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!