Student Teacher Blog
For the past several weeks, my second grade students have been working on creating a mural to illustrate the biodiversity that exists in the James River Ecosystem — we were inspired by the Ancient Egyptian depictions of the Nile River, and how focused the artists were on displaying different species of plants, animals, and fish. The VMFA houses a large cast relief that fits this quota, and it has been an end goal of mine to take all of second grade to visit the mural in-person.
At the start of our mural-making process, students learned that an ecosystem is any community of living and non-living things. We discussed the presence of living and non-living components in Ancient Egyptian art as well as in our own environment. As we delved deeper into our creation, students focused on particular species that are native to the James, and the students are now fluent in about 9 different types of native plants and fish.
The process of planning a field trip for an entire grade was certainly difficult, but it was well worth it in the end. After getting in contact with all of the second grade teachers, the principal, and the classes that we would have to reschedule because of our absence, I drafted permission slips and made copies to give to all of the second grade teachers. I was sure to include a chaperone request, and the response was phenomenal!
As permission slips flooded in, and the field trips crept closer, I came up with a few gallery activities for the students to complete. (attached with accommodations for special needs students on pages 3 and 4 of the document VMFA WORKSHEETS)
Upon our arrival, students were led through the sculpture garden, lined up, and given their field trip packet. Each packet contained a piece of matte board for writing surface, a pencil, a sheet of blank paper, and a front and back worksheet with activities for both spaces that we were to visit inside the museum. While outside, students were instructed to sketch and label living and non-living things in the space around them. We discussed the process of creating observational sketches, and then students traveled in their chaperoned groups to sketch.
In the museum, students viewed the large cast relief from Hatshepsut’s tomb and were given some interesting facts about the artwork. After the instructional input, students referred to their worksheets and sketched 2 different types of fish, two different plants, and two different non-living things that they could see on the mural. Students worked diligently and quietly! It was amazing how focused they were.
After this, we headed into the artifact gallery where students went on a sort of scavenger hunt to find and sketch artifacts that matched certain adjectives on their worksheets. Here, students exercised literacy, sketching, proper gallery behavior, and observation.
There were four second grade classes that were able to visit the VMFA–the weather was spectacular, and students were so well-behaved and on-task. Going over expectations more than once, checking for understanding, and providing ample focus for the students at all times made these trips a true success.
One of my responsibilities as a student teacher in my elementary placement is to help teach the Autism Day Program as well as my K-5th grade classes. The Autism Day Program was created to help students with severe autism, cognitive impairment, and communication and behavioral issues that cannot currently be addressed in other programs in the county. Students participate in art, music, physical education, and all other resource classes with the help of their aids. I planned a bubble painting lesson for students by pre-cutting shapes with sponges and by adding liquid watercolors to blowing bubbles. Students chose the sponge shapes that they wanted to paint with on large rolls of white paper that acted as a large canvas and a tablecloth. After painting with our shapes, students chose their colors and blew bubbles onto their paper. The shapes from the colored bubbles stick to the paper. Students had a lot of fun, and I was very proud of my lesson! It’s been wonderful to participate in this program and it has taught me so much.
My kindergarten students have been working on a unit where we create hidden sea creatures. We read Eric Carle’s “Mister Seahorse” which contains different sea animals that are hiding behind a painted clear sheet. Students learned about how Eric Carle is an artist who makes paintings and an author who writes and illustrates stories. We talked about how Eric Carle created layers to make his hiding sea creatures, and we did the same using cut page projectors and paint. This past week, I’ve been grading and putting the layers together so students can open up their projects like a book to see the hiding sea creature beneath the top layer.
Students in 2nd grade have been working on a long-term project. The focus of the project was to consider personal current identity in relation to future identity. Students created time capsules of what was important to them as 2nd graders and worked on making vessels that would hold this information.
Students learned how to create an armature (out of a plastic bag, recycled newspaper, and a cup). They then worked on papier mache techniques to cover their armature in a strong outer layer. Students were given the opportunity to collaborate with each other during this time.
After completing the papier-mache layers, students painted their vessels and created scrolls to place inside. The scrolls were an opportunity to practice writing and literacy learning by combining drawing with writing on a final scroll piece. We ended the unit with a final discussion as a group and in pairs about the process, the ideas that were generated, and challenges student’s faced.
Here are some images of their work!
The art classroom that I am working in is small and thrifty—we have three narrow tables that fit five to six students apiece, six painting easels, and then two other randoml- sized seating arrangements that together might fit six or seven students. There is not always room for students at these tables, as some classes total upwards of thirty learners. At times, students must sit on the carpet with a drawing board in order to participate.
Although this situation is not ideal, it has pushed our space into one of greater flow and creativity and has led to the idea of a choice-based art room. The basic idea is this: learners are led through a discussion at the start of every class, and then they are encouraged to choose one art material to explore that particular topic. Each art material has its own station — in our room we use paper collage, oil pastels, colored pencils, paint, watercolor, and markers/crayons.
It is very important to orient the students with all of these materials before they are set free to choose on their own. This way, students may learn the proper procedures to perform as well as the ups and downs of every station.
I was challenged with the task of orienting the students with each and every station. I did not want to take more than two class periods on this because there are so many other ideas that I would like for them to be able to explore!
I decided that I would present the students with images, vocabulary, and artist examples having to do with stratified rock, talk to them about the different station materials, and then split them up into groups that would rotate stations three times in one class period, and then again the next class. I used a version of this same lesson with first through fifth grade, increasing complexity and higher level thinking with the older age grades.
Every student used organic lines to divide their paper into six different sections, and then they would use one art material in each strata (a single layer within stratified rock). Students were exposed to the value of play and experimentation, and encouraged to focus less on perfection, and more on learning how the different materials behave.
My fourth grade students have been working on a unit on Impermanence. We’ve discussed ephemeral art, focusing mainly on sand mandalas created by Tibetan monks. In Tibet, they spend weeks creating intricate mandalas and then ceremoniously blow them away to represent change and new beginnings. Students discussed reasons why an artist might create work that doesn’t last forever. We also learned about symmetry and practiced ways of creating symmetry by first developing our own individually drawn mandalas. Students later on collaborated to create mandalas as a group on large rolls of white paper. We then used these outlines to create our own sand mandalas. On sunny days, students were able to work together in the open courtyard. When finished, we had our own ceremony where we worked together to pour our sand mandalas away. To close the unit students had their own critique where we looked back at images of the mandalas we created and discussed what we saw, what we learned, what we loved, and what we might change.
In my first grade unit, students have been working on “building water” to create their own three-dimensional Monet “water lilies”. Students learned about Monet’s series, and we discussed the movement used in his paintings. The classes had fun acting out the movements of water and then later discussing how our water lilies should move on the water that we created. During this last week, students had the chance to put all of our artworks together to build one collaborative Monet pond. I left space in the center for students to participate in their own “mini critique”. Once finished, students chose where their artworks should go and then had the chance to walk up and down the pond and see all the water lilies that they created.
Today my second grade classes created their stop motion animation movies and started on their flip books. The first two classes performed the animations all together with their aluminum foil models. However, the space was really too small for the larger classes (and more energetic students). So, the proceeding classes worked on their flipbooks while I pulled groups table by table to make smaller group videos. Only quiet, focused tables were called to work one on one with me so the rest of the class behaved well even though my attention was divided. Thanks to my supervisor and cooperating teacher for the suggestion.
The first grade classes have completed their “Object Investigation” unit. Yesterday, I installed their castings and accompanying drawings outside the cafeteria in the main hallway. I chose to exhibit the work of only one class for organizational reasons—the project has so many components. The binder clips worked well to display the plaster sculptures which are somewhat heavy and resist tacking to the carpeted wall.