CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

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

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).

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mosaics for 8th Grade

After having Choice-Based art with me for four years, some 8th grade students are off and running, just reaching their stride.

Others start to run out of gas a bit and need a little pick-me-up, artistically speaking. Brain research tells us that middle school students enjoy and seek novelty. So, I've been keeping an ace-in-the-hole, a little something special in case I notice interest flagging.
Last year, I pulled soapstone carving out of my sleeve, "for eighth graders only." This year, mosaics - ta dah!

 I was disappointed last year when more students did not fall in love with soapstone carving. In fact, few chose it, and even fewer stuck with it. The students I hoped to engage did not even try it.  

So, imagine my delight when nearly a whole class jumped on the mosaic bandwagon!
Next I showed one group of students all I know about grouting, channeling my friend and mentor John Martin, who taught me everything I know on the subject. 
My students were then able to take it from there. 
I was very impressed with the students' "can-do" attitude and their willingness to give it a go.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The First Few Weeks of School: A Retrospective

When student council asked for pictures of the first few weeks of school to add to a slide show for later today, I sent off the ones displayed here.

The current students I have in class now are not new to our choice-based art studio. I am currently working with 6th and 8th graders only (next semester I will see the 5th & 7th graders). These veterans know their way around the studio and returned to school with ideas and ambition, ready to start in where they left off last spring. 
 We have had about 5 weeks of school. How is it possible that all this varied activity is packed into so short time frame?

The answer is: Choice
That, and an unusually warm September, which allowed our studio to expand into the backyard on many occasions.

In these first few weeks of school, students have chosen to explore new media and techniques and have returned to favorite materials, tools and resources. They pursue both new and familiar subjects and/or practice to improve skills. All of these creative styles and approaches are evident in the photos included here. 

Sometimes I am too busy to take photos, and miss the opportunity to illustrate really good learning. In one 6th-grade class today a student learned to use the sewing machine for the first time and another finished a small woven pouch that has been a work-in-progress for days and days, Near-by an exuberant friend-group found they had to problem-solve what to do with papier-mache' helmet-masks too soggy to try on ("we NEED them for TONIGHT!!!")
While all that was going on, across the room, two students tested the etching press and another engineered and tested paper-straw arrows so they would fly true from his redesigned hand-made cardboard bow.
Wool carding continues, this time with alpaca. Students are getting better at using the drum wool carder independently. 
My next class is on a field trip, which give me a moment to look through these captured moments and see that we have a lot of learning and growing going on around here since school started!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Art is Not Sequential

It's like being a juggler - choice-based art. As the teacher/mentor/artist-in-residence/lackey in our studio-classroom, I have a lot of balls in the air. I love this part of the job.

Flip book artist's scrap pile, discovered by me after the class exited the room
 My favorite thing is when students are off and running in pursuit of their own ideas, directions, interests, needs and talents. That's when I can really go to work.
My response to finding the above flip book scrap pile - get down my flip book collection and make a note to either share these resources with the one or two students who initiated flip book art yesterday or design a "Five Minute Demo" for the whole class. This topic introduced in a whole class demo will bump what I had originally planned to introduce Monday. Is flip book art "whole-class-worthy?"
The one problem is, while observing and interacting with students helps me to generate ideas in my mind for what to introduce or what to respond to, it can be difficult to decide which of these to address "next."

Given the web-like, rhizomic nature of our lively learner-directed program, there are many "things" (directions, ideas, concepts, materials, opportunities) competing for "next." 

As I jot down notes and start to make plans for next week, I rely a bit on an old Vermont expression: "let's see how it all sugars out."

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Inside Out

The forecast this week is for: SUMMER! A week of warm sunny days is forecast, so we are moving outside, while it lasts.

 I lived in Colorado for a while, where one sunny day follows the next, but here in north central Vermont, it is rare to get two sunny days in a row, let alone a whole week! Wow!
 The Picnic table we added last spring from a gift from Across Roads Center for the Arts is our new favorite work space. 

The little pond built by students in our CBMS Sustainability program is offering inspiration to artists who practice drawing from observation. There are even waterlilies there, and a frog. 

In a scene reminiscent of Wyeth's Christina's World, one student sits alone in the damp morning grass, taking in the distant ridge line and composing a drawing.

 Here (photo right) is how our outside studio looked today: 2 drawing, 1 weaving and 3 splatter painting.
 Meanwhile, inside the studio we had two clay artists practicing at the potter's wheels -
 One fiber artist teaching another how to braid -
 Only one student working in the Sculpture Center today (unusual for this class) -
Two more students are exploring a 3-D design program (our Digital-Art Center finally opened for the first time today) -
 while two others are working on a collaborative painting they started yesterday. These artists left this painting with a sign inviting those who come next to: "Please add to this painting!"

Don't you just love a sunny day?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Welcome Back Artists!

Watercolor, offered in a variety of forms (watercolor pencils, watercolor crayons, liquid watercolor,  watercolor markers and pan watercolor sets), is featured this week in the Painting Center
The art studio is up and running - almost as if we never left! One thing about our choice-based studio is that once students know where everything, how things are used and cared for, and where to store work in progress, artmaking can begin. For the start of the school year, I am working with only 6th and 8th graders. These learners are already familiar with materials and routines, so we can step right back into the swing of things and start making art on the first day. 
By "A" grade 8                                                                               
My friend Clyde Gaw, a high school art teacher in Indiana, observes that artmaking in a choice-based studio can feel and appear "rhizomic" - a setting where ideas are brought together in a charged web of interconnection. It's good to be back in our lively studio-classroom where students  return to explore their ideas, test new possibilities and learn from one another.
The clay center is a favorite place for kinesthetic learners

A broken arm does not prevent "K" from preparing a new batch of alpaca wool for needle-felting.
 Welcome back artists!