Saturday, September 20, 2014

Oxie is up for Auction!

Dexter Philip Oxford, III "Oxie" is up for sale! The online auction closes October 19th. Check out Oxie and friends a bid on an ox you love. There is an ox for everyone!

Proceeds from the auction go to development of the Hopewell Valley Arts Council.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Unlocking Mona Lisa

Boy do I have some art history buffs here! We are learning about Mona Lisa and friends as we kick-off a unit on portraiture. It's been over 10 years since I've been to the Louvre in Paris but it's personally nice when I can share information about art that I have seen the original version of. Several students have travelled to Paris recently which was neat to make the recent connection. How do you spell "so much fun"?!

Ok, so on the art room door, I've had a poster of Mona Lisa for years. I put her there because she is insanely famous and fit so nicely at the entrance with different messages I have coming from her smile.
I projected her picture today and asked the kids who has seen her image before and where. I was so glad that most hands went up and with answers like "on my mom's umbrella! On the art room door! I have that painting at home!"
I asked the kids what they liked about the painting and what they observed. So glad they noticed her soft veil, the amazing background, her missing eyebrows and her traveling eyes.

Outside my window I hear kids in after-care talking about Mona Lisa and the secret codes...

Back on track, the kids were so observant and so intrigued. Well come on, a painting behind bulletproof glass that is priceless and has eyes that follow you??!

We talked and talked and talked. And they didn't mind their Mona homework either. I am really looking forward to doing 6 different self-portrait projects at once for this years Square 1 Art projects.

Celebrating Dot Day

"Make your mark and see where it takes you" is a quote by "The Dot" author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds.
I love the powerful messages in his books and read his stories each year. This year, we participated in International Dot Day by creating circular shapes with designs on simple construction paper with markers and/or oil pastels. We are now working to collage the designs together for a hallway display.

I love the hand drawn and cut shapes as much as the beautiful, individual designs that my students created as they are a reflection of how individual and special each artist is. So many students and staff members wore dots (or stripes) today as a visual reminder of Reynolds' quote. Being a Monday, I was impressed by how many members of our school community actually remembered. And the funny thing is that this message is a special one for adults as much as children. Have the courage to make a mark and see where it takes you.

Monday, September 8, 2014


Day One of Art Class we always spend the bulk of the class period creating art. I personally am a bit Attention Deficit in meetings so I can't expect my students to sit in our colorful, stimulating art room and not create! We tackled some simple rules, got seats and then moved into our first projects....... the first of which was a simple piece of functional art.

It was hard keeping a secret but I made it to day one of art today without telling the kids what the cereal boxes were for that they collected.
I'm excited because, after a 3 year hiatus, we are using formal sketchbooks again... and this time we're making them with a few simple supplies. 
Zooming back a few years: Every student had a sketchbook AND I gave them all weekly drawing assignments AND I vowed to check that they completed the drawings AND all before the end of the class period/school day. It was CRAZY. Half the kids loved it and half said "ART HOMEWORK??!" and didn't complete the simple assignment. My intentions were in the right place but what a task. So, I canned it and gave out optional vacation and summer drawing prompts. 
But, I really love the idea of the kids having a sketchbook and how easy it is for the kids to make them while being "green" in their art so that's what we did today.
My students made two sketchbooks today: one to keep in art class and the other to take home. The home book has 30 weeks of optional sketchbook prompts inside if the kids want to use them. Of course, they can just fill up the pages as well with drawings and writing of their choice.

I started to think "here we go, again!" as the piles of recyclables started to pour in. I have found myself in this situation all too often having a classroom filled up with "trash" or cumbersome materials. Fortunately, this is a one week project, the kids are really liking these sketchbooks and (here's the big one) the cereal boxes do not attract bugs since they are clean and.


Fold and cut

Add a binding

Pages and rubberband so that more pages can be added easily

Mrs. Drake checking out the sketchbook

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Happy September!

Happy September and Welcome Back! So, it's 90 degrees here in New Jersey but the heat couldn't slow down the awesome start to the school year today. It was so great to see the Bear Tavern students excited for another year. Ten years ago I was a first year teacher. Time truly does fly. I think about those years, eight of which have been spent in public schools, in terms of the experiences and the faces. This school year, I can only think about my current 5th graders and how it was just yesterday that they were tiny first graders, had the cutest little smiles with two front teeth missing and how we used to sing songs while making art. Every single time, the sun would find a way through the window to those little, happy voices. And at the time, I remember always feeling pure joy from those moments because the rest of the world stopped. Any feelings of nerves that I had from being new to the building back then would just disappear. My 5th graders don't necessarily know what exactly those special times meant to me or that I even remember those little moments back in 2010.

The hardest part about being an elementary art teacher is missing the kids when they move up to middle school. After seeing the kids grow and mature and become such talented artists over several years, it truly is tough not to see them daily/weekly anymore. It's so tough. So, I kind of see each class as a special moment because what other choice do I have?
...and Now.

I begin this school year feeling so glad to have the opportunity to teach art to such wonderful children. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

5th Grade: Celebrity Portraits

One of my students asked me yesterday what my favorite lesson to teach is. I couldn't give him an immediate answer but realized today that this "Complete the Photo" lesson has got to be on the list of favorites since I have been doing this lesson on and off for 10 years now. Galit Breen wrote an article about the lesson and published photos of my students work from a couple years ago in All Parenting Magazine. Read Here
My 5th grade Art Enrichment class sailed through (most of) this drawing lesson. They did as good of a job as my eighth grade drawing class years back. Ultimately, patience is key.

Here are a few:




Saturday, August 23, 2014

"Oxie's on the Map!"

"Oxie's on the Map!" I can't take this phrase out of my mind that a BT parent said to me. So here it is... Oxie's little spotlight

I am loving this picture of Dexter Philip Oxford, III or simply "Oxie" traveling to Bear Tavern for installation a little over a week ago. Doesn't he look noble? Living up to the name, I guess. Speaking of the name. Oxie's name is a combination of a few names the Bear Tavern kids mentioned last spring. Honestly, the name could be much longer but I am content with what we've got.

Photo from

Enjoy viewing all of the oxen throughout Hopewell Valley, the energy for these oxen is through the roof! 
See you soon!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

For those that missed it: here's the Link to Last Years Summer Drawing Challenge Post HERE

Heya! And the Ox is finished

Hey everyone,
I am back from my temporary blogging vacation. I've missed writing but ultimately had some things on my plate that took up the end of my school year at Bear Tavern.
The first was matters of the heart. I spent every single free moment that I could with students (especially 5th graders before they moved on and up to 6th grade).
Every year it has been tough to let go of students and make the transition from seeing and speaking to them daily to not knowing for sure that our paths will cross again. So, I spent as much time as I could with my lovelies and wish them the best of luck in September and always. Part of that fun was watching World Cup soccer. Ok, a lot of the fun was soccer. I am a huge CBF, Selecao, Brazil through thick and thin fan. Over the years, I've realized and cherished the events and experiences that happen outside of the classroom or off (art) topic things that bond us. We spent some incredible quality time working on projects, talking soccer, thinking about summer and those sorts of things.

The second thing was our Bear Tavern ox. I blogged at the start of the spring about a project that the arts community in Hopewell Valley had been working on-- designing and painting full sized oxen for the Hopewell Valley Arts Council 'Stampede'. You all saw the "Ox Selfie Cam" of my colleagues and me posing with the blank canvas. At our art night, the school community had a great time painting the ox and then a smaller group of students, staff and I went in to finish it up.
Our ox was finished in July and I was able to view our ox along with the majority of the others at an estate in Pennington before they were placed throughout the community. Here are some pics of a few of my favorites and the oxen that my colleagues created with their schools.

Love this one AND it's on my way to and from school

Another favorite
Another fav. Loved this concept by Timberlane artists and Donna Cariola

Hopewell Elementary- cute fingerprint froggy's!
Stony Brook Elementary- intricate stars 

Toll Gate Grammar-super neat paint lines!
Hopewell Valley Central High School- gotta love the primary colors!
Soooo pretty 

Grazing in the Field
 Hopewell Valley is buzzing with the excitement of these new public art pieces. Check out the Arts Council web page for a map to find the 60+ oxen, artist bios/art statements and a ton more by clicking on the logo.

Glad to be back, I hope that you are all well and my best wishes to you for a great end of summer and start to the fall.