Saturday, May 23, 2015

Art Teachers Playing Around...

About a month ago, three art teachers packed up a Subaru and headed to 
Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville for the annual Art Education Conference.

And it was fabulous.  

We talked, just about everything on the ride down, and sang to our hearts out, on the way home but before that we were leaders.  We held workshops and presentations.  We shared our accomplishments, techniques, lessons, ideas, email addresses and we felt a community start to grow.
It was invigorating discussing art education trends, theories, philosophies...
It was fabulous.
But on the first hot day of the season and as the trees were in full bloom, 
the most fabulous time was when we paused.
I sat with one of the most energetic, driven and passionate art teachers (yes, you Jil) and sat....
I sat
and enjoyed a cup of coffee, outside, in the sunlight.

We took off our shoes, and it felt good.  We took a walk and just talked about...well...everything.
As we walked through the campus we came across an amazing sculpture, constructed out of big bold colorful Lego blocks, titled:
The Importance of Play


This sculpture steered our conversation towards our own art-making and the issue of "playing around".

As art teachers, we thought, "how often do we gather to just make art?" 
Not for samples in our classrooms, not to engage in a discussion about practice, not to collect our professional development credits....
but to just make art. just be in a space with individuals who inspire creativity, think big and laugh a lot.

Not very often.  In fact prior to this conference I held a workshop for art teachers at my school, in which I had planned the activities as to show that this is a 'valid professional development experience' (said in a very serious voice).
Yet, I threw my plan out the window because I realized we (the collective participants) didn't need another lesson at 5 o'clock on a Thursday evening.  They needed to pause, to have a slice of pizza and to play.

It felt really good.

 So, take 20 minutes to play:

Anywhere and everywhere.

I did and I ended up like this:

...and made something like this...

xoxo, Smock you.

Following the Smock Room...

I am super excited to see so many people reading my posts!
The best way to keep up with what is happening in the Smock Room is by checking out sanborn_smockroom.

It's a daily feed on the daily activities in my classroom!

Thanks a bunch!

xoxo, Smock Room.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ordinary to Extraordinary....

The Evolution of a Styrofoam Cup
About a month ago, I came across a Pinterest post (I think) of the DC Sketchers, with the related image of a group of people, gathered around a small table, 
sketching a still life of styrofoam cups.  
I thought, "Oh how fun"!
I then proceeded to think about my students perceptions of common objects and their inherent nature to "know things", just by having some sort of experience with them.  Take the simple styrofoam cup for example.  This simple vessel is used everyday, from the coffee cups at school functions to quenching the thirst of miniature soccer players, to 'pots' that will soon grow beans in our classrooms.  
They are everywhere and by being everywhere, these familiar objects become common and common leads to inattentiveness.
And then I thought, again, "Oh this WILL be fun"!

In preparation for this art unit, I reflected on the numerous art installations I found on Pinterest and Scholastic Art Magazine, created by this very simple object.  With a little 'Googling', I came across Styrogami.  Yes, it's an actual thing and it is AMAZING (Check it out Here)
But my focus was not just to make a really cool sculpture, my focus was to encourage my students to pay attention to details and 'see' how a simple curve can transform something flat into something with volume.  I wanted my students to analyze materials and evaluate their effectiveness when using them.  I wanted my students to see how even simple shapes can be transformed into something bigger and magical.  
I wanted my students to see how something ordinary can become extraordinary, and how something seemingly simple is, in reality, complex.

Throughout this school year, I have been focusing on creating art units that 'test' my students' skills but also demonstrate their growth to them, fostering an understanding for process over product.  After all, how much can we possibly do with a styrofoam cup?  
My overall focus was for students to understand the 'process' of making art, is as important, if not more important than the product.  To illustrate this idea, I referred to the artist Richard Serra.
My speculations were pretty accurate.  To begin the unit, I simply passed out some manilla paper, asked the students to fold it in half, write their name and "Perceptions of Space" on the cover and then draw a styrofoam cup.
With cups already on the table, my confident students took the challenge with full force and began to vigorously draw a styrofoam cup.  I heard, "This is easy" and "I'm done" very often, all the while taking note that the majority of these, very confident, students were not even looking at the cups.  

After stopping them, we took a little gallery walk around the room and evaluated our peers' efforts.  There were a lot of groans.....
My first question was "Does it look like a styrofoam cup?"
The majority offered their responses with a "eeehh...."
Then I asked, "Did you look at the cup?"
The majority offered a "eeeehhhh..."
Then I asked, "Why not?"
"Because it's just a styrofoam cup".

I offered, "Aaaah".
Let's try this again.

The entire instructional sequence spanned 8 weeks (probably more) but you never would have thought it, with all the interest and sheer will to master drawing a cup.  We started with simple line drawings and progressed to larger abstract styrofoam cup photography...and back to a simple cup.
All the while building our observational drawings skills, visualization skills, problem solving skills and reflective skills.  
Pretty amazing stuff.

Check out the rest of the snapshots
and the entire Art Unit with "I Can" statements, rubric and discussion sequence!

Follow on our Instagram page:

xoxo, Smock Room