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Ready or not... Here come the holidays!
Give the gift of bones.
Not real bones.
Put together a kit containing Qtips, a bottle of white glue, a stack of assorted handcrafted pre-cut imaginary dinosaur skulls, and a stack of black construction paper. Make a sample to put in the kit. And be sure to include a book or two. Here are some ideas recommended by the Smithsonian and others:
I've never understood apple pie and cheddar cheese.
For me it's apple pie and books.
One day, after a long walk, John sat under a tree to rest—an apple tree, of course. What better way to begin pie making than reading about John Chapman, the nurseryman who seeded much of our landscape with apples. From there, my recipe calls for Apple Picking Time by Michele Benoit Slawson about a girl named Anna who cares deeply about the tradition of gathering apples from those trees that Johnnie Appleseed so carefully cultivated. But it's still not time to go to the pantry. Not yet...
My recipe calls for How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Pirceman. An apple is easy to gather from the market, but where did that apple come from? And the butter? The sugar? The spices? The answers call for a journey. And this little story guides the way.
N o w it's time to go to the pantry. Peel some apples, remove the cores, and slice. Add a sprinkle fresh lemon juice to enhance the apple tang. Toss with sugar, cinnamon for spice, cardamom for warmth, and a happy pinch of nutmeg. Set aside. Cut the butter into the flour until the butter makes the flour sandy. Add water to the flour mixture, form a ball, then roll the top and bottom crusts. Fill the bottom crust with prepared apples, cover it with the top crust and crimp. Bake. Enjoy.
Nothing like apple pie and books.
Last fall, Sara collected leaves to trace for this stitchery project. You can too.
She found some beautiful hand-dyed felt on Etsy. You can too.
She traced her leaf shapes onto the felt and cut out the shapes. You can too.
Then she sent the felt leaves to me and I had my students stitch the veins. And look what our little ones made!
Your little ones can too!
Here are some tips for stitching with little ones:
1. Demonstrate - Make one yourself! Children learn so much more this way. Think SHOW vs. tell!
2. Thread needles in advance. Always have an extra ready.
3. Have each student work on two at once so that when knots happen (and they will), they can keep busy on the second leaf.
4. Go slow! Teach stitchers to "go down through the top" s l o w l y, then "up through the bottom" s l o w l y.
5. Use the internet if you need help with stitching.
I love fall. I love the sights. I love the scents. I love the texture of leaves crunching beneath my feet. I love the snap of ripe apples being twisted from branches.
And I love the stories of fall. With my youngest, Søren, I worked through our Earlybird Fall Literature and Discovery Guide three times (once at the beginning of kindergarten, once at the beginning of first grade, and once at the beginning of second grade)! Count them, three.I'm totally serious.
Three is an important number.
There is so much happening intellectually in the primary years—Kindergarten, First, and Second Grade. These first three years of school are when children are learning the basics of reading (decoding) and writing (encoding).
My son the kindergartener loved stories and he loved to draw. Copying words became an extension of this fun. We would read the stories together and chat our way through character descriptions. I used a hand-held whiteboard to capture his ideas so he could happily copy them as art into his journal. We enjoyed a fall craft each week, that was a given. When we read, How to see an Apple Pie and See the World, we made miniature apple pies. When we read the Scarecrow, we made a scarecrow doll. When we read Apple Picking Time, we drove for two hours to pick apples, taste apples, and after that, we made apple prints.
The second year, and the third after that, when I brought out the books, my son did not groan. My son was delighted to see his seasonal friends! The only thing that changed during these second and third passes was that my son was able to utilize his knowledge of language so far to encode his own ideas with me by his side. When we talked about the characters in Apple Picking Time, he was able to write a single words like "brv" for brave, and "frind" for friend to describe Anna. He was able to complete sentences from the word bank on his own. His journal time became an independent exercise too. We expanded our crafts to include a full-sized scarecrow, but we still made our traditional mini-apple pie.
During our third, and final pass at the unit at the beginning of 2nd Grade, Soren came loaded with ideas, "Mom, when we read Barn Dance, can I make the characters out of Legos? And when it came time for apple pie, he peeled and cut the apples on his own (with me hovering close by), measured the flour (dusting the kitchen with twice as much required for the recipe), and rolled the dough "all by himself" (for the most part). That year character descriptions included a deeper ingrained knowledge of phonics—friend was at last "friend" and "brave" was at last brave"—and a peaceful sense of independence. I knew that this would be the last fall we would work through the guide. Third grade would bring a new adventure with our Level 1 guides.
Soren did not work through any other Earlybird selection more than once. But he did work through them ALL during the primary years (kindergarten and 2nd grade). And I'm so glad he did. He worked through Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, and Level 4 too!
My son is now seventeen, and, looking back, I can say with certainty that it took all those years for him to develop and percolate his reading and writing skills. Literacy is an immensely complex, nuanced art. This year Søren is a high school junior interested in philosophy reading the likes of Kierkegaard (his namesake), Hobbs and Locke and Whitman. Who would have known back when we were picking apples? But I have no doubt in my mind that he is able to wake through the work of these wordsmiths because of the traditions we began back in kindergarten.
I am convinced that the longitude of utilizing our approach—the Blackbird & Co. approach—gave him the stamina and the skills to think deeply about great books and to formulate original, well-versed culminating ideas.
It's still fall. Why not begin today? Snap an apple off the tree. The harvest season is small and precious.
These pumpkins don't grow on vines but they have something in common with fortune cookies and piñatas.
1. Take a lunch-sized paper bag and fill the bottom with torn paper.
2. Before twisting closed, insert a handcrafted thanksgiving haiku.
3. Twist the top of the bag tight.
4. Paint using pumpkin colors.
5. After the paint is dry, use ribbon and raffia to decoratively seal the stem.
Display during the Thanksgiving season and tear open when it's time to celebrate gratitude.
For the past 30 days we've had bones on our minds. I don't know about your neighborhood, but mine is sporting bones on every lawn! And bones make me think of art. And when I think of art, I think of Leonardo da Vinci.
So how is it that Leonardo tricks us into believing that this 2D drawing is 3 dimensional? It looks more like he's carved those cranial cavaties, right? But it's just a mass of lines, textures, values, shapes. That's all.
Da Vinci would say it begins with observation: "All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions."
Beyond that, the magic word is simply this: work.
You know the old adage: Practice makes perfect. Turns out it's true. When it comes to tricking the eye, only the tenacious succeed.
That's where YOU come in (yes, you).
Truth is, anyone can draw.
So why not try? Let Leonardo guide you. Start by asking yourself," What exactly did he do with line, texture, shape, and value? Grab a pencil, an eraser, some quality paper and get cozy (art does not happen in a flash). And when you think you're finished, set the drawing aside and come back to it later with fresh eyes. I'm sure you'll see something new to add, some small space to revise. Keep going. You'll know when your drawing is complete. And when you know, you'll see. Your drawing will be a treat to the eye ready, like Marlo's, to mark your initials.
Why cover a pumpkin with yarn? My son, Taylor, the 21st Century Renaissance Man would answer like this: "Why NOT cover a pumpkin with yarn?"
This pumpkin is a project that I worked on during the month of October a few years back. Let me tell you, bringing shape to this silly little idea was super fun, peaceful, and, well, scientifically thought provoking. My pumpkin mummified in yarn did not begin rotting until July of the following year. And when it did, it only molded a bit at the bottom. In fact, only when I set it back into the garden at the beginning of the following October did it move well on it's way to dirt. I enjoyed that pumpkin art for an entire year. Now that is something.
This year in art, Taylor (who donates a few hours a week at the Guild to guide our apprentices though the process of artmaking) is beginning at the beginning by helping children explore the "alphabet" of art. So when I remembered this project, I thought to myself, "What a perfect way to teach organic contour lines." With our group of wiggly artists in mind, this would also be a terrific opportunity to experience the fact that art does not happen fast!
So this coming week we will begin yarn pumpkin project as we consider pumpkin lines. Here's how:
1. Choose a pumpkin.
2. Choose a yarn color. I chose orange to cover a white pumpkin but any color will do.
3. Paint a small section with glue and cut lengths of yarn to cover the pumpkin from stem to base and begin covering the pumpkin.
Continue in this manner until the pumpkin is mummified with yarn.
Introducing F is for easy. F is for foil!
But it's so much more...
F is of course for fox, fish, frog. But it's also for feather and fur, a forest on fire, a flock of flamingos. F is a fantastic friend.
F is also for books: The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel, Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni, and From Head to Toe by Eric Carle.
It began with a hefty dose of imagination, a glass pearl, and some strands of fabric.
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the very first microbiologist never intended to be the world’s first microbiologist. He was actually a tradesman who had never studied science!
From the time he was 16, he apprenticed in a linen-draper’s shop. Soon he became a merchant because he worked diligently. He developed a fascination for the small world that our eyes alone cannot see while working with fabric, using pearls of glass to observe the fine weave of linen.
He developed more than 200 microscopes during his lifetime and made many important discoveries including the first observations of bacteria which he called “animalcules” in 1674, “animals so small, in my sight, that I judged that even if 100 of these very wee animals lay stretched out one against another, they could not reach the length of a grain of coarse sand”.
During his lifetime, he made many discoveries and observations that he carefully documented and illustrated. He died a very old man who accomplished his important work, a work that inspired generations to follow in his footsteps..
So what better way to celebrate the birthday of this man of science (October, 24, 1632) than to create a close observation of something from the micro-world? You can begin with a microscope or, because we live in the 21st century, a Google image!
This amazing drawing of cocci (bacteria that can lead to diseases such as strep throat) was done by former apprentice Marlo. What makes this observation incredible is the detail she included. So did she complete this in 15 minutes? No way! Do you think it took over an hour? One sitting? Two sittings? The answer is unknown. But I can say with certainty that Marlo dedicated sincere concentration to this accomplishment. The reward is, well, obvious!
Anyone can create an observational drawing, think Dory’s song: “Just keep swimming!”
If you are adventuring through our brand new unit, Taxonomy of Living Things: The Five Kingdoms of Life, meander with me for a moment...
Echinoderm? Whoever said, "It's all in a name," sure got it right. Echinoderms got their name because they are spiny-skinned marine animals. They possess radial symmetry, and many possess 5 arms (or multiples of 5). Sounds oh so scientific, but we've all seen these animals- sea stars, urchins, and sand dollars.
Collagraphy is printmaking process that is related to the art of collage. Do you see the connection between the words? It is sometimes called "relief printing" because the subject to be printed is raised from the print block. You can print anything this way, from fiber to sandpaper, feathers to paperclips.
Stopping to think about the word origin, one comes from the Greek word koala, meaning "glue" and graph, meaning "write". I thought to myself: "Glue...? Write...? ...WORDS!"
So our collagraphs were made by glueing words backwards and in reverse onto chipboard to create our print plates. The more words the merrier. Simple enough. From there, the possibilities are endless. Offer a variety fun colors and let students cloud words onto large scale paper in the style of pop artist Sister Corita Kent. The results will surprise you.
Aesthetics is a set of principles that inform the outcome of a work of art. Aesthetics taps into that part of our being that connects with beauty. Last spring, after reading The Mozart Season, I knew the section of the story that would inspire the most creativity. I know this because I have seen it here, and here, and here. And when readers stumble upon this three page passage, well, Section 5 happens.
As the story goes, when Allegra and her mother's friend, Diedre spend an afternoon in the Rose Garden, well, music happens. Nestled atop a hill in the park is a silvery aluminum sculpture. There are tall columns and arched columns, smaller columns and water uniting them all:
"It was Diedre who started the song. She began slowly, BONG bong Bong bong with her knuckles on the three big columns, walking between them."
Now I've seen some fantastic creative responses to The Mozart Season (some that have won awards), but when this past year, one of my students finished the book and brought in her Section 5 project to share, I marveled that, yet again, it was in response to this specific music making passage.
And the project she brought in was not only "nique" (as Allegra and her friends would say), but also a perfect opportunity to share some tips to elevate the Section 5 project artistically. So following is a little make-over:
With a cardboard box, some discarded bottles, aluminum foil, a few scraps of notebook paper, one green marker, Scotch tape, and a pitcher of water, my student made a musical instrument. While I have seen many musical instruments (even musical compositions) inspired by this little section of The Mozart Season, this one captured my imagination. Think "don't judge a book by its cover" for a moment. this little homely project surprised me with rich sounds made from filling the bottles with different levels of water and blowing gently across each the neck. Oh! I was simply tickled, "My favorite Mozart invention so far!"
But the poor dear was in desperate need of a makeover. So I gave the maker a simple lesson.
You don't have to be an artist to make your idea beautiful. And, think about it, ideas are meant to be appreciated. So, go on, beautify.
One last thought... There is a trend in all sectors of education to discount the reading of pure fiction. This is not wise. This quiet little story is, in my opinion, powerful proof why we all need to read across many genres, all kinds of stories. Every time I've led students through this purely fictional story set in a very real setting (the competition that Allegra is working toward is a real competition that happens annually in Oregon), they read a few pages and groan. But by the time they get to the end, they have a deep appreciation for the rich story and fodder for their creativity to unfold.
Before the observing begins, explore the science of clouds. The invisible air around us contains droplets of water we can not see until they mingle above to form a cloud. This formation is the result of warm water on Earth evaporating and condensing in cooler pockets of sky above. We've all interpreted the shape of clouds, but scientists have categorized and named them. There are cirrus clouds and cumulus clouds and others too, and there are variations in many combinations: altostratus, cirrocumulus, cumulonimbus.
Now you are ready to explore. Over the course of many days, observe the sky, making little sketches of what you see. You will discover that no two clouds are alike. Clouds may have similar attributes (puffy, streaked, swirling), but from there, when you look closely and really think about what you are seeing, the similarities disappear.
So how do artists recreate clouds in two-dimensions? They begin just as you've begun, by looking. Using chalk pastels is a fun way to capture the essence of a cloud on paper. Begin by sketching your cloud shape in white, then begin smudging shades of blue in your sky space and tinted white. Sometimes clouds have bits of pink, yellow, blue, even purple, look closely.
With a handful of chalk pastels, a small stack of 3 x 5 rectangles of bristol board, an aerosol of spray fixative (to spray on completed drawings so they won't smudge), pre-cut mat board, and your head in the clouds, you too can create a wonderful little museum of clouds.