Sunday, June 25, 2017

Socially Engaged Art, SICA 2017

Socially Engaged Art was the theme for the Summer Institute of Contemporary Art or SICA 2017. I attended SICA 2015 and I enjoyed it so much that I couldn't wait to return to Penn State to enjoy it again this year. It did not disappoint. Before I get into all the wonderful knowledge that I gained I want to say just how friendly and accommodating everyone was. I was given rides to and from my hotel by people attending the institute and by a dear woman who I met last time I was there. There's a special camaraderie among art teachers that just can't be beat. I am glowing and feeling super intelligent at the moment!

I gotta say I really didn't understand what I was getting myself into with the theme Socially Engaged Art. I thought is was about getting more social through your art, okay really clueless here. But I remembered how nice everyone was and how they fed us breakfast and lunch and paid for my hotel room and the institute was FREE. AND I really like learning NEW things.

So it turns out that one example of Socially Engaged Art is the melding of art and social work. In other words as an artist working in a community, one needs to be aware of what can help that community to thrive. An example of that would be the water filters we made on the second day of SICA.

I was stunned to learn that there are many people in the United States that do not have access to clean water. With that in mind using just clay, sawdust and water we learned how to make ceramic water filters.

First we sifted wood shavings (from the campus woodworking shop) through screens to separate the sawdust from the larger pieces.
Then we measured out equal amounts of sawdust and clay onto a large tarp and mixed it together. This was done by sifting the contents within the  tarp back and forth a few times. 

Then that mixture was gently poured into a wheel barrel along with some water scooped up from the ground. (It rained earlier.)

After that was all mixed together we used a plaster mold in which to make the water filter. (The mold was made using half a football nerf ball. As that was a perfect shape for the filter.) 

 We started out making a small pinch pot with our clay mixture and pressed it into the bottom of the plaster mold, then continued by adding coils until the inside of the mold, through to the lip of the mold, was covered in the clay mixture.

 When the clay is hard and dry it will be fired in a GAS kiln as the sawdust will burn out and not be kind to an electric kiln.

The finished water filter can then be placed on the lip of a bucket with a spout. Dirty water goes in the top and clean water comes out the bottom into the bucket. This process will clean the water by 95%. 

Now, we did not hide ourselves in some basement art studio, we did this outside accessible to people passing by. And people were curious and stopped to talk to us and find out what we were doing. And by talking to them, we were educating them as to a community's need for clean water.

So there you have it-artists socially engaged making art to help people. Okay, now that was just ONE example another example might be to make people aware of something you might not agree with. Sort of getting the word out, being an activist on a cause that’s important to you. But that my friends that is a whole another story!!

I want to give a shout out to both Dana Carlisle Kletchka and B. Stephen Carpenter II for ALL their hard work. Without them, I'm not sure there would be a Summer Institute.........

 Thanks for reading! 
I would love to hear about any fun summer professional development you have planned for the summer!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Crayon Challenge

There are always discussions on Facebook as to which brand to buy when stocking our art rooms. Art teachers are always asking other art teachers for suggestions and recommendations.

I got lucky, I had received an email a few years back asking if I would like to be part of a teacher's advisory board for Faber-Castell. I JUMPED at the chance!

Soooo recently I was asked if I would like to participate in a Crayon Challenge*. And of course I agreed. Now having been part of this advisory board for a few years and receiving many of their products for free, I was concerned about favoritism and that perhaps I couldn't quite be as objective as I would like to be. So I got my students involved.

It was the last week of classes and students were given many choices as to what they could be doing in art. Click here for those details. I then asked for a group of volunteers to come to the back table for the Crayon Challenge. I had about 5 students at a time and as students finished more could take the challenge if they wanted to.

Now since our mascot is a lion and since this last week was about using up photo copies I handed them a sheet with 4 outlined lions. Click here to see how I used them in a lesson. One lion for each brand they would be trying out.

I had students mark each lion with the brand name. They had Crayola, Cra-Z-Art, Faber-Castell and RoseArt.
As they were coloring I asked them to think about the following questions when evaluating which of the crayons they liked the best. What crayon colored the smoothest? Which crayon had the best coverage? Whose brand had the most vibrant color? Which crayon had less of a chance of breaking? Which crayons blended the best? And when they told me which one they liked the best I wanted them to tell me why.

I'm pretty happy to report that Faber-Castell came out on top as to which crayon the students loved. Coverage was great, color is vibrant, very smooth coloring and due to the thickness of the crayon, it would be harder to break.

Now I would have thought Crayola would have come in second, because that's what I usually have available for my students, however, many of the students picked Cra-Z-Art because the colors were paler and they liked the softer look of that product. I found that to be interesting.

My take away from this, is to think about involving your students in the process of picking out the brands you purchase for your art room. It really shouldn't be too expensive to buy a small pack of a few different brands of crayons or even markers, colored pencils or paint to try with your students. If you attend conferences, you will be able to pick up free samples. And another thought I have is to write/email companies and ask for samples. It's worth a try.

I would like to know how you decide what brands to buy.

Thanks for Reading!

*Disclaimer: products were sent to me for review and all opinions are my own and/or my student's. I will receive free merchandise for compensation.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Best Last Week Ever!

This year's last week of school was the BEST one I can ever remember having. I decided to go through my file cabinets and pull out leftover copies from lessons done in the past. I set up the copies around the room and explained what they had been used for and then I let students in grades 2-5 choose what they wanted to do. With kindergarten and 1st, we did the story The Big Orange Splot and they made the house of their dreams. I usually leave this lesson for substitute teachers. Click here for more substitute ideas.

These were left over from a 9/11 poster that I had a few children work on for a memorial service at a local park. Click here for Blog Post 

 I love Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head and I did a paint project many years ago where students mixed brown and designed their own Potato Head. Read about it here.

 The Lion is our mascot and I love doing projects around him. Students copy famous art from postcards to fill in the shape of the lion. They also had the option of creating their own art.

Google has a annual contest called Doodle for Google. I never actually entered my students in it, but they seem to have a lot of fun playing and doodling with the Google logo. I just may need to consider entering them! The Lego Person is another lesson I leave for subs and is mentioned in the post with the Dream House.

I also mentioned to teachers that students could bring their electronics and fidget spinners. And I pulled out the iPads I have for the art room. I was able to purchase them through a grant. Read about it here

Turns out that I'm not the only art teacher that wants to make sure students are engaged during the last week of school check out the blog Managing the Art Classroom for a wonderful list of things to do the last week. And this one from Cassie Stephens.

Sorry I don't have more student work to show, but my goal was to keep students engaged and for me to start cleaning up the art room. They really did some cool stuff.......

Away another year down and my room is packed up and ready for the custodians to do their thing this summer.......

Thanks for reading and enjoy your time off!!!