Paper Engineering with 3rd Grade

After spending time in their classrooms learning about bridge engineering, 3rd grade artists then come down to the art room to learning about a different kind of engineering – a kind that uses paper.

A paper engineer is a person who creates movable parts and pop-ups for a card of a book, out of paper. Folding, cutting, twisting, gluing and constructing are all necessary to be a successful paper engineer, but the most important step is the planning step.

Each student will be creating their own themed book. In the process, we have learned several methods of creating paper pop-ups and students have worked individually or in groups as I presented them with different paper engineering challenges.

Though there is still much work to be done, here are a few in-progress shots of our pop-up books!

Click on a photo to begin slideshow:


4th Grade Goldsworthy Sculptures

For the past few years I have introduced 4th graders to Andy Goldsworthy, since I believe his artwork creates a nice connection to their social studies curriculum. While they are busy studying different areas of the earth up in their classrooms, they are creating art using materials from nature down in the art room.

Andy Goldsworthy is a sculptor, a photographer and an environmentalist. He creates sculptures using the materials that are provided in the nature setting that he is in. He uses leaves, rocks, sticks, sand, dirt, thorns, ice, snow, berries, blades of grass and even his own spit (as we found out after reading a book on his process) to assemble his delicate sculptures. Here are a few examples of his work:

Since we lack the same access to cross-continent environments, I employed the “fake it til you make it!” attitude that led the students to success. Local craft stores offer a wonderful supply of fake, and sometimes real, nature. I brought in rocks, sand, beach glass, leaves, sticks, grass, shells, flowers and moss for the students to work with.


We discussed simplicity, balance, minimalism and impermanence – as they pertained to Goldsworthy’s artwork, and to their own.

Students had the opportunity to play with the materials for as long as they needed before composing their final sculpture.

Click on a photo to begin slideshow:


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Now you see me… Now you don’t!

Sometimes it seems as though we spend so much time finding that perfect balance between blending in and trying to stand out. This last project by our talented 5th graders toyed with that same struggle, in their artwork. leila After looking at one of my most favorite videos of artist Liu Bolin (The Invisible Man) and several photos of his work, we dove right in to creating our own camouflage artwork. Students looked through books and photos to find a background image they liked, and then painted it on a sheet of paper with acrylic paint. When the painting was complete, they laid their hand and arm over their paper and another layer of acrylic was applied to their skin, to mask it within the painting below it.

Please click on a photo to begin slideshow:

Tried and True – First Grade Coil Pots

Working with clay is such a valuable experience to have. It awakens our hands in such a unique way; the soft mushy texture, the pushing and pulling, the squeezing and pinching – it is so satisfying!

So even though we don’t use “real clay” (clay that comes from the earth) here in the 89 Art Room, good ol’ Model Magic does the trick, allowing us to use our hands in that same fantastic way.

First graders rolled, balled, pinched, pulled and sculpted their Model Magic as they learned how to make coil pots. Some chose to build a classic style pot with layers and layers of carefully stacked snakes of clay and others created their own style by modifying the shape of their vessel and adding ball or swirl clay embellishments.

Click on a photo to begin slideshow:

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The Trickiest Challenge

One of the most important parts of my job, as I see it, is to teach students how to be creative problem solvers. Can they mix that perfect shade of paint when they only have limited colors… and how? Can they build a sculpture with movable parts using only cardboard and tin foil… how? Can they take flat, lifeless paper and DO something to it to bring it to life… how?

Each year in first grade we do a paper sculpture project. The specifics vary from year to year, but I always refer to these types of paper manipulation:


Of course, I invited students to continue exploring and come up with their own ideas of paper manipulation as well.

I raised the bar this year with a project that I knew would be insanely challenging, but I wanted to see if  the first grade artists could do it – given the proper supports.

After lots of paper sculpting practice… and lots of demonstrations and examples… I asked the 1st graders to look at Kandinsky paintings and recreate them as sculptures. Only the most minimal parts of their artwork could remain flat on the base.

Using their very best creative problem solving skills, they rose to the challenge. I hope you enjoy looking through these as much as I enjoyed watching students make them!

Click on a photo to begin slideshow:

First Grade Line Collages

Just as kindergarteners spent time learning scissor skills in the fall, 1st graders are continuing to increase their fine motor skills and build upon what they learned last year.


After several cutting exercises and a few discussions on lines, students cut up these beautiful paintings, that they had previously made. Cutting a piece of paper from one end to the other in one continuous cut is VERY tricky. Most students really have to fight the urge to cut bits and pieces off of the paper. In the end though, they need each long strip to complete their collage.

The beauty of these collages is that lines are created in the negative space.

Click on an image to begin slideshow:

Just a pinch!

Teaching students to control their pressure in art is something I struggle with often as the teacher. Students always want to press hard with their pencil, or squeeze their clay til it comes ooozing out of their fists. The feedback from the pencil on paper and the sensation of soft, mushy clay on skin is truly appealing (believe me, I get it – I do this all day!!). Sometimes, however, a pinch must truly be a pinch. And what better way to teach that than with pinch pots!

A pinch pot is a clay vessel that is created by carefully pinching a ball of clay until it has a cup-like shape. We went one step further and added tails and eyes to ours, making them pinch pot fish.


To jazz them up a bit at the end, students added some decorative touches with gold paint.

Click on a photo to begin slide show:


Drawing with Scissors

One of the most challenging things for a kindergarten student to do is work with scissors. It’s hard to put your fingers in them the right way, it’s hard to open and close them and it’s hard to get them to cut exactly what you want them to cut… Luckily for our kindergarten students, they were learning to use scissors while being inspired by the great Henri Matisse.


Kindergarten 2014-2015 Matisse


First we discussed the difference between geometric shapes (like squares, circles, triangles) and organic shapes (freeform, wibbly-wobbly, zig-zaggy). Then, building on the knowledge of collage that the students already had from their classrooms, we got to work.

Kindergarten artists created these amazing collages using their love of Matisse and their new scissor skills!

Click on an image to begin slide show.

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Meanwhile, Down In the Art room…

Kindergarten artists begin the year learning about color. Exploring the mixtures of primary to secondary colors can be quite magical.

The first project of the school year was a smoosh painting. With a bag filled with red, yellow and blue paint, students got to push and smoosh and mush their bag of paint until they had all of the colors of the rainbow represented – all without getting a drop of paint on their hands! Here are just a few selections:

The next method of color exploration was impressionism. Kindergarten students learned about Monet, and his unique way of applying paint to blend colors together. Students used q-tips to dot and dab their paint on their paper, mimicking the style of brushstrokes Monet used, to create vibrant, colorful paintings. Here are a few selections:

Coming soon: Kindergarten Retrospective continued… Matisse collages! Pinch pot fish!

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Welcome Back to the Art Room!

Happy 2014/2015 school year!

After only a few days of school, I can already tell this is going to be a fantastic year!

Please make sure not to send your child(ren) to school in their best clothes on art day. Even though I try to keep things as neat and orderly as possible, Art happens, and kids (and teachers) get messy! If your child happens to have an OOPS! kind of day in art, hopefully it’s not on an important outfit.
As a reminder, here is when each class has art: (click on image to enlarge it)







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