Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci
"One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself" Leonardo da Vinci

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Tree

Why do some kids keep drawing and some kids stop? Are artists childlike creatures who remain forever locked into their own imagination, viewing the world through their myopic vision? Are artists the product of noisy, argumentative families where their imagination is the only safe, quiet place to hide? Or do artists come from families where creativity is encouraged with lots of art materials and trips to museums? Maybe artists come from families, as Georgia O'Keefe said, who "work with their hands". Have artists chosen their path, or did art choose them? Did they have encouraging teachers, or, like Faith Ringgold, did they have teachers who told them that they "would never be an artist"? Have artists always risen up from poverty, or can they also come from wealth and exposure to art and other artists? Is being artistically gifted hereditary, or can any one practice artistic skills and become fluent?
Every week I see children that I think are truly gifted artists, but I also see children who have great ideas and think independently. I see kids who work with their hands so easily, interpreting their ideas into something visually exciting and new. In kindergarten, no child doubts that they are artists. They jump right into their work, unafraid and excited by new materials and ideas like color mixing. In first grade, they have better fine motor skills and begin to interpret the world around them with accuracy. In second grade, they have confidence and use color, line and shape in bold ways.
But every once in a while I see a child whose intensity really amazes me. Last week, I was explaining a project about winter trees to a kindergarten class. I asked the class to begin with the deciduous trees we had looked at in the book "Owl Moon". Then, I explained, they should finish the forest with pine trees. As I looked around the room to see if everyone understood what I was asking for, I noticed one girl who had begun to work as soon as I said the word, 'tree'. I walked over to her table and saw that she was focused on her tree; a big, dark, twisted tree with forked branches and rusty pastel bark. She hadn't heard the assignment but had begun as soon as she heard the word 'tree' and had fallen into that trancelike state that I see in some children whom I believe to be real artists. I believe this focus, this intensity marks them from an early age as gifted and talented, and, although I see many children whose wonderful ideas delight me, these are the children I look for: to encourage, to help in any way I can.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Peace Project

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Project Based Learning

While designing the art curriculum for the year, I have to consider these ten 'commandments' for project based learning:

1) Begin with an end in mind: an outcome that is attainable and understandable but manipulative for all students, 2)Make tough topics fun: sometimes all those old dead French guys (the Impressionists, the post-Impressionists, etc.), can be daunting..how to make them interesting? 3) Focus on standards; the Art standards revolve around the mediums, processes, history and vocabulary of the art room; most projects naturally involve all the standards. 4) Keep it Simple; instead of looking at a body of work, focus on a theme or one painting. 5) Start a project off with some fun: a movie, outside walk, game or dance (look at all the animals in a Marc Chagall painting;I and the Village); do the chicken dance, make a chicken hat). 6) Keep the project close to student's experience: learn about African American art and the Great Migration; have the student's painting show how his family came to this area, 7) Set deadlines...most of our work is done in a week (1 hr), but students are free to come in at lunchtime and work on it. 8) Balanced assessments: rubrics (1234), observation, portfolios.
9) End with some excitement: an online gallery of the student's work, an interview about the work 10) Test the project before you begin: Why should the kids have all the fun? I always try some of the materials, processes and ideas before presenting it to the class.

Project based learning is easy in the art room: The very nature of making art involves making choices, using natural curiosity, being a decision maker, being a problem solver, using creativity and resourcefulness. The possibilities of a partnership between technology and art are exciting and endless for making project based learning in the art room new and relevant.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Big Question

How can I use technology to further enhance student interest, understanding and achievement in the art room? Involving the student in the pursuit of knowledge, specifically about art, and in the design of the lesson plan, would allow that student to feel empowered and in charge of his own education and goals. To take full advantage of the effects of technology, the student would have to have a hands-on approach to the lesson and not feel as though he were just 'watching'. The lesson plan would also have to have a process component, in which the student used the mediums of the art room; such as paint, clay, drawing materials, fibers and papers, and learned the processes of art; such as printmaking, painting, ceramics, weaving and sculpture. Having the lesson plan be 'project based' is natural for the art room, where a finished product is sometimes, but not always, the goal. Technology would be useful in stimulating a life-long appreciation of the cultures, ethnic groups and times that encouraged other artists to create; in approaching new processes and materials; and as integral parts of the curriculum, such as creating an on-line gallery. For those children who struggle in other classrooms, the art room is usually a haven of possibilities: to communicate, to allow themselves to be absorbed by the process of creating, to be a part of the community of artists that is the art room, without being judged in any way. Many of the children I teach cannot read or write (yet), so the introduction of technology that would use mostly slides, videos, or drawings would allow them to participate without struggle.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Digital Divide

In the new vision of challenging learning activities, the curriculum for all students would emphasize the integration of higher order thinking skills, authentic tasks, and mixed-ability groupings. This vision of classrooms structured around student involvement in challenging, long-term projects and focused on engaged learning is important for all students. The key elements of student engagement are: student confidence, teacher involvement, choices of activities (teachers who let students choose assignments), and clearly stated goals.
According to Marc Prensky, (Prensky, 2001), "We now have a new generation with a very different blend of cognitive skills than it's predecessors - the Digital Natives". Children who are raised with the computer "think differently than the rest of us. They develop hypertext minds. They leap around" (Prensky, 2001). As a result of their experiences, Digital Natives crave interactivity - an immediate response to each and every action. Research on classrooms that have put constructivist teaching and learning models into practice also indicates that technology can enhance student engagement and productivity (Robler & Doering). Technology can also help students develop positive cooperative learning relationships, enabling them to work together while researching topics and creating presentations.
Teachers should be concerned first with good curricular content and second with the incorporation of technology. Bruce and Levin (1997), for example, look at ways in which the tools, techniques, and applications of technology can support integrated, inquiry based learning to "engage students in exploring, thinking, reading, writing, researching, inventing, problem-solving, and experiencing the world". They developed the idea of technology as media, with four different focuses: media for inquiry (such as date modeling, spreadsheets, access to online databases, access to online observatories and microscopes, and hypertext); media for communication (such as wordprocessing, e-mail, synchronous conferencing, graphics software, simulations and tutorials), media for construction (such as robotics, CAD and control systems), and media for expressions (such as interactive video, animation software, and music composition).
The ideal classroom has technology that complements what a teacher does naturally, extending their reach and broadening their student's experience beyond the classroom. I couldn't help thinking as I watched the videos that technology removes the walls of the classroom and allows the student to travel beyond his world. For instance, animation that reveals hidden worlds: inside a human body, the construction of the Coliseum, or the side effects of cancer treatment. This constructivist approach would be especially advantageous to at-risk and disabled children, as well. Technology increases the complexity of the tasks that students can perform successfully, raises student motivation, and moves the classroom toward student self-reliance, peer coaching, and teacher facilitators.