Blog Archives

Creating A Lasting Legacy

Awhile back (yes I know it’s been a long time!) I posted about the collaborative school-wide project that I was gearing up for this year.  After a lot of planning, hard work, problem solving and CREATIVITY all of the “pieces” finally fell into place!

A Lasting Legacy (ALL), got it’s start last spring when I was awarded  a $1,000 grant during a SURPRISE all-school assembly!  My immediate thought (after being completely blown away!) was not to buy more markers, art books or supplies for students but to give them an art experience.  As I spoke to the newscaster in my interview an idea began to form.  I wanted to do something big, something that all kids could get their hands on, something…kind of like the unforgettable experience I had when I was a 7th grader in my junior high art class.  I wanted to do a Mosaic Mural!  I also wanted to strengthen the sense of community and belonging, engage students in collaboration and communication, and provide students the opportunity to work with a professional artist and experience a new artistic medium.

Why did I choose a Mosaic Mural?

An effective mural can:

       Give students a voice and a platform to express themselves
Bring people together
Convey a meaningful message
Build success, hope, and school pride
Strengthen the ties between school and the community
Allow students and teachers to collaborate and learn together

AND a lot of other things too!  Students will engage in activities that support both the National Visual Arts Standards and the Framework for 21st Century Skills including: Creative Thinking and Working, Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving, Judgment and Decision Making, Communication and Collaboration, Initiative and Self-Direction, Productivity and Accountability and Leadership and Responsibility.  District curriculum themes including Communities, Working Together, Neighborhood, and Family and Heritage will be enriched throughout the process of creating the large-scale mosaic.

As I mentioned before, it took a lot of work and a lot of planning to get this project to happen.  I’d never written a grant before but after receiving the Channel 5 Grant I was inspired to make it happen!  Many drafts and revisions later I was awarded two additional $1,000 grants; one from the Iowa Arts Council and another from my district’s alumni foundation. I also asked my school’s PTO (who were very supportive!) for additional funding.

After having everything approved both building and district-wide it was time for the students to get to work!  I asked each of my 750 students to create a drawing that depicted out community; school, home, and city.  Concetta and I sifted through hundreds of drawings, sorting recurring themes and images and pulling out unique ideas.  After collaging student ideas together we came up with an amazing design that represents our students and their understandings of community.

Finally we were ready for our Artist in Residence!  I was lucky enough to be able to use our schools ‘multi-purpose’ room as the “Mosaic Studio” so that in the afternoons I could teach K-3rd grade students in my own classroom.  It’s amazing to see how students responded to the studio atmosphere!  It was wonderful to see the way they worked and talked with “a real artist” (yes, that’s what they said!).  I will share more student reflections soon!

5th Grader polishing a freshly grouted mosaic panel!

I’ve just finished the final grouting and am working on sealing the edges of the rounded panels.  The next step is getting our amazing maintenance guys to help me frame and hang the 4 massive panels!  I will share pictures once the panels are hung in their permanent location!

Our community (it's upside down!)

One thing I’d change if I could go back – slow down and enjoy the ride!  I spent so much time planning, organizing and coordinating that I feel like I missed out a bit!  Would I do it again?  Most definitely!

"Spot-Grouting" the heart panel

Check out the full story covered by a local online newspaper here!

 A Lasting Legacy: Ashland Ridge Elementary Mosaic Mural


Artist in Residence

Recently, a colleague nominated me for our local ABC Channel 5’s One Classroom at a Time Education Grant for $1,000. You can view the video of the SURPRISE all-school assembly my school had for me here!  (Warning: I cry like a baby!)  I was completely blown away and so grateful for the support I received from everyone!  My immediate thought when I was awarded the grant was not to buy supplies for the art room, but to give my students a learning experience that would impact their lives for years to come.  I believe that a collaborative mosaic would be an excellent and authentic example of such an experience.

The school I teach in is a very new school and a very large school at that, with an enrollment of over 800 students in 28 sections.  Believe it or not, I see all of them for 45 minutes once a week.  For the last three years, we have been working hard to define who we are and to build a strong community of educators, support staff, parents and students.  I believe this collaborative work will allow students and teachers a venue to express our identity, voice our aspirations and build school pride.

One of the reasons I chose a mosaic mural is simply due to my previous experience with mosaic artist, Concetta Morales, while I was in Junior High.   This encounter impacts my life to this day; I remember collaborating with peers to plan a design that reflected our school culture; working with others to create an image greater than what we could on our own; leaving behind a remnant of who we were.  That mosaic mural still hangs in the hall as you enter the Junior High; a collection of individual tiles held together by glue and grout, and a metaphor for the community created within school walls.

I hope I can provide a creative experience like that in my own art room; in fact, I am hoping to get the very same artist I worked with over 16 years ago to work with my students!

Have you ever invited a visiting artist into your classroom?

Please share how it affected your students and their work!

What advice can you give about securing and integrating an Artist in Residency experience?

10 Ways to Get Your Students to Think ARTFULLY

Teaching kids to think Critically and Creatively is a process.  It takes work!  Students need a variety of quality authentic experiences from which to draw from as they acquire their own problem-solving skills.

Here are 10 ways you can get your kids to think Critically, Creatively, and yes, Artfully!

  1. Let students draw from observation.  Create a still life in your classroom or collect books with lots of pictures of animals, cars, insects and more.
  2. Allow students the chance to connect with their work by giving freedom of choice.  Yes, you can still select an overall theme, but let them choose the “meat” of the work.
  3. Engage your students in rich dialogue about art history and past artists.  Students need to know why artists make art!  In our busy schedules we often don’t devote time to really talk about art.  Let them analyze and make their own judgements.
  4. Give students time to explore the materials.  In most schools kids get to work with clay once a year – that means that the average 5th grader has only worked with clay a total of 6 times!  Let them know the materials and the process.
  5. Teach lessons that call for student collaboration.  Give students the chance to talk out their ideas and build upon the creative thought processes of others.
  6. Engage students in group critique.  Teach them how to give positive feedback and ask questions about art.
  7. Give students the chance to reflect on their work.  Create a reflection form, have students fill it out and attach it to the back of their work or let them discuss their thoughts while standing in line.
  8. Let them plan!  A lot of artists create thumbnail sketches or create a rough idea before they begin their final work.  Planning is the visual brainstorm!
  9. Allow times for complete self expression.
  10. Lastly, model creative and critical thinking.  Think out loud.  Allow students to hear how an artist thinks!