.  A few are represented here:
"What happened to this pumpkin?"
" got really squished...Maybe a rabbit jumped on it...Someone stomped it." 
We compared two pumpkins, both purchased at the same time but the squishy one was cut into a jack-o-lantern and the other left as a whole pumpkin.  We laid on the whole pumpkin and sat on it...even I (huge as I am) couldn't squash the pumpkin with my we decided the rabbit theory was a no go. 
Someone suggested "Maybe it's rotten!!...Maybe someone hit it with a hammer...I think it's rotting."
I asked, "Why is it rotting?"  A child replied, "because Halloween is over!" as if that explained everything and then a confident five year old girl stepped up to the pumpkin and announced, "It rotted after you carved it.  They always rot after you carve them", and that was the end of that.

studio catch up

What has been happening in the studio?  A LOT!  And I must apologize for my negligence in sharing these creative wonders with you.  Personally, I have been busy moving into a new home and  let blogging fall by the wayside in the wake of paintbrushes, hammers, brooms and moving trucks.  I have returned to my posting duties with an olive branch of photos to share.
In the wake of Halloween, several children used their ingenuity to create impromptu costumes and paraded around the studio flaunting previously undiscovered elements of their personalities.
A group of boys repurposed some of my moving boxes into an innovative boat, which promptly became a pirate ship with crew captains, mates, cooks and elaborate maps to uncharted territories.  This boat remained a source of creative inspiration for several weeks.  After some group discussion, we decided it was time to move onto other pursuits and so the boat took its maiden voyage to the captain's, Oliver, place of residence.  Oliver is quoted as having replied to the question of where his boat was going to take him with the retort, "It IS a cardboard boat and NOT a real boat".  Alas, moving boxes can take you only so far.

Painting continues to be a popular activity, with water color and tempera being our materials of the moment.

The shadow box has prompted several students to cut black paper into scenes and characters for simple shadow plays and performances.  I have several wonderful video clips but in my efforts to upload them onto the blog I ran into the unfortunate problem of a frozen blog page...if anyone knows how to resolve this issue, please let me know.
Keep checking back I have much more to share.