Thursday, March 26, 2015

cultural migration

This week I am working at Glenwood Elementary in Chapel Hill with 4th grade.  This residency is sponsored by the Town of Chapel Hill, and I was selected out of several applicants to create a project based on immigration of different cultures into NC.  Using migrating birds as symbols for this main idea, students are designing their own bird  with colors and symbols that connect with their family history or a historical group that settled in North Carolina.  We talked about why people immigrate from one area to another, as well as the things that make up culture and how it can be represented by colors and symbols.

This is a wonderfully diverse school and the students have made some fantastic design choices.  First they planned it out on paper.

Today they began to choose and lay out their selected pieces (precut and tumbled stained glass) and then could start to glue each piece.  A few students finished, but the majority will finish up tomorrow.  I will grout them, and they will be installed hanging in V formation in their hallway between the cafeteria and exterior bank of windows.  This hallway has windows on both sides, plenty of natural light, 15 ft ceilings, and every student travels that hall every day.  It is truly a gift to me to be able to do this work that I love.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

am I smarter than a 5th grader?

One of the school residencies that I have this year is at Douglas Magnet Elementary in Raleigh.  The coordinator there contacted me last year and we designed/wrote a grant for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades to work with me to create 3 3x5' mosaic panels, each integrating a specific theme targeting their science curriculum.  I don't know if I have mentioned in the blog before, but I am not an art school artist, I have a biology/sociology degree from UNC.  I didn't even take one art class there (boo).  When I was a kid, I loved making things, but wasn't too great at drawing and painting (therefore, no one ever suggested I should be an "artist").  It has been a treat to marry science themes with mosaic for this residency, and this past week was super busy and super fun with hundreds of students!
Third grade is learning about phases of the moon.  I definitely had to refresh myself on this theme.  We did a worksheet together, then they chose one phase to render in paper mosaic.  Their collaborative glass mosaic was also completed this week (and I will post later).

In the 4th grade classrooms, they are studying rocks and minerals, so I suggested we base our project around geodes.  Plain and crusty on the outside, beautiful minerals and crystals on the inside...  We talked about how geodes are formed, and assigned colors to the different minerals that can be found inside.  They had creative choice to design their own geode and render in paper to prepare for the glass mosaic we will complete in a few weeks.

5th graders had a different challenge.  We looked at several examples of abstract and geometric art and looked for ways they could show the concepts of force, motion, gravity, friction, and inertia.  Then, they were to do come up with their own depictions of one of those definitions using only basic geometric shapes like circles, triangles, squares, arrows.  I wasn't sure how this would work, but they did GREAT, very creative in their conceptual thinking about science and art!  Their glass mosaic will also be done in April.

Thanks Douglas for a fantastic week!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

gardening in the bag

For the last 5 or 6 years I have done a small garden in the only corner of my yard that gets AM sun and is close to a water barrel.  I have a sunnier spot, but it gets blasted with late afternoon sun (too intense for most of the veggies I like to grow) and too far to lug water from the barrel.  I saw a book about gardening right in the bag of soil, helpful if you have poor soil, and too lazy to build raised beds properly.  Of course, only certain plants are happy in these shallow conditions, but sugar/snow peas and spinach do great and you can really get them ready early.  Most herbs do well, I've grown cilantro, dill, basil, oregano like this, and zinnias too.  I put my tomatoes in large pots against the fence, and cukes against the bedspring coils.  I have a swamp sunflower (native to NC) in the wet corner (in the ground) and a pineapple sage in the other.  Finally with Spring on the horizon, and a sunshiney, warmish day, I realized that today would be planting day for the peas (otherwise if it goes too late, they get burnt up here in mid-NC), and spinach.  I uncovered last years' bags from the pile of leaves and garden debris, churned up the soil and planted.  My makeshift trellis was still up from last year, so besides sticking the seeds in, all I had to do was cover with a thin plastic sheet.  This works great to insulate and keep the creatures and birds from digging up the seeds before they have a chance to grow.  I skipped the cover last year, and had dramatically fewer plants (and more chipmunks).  Looking foward to a yummy late April harvest....

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

reschedules and intros

After two weeks of disrupted school residencies and winter weather, this week finds me scrambling to reschedule, reorganize, and refocus.  I learned a while ago not to book my calendar completely full,  but leave a little wiggle room for unforseen events.  My oldest son is home this week from college for break, so I had originally planned it as my Jan/Feb wiggle room week (not that he was wanting to spend everyday with me).  Now, I'll be at a rescheduled Elementary school most of the week, and next week will be essentially doubled up at another Elementary that I have a longer term project in progress.  The good news, of course, is that I can still fulfill these contracts, and the coordinators have been extremely helpful with making the time work despite their constraints and loss of traditional instructional time.

For this post, I wanted to touch on the importance of the introduction session of my mosaic residencies.  Generally when I go to a school, only half or less of the students have ever heard of mosaic art.  I spend about an hour with a powerpoint presentation that shows them about 15 examples of mosaics from ancient times to modern examples.  This is a very interactive presentation with historical stories about the art, multicultural references, pattern vs. picture, all tailored towards the age of participant.  By the end of the session, they have a broad understanding of what mosaic art is and can be.  Without this information, the making activity is just another arts and crafts project.  My presentation includes history, cultures/social studies, language arts (new vocabulary), math (shapes, measurement), and science (properties of materials).  You can't get any more curriculum integrated than that.  I invite anyone who does not see the value of arts in elementary arts education to come to my residency sessions... you might learn something!