CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

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

Monday, February 1, 2016

Where Do Artist Get Inspiration?

The latest obsession in our studio sprang from my recent visit to our local clay studio. There was a "Seconds and Student Sale," sort of a white sale, studio-style, going on last month. While I didn't buy a single new student, I did make off with these two guys:
Tripod animal jars by Abby Dreyer
Abby Dreyer, the potter who made these, is well-known in the area for the  exquisite clay bird houses she makes. I have admired her work for years, so I was thrilled to find these little clay jars she made, and chat with her about them. She told me a little about how she made them and suggested that it's a great clay project for kids. 

Well. That is an understatement! My students and I have made around a dozen of them already. The simple structure of the jar lends itself to endless variation and combines the concept of form plus function This makes the idea tremendously appealing to my middle school clay artists. Thanks for the great idea Abby!

I wonder if I bought enough clay? 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Mid-Year Reflecting

Grade 6 at work on a collaborative mural project

     This week marks the beginning of the second half of the school year. A new quarter is one-week in, and a new batch of 5th graders are getting familiar with studio routines. 
     I am a week late in posting "grades." I actually don't give grades in art anymore, my students have made it clear to me that grades are not useful for them. Instead, I write a short narrative to sum up each students' work, approach, successes, innovations, and challenges in art. Our report cards are not set up for this, my sometimes lengthy additions throw off the formatting. But just as I ask my students to write a little about their experience as an artist is the studio after each term, I do the same on their behalf.
Print-maker in foreground, drawing group in the background
      Today I am reporting on the 6th graders who just completed their quarter in art. Below are the words of one student who I will not see back in the artroom until grade 8, because next year's 7th graders must choose between French and Art. French-learners sacrifice a year in the studio so they can be prepared to take French 2 in high school, or because they love learning French, or both. It can be a cruel choice to make. 
Paper Marbling is a temporary center students look forward to

Q; What did you like about art this quarter?
A: " I didn't like art this quarter, I LOVED art this quarter. I really enjoyed art because it felt like a 'safe place.' It was always calm, and just an enjoyable place to work. Also I liked art because there was no 'right' or 'wrong' way, you could just do 'your way.'"
      This year is the first in our implementation of Vermont's mandated "Personalized Learning Plans." Statements like "J's" above let me know that in the art studio, learning is always personal.  


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Easy Does It

Aptly illustrates how I feel this week
There is a ton going on in the studio this week. I cannot believe it is only Wednesday, and that we are just three days in from our holiday break. We are neck-deep in: 
  • Soap stone carving
  • Mosaics 
  • Sumi-e ink painting
  • Paper marbling
  • Mural painting
  • and everything else
I have no one to blame but myself - it's just that there are only two weeks left in the quarter and 6th-graders keep bringing up things they want to do before they are done with art. Done til next year, or, in many cases, until the year after that. We are in a frenzy trying to get everything in that students love or want to try. 
 Meanwhile, my new batch of 8th graders are being treated to a couple of "8th Grade Only" options, like working with soapstone and designing mosaics. Add this to that, and, whew! It's a lot!
Today's button-popping pride moment went like this:
"Nan, can we grout our mosaics?"
"Of course" I say, pulling out all the gear and materials needed for this and swiftly setting up at the end of a table, on our last scrap of newspaper.
"Do we mix the grout?" asks one 8th grader to another
"No, Nan has to do that."
(Nan thinks - um...why do I have to do that? I bet they know how...)
"No," says Nan, "You guys can mix it up."
So they did. Perfectly.

Note to self: Release control of the things kids can very-well-do on their own, or with minimal supervision or coaching. Why is this such a hard lesson to keep learning?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Amen Ken

6th grade Styrofoam print - learning to get the inking "right"

Ken Robinson is endlessly inspiring for me. The following quote came across my "desk" (aka art teacher Facebook groups) today (thank you TAB facebook and No Child Left Behind ). Just when I was ready to quit Facebook and pursue more space in my life/brain/eyes too. I guess this is why I stay "plugged in," gifts like this one pop up all the time. 

@SirKenRobinson: "That's why I always say that teaching is an art form.  It's not a delivery system. I don't know when we started confusing teaching with FedEx.  Teaching is an arts practice.  It's about connoisseurship and judgement and intuition.  We all remember the great teachers in our lives.  The ones who kind of woke us up and that we're still thinking about because they said something to us or they gave us an angle on something that we've never forgotten."

- Sir Ken Robinson, Learning [Re] Imagined (2014) http://learning-reimagined.com/sir-ken-robinson-learning-reimagined/

6th grader modeling the apron he designed and sewed to wear when he cooks with his grandmother

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Mad Helmet Skills

The 6th-grader who designed and built this helmet was enthralled. Enthralled with the plan, enthralled with the process, and enthralled with the finished creation.
Finished helmet along with photo/reference and arm cuff, for extra power.
Once the process was underway, 48 minutes a day to work on it during art class was not enough. This project took dedication- lunch periods, recess, after school, even once or twice it took sneaking away from some other class, just to check on it and fix it up a little. 
I, too, was enthralled: with this boy's dedication to his idea, his careful attention to detail, his passion and developing skill, his ingenuity and focus. Remarkable.

Trying on the helmet when it was nearly done

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Parting Thoughts

As I gather my thoughts and belongings at the end of the day, I can't resist peeking into the kiln to see how last night's firing went.
Look what I found! This woven bowl was made by an 8th grader. She "invented" clay weaving last year (I say "invented" because although she is not the first one in the world to weave with clay slabs, I did not teach or show this technique in class). Last year this student made a few small pieces using this idea that she developed. This large, ambitious, beautiful piece is a testament to this student's ability to employ the studio thinking habits: "engage and persist" and "develop craft." The fact that she started this line of artistic inquiry last spring and continued with it this fall is a tribute to the structure of a learner-directed ("choice-based") art program where students can engage with ideas and skills in their own time and at their own pace and to stay with an idea until they are "done."

This student has art class for 2 1/2 more weeks, and then is done with middle school art. Or middle school art is done with her. I hope she has internalized many of the studio thinking habits practiced in the art studio, has "fallen in love" with some idea, technique, tool or medium, and continues to make art and artmaking a part of her life.

Friday, October 23, 2015

"I'm Very Excited About This New Skill I've Learned."

It is delightful to overhear statements such as this. It is also rewarding to discover that the skill learned was accomplished outside of school, but brought in, with the student, and applied when needed in the art studio.
One-Sock-Doll Mini-Center
In this case, the skill learned was braiding and was just the thing to make a perfect tail for a brand new "one sock doll" (thanks again to Ellyn Gaspardi for sharing this idea and instruction sheet). Learning something in one setting and applying it in another is an example of "transference," something we hope to teach for. 

One of my favorite activities in the studio is to be alert for what pops out of students as they work. Here is my favorite from this week: "You don't have to have lessons to learn" (captured as it tumbled from the brain of a 7th grade boy).