What’s been going on in the Art Studio?

Hello all!

What a busy start to the school year we’ve had! Below you’ll find some information about how each grade has been spending their art time. Due to the choice-based nature of the program, each artist may be working on a unique project or process, utilizing the skills and concepts taught each week. I also keep an eye out for opportunities to explore “emergent curriculum”, using the children’s interests to inspire deeper dives into learning. Through the lens of the “Studio Habits of Mind” each group is engaging in multiple creative processes each week and continuously building upon their artistic knowledge and experience. The “Studio Habits of Mind” are: Observe, Express, Engage & Persist, Stretch & Explore, Understand Art Worlds, Reflect, Develop Craft, and Envision

Kindergarten: Observe- Five Senses and Texture

Our kindergarteners have entered the art studio through the lens of their five senses. Our senses help us to experience the world and art is all about “stimulating the senses”. Our students have been reflecting on which of our senses we use in the art room and how. Throughout their art time, students are asked to experience each material through multiple sensory inputs, allowing them to slow down and notice what each tool can do for them. For example, while using a pencil, you may use your senses of sight (to watch the marks being made), touch (to feel the smooth pencil and the sensation of rubbing it onto the paper), smell (to notice the aroma of wood or graphite), hearing (to notice the scratching sound made by the pencil marking on the paper), and lastly taste…which we have all agreed we do not usually use in the art room. Recently however, we did have a chance to paint with some yummy fruity tea bags, so taste did actually come into play a bit! Students also had the opportunity to explore different textured objects through printmaking, using paint and a variety of surfaces to create “visual textures”.  Through the lens of the five senses, students are mindfully exploring their world and ways to express themselves within it. 

1st Grade: Develop Craft- Color

Our first graders have shown a strong interest in color-mixing with paint. To begin the year, we spent some time learning how to care for our materials, including how to set up and clean up our workspaces. Students are learning how to take responsibility for their process and building agency in the art room. As they become familiar with the painting center, students will enter into a deep dive exploration of color-mixing using the book “Mix it Up” and the primary colors, black, and white. Through trial and observation, this lesson will develop an experiential knowledge base for color-mixing that will be built upon as they practice.

2nd Grade: Observe/Express- Portraits

Second graders are starting the year learning the painting center routines as well, with a special focus on portraits. We began our study by talking about skin tones and undertones, asking ourselves “how can I mix skin-tone colors using only the primary colors, black and white?” During this discussion, we noticed that everyone had a different skin tone, and that is beautiful! Each person’s skin tone is unique and requires a lot of observation to mix perfectly. We also discussed “warm” and “cool” colors, noting whether we had a warm, cool, or neutral undertone to our skin. Next we talked about facial expressions and how our facial features can show others how we are feeling. By observing each other making different facial expressions, students had the opportunity to see how each person displays emotions differently and how eyes, mouth, and eyebrows can help to express a feeling. 

3rd Grade: Understand Art Worlds- Art and Nature

Using our trip to the San Lorenzo River as a jumping off point, the 3rd graders have been exploring how art and nature overlap. Our River Trip project involved mixing liquid watercolor paint with river water and incorporating it into our work. Through collaboration and careful conservation, our students were able to utilize the wonderful resource of the river in their art making while also keeping it clean and remaining mindful of waste and our impact. In fact, we carried all of our tainted water out of the forest with us! Artists use nature in a variety of different ways, from materials to inspiration. Prior to our trip, we took a look at Monet’s waterlilies to show us how one artist used highlights, shadows, layering and blending to represent water. Moving forward, we will continue to explore how artists can utilize all of nature’s resources responsibly and creatively. 

4th Grade: Stretch and Explore- Art as Play

As children mature and progress through developmental stages, their perspective on their art tends to shift. At this age, children can become so obsessed with realism that they become overly critical of their work. Sometimes they can feel so embarrassed about their art looking “wrong” that they don’t try at all. This unit is meant to strengthen students’ “growth mindsets” and let them know that “mistakes” are valuable. Through a large amount of choice and materials exploration, students are given the opportunity to let go and let those “happy accidents” occur! So far, we’ve explored art games, inkblots and a cutting technique I call “drawing with scissors” (letting the scissors flow, cutting shapes without any direction in mind). We have also begun exploring positive and negative space, reminding ourselves not to forget about the paper that’s left behind. Our inspiration for these processes includes the book “Beautiful Oops” as well as the late, great Bob Ross. These exercises allow the pressure of making something “perfect” to lift, and challenges students to step back and observe, asking: what could this become? 

5th Grade: Reflect- Who am I as an Artist?

Each fifth grader is given their own sketchbook to use throughout the school year. We have begun our time in the studio with an introduction to the Studio Habits of Mind, with a special emphasis on how they apply to each artist’s practice. Through the use of mind-mapping (a visual note-taking strategy), students brainstormed responses to the question: “Where do artists get ideas?” With each lesson, the students are asked to consider: do I enjoy this new idea? Could I use this concept in my art? They are also reminded to consider that even if a particular lesson does not pique their interest, it could be very meaningful to their peers. Through a combination of reflection and studio choice time, students are beginning to become familiar with their habits as an artist and developing goals for their work. As we progress, students will learn more about observational drawing (including shading techniques, still lives, figure drawing, and perspective.) 

The Magic of Constructivism

The wonderful thing about a choice-based classroom is that the children are given the freedom to apply the concepts they learn to their work in a creative and meaningful way. Each week, a concept, material, or technique is introduced, along with an activity to explore. While a student may not choose to participate in that particular activity on that particular day, every student participates in the lesson introduction and demonstration. Studio time follows, which allows for student choice in material and subject matter. How can we tell if students are learning the information without a specific prescribed product to prove it? So many different ways! These examples just happened today: The previous week, we had been learning about positive and negative space in 4th grade, and I had introduced a collage activity with black and white paper. This week we focused on complimentary colors and why they make each other stand out. After the introduction and demo of a new collage activity, one student asked me: can I please do the activity from last week instead? Of course! This student had been working on a detailed drawing the week before and wanted to focus on that, but still wanted to have the opportunity to explore positive and negative space. Another group of students said to me: “we don’t want to do that activity but we are going to use positive and negative space in our puppets. One is positive space man and one is negative space man”. This group had been exploring puppetry for a few weeks and was using the concept of positive/negative space as a way to define their characters’ personalities. Yet another group unknowingly utilized these concepts through the use of tape to spell out a phrase, the convening the paper with paint. When they removed the tape, the negative space (white space underneath the tape) spelled out “Be Kind”. Constructivism is a term that refers to the active construction of knowledge through experiential learning, and in this classroom it can take any form!