Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Mumble: Feeling Especially Thankful

Today (and yesterday as well) we celebrated the completion of our ceramic lamps in Art Enrichment. It was a huge accomplishment for my students that I did not want to pass up so we celebrated with food and cheer. Have you toasted with 5th graders before? They are so spirited! And their lovely parents.... what a beautiful morning! 

When I began my art teaching career in 2004, I was a ceramics teacher at a high school. I was impressed by the level of projects that we completed back then. 
Today as I looked at the ceramic lamps that my 10 year olds made, I felt such excitement for my students and a sense of pride for them that is different than my normal level.

As an Educator, I feel extremely fortunate. I  have the best students. Children who I have watched grow beautifully over the past several years. Children who I see the world in and know that they are wonderfully smart and creative and special. Children who I believe in with all of my heart.  I have had parents at the schools I've taught in (especially at my current school) who I could talk to for hours and hours if afforded the chance. My colleagues at Bear Tavern make each day wonderful and my Principal is phenomenal. 
As an educator, the joy is always in the challenge of creating experiences that are positively memorable. In my quest to make these experiences, I have found that I, in turn, have been so blessed over so many years. In my first couple years of teaching, naturally I felt blessed because of how happy I was to have a great job with wonderful students. As that newness of being "an art teacher!" faded, I began to feel blessed beyond measure.... my heart glows in a way that can only be understood after teaching for a while and in different capacities. 
Through my journey with my students in Hopewell Valley to my experiences teaching at Grounds for Sculpture, camps and private organizations, I just love being an art teacher and am so thankful.

I hope that all of you are counting your blessings and enjoy this American holiday with the people you cherish. Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for reading this blog.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Crayola ColorCycle

The Crayola ColorCycle program turns old markers into energy (clean burning fuel). I will be honest with you, I was not expecting to be blogging about ColorCycle today because I have been so carefully choosing projects and deciding what projects I will be a part of. There are always so many wonderful things to be a part of after all.
Crayola is a a company that has been around for ages. When I first read about their new ColorCycle program earlier this fall, I immediately thought that the graphics they created were wonderfully, classic Crayola.
One of my art colleagues decided to do the program and after seeing the nice resource page on the Crayola site, it was so easy to join in to help the environment.
So, here is my bin set up for old markers to be donated. Hopefully, my students will find a bunch to bring in during the course of the school year. A few at a time, here and there. Once filled, I will ship them off to Crayola using a pre-printed label that I can print from their site. Easy-peasy!

Crayola ColorCycle Process

The process can convert plastic markers into usable fuel.  Here’s how it works:
Plastic markers are collected by schools and sent to the energy conversion site. At the facility, the markers are collected in a large container, where the plastic is melted. The hot liquid plastic then travels into a reactor, where the temperature is even higher. The reactor breaks the long molecular chains into shorter ones as a result of the intense heat. The shorter molecules become a gas or vapor and float out of the reactor into a cold chamber. The vapor is cooled to room temperature and turns into a clean-burning liquid fuel. The fuel can then be used to heat a home, run a car or cook food.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Grade 3: Leaves and Lines Resist

Third grade is finishing up resist paintings of leaves. We discussed warm/cool colors, line, repetition, contour lines and fall leaf colors for this project that couples oil pastel and watercolor. Originally, the cool colors were to be in the background and the leaves were to be painted in fall/warm colors. I have to say, I was quite impressed that my students asked to use their artistic license and deviate away from this plan. I had a boy walk up to me with a straight face and say "Mrs. Johnson, I feel that I need to use just a touch of warm colors in my background. I think that it will make the painting look better..." I love discussing art with children in a way where it's a consultation and they know that their opinion about their art matters the most. So, taking risks, and use of artistic license is what they did and I am quite pleased with the results. 

Grade 3: Oil Pastel Moonlit Pumpkins and a dash of mumble

Yesterday, November 14, my final group of third graders finished their moonlit pumpkins. We started this project last month. Unfortunately, my Thursday/Friday classes get hit pretty hard here in NJ missing a TON of art between the teacher's convention and Thanksgiving. It's tough. If I could, I'd move the convention to almost any month but November (and December and April) because it's two whole days away from kids I will inevitably not see a few weeks later. Well, we finished today...I've had the rest on display in the hallway for weeks now.
Moving on, a staple fall project of mine has been pumpkins. In the past I have done chalk pastel pumpkins like these back in 2011. I saw a project on Pinterest of these pretty moonlit pumpkins and thought I'd switch things up.
We talked extensively about moonlit skies and how the moon tints the sky circling the moon. My 3rd graders used oil pastel on black paper to create the sky and then worked on indicating the direction of the grass growth using oil pastels as well.
On to the pumpkins, the kids knew right away that the tops of the pumpkins would be lighter since the moon was shining right on them.
I really like how these pumpkins turned out and the kids were happy with this project. Next year, I will go back to chalk pastel though.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Grade 5: Silhouette Trees

It has been a few years since I've done this project and I forgot how much I enjoy it and similarly the kids did as well.
We discussed silhouettes and a variety of color schemes before my kids figured out a way to create a colorful background for themselves that was just right. The trickiest part of this lesson is the x-acto knife safety training which was needed to cut the intricate negative spaces out from the black construction paper. Oil pastels were used to create a "hypercolor" effect based on a t-shirt that was popular in the 80's when I was a 5th grader. We finished these last month which was neat because many of them convey a spooky feeling....

Student working hard using bold colors with a cool color scheme

Nice job Kira!

Awesome Aubrey! 

5th Grade Art Enrichment: Ceramic Lamps

Student working. Those hands are such an amazing tool!
We are nearing completion on our ceramic lamps that we have been working on in Art Enrichment. The kids have started to glaze their lamps and they are looking so vibrant and beautiful. I gave my students the challenge of creating a lamp base using clay coils. Some left the coils exposed for decorative purposes, others smoothed the coils out. We will wire our functional lamps so that they light up properly. The kids have been working so happily hard...I know they are creating a piece of art that they will cherish.
Below are pictures of our works in progress. Wait until you see the finished results!

Slowing down the drying

All so beautiful and different

Trying out the lamp shade for sizing 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Grade 2: Clay Leaves

If we could have stayed outside and played in the leaves, it would not have felt like a lost day. To start class off for 2nd grade, we went outside with the mission of finding the largest leaf that we could, plus two others. 
The sun felt so good and the colors on the school property right now are out of a book. 
After we searched for leaves and brought them back into the art room, we took clay imprints of our autumn colored treasures.
What a perfectly colored shirt 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Join Me @ GFS: Iron Pour

Featuring Bear Tavern Parent and Rockstar Sculptor, RORY MAHON
Saturday, November 2nd, 2013
Stay for an hour or two for an amazing experience as Rory and crew pour lava hot iron!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Grade 1: Clay love

In life, the simple things are sometimes the most beautiful, meaningful and profound..
I love clay. Starting our adventures in clay always begins in first grade with a simple little pinch pot.
To get those hands on their very own piece of clay is one of the best moments in first grade each year. As they realize that their hands can build something special and beautiful. As they bring home their little pinch pot that has marks from their 6 and 7 year old fingers. They are making a piece of art no parent could ever muster the strength to throw away.
That little pinch pot. Holds coins and moms rings and whatever else.
We started pinch pots this week in first grade. It's a great week.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Free Giveaway: Celebrating 100,000 pageviews

Marisol loves to paint. So when her teacher asks her to help make a mural for the school library, she can’t wait to begin! But how can Marisol make a sky without blue paint? After gazing out the bus window and watching from her porch as day turns into night, she closes her eyes and starts to dream...

To celebrate Art Rocks! reaching 100,000 page views, I am giving away to a random member a brand new copy of Peter H. Reynolds' book "Sky Color" for you to use in your classroom, to read at home or to (cough, cough) re-gift!

To enter, become a member of this blog and make a comment below...perhaps mentioning a book that you love to read to your child, to the children in your class or another comment of choice. I will message you to obtain your mailing address if you are selected! Open to US addresses only.

Giveaway closes on Oct. 30 at 3:00pm EST. I will post the winner later that evening!

Please email your mailing address to
I will amazon prime you a copy of SKY COLOR!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Grade 4: iPads and Landscapes

It felt great to get outside this morning to take pictures with my 4th graders.
After a short discussion, we took the iPads outside to take photographs of the trees on the school property and photographs of fall colors in general.
Back inside, we reviewed the photos and got ourselves prepped for painting our landscapes. It was pleasant to see them navigating through the painting project successfully without any real directions. They know how to paint! They came up with solutions that worked for them and they did not rush to add unachievable details in. Normally kids will try to get it all done at once but I was glad to see that my kids knew better on their own today.
We will be finished next week. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Grade 1: Fall Leaves

There are some projects (ok, you know me better...there are MANY projects) that I just cannot contain my enthusiasm for. These watercolor leaves made by my first graders is one of those projects. 
Watching them make decisions for layout, enjoy the process of using materials happily and successfully..... well lets just say this: I must have said "these are SO beautiful" at least 25 times. It got to the point where the kids were laughing at me. "Carlos, I love how you added just a touch of orange..your leaf looks so realistic!" "James, wow, you lightened the color in your background so well by adding water!", "Maeve, you swirled those cool colors together so nicely in the!" I couldn't control myself. Here are the kids in Mrs. McCann's class viewing their work that they knew I was rushing to hang up in the hallway....LUNCH CAN WAIT FOR THESE BEAUTIES!
1st grades view their freshly displayed work