Friday, December 28, 2012

Are We Pragmatists or Dreamers? Can We Be Both?

image from here

Honestly? I'm a bit of both. I've never stopped dreaming and/or fantasizing about what I hope to achieve. My favorite time to do a bit of dreaming is when I am commuting.  I'm also rather known for being a bit of an analytical pragmatist.  Standardized tests -in my home state- used to include a short analytical essay portion. I always earned a perfect score on that portion (and then scored rather marginally on the Math portion). My students know all about my pragmatism; I use it to help them make their art plans come to fruition. Sometimes, while day-dreaming in the car, I'll even talk out loud. . .It sounds bizarre (yeah, I know it is bizarre), but it helps me hone in on what I want, and how to get it.  So, there ya go. . .My dreaming and pragmatism working in tandem.

There is a wonderful opinion piece over on my hometown newspaper, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, wherein a local educator (Janusz Maciuba) discusses the three most dangerous slogans teachers instill in students:

1. You can be anything you want to be
2. Never back down
3. Be a leader not a follower

I really encourage you to link over and read the whole article.  What do you think? Do you believe we need to help students look inward to develop their potential (be all they can be), or do you think the slogans are helpful? I'd love to know!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from my house to yours.

I hope you are taking this time to rest, reflect, refresh, and re-connect. 

I also hope you had a very merry [insert your celebration of choice].

Thing were very celebratory at my house. . .On Christmas Eve, I eloped!!

There are many sweet, serious photos. . .But this silly one just fits us perfectly!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

When Your Alter Ego is Exposed

 Artful Artsy Amy had an unprecedented number of visitors this past weekend. Unfortunately, my Statcounter account is only set up to track the most recent five hundred or so. . .Which meant, I couldn't determine from whence all these new visitors arrived.

Then, on Monday, one of my best students started asking me some pretty pointed questions about my education, my travels, my other teaching jobs. . .I mean, they like to be nosy, but it was a little bit unusual. So, I narrowed my eyes, put my hands on my hips, and said: "Uh. Where is all this coming from?"

She gleefully chortled: "I found YOU online! You're Artful Artsy Amy!"

And, just like that, my little bloggy reading friends, my cover was blown.

I'm not gonna lie, the first few seconds, my entire internet life flashed before my eyes.  But, then, I calmed down because. . . .I've been very conscious of writing this blog as if the parents of my students are reading it. Whew. Glad I did that. . .Because, uh, yeah, apparently a few parents did read the blog!

I know there are a few of us Art Education bloggers who blog anonymously.  When this blog began, I thought about doing that. I determined, however, that would never work for me; I enjoy being specific far too much. Yet, at the same time, I still -because this is online after all- feel a bit anonymous. Yet, even this false sense of anonymity is disappearing. In the audience of the last three presentations I made were long-time readers of this blog, and they were able to recall things I'd written years ago.

My students' discovery of Artful Artsy Amy is a bit of a reminder to be professional about what it is I do online. It is also a reminder that while we often feel a bit removed from "real-life" online, we really are not.  It also serves to remind us that our students are often far more interested in who we are than we think. . .And, that is it important to behave accordingly.

Oh, and to my nosy little students: HAI GUYS!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Art Campaign to End Bullying

 A colleague, Tom, recently asked me what sorts of projects I teach to my Advanced Art Class (8th grade, year-round Art).  Tom is a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant artist who tends to approach teaching and art-making from an Art History standpoint; he asked me if I teach my advanced kids about creating "in the style of" etc.  As part of my Master's degree, I had to define my Teaching Philosophy. . .And, Tom's question made me think even more about it.

Honestly, I'm more interested in concept over technique.  It isn't that I don't believe in the importance of technique, but it is more that I am trying to push my students outside of their "realistic art = good art" boxes.  My students hear a lot of ideas, and even have a lot of ideas. . .But very few of them are confident in their ideas. I'm trying to develop their psyches, I suppose, in such a manner that they are unafraid to attempt to depict what they see/feel/observe.

When I'm designing projects I tend to think about the concept, then what artists really illustrate said topic, and then, finally, what skills my students need to develop in order to execute their work. Somewhere in all of that, I'm able to rather easily incorporate standards.

This upcoming January - May 2013, my school is participating in the No Place for Hate campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to bring attention to both bullying behavior, and solutions for ending such behavior.  Part of my students' contributions to this campaign will be a series of anti-bullying posters. I began the project this term as I want as many of my students as possible to have the opportunity to participate.

It also seemed fitting in the face of the most recent tragedy, to focus on how treating one another with kindness overcomes all sorts of obstacles. I'm not going to get up on a soapbox (I have too many opinions about the political response to the tragedy). . .But, I will say it is sad we live in world wherein it is easier to obtain a weapon, than it is to obtain mental healthcare. 

Here is how my students and I went about this project.

1. We defined bullying as a class.

2. We watched this -amazing- video:

3. We defined the word "bystander" and discussed how being a bystander contributes to bullying.

4. We identified the difference between "snitching" and "reporting/getting help" (snitching is when you tell on someone for the purpose of getting them in trouble. Reporting is when you are trying to help a victim).

5. We discussed ways in which students can anonymously report bullying (leave a note with the front office staff, make an appointment with a counselor, leave a note my reporting box; you also can say hey "look out for [victim]" and not leave the name of the bully).

6. We looked at several different anti-bullying posters and campaigns in a Powerpoint.

7. Students brainstormed in groups to define slogans and themes for their posters.

8. Students assembled in needed materials to set up a scene.

9. Students photographed their scenes.

10. Students used their photos, pixlr, pixlr-o-matic, tagxedo, and sourced royalty-free stock images to create a final poster.

11. Students uploaded their completed work to our Edmodo group wherein we participated in a group crit.

12. Here are the first few completed works; I'll keep updating as they finish (I blacked out any faces to protect student identity)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Teaching the Give Up Kid and Protecting Arts Education

All artwork in this post is created by former Give Up Kids

Art Teacher:  “Why are you off task? Please get to work on your assignment.”

Student:  “Why am I even in Art? I don’t know how to draw! I’m not good at Art; I shouldn’t be here!”

Art Teacher:  “Drawing is a skill, and just like any skill you have to learn how to do it. You had to learn skills to become good at basketball, right? Drawing is like that. Here. Let me show you.”

The above is a conversation Art teachers have all had (some of us frequently) with students.  Typically, because of schemas, it is middle school and high school aged students whom seem to have the most anxiety about being in Art class, but it drawing drama impacts elementary classrooms too. It says something about the nature of our education systems that students understand core subjects (Mathematics, Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies) are studies wherein they must continually build skill sets to advance.  Yet, students in arts classes (Drama, Music, and Visual Arts) firmly believe they must have some inherent talent in order to not only succeed, but even competently participate.  Even Physical Education, which is often afforded the same backhanded respect as the Arts, is understood as subject wherein everyone can at least participate if not compete.

As Arts educators we can continue to lament this unfortunate misunderstanding that devalues our classrooms, subjects, and careers. . . Or, we can stand up, empower ourselves, and be a part of the change needed to not only encourage our students but to also protect Arts education.

Okay. I know. That statement sounds like a dramatic rally cry doesn’t it?  But, truthfully? Art is rapidly disappearing and some of it is due to devaluation.  At the same time, craft supply stores seem almost recession-proof, and music is shared and heard in manner un-paralleled in human existence.

 Arts education is disappearing in a world whose inhabitants refuse to live without Art. And, that is a problem. . . Our problem to solve.

Part of this solution is empowering the “Give Up Kid.”

 So, what do you do when get the Give Up Kid?  You know, the student who is overwhelmed by the task of required learning Art? Whose parents aren’t invested in Arts education?  Who doesn’t believe s/he really needs art?

We teach them. We teach them Art is a series of skills enhanced by inherent talent, but for which no special gift is required to enjoy. We teach them to appreciate and recognize Art in the world. We teach them how to use the most powerful muscle they have, their brain, through creative exercises designed to help them in all facets of life.

And, THAT, paragraph sounds really good, doesn’t it?  At our core, it is what we do. . . But, as teachers, we all know the reality is much more challenging, frustrating, and gritty.  It isn’t easy to help the Give Up Kid; they have years of prior experience underscoring their false statements. 

Here are a few of my tips for empowering the Give Up Kid:

1.       Get to know the student.  Getting to know the student doesn’t have to difficult or timely. Simply, ask a few questions about his/her likes and dislikes. Identify what his/her interests are.  This will help you build a bridge of communication.

2.       Sit with the student. . .All students really. I make it a practice during studio time in my classroom (independent working time) to pick a different table every day and sit for about 5 minutes just talking with the students.  It sounds a little radical to sit in the classroom, since we are all taught a sitting teacher isn’t teaching. But, we all know there are moments when you can sit; especially if your classroom management structures in sitting time. My students are familiar with my practice of sitting and visiting. They know if they have a question during that time, all they have to do is ask me to come over and/or visit me.  While I sit with a table I pick up and participate in whatever conversation the students are having; it isn’t always about art.  Sometimes, I’ll share a funny story about myself etc. etc.  I can’t tell you how much my students love this; they all beg for me to sit at their table.  And, this practice has been a key part of reaching dozens of Give Up Kids through the years.  If you feel sitting would never work for your classroom management style, just stand near the table and speak with the students. It isn’t exactly the same; doesn’t engender the same familiarity. But, it will still be helpful.

3.       Don’t make it a practice to draw on student artwork and/or “help” by drawing a few lines for the Give Up Kid (or any student).  The schema of middle school students is that realistic looking art is good art.  This begins to change in high school, but many students remain stuck in the realism = good art place.  These students frequently ask for “help” when they mean “draw for me.”  They don’t care if they drew the work or not, as long as when it is finished it looks realistic and “good.”  I have been amused many times through the years to see students complete work that was primarily done by me (or another student) and still feel it is “their” art. The problem is when you draw –even in small parts- for a student, it reinforces the idea that drawing is a special skill reserved for the uniquely talented.  It also doesn’t give students the opportunity to work on their drawing skills and become better.

4.       Make reference how-to sheets. Lots and lots of reference sheets.  If you aren’t drawing on a student’s paper, it can be hard to help.  One easy way to overcome this Give Up Kid’s desire to say “I don’t know how!” is to provide him/her with reference material designed to self-lead. It is important to provide multiple types of references within the same project, because you don’t want art class to become formulaic.  It seems as if I am forever making class sets of how-to this/that/other.  They are really valuable resources since I can ask students to refer to the sheet, and students who need help can independently seek aid themselves.  At the same time, I put the caveat “This is only one way to draw [item]; there are many ways to draw [item]; none are “right” and none are “wrong.”

5.       Make time for a little one-on-one guided drawing.  In my experience, the Give Up Kid hasn’t had many opportunities for art-making in his/her life.  Part of the reason s/he doesn’t like art class is because s/he is intimidated.  You know that moment when you say:  “If you don’t do any work, you won’t get a grade, and you’ll fail the course” and the student just shrugs and says something like “fine with me?”  The student is scared that his/her work will be so inferior that s/he will be the subject of teasing and shame.  Since pre-teens and teenagers are driven by group perception, they would rather do nothing and fail, than try and be anything less than near-perfect.  Discretely find an opportunity to do a side-by-side guided drawing exercise with the student.  It sounds really elementary and embarrassing, but I’ve never once had a student refuse; they actually seem to appreciate the attention. Typically, I’ll make the guided drawing as simple as possible so the student has the opportunity for maximum success. After the guided drawing, I’ll instruct them to apply it to their work; they always do.  Sometimes, you just have to take a step backward and provide the Give Up Kid with a taste of the elementary, empowering experience of art that they missed.

6.       Praise honestly and realistically.  It is important to recognize the development of the Give Up Kid’s skills, but don’t overdo it.  Students aren’t adept at recognizing that you are encouraging someone who was/is previously discouraged.  And, sometimes, instead of appreciating the work of their peer, they will offer unasked for criticism:  “What? Mine is way better and you haven’t said anything about it!”  Recognize the specific skills the Give Up Kid has developed and speak to them; don’t damn with false praise.

7.       Display work with caution.  It is a big deal for my students’ art to “make it to the wall.”  I’m discriminate.  But, I don’t simply display the best or strongest artwork. I try to demonstrate the artwork displaying success for individual students. But, you have to be careful.  the Give Up Kid has a fragile confidence about any new-found ability or skill.  Displaying artwork that isn’t very strong, yet demonstrates success for the artist runs the risk of high criticism.  Remember, middle and high school students aren’t known for thinking before speaking.  If the peers perceive The Give Up Kid’s artwork as being inferior to the other artworks and say so where the Give Up Kid can hear it, you have a major setback.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t display the work of the Give Up Kid; often, s/he is thrilled to have work on the wall.  But, you should be exercise caution.

8.       Use your classroom management plan to mete out healthy doses of consequences. We all need a little religion as motivation from time to time.  I call home, get other teachers involved, and seek the aid/support of the administration when attempting to empower the Give Up Kid.  My aim is not to punish the Give Up Kid because that will lead to discouragement. Instead, it is important for the Give Up Kid to know that I will do anything and everything ethically within my abilities to help him/her achieve success.  As a student once said: “I don’t mess with Ms. J., she is, like, everywhere.”    *Also, a bit of advice:  When contacting parents, pretend you are a customer service representative.  If the parents believe you to be a nice, caring, teacher who sees the best in his/her student, they will back you each and every time. If they see you as an overly critical nuisance who is sick of dealing with their child, then they will undermine your authority (this could be its own blog post!)*

I’m interested. What do you do to help the Give Up Kid?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tutorials Worth Purchasing

This past week I had an excellent conversation with my mentor, an Art Education professor.  She and I discussed the impact of the internet on Art Education and art teachers, and we hit upon the topic of intellectual property and ego.  We all have ego, we all have ideas, and we all want to get credit for our ideas. . . But, sometimes our egos, and our need for credit, get in the way of progress. 

For instance, have you ever been afraid to share an idea because you thought everyone would copy you and/or take credit?

I know I have. In fact, one of my Art professors during my undergrad days pulled me aside and asked me to quit bringing my work to class.  He said that I needed to take more care to protect my ideas, as many students would adopt a concept I had which, in his mind, diminished my work.

What a load of nonsense!  

My work grew stronger, because my classmates and I would bounce ideas off of one another; riffing on the same ideas to such a point our work became even more individualized. Our work got better.

And, if you are an Art teacher, you've seen your students work in class to do the same thing.

Y'all know I'm all about the free here on ArtfulArtsyAmy.  I've been so inspired by what you share online from lessons, to ideas, to your personal artwork. Even though I pin your lesson plan ideas to Pinterest like a mad woman, I rarely end up doing an exact copy of the assignment. I end up doing a bit of my own thing. It isn't because the original lesson plan isn't good, but it is because I am me, and I have my ways of doing things. I don't think like you do, and doing a project the exact same way in which you do it would never work for me. So, I take your idea, whittle it down to its most basic essence, and then teach it in a manner best suiting my students and my teaching style. I get inspired by other teacher's ideas and it makes me better educator when I customized them.

This is why I like for everything to be free on ArtfulArtsyAmy.  I want you to take my ideas. . .And, if they resonate with you, tailor them to suit your needs.

I rarely link to lesson plans and/or ideas that cost money. However, I came across the tutorials of Michele Made Me this week.  Michele is a blogger who likes to take simple, everyday items (toilet paper tubes, egg cartons etc.) and turn them into original, craft-based art.  Her ideas are really beautiful.  She shares a lot of amazing crafts on her blog, and she also has a small, online shop where you can purchase craft tutorials for a small fee (ranging from $2-$9).  I purchased three tutorials this week, and I am so pleased with them. Michele really takes time to take wonderful, illustrative pictures of her process and adds text that actually makes sense!  I'm excited to modify her tutorial ideas into something relevant and exciting for my students.

So, while I'm typically not into paying money for lesson plans, concepts ideas etc. I believe Michele's are worth the cost. The fee is so small, and all she asks is that you not use the tutorial to craft items for sale.  She is also a working artist, not an art educator. It seems to me, in this instance, the fee more serves to control how her intellectual property is used (she doesn't want others to take her ideas and turn a profit; totally understandable).

I've never met Michele, and never emailed her.  I have received no compensation for this post. I have no reason to endorse Michele's work other than the fact that I really happen to admire it.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Art and Social Justice

My 8th grade students have been working on a series of artworks about social justice. I am continually impressed by their observations, thoughts, and ideas surrounding the topic. While the finished products are not quite ready for the blog. . .I couldn't help but share this fantastic bit with you:
 Social justice is respect for others. . . . not shunning or avoiding them! No One is a zombie!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Music to Soothe the Savage Beast(s): Part II

The last time I wrote about music in the classroom I was teaching K-12 students in a private school environment. We listened to a lot of Glee, Beatles, 50's du-wop, and classical music. My current middle school students would not appreciate that mix.  Some of them do, I'm sure, listen to similar music. . .But not many.

My students love to brag about the different types of urban, underground, indie, rap, and hip-hop music to which they listen.  Yet, at the same time, they talk about Carly Rae Jensen, Lady Gaga, and other assorted top 40 artists. This is to say, they aren't quite as sophisticated or hard as they would like me -and others- to think.

I struggled a bit last year to find playlists that were both amenable and appropriate for my students. We listened to a lot of classical music. The 6th graders liked this a lot. . .But, mostly, I think they just liked getting to listen to anything. My older students were over the classical music quickly.

My partner, Nick, is a former DJ. . . And, I didn't think to even ask him about this quandary! It was only when I was complaining one day about a lack of urban, modern music without sexually explicit and/or crude language that he swooped in with tons of aid.  He suggested looking at transcendental house musicians (down tempo) such as Thievery Corporation and General Fuzz.  It is the sort of pleasant, mellow, modern-esque music that you might hear at a spa or modern bar (not dance club). If you are a child of the 90's, it is very similar to the artist Moby. There is very little voice, and what voice there is tends to be quiet, uplifting, and appropriate.

And, my kids LOVE it. I mean they REALLY, REALLY, REALLY love it.  The hardest of my male students will ask what "that beat was."  Apparently, their intent is to find it, sample it, and make their own music using it. I think that's a pretty good endorsement.

So, I made a Pandora "Thievery Corporation" channel. It is pretty much 100% on the mark.

Additionally, I visited SoundCloud and searched for "transcendental house music." SoundCloud is a place wherein DJs and DJ hopefuls can upload their mixes and you can download for free (or sometimes for a very small cost).  I found a ton of DJs on there that I love, and I am continually downloading and adding to my playlist. I quickly got immersed in sounds beyond transcendental and it is just. . .wow. Really amazing stuff.

You do have to listen a bit more to the mixes on SoundCloud as they aren't always as clean as the Pandora Thievery Corporation channel. . .But, if you have limited access to Pandora at school, it is still an amazing (and cheap!) option.

Here are a few of my favorite SoundCloud artists:
Mr. Scruff
Bobby C Sound TV (my hands-down favorite!)

P.S. Yes. I do allow my students to listen to their own headsets (ipods, pads, shuffles, mp3 players etc. etc.). But, they can only listen to their own music, they may not share headphones, it must be on shuffle, and it must be in their pocket.  Even thought I allow this, only about 5-6 kids in each class actually bring their device and/or bring the device and headphones or want to play their device.  The majority of my students ask me to play music every day. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lesson Plan: Art, Typography, Literacy, and Common Core

Art is very fun/ a way to express yourself/ painting, drawing, art (student initials)

I've been waiting for sooo long to show these amazing works off to you!  I wrote and taught this unit for the first time during the 1st quarter. . .The results, honestly, were a bit mixed. But, the student feedback was ah-mazing and helped me to tweak it here and there to make it even better for my 2nd quarter students.

This project is the result of my attempting to incorporating visual art, art careers, literacy, and Common Core Standards all into one project. I mean, you know, why not?! lol. I taught this unit to my 6th graders and estimate it would work well for 5th-7th grade students (maybe advanced 4th grade students).


1. I introduced typography to my students using this great video about graphic design:
what is graphic design from Steve Quinn on Vimeo.

And, this great ppt about typography:

2. We learned about the haiku poetry style and discussed how syllables correspond to beats. We compared syllables to beats rapper use in music. . . We used words like "count," "beat" "pump."

3. Students identified a topic important to them and their lives and wrote a a haiku.

4. Students took a square sheet of paper and made 4-5 wavy lines. Next, they wrote in their haiku making sure that each letter touched the line above and below. We didn't worry about each "line" of our poems corresponding to a "line" on the paper.

5. Students inked their text. We discussed (and reviewed) line weight. We re-examined different styles of typography and students manipulated their text as desired.

6. Students used tempera paint to create color in-between the text.  We could've incorporated color theory at this juncture, but I felt that they needed a little freedom and let them run wild with the color choices.

Football is awesome/ you can get a lot of money/ it is so much fun


Basketball is so cool / I will play it all all day long / it is so awesome

soccer is very cool/ my favorite team is ????/ espanol?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Art of Literacy

Happy Thanksgiving. . .Y'all!

I've been busily working this week to wrap up a few end-of-term papers and projects for grad school.  One of the nearest and dearest to my heart is the creation of this new little website, The Art of Literacy, which is all about how to use Art to drive Literacy curriculum (and vice versa).  It is set up to provide educators with a few, introductory projects. And, to provide a bit of background about both Art and Literacy to help respective teachers feel more confident about driving instruction in a new-content area.

Here is the main page illustration (drawn entirely on the iPad app Procreate)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Scavenger Hunt Pictures

As, I wrote about earlier. . .I just finished participating in G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. (Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen).   It was fun. It was grueling. It was awesome. It was. . .so. many. things.

Participants were asked this week to send in a 1-2 sentence testimony about the event. Here is mine:
"GISHWHES serves to remind us that the concept of being "grown up" is not only stifling but limiting to the human experience. It may have only lasted a week, but the friendships made, creativity gained, confidence renewed, and emotional growth will last a lifetime."

It really was a rare experience. And, I'd like to take the opportunity to remind you that if you have the chance to push yourself beyond your boundaries and explore your status quo. . .You should. It is not only a learning experience, but an empowering one as well.  We see a lot of quotes and sentiments online (and in the world) encouraging us to do this every day. . .But, well, we simply don't. I think we get caught up in our routines and intend to do it later and never do.  I did GISHWHES while in school full time, teaching full time, and living my life.  I made time for it, and I don't regret it.  My partner, Nick, participated as well, and he loved it too (and he worked 55 hours the week of GISHWHES).

Here are a few (of the less threatening to my respectability as an educator!) things we did:

A team picture. Our directions were to look like we were from the 70s and very emotionally disturbed. My teammates are from Scotland, Germany, Turkey, Texas, Oregon, and California.

"What would Tickle Me Elmo look like if he had a serious meth problem?"

"Catch the legendary snipe and render in oil paint."

Film a scene from a movie scene-for-scene. BUT, you must film in the exact same location as the original movie.

Make a mock news show about GISHWHES. The more realistic, the more points.

Commit and film a Random Act of Kindness

Make a human abacus and solve problems

Here are just a few of the tasks we completed as a team (yes. I did a few of these too):
went skydiving
went shopping for diamonds wearing a wig made of buttered popcorn
made a kilt out of cucumbers and had a guy wear it
went grocery shopping with 50 stuffed animals
bedazzled a bosom
made a public petition for p does not equal np
explained Kant with sidewalk chalk
had a group of 5 year olds sing "it sucks to be me" from Avenue Q
Had a talk take us for a walk on a leash (the human was leashed)
took awkward family photos with cucumbers
had a battle in the kitchen wearing only pots/pans/kitchen tools
made a 2' x 2' portrait of a celebrity's face in Skittles
unionized Gishwhes
donated coats to a shelter
held up a quote in front of a famous world monument
made a dress of just cheese and posed in front of a classic car
made a jello angel on the kitchen floor
kissed someone with 11 food items between our mouth and theirs
knitted a sweater for a cat and made her/him wear it
dressed up as eve and posed at a bus stop with an apple
made a 2 foot tall dinosaur out of sanitary napkins
built a tea house from recycled materials and had a cup of tea in it under a bridge
roasted barbie and ken with assorted root vegetables
took a picture of ourself, holding a picture of ourself, holding a picture of ourself, holding a picture of ourself
made a Burger King employee eat McDonalds
hugged a veteran
let a toddler make brownies
made a hair crown
dressed up like a burrito and a taco in public
threaded a four leaf clover through someone's nose piercing
got advice from people married for 60 years on successful marriage
baa'd like sheep at a drive thru window
dressed up like a cheerleader and cheered on morning commuters
did a time lapse photo of a bride and groom standing in a grocery store for 20 minutes
made running shoes out of pumpkins and went for a run a public place

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Playing with Perspective

 I am in a bit of a post-scavenger hunt daze. My life right now seems to be split into two parts:  pre-scavenger hunt and post-scavenger hunt.

As the clock ran down for the scavenger hunt, one of the organizers of the event sent of this missive:  "We create, therefore we live."

Alright, so if you are a long-time reader you know I'm a bit of a free spirit, a bit of a hippy, and a serious believer in the high-value of play in life and education.  I'm confident.  But, this scavenger hunt thing? It pushed me waaay outside of my boundaries. I grew in leaps and bounds creatively, emotionally, and personally.  I like working alone, and instead, I had to work collaboratively and closely with people whom I still have not yet met. I had to rely on others. I had to ask for help. And, I had to do bizarre things that not only made me laugh (and remind me that I should laugh so much more), but also helped me to understand that being a bit different isn't something we should accept; it is something we should celebrate.

Also, doing funny stuff is (hella) fun. And, giving yourself constraints simply because you are a "grown up" is not only ridiculous, it is stifling. 

"Make sure you get one of Ms. J. acting weird!"

It was such an amazing experience. And, this is the kind of confidence and creativity I want for my students. 

So, you know me. . .I designed a day of class in the spirit of the scavenger hunt!

No lie: teaching traditional one-point and two-point perspective sucks. It is boring. Ugh. So boring. I hate teaching. I loathe it. . .I work really hard to avoid it. Blergh.   So, today, I decided to turn perspective a bit on its head.

Here is what we did:

1. We looked at this Power Point about literal, figurative, drawn, and observed perspective. Then, we looked at playing with perspective.

2. Students broke off into groups of no more than 3 and were given a digital camera.

3. Students had to come up with five different ways of playing with perspective. . .And,their groups will be awarded 5 points for each different perspective.  But, I can award up to 3 extra points per image based on originality, creativity, awesomeness, or hilarity.

4. On Monday (after students have cropped and edited and submitted their work to our online page in Edmodo), I will assign points and identify a winner.

5. The winning team will each get a FREE Chick-Fil-A biscuit.

Oh. OH. oh. The THINGS my students will do for a bit of fried chicken on a biscuit!

They had so much fun. . .And, they learned a lot. Their pictures got progressively better the longer we were outside. . .And, it was great to see them work to problem-solve the issues they were having with initial ideas etc. etc. The coolest part is that we were outside for about an hour, and not one kid was off-task.

And, as a bonus, I laughed, and laughed, and laughed. 












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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Breaking World Records!

This past week, I helped to break 2 Guinness World Records:

1. I participated in the largest international scavenger hunt in the world -15,000 participants worldwide

2. As part of the scavenger hunt we collected over 100,000 pledges from people asserting they will commit a random act of kindness (the previous record was about 73,000)

One of my "challenges" for the hunt:  "Build a teahouse from recycled materials under a bridge. Have a cup of tea in it."

Hey, and guess what?!  Many of YOU were a part of breaking that 2nd record, so CONGRATS to you.  I can't tell you how heart-warming your confirmation emails were. . . So many of you have wonderful, generous hearts and it really warms mine.

Thanks so much for your participation.  Lesson plans will arrive in your in-boxes on or before 11/9/2012.

P.S. I will post more pictures of the insanity; I promise.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

These Are a Few of My Favorite Blogs

I'm such a lucky lady because I get to teach all about digital art to a few of my colleagues.

And, I'm sharing my favorite Art Education blogs with them. . .And, by proxy, you.


These Are a Few of My Favorite Blogs!

Friday, November 2, 2012

FREE Lesson Plans and Random Acts of Kindness


I want you to pledge to committing a Random Act of Kindness.  If you pledge, I will give you 40 of my best lesson plans!!

Want the lessons? Here's what you can do:
1. go to
2. pledge to doing a Random Act of Kindness
3. use my email as your reference
4. email me and let me know you pledged, put "free lesson plans please!" in the subject line
5. I will send you 40 free lesson plans by 11/9/2012
6. You must email me on/before 12 a.m. EST on 11/5/2012 11 p.m. EST on 11/5/2012 to get lessons


Does this sound like an unusual request from an Art Education blogger? Well, it is because I am participating in an amazing, world-wide, creative, event!!

 Apparently, it is not enough to teach at least 40 hours a week, commute 3 hours daily, and work on my doctorate. Oh, no. Clearly, I have too much time on my hands, so I signed up to participate in G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. (otherwise known as Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen).  Also, I got pneumonia this week.

G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. is the brain child of actor/activist Misha Collins. Essentially, people use the internet to form international teams of 15 and work over 6 days to complete a list of over 150 bizarre, creative, altruistic, tasks that defy normalcy. There is a sliding scale fee to participate that goes towards Collins non-profit, which encourages people to commit random acts of kindness to promote a better world. There is a prize, a trip for you and your team to Scotland. . . But, honestly, the prize is all the fun you have, the people you meet, and the creative personal growth that happens doing this hilarious hunt. 

So far this week I have:
-completed a Freedom of Information Act Request for my personal files
-bejeweled a bosom
-completed an oil painting of the legendary snipe
-made a draw of a woman riding a bus like a horse going off a cliff into an active volcano
-kissed a loved one with 11 food items between our lips
-committed and filmed a Random Act of Kindness in my community
-gathered 33 people, made a human abacus, and solved math problems
-created a fake news report about the scavenger hunt
-made a Brady Bunch style photo of myself in full on 70's gear
 -created a scene of what a drug-addicted Tickle Me Elmo would look like

I'm wondering if you'd like to help?  One of the goals of the hunt is to break the current world record for the largest # of people committed to completing a Random Act of Kindness.  For each person I can get to agree to committing a Random Act of Kindness this year, my team will earn two points. . .And, the whole group of players will be that much closer to breaking an awesome world record.

I'd really like your help. . . And, I'd also like to do something for you: I'D LIKE TO GIVE YOU 40 OF MY BEST LESSON PLANS

Want the lessons? Here's what you can do:
1. go to
2. pledge to doing a Random Act of Kindness
3. use my email as your reference
4. email me and let me know you pledged, put "free lesson plans please!" in the subject line
5. I will send you 40 free lesson plans by 11/9/2012
6. You must email me on/before 12 a.m. EST on 11/5/2012 11 p.m. EST on 11/5/2012 to get lessons

Friday, October 19, 2012

Art Material Management, Duct Tape, & a Glue Gun Caddy

I've always held by the old adage, "duct holds the world together."  But, I'm really becoming a hard-core believer that a little bit of duct tape can solve a multitude of issues (especially in the Art room!).

Remember, my marker caddy? Remember how a reader suggested adding duct tape, and I did?  Well, I kinda got to wondering how else I could use this duct tape? Thanks to the popularity of the duct tape wallet and prom dress, we now have a multitude of colors and patterns from which to pick when it comes to duct tape.

Recently, using the same concept applied to the marker caddy, I made an eraser caddy!  I LOVE how I can see if all the erasers have been returned with just a quick glance.

Then, I got the idea of tagging all my pencils with tape (just like my permanent markers).  It also works. . .And, when one does accidentally wander off, they come back to me. I'm forever having teachers and students say: "I found/borrowed this and think it belongs to you."  Love. Love. Love.

Then, this week, I had the dreaded 75 person Art club. I shouldn't say dreaded, but it is a lot of people to manage at once. Fortunately, a few volunteers took charge of the 6th graders which brought my numbers down. But, only 5 students have paid dues, and that didn't leave me with much of a budget for any activities. I decided to spend the money on reusable resources and bought seven mini glue guns with about a pound of glue gun sticks. I collected all the old cardboard in my building and told the kids to get creative. Boy, did they!  I think this was the most popular Art club to date.

My concern was making sure all seven glue guns made it back to me. . .So, I made a caddy using foam and duct tape.  I was worried the foam might melt a bit when the guns were stored, but it did not. I think since these are mini guns, the heat isn't enough to mark the foam.

I'm really loving the duct tape when it comes to materials management. For a few dollars, I can really track my materials!