CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio
CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

Friday, August 29, 2014

Week ONE - Really?

"A" stuffing a hand-sewn neck-pillow for a special teacher

It is 2:15 in the art studio, on the first Friday of the 2014-15 school year. Two eighth-graders are outside the art studio door, working on a collaborative sculpture project that they started on the first day of school. Two fifth grade boys just left – they came during their guided study time to tie up some loose ends on the fiber-art projects they were making art for family gifts.
Needle felted finger puppets in progress
Lace overlay textile for pillow construction  By "I" grade 6

Revisiting printmaking
I am a little stunned to recount the following (partial!) list of activities students have engaged in during the first 4 days of school:

  • Potters wheel practice, resulting in 5 bowls and 1 cup
  • Clay slab bowl
  • Clay whistle project (on-going)
  • Clay sculpture - butterfly
  • Color-mixing experiments and resulting paintings
  • Cardboard sculpture – architecture, mechanical objects
  • Bookmaking/bookbinding
  • Drawing: from observation, from memory, from imagination, from digital reference
  • Digital designing
  • Pillows on sewing machine
  • Hand-stitched objects
  • Needle-felting
  • Soapstone carving
  • Mono-print printmaking
  • Styrofoam printmaking using the etching press
  • Scratchboard drawings
  • Origami

"Wings!" by "A" grade 6
Team-work in Sculpture Center
 How is it possible that so many art projects with such a variety of media and techniques are going on simultaneously in the studio in the first week of school? The answer is that the studio-setting we have established facilitates student-directed artistic inquiry. Returning students can get right to their work, knowing what studio centers are available and how to use them. Students new to the studio are learning how to work autonomously, after each new center is “opened” for the very first time. Authentic work in a studio-setting means that student-artists choose their idea, materials, and process. Observing these artists at work during Week One assures me that this is a great way to learn.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The End of Grading

Assessment in Art
            One important goal I have as the art teacher at CBMS is to support intrinsic motivation and nurture student-directed learning in an authentic art-studio setting. What I hope for my students is that they find and develop authentic interest in making and responding to art. I hope that my students discover meaningful connections to their lives, interests and personal knowledge-base, that they challenge themselves to try new things and get better at those they find rewarding, that they develop individual purposes for making art, and discover genuine enjoyment and satisfaction from both making art and experiencing the art of others.
            Over the past several years I have conducted an “action research” study to examine the effect of grades and grading in art. With the help of the CBMS student body, I have learned that for most, grades are not an important factor for learning and growing in art. A minority of students feel grades improved behavior and participation, and for some, grades are detrimental to the creative process.
First I asked students: If you were grading yourself in Art, what grade would it be and why?

Next, I asked students: "If there were no grades in Art, How would this affect your work?"
            Based on surveys, observation and discussion with students over four years at CBMS, I will begin to pilot a program that is free of letter grades, number scores and percentages. Instead of grades, student work and achievement will be assessed through self-reflection and self-assessment, art sharing/critique/display, individual consultation and my observation of and interaction with students at work as artists in the studio. These authentic assessment practices are already in place in the CBMS art studio so the only change students will notice is that they will no longer see grade updates in PowerSchool. Students will “know how they are doing” based on the assessments and reflections they routinely participate in and will see my comment on their report card at the end of a term.
     This new initiative in art is at once a small change and a ground-breaking one. By setting aside grades and scoring, we further support intrinsically motivated learning and growth. This approach is very well-suited for the learner-directed studio-classroom that is already well-established at CBMS. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Teaching for Artistic Behavior Summer Institute

It seems appropriate to sub-title this post: "What I Did On My Summer Vacation," although planning for the first ever TAB institute was a year-long endeavor! 

The summer TAB institute was a big success: 43 teachers from 18 states attended, lauded author and researcher Lois Hetland (Harvard Project Zero) delivered the keynote address, and
Massachusetts College of Art and Design provided the venue, including a gallery for a TAB student art show, studio, dormitory, classroom & meeting space.

Attendants were given free TAB t shirts - why are only 4 of us modeling them?
Authors and TAB founders Kathy Douglas and Diane Jaquith, along with Clyde Gaw and I were instructors and organizers for the week-long program offered for 3 graduate credits. Field trips to the historic
Fenway Studios and the Gardner Museum and time for side trips to both the Museum of Fine Art and the Institute of Contemporary Art provided a rich visual art experience to balance classroom lectures, round-table discussions, and studio time. 
Lois Hetland relates her "Studio Thinking Habits of Mind" to choice-based art pedagogy in the opening Keynote

Teachers in "Track II" set up studio centers from their classrooms to share with the group and participated in a lively "demo-slam," demonstrating how content can be delivered in a brief whole-group lesson format. 
Art teachers found needle-felting to be just as addictive as my CBMS middle school students!
Thank you CBMS for loaning the drum wool carder for the week so teachers could learn to prepare wool for felting
Centers were open in our gallery/studio each evening for artmaking and conversation.

Our view from "The Tree house" dorm where we stayed
Thanks to Dr. John Crowe, Anne Bedrick, Ellyn Gaspardi, Candi Price, Jeff Pridie, Ian Sands for providing inspirational sessions for the first national TAB institute. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Thank You North Country Credit Union!

The art program at CBMS was just awarded an education grant from the North Country Credit Union! We can now purchase the Drum Wool Carder of our dreams. Louet

Needle Felting is a tremendously popular activity in the art studio, and now, with this carder, students can help prepare the wool they use in this process.
Thank you also to Carol Collins, at Singing Spindle Spinnery in Duxbury, for the many hours of patient instruction, knowledge sharing and wool fleece she has provided in support of our artistic pursuits.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Papier Mache' Pleasures

Reclining cat by "H" - grade 5
 The sculpture center recently expanded out taking over the painting table - which happens each time we get going with papier mache'. It can't be helped. CBMS 5th graders are awash with the stuff. Aliens and animals are popping up - once in a while a balloon actually pops - and the joy of the goo makes mess-lovers very happy.
 The clay storage area (the "ware shelf") is also succumbing to mache-in-progress, and we find that the posts for the kiln are especially good for holding gooey sculptures up out of their own puddles.
The suspense is building - will there be time before the sculpture center closes for the year to complete this work? Clay closes first (in two 1/2 weeks) but who's counting?
Look! Yesterday's papier mache' cat caught today's needle-felted guinea pig!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hey Mr. Spaceman!

How do students get ideas? Sometimes they arrive with an idea fully formed, and just need a green light to get going on the making. Other times students arrive not with an idea, but with a willingness to  engage in artistic play in order to find a way forward.

The fifth grade student who crafted this little astronaut told me the inspiration started with finding that smooth round bead. The bead, larger than most in the drawer, almost looks like it glows. It reminded this artist of an astronaut's helmet.

Alertness is the artistic disposition that causes us to notice possibility. Artists are alert for interesting materials, novel approaches, unusual ideas, and happy accidents. Artists who embody alertness are those who take a picture of the paint spill on the floor, before sponging it up, or rescue an odd object from the recycle bin. Alertness opens the door to serendipity, a phenomenon that could otherwise pass by unnoticed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Fiber Arts Explosion

5th Grader "J" has been waiting to get his hands on this project from the first day of class: "Altered Stuffies: Soft-sculptures made from old friends"

 Lots happening right now in the Fiber Art Center of our studio-classroom!

 "A" (grade 7)  bought a quilt kit and brought it to class work on - she is tacking down the binding today
 In our studio, fiber artist sew, weave, design fashion, needle-felt and  quilt. We sometimes heat up beeswax and set up the dye for  batik creations (coming around again soon).

Needle-felted butterfly design is felted onto a background (also felt) for a pillow design - by "S," grade 7
 The applique project below depicts a set of symbols (cut from various fabrics) that carry meaning for this 7th grade artist. She is choosing the colors carefully to support the meaning and add to the overall design.

 Our donated dress form is getting more attention these days

It turns out that some middle school students have never practiced threading a needle or tying a knot at the end of a piece of  thread, while others use a sewing machines at home or learn to hand-sew from grandparents. Some students dabble (demonstrating the studio habit: "Stretch & Explore") while others settle in for what is often a long-term project ("Engage & Persist). Both are valid artistic behaviors.


A few students are inspired to try "draping" fabric to create fashion designs, as seen on the popular show "Project Runway," and find they have all they need to give that a try here in the studio (above photos showing yesterday's beginnings; selecting fabrics and incubating ideas,  and today's progress; more purposeful crafting)

I'm happy to observe the interest students have in this area and glad that I expanded the space for the Fiber Arts Center to occupy in the studio so that we can accommodate practice and inquiry here.
Tomorrow: Wool sorting! (Can you smell the lanolin from there?)