Olympic Storytelling

Possible Classroom  Concepts: Language Arts – Storytelling

Social Studies – History  (Archeology, Sports), Science (Ecology)

Mathematics – Pattern, Symmetry

Possible Art Concepts: Art History (Greek Vases)

Drawing (Forms, Moving Human Figure), Pattern, Commercial Art


Hello all! I’ve been wanting to cover storytelling in art for a while now. I’ve been doing a lot of research, but just couldn’t seem to pull the trigger. Then, the Olympics came along and “VOILA, INSPIRATION!”.  You all know the old adage, “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” Well, before the invention of the printing press, that’s how word got around. Few people knew how to read because there wasn’t much out there to read. Stories were passed down by word of mouth or through images artists created. One great example of storytelling art is the Greek vase. The vases often contained images of everyday life, stories of Greek gods and even the Olympics. Find a nice example of a Greek vase and some vase characteristics here. Find information about the Olympics for intermediate students here and for preschool and primary students here. Sorry I don’t have many pictures of the Olympic game vases for you. The examples I found all contained quite anatomically correct nude figures. I know, in our school district, nudes were a No No, so I’m sure it’s that way in yours also.

To encourage storytelling and incorporate a few mathematic concepts in your class, you might choose to create a Greek vase with your class. If you have access to computers, students could use this interactive sight to design their own pot. Students could also make their vases using crayon etching or simply draw on black or orange paper.  This teacher  gives a great description of symmetry and how to create a paper vase shape.  Next, students can brainstorm their favorite Olympic sport/athlete. They can act out poses of moving Olympic figures or look at this chart and practice sketching them. I find that starting with a stick figure and fattening it up like the Fine Lines art teacher uses here works best.  The students can then draw their moving figures onto the largest area of their vase. Lastly, the students add pattern above and below their figures. There is also a paper plate vase activity here.

I was thinking of another approach to teaching this concept. Greek vases were used to hold water and wine. What do we use to hold water today?  Why, many of us use the plastic water bottle. This the perfect place to incorporate an ecology lesson. Using the information from this chart and this video, discuss the importance of drinking water from a reusable water bottle. Look at examples of different reusable water bottles found here and here. You could also bring some reusable water bottles from home or students could find some in their lunch boxes. Learn to draw a basic water bottle here. Discuss with students what they like and dislike about their water bottles. Encourage students to design /invent their own reusable water bottle. They can still even decorate it with today’s Olympic athletes and modern patterns. If your school participates in the Square One  fundraising program, students could make their Olympic design for the fundraiser and order a real stainless steel water bottle with their design on it if they like. At times like these, I wish I was still teaching. I would soooooo teach this lesson.

Well, I’ve come to the end of another post. As usual, I’ve learned some new things and the post ended up a little different than I initially intended. What do you all think? How would you or have you taught this concept? To leave a comment, simply click on this post’s title and scroll down to the comment section at the bottom. I’d love to hear from you.

Come back again real soon!

Whoops There Goes Another Rubber Tree Plant!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Inventions (Vulcanization), Senses (Smell), Social Studies – History, Careers (Engineers, Commercial Artists), Supply And Demand

Language Arts – Literature, Mathematics – Sorting, Graphing

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – James Rizzi

Commercial Art, Art Careers, Drawing, Paper Sculpture, Color Mixing (Primary Colors, Secondary Colors)

Four posts ago, I talked about clothing being displayed in art museums. Well, guess what? Clothing isn’t the only unusual item being displayed in art museums this summer. The Rise of Sneaker Culture” is currently on display at the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. Yes, actual sneakers, not Pop art paintings or sculptures of sneakers, but the sneakers themselves. This exhibit was at the Brooklyn Museum, NYC, from July to October of last year and I was really bummed that I missed it. The invention of sneakers became possible after Charles Goodyear invented the process of vulcanization, a way of combining rubber and fabric. Thus, my reference to this song in this post’s title. Read about the very first rubber shoe or plimsoll and more sneaker history  here and here.  Find a video history here.  Find a nice little slide show with descriptions of some of the highlights of the shoe exhibit here and a video here

Over the years, the sneaker has evolved along with it’s purpose and scientific advancements. Their first purpose was to keep people’s feet dry or hold croquet balls in place. When sneakers began to be worn for sports, beginning with basketball,  it’s shape changed. The shoes became high tops to protect the ankles. When the shoes became specialized for different sports, the soles changed. Spikes were added to some to aid in running track. Air bubbles, pumped air and springs have been added to allow for better athletic performance. Who made all these advancements possible? Why they were engineers. While investigating this post, I found several sneaker themed, engineer based science lessons online. Check out this one. In the 1950s, influenced by movies starring James Dean and Marlon Brando, sneakers became everyday wear. Later, fashion houses, hip hop stars and sports endorsements made the sneaker a fashion statement. Who designed the outward look of these? They were designed by commercial artists. I found it very interesting that two Jordan Air designers were trained for other fields. Tinker Hatfield, the first Air Jordan designer, was originally an architect. Dwayne Edwards, footwork design director for brand Jordan, was initially a file clerk. Sometimes visual artists like James Rizzi will design the surface of a sneaker. As you can see, the sneaker and it’s history can easily be incorporated into a science or career unit.

After investigating the history of the sneaker, students could brainstorm the next innovation they’d like to see in the future. Students who are into the show Sharktank or other invention series would really love this asignment. They could sketch out their ideas or make a 3D model of a sneaker. Below you will find steps to a 3D sneaker I used to leave for subs. (So frustrating, reinventing the wheel. I had this lesson all made up and threw it away when I retired. Hope you can follow these three steps to a 3D tagboard sneaker.)

The sneaker exhibit may correlate well with literature time if you happen to be reading one of these three sneaker books to your class:  “Pete the Cat-I Love My White Shoes”  by Eric Litwin, James Dean or “Those Shoes”  by Maribeth Boeltz and “Stink and the Worst Super-Stinkey Sneakers” by Megan McDonald.  “I Love My White Shoes” could be modified to an excellent color mixing story for your students. Those of us who are familiar with color theory know that a red shoe mixed with blueberries would turn into a purple shoe, not blue. If Pete would step into water to clean off his shoes, then stepped into lemons  and then blueberries, his shoes would turn green, etc. You get the picture. “Those Shoes” keys into the commercial aspect of sneakers. Younger students would love the first two books. After reading one of the books and looking at examples of sneakers from the exhibit, students could engage in some sorting activities found here and here. The third book is a chapter book and could go along with a science lesson on the senses.

Most students have one or more pairs of sneakers. They can easily identify with a sneaker. So, using a sneaker theme could be of interest to them and  help them remember the classroom concept you are trying to get across. Also, it seems that no theme or subject is an island. There always seems to be crossovers with other subjects. I hope you have found some kernel of knowledge that will help in your everyday teaching.

I hope you will stop by again soon!

Time To Go Shopping!

As I was walking around Walmart today, I was reminded of my days before retirement. This would be the time of year I would traditionally purchase certain art supplies for my classroom. Just as December and January are good months to pick up calendars for classroom art visuals, (I talked about that here), July is the time to stalk up on art supplies for your arts integration program.  Stores like Walmart and office supply stores run specials on some basic art supplies to get people in the door. For example, today I saw Crayola Classic Markers, generally $3.99 a pack, for $.97 in Walmart. (Hint: Don’t get the washable markers. If the child’s work gets wet, the image disappears.) Office depot has Crayola colored pencils for $.50 a pack this week. Staples has a 24 pack of Crayola Crayons for $.50 this week. I realize you can get off brand art supplies inexpensively at the Dollar year round, but I’ve found, on these items, the quality isn’t there. Warning: Don’t go for the 2 pairs of scissors for $.50. I bought them one year and they broke halfway through the year. If these supplies aren’t already on your student’s supply list, I’d purchase 12 packs of markers, 6 packs of colored pencils and 6 packs of crayons. Elmer’s glue and glue sticks are often on special this time of year also. So, for around $25.00 you could get a nice little start on art supplies. Our PTA used to give us a nice little stipend at the beginning of the year and I’d pay myself back then. So, check out the ads in your area and see what kind of bargains you can find.

Pigeons/Friend or Fowl (Pun Intended!)

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Birds (Pigeons), Ornithology,  Endangered Species, Extinction

Language Arts – Nonfiction, Reading For Information

Social Studies – History (WWI And WWII Carrier Pigeons)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Pablo Picasso, Duke Riley, Rachel Berwick, John Beck, John James Audubon

Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Installations, Casting, One Point Perspective

For pigeons, there seem to be a lot of haters out there. Some haters may even think pigeons capable of  this. Hate might be a strong word, but until a recent turn of events, I was one such hater. Let’s just say, I refrain from feeding pigeons or sea gulls and don’t appreciate people who do. I am always fearful of being  (for lack of a better phrase) “pooped on”. The first turn of event was a visit to a MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) Store, where I found a book entitled, The Real Poop On Pigeons by Kevin McCloskey. It’s a toon book, a cartoon book that imparts information in an amusing way. I shared the book with my daughter (a lover of all “poop” jokes).  We enjoyed the book thoroughly, but couldn’t think of anyone else to share it with, so we grudgingly put it back on the shelf. I didn’t think much more about it until yesterday while watching CBS’s Sunday Morning Magazine. In this feature, artist, Duke Riley, was talking about his love for pigeons and all the ways he incorporates them into his artwork. So, that was it. I now appreciated the pigeon and decided that I needed to share my new found knowledge with all of you. 

First, let’s get into the mood by watching the Feed The Birds video from Mary Poppins.

Next, let’s get back to McCloskey’s book. If the “Poop” word is a problem, simply write “Info” on a post it and cover it up. The book is really quite good and imparts a lot of good information for a science unit. It would be a shame to eliminate it because of one word. Kevin includes a chart with bird parts. He shows many different kinds of pigeons. The author also includes some sample pages from the book and a reading for information lesson plan download on his  website. You can read about the inspiration for Kevin’s book here. In the book, McCloskey also talks about artist, Pablo Picasso. Picasso’s relationship with pigeons dates all the way back to his childhood. Read all about the history of Picasso’s interest in pigeons/doves and see examples of his drawings/paintings inspired by them here. There’s also a story floating around out there. It claims that once Picasso’s father saw how well his young son painted a pigeon image, he put down his paint brushes and vowed to never paint again. Picasso even named his daughter, Paloma, after pigeons. Paloma is Spanish for pigeon/dove. If you’d like to learn more about pigeons and see photos of Claude Monet and John F. Kennedy posing with them check out this post.

Audubon's Passenger Pigeons

John James Audubon’s “Passenger Pigeons”

Now, let’s move onto Duke Riley and some other pigeon loving modern artists. As I just talked about in my last post, The Wonder of Nature and Modern Art, contemporary artists often bring the dimension of social consciousness to their works. Riley is trying to bring an appreciation for the pigeon to the world through his art. In a 2014 Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibit entitled “The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art”, two artists showcased extinct birds from the pigeon family. Rachel Berwick’s “Zugunrue”, tells the story of the passenger pigeon. View the artist talking about this installation here.  I can’t imagine a three day bird cloud overhead. Also, she cast the pigeons in amber.  All you Jurassic Park fans will remember the amber topped walking stick containing that mosquito, the one that held dinosaur DNA. Thank you John James Audubon for painting an image of the passenger pigeon, so people of today can know what it looked like.  John Beck created several pieces in homage to the dodo bird.  According to McCloskey’s book, the dodo came from the same bird family as the pigeon. To learn more about the dodo bird’s evolution and extinction look here. These artist’s names would make a nice addition to your endangered species science unit.

For the most part, the pigeon species has faired well in the “survival of the fittest” category. We find them in places all over the world. As seen above, Picasso included pigeons in his painting of the view out his Cannes’ window. Students could create their own abstract, out the window themed, collage like in this lesson. The outside scene could be a place students have seen pigeons or a place they have just learned pigeons live. Another art idea is to have the students design their own extinct animal museum. Students choose an extinct animal to research. Using information they learned and one of  these templates, students design their own John Beck-like museum inside and out. If you are really ambitious or your art teacher wanted to help out, you could include one point perspective for the interior, as is used in this lesson and this lesson.

I realize that some of the themes in my posts are sort of out of the box. This one is probably  at the top of the list. However, after learning more about pigeons, how do you feel about them? Several artists are routing for them. After learning more about the pigeon, your students may too.

Stop by again real soon!

The Wonder of Nature and Modern Art

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Ecology, Decomposition, Light, Spectrum, Insects

Technology – Computer Coding

Mathematics – Numbers, Measurement, Time

Possible Art Concepts: Modern Artists – John Grade, Patrick Dougherty, Chakaia Booker, Tara Donovan,  Janet Echelman, Maya Lin, Leo Villareal, Gabriel Dawe, Jennifer Angus

Installations, Organic Forms, Abstraction, Pattern

I am amazed by modern artists. Many of them produce art that is not only visually pleasing but also thought provoking. Today’s artists have moved art into that next dimension and make me think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” So, I was really blown away when I visited the Renwick Gallery’s “Wonder Exhibit”.  The Renwick Gallery has just reopened after a two  year renovation. Instead of filling it back up right away, the gallery challenged modern art sculptors to design on sight installations. Nine artists were chosen to bring their designs to life. These works are like the pop up shops and restaurants we find around today. Most of them will only be around for a short. Four are already gone. See a few artist interviews in some of these  videos.

All the artists were inspired by nature somehow. Many want to shine a light on one category of nature. While others transform common objects into organic or natural forms.

Two of the artists, John Grade and Patrick Dougherty work from reclaimed or found wood. Work that eventually ends up decomposing back into nature. Definitely add their names to a decomposition science unit. I have talked about Dougherty before in my post, Autumn Nature Art. You could also talk about these artists in an ecology unit. They reuse or recycle wood and don’t leave much of a carbon footprint. Dougherty leaves none.

Chakaia BookerTara Donovan,  Janet Echelman and Maya Lin (You may remember her as the sculptor who designed the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, D.C.) all used everyday objects to create organic forms in their installations. Booker, Echelman and Lin are all referencing ecology. Booker is recycling rubber tires. Echelman wants us to realize all of nature is interdependent. Lin is promoting water conservation. Donovan transforms multitudes of one everyday object into one organic form. For this installation, she created 10 forms. Find some lessons including Tara here and here.  Her work could also be used as inspiration for a reusing project (i.e.- bottle caps, all those plastic fasteners on bread bags, etc.) .

Two of the artist’s would correlate nicely with a science unit on light. Leo Villareal‘s  sculpture includes numerous LED lights that are controlled by computer codes. I’ve talked about light in art before in this post, Light And Only Light.  Gabriel Dawe‘s work always contains light spectrums and can be mistaken for actual rays of light. Don’t be fooled though, they are actually miles and miles of stretched sewing threads . Find a Dawe spectrum primary lesson here. Dawe’s work reminds me of the string art we used to make back in the 70s. My all time favorite blogger, Cassie Stephens, is crazy about all things retro and created this intermediate level string art lesson found here. This lesson even contains a how to video.🙂

Last but not least, let’s talk about bugs. Yes, I said bugs. Jennifer Angus covers the walls of entire rooms with patterns consisting of real insects. She is trying to take the “Ick” factor away by showing insects in a beautiful way. They play such an important role in our survival as a planet (pollination, decomposition). She hopes that after seeing one of her works, maybe people won’t be as compelled to “squash a bug”! Add her name to your insect unit.

These artists could also be used in a math unit. The information in this exhibition reference numbers of objects used, an increment of time and measurement. Angus owns over 30,000 bugs, which cost between 50 cents and $25 each. What’s the least amount she could have paid for her insects? What is the most she could have paid? Maya Lin used 54,000 marbles in “Folding the Chesapeake”.  John Grade used 1/2 million wood pieces to create “Middle Fork”.  Tara Donavon used about a million index cards to create her installation. Leo Villareal used 23,000 LED lights in his work. Students could graph these numbers. They could determine who used the most material. Who used the least? Gabriele Dawe used 60,000 miles of sewing thread in his installation. That’s equivalent to all of a human’s blood vessels laid end to end or 2 1/2 times the circumference of the earth. The title of Janet Echelman’s piece, “1.8”, references the 1.8 millionths of a second of time lost during the 2011 Japanese earthquake.

I’ve mentioned in my post, Earth Day, that artists began recycling before it was even a twinkle in anyone else’s eye. They are still out there promoting the care of our earth today. I hope that you will integrate some of these artist’s works into your classroom curriculum.

If you like what you see, how about giving me a like or share this post with a fellow teacher or friend.

I hope you will stop by again real soon!

Silhouettes and Shadows

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Shadows, Movement

Social Studies – Women’s History, Countries Around The World (Crafts)

Mathematics – Symmetry

Language Arts – Reading For Information, Literature

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Lotte Reineger

Motor Skills (Cutting), Symmetry, Contour Drawing, Crafts (Paper Cutting), Puppetry (Shadow), Animation, Neutral Colors (Black And White)

I don’t know about you all, but I just love checking out Google Doodles when they appear. If you are unfamiliar with Google Doodles, Google often changes their logo on special occasions or to celebrate milestones in history. Sometimes the doodle will just be an illustration and sometimes it’s an animation.

Last week, there was a doodle animation on German animator, Lotte Reineger.  What a treat! I had never heard of Reineger before. Little did I know, she produced the first feature length animated film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed. I had always thought Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs  was the first. You can find information  and videos about Lotte Reineger and her Google Doodle here.

Lotte’s animations are all done with silhouettes not unlike her native country’s paper cutouts called, scherenschnitte. Paper cutouts originated in China and the tradition spread to several other countries. Find a short history of paper cutouts here. Lesson plans and examples of Poland’s wycinanki paper cutting tradition can be found here and here. More information about Japan’s kiragami can be found here and here. A Mexican papal picado lesson can be found here. So, if you are studying countries around the world in social studies, you might explore some paper cutting variations with them. If you are studying symmetry in math, many of these cutouts employ both regular symmetry around a line and radial symmetry around a point. Cutting is also an excellent way to improve fine motor skills.

Reineger was also influenced by wayang kulit or Indonesian shadow puppetry. Shadow puppetry was first done only with the hands. Look here for a reading for information lesson and a video about hand shadow puppetry history. Look here for wayang kulit lesson and video. 

So, Lotte combined jointed paper cut outs and the back lit idea of shadow puppetry to create her animation. Instead of just filming a shadow puppetry performance,  Reineger painstakingly moved her jointed figures and used stop motion photography. I talked about stop motion animation and how to use it in the classroom in my post about another woman animator, Mary Blair. Lotte created animations about several fairy tales. So, if you are studying fairy tales or shadows, students could create a shadow puppet show or a stop motion animated film to reenact the story. To help them create the characters and sets, they might use simplified shapes like these.

If you are looking for a new literature book for your classroom, there is a fairly new picture book out entitled Young Charlotte, Filmmaker by Frank Viva.  This little girl loves all things black and white and loves filmmaking. I think it’s interesting because the name Lotte is short for Charlotte and  Reineger is mentioned in the book. Could this main character be named after the famous filmmaker?  I also find it surprising that I found Young Charlotte, Filmmaker not too long ago and now I hear about Reineger. What a bit of serendipity!

As you can plainly see, there are many places that Lotte Reineger’s story could be used as inspiration for classroom units of study. I hope you will introduce this very talented individual somewhere.

Come back again real soon!

Man vs. Machine

Possible Classroom Concepts:  Social Studies – Industrial Revolution, Inventions, Machines

Technology (3D Printers, Lasers), Science (Flower Parts)

Possible Art Concepts: Commercial Art History

Commercial Art (Fashion And Clothing Design)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an extensive collection of fashion and costumes. As with art on paper, constant exposure to light can destroy clothing, thus it cannot be on display for long periods of time. Once a year the Met creates an opportunity to share a portion of their fashion and costume collection in a themed exhibit and fundraising gala.  A couple of weekends ago, I was fortunate enough to visit this year’s exhibit entitled “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology”.  That certainly is a mouthful! Allow me to break down the title for you. Manus means hand, as in sewn or created by hand. Machina, which I’m sure you can plainly see, stands for machine made. Over the years, there has been a certain discrepancy between haute couture’s (handmade)  and prêt-à-por·ter ‘s (ready to wear) stature. So, if you’re a Project Runway fan, you are familiar with the “haute couture challenge” or a comment like, “This designer’s work is very ‘ready to wear’!”  The handmade fashion has been traditionally considered more valuable because of it’s craftsmanship and the time involved in creating it. What this exhibit demonstrates is how today’s designers are using handmade, machine made, or a combination of handmade and machine made skills to create haute couture. (whatever it takes to achieve the desired result)  This exhibit also shows that fashion has consistently used innovations of its time in its designs.  The concepts are explained quite well in this video. See examples of work from the show here.

In the first room of the exhibit, are several copies of Diderot’s eighteenth century Encyclopedias opened to different fashion pages. This portion of the encyclopedia illustrates the science, skills and tools behind haute couture. Like other arts and trades, haute couture houses are made up of many different skilled artisans (called métiers in the fashion world). The exhibit shows examples of métier skills mentioned in the encyclopedia which are coincidentally still used today (embroidery, featherwork, artificial flowers, lacework, leatherwork, and pleating)  Modern technology, such as laser cutting and 3D printing are also highlighted. Each category has examples of the traditional way of completing a skill and a then examples of modern versions. For example, bird-of-paradise feathers are hand sewn onto silk to create this Yves Saint Laurent evening dress from 1969. While the Iris van Herpen’s 2013 dress, found among these images has machine made strips of laser-cut silicone feathers and silicone coated bird skulls applied to a cotton base.

You might adapt the child friendly explanation of the Met’s costumes and fashion found in this Family Guide, to incorporate this exhibit into your classroom curriculum. (You may have to go thru the following steps to get to the guide:  The Met> Learn> Kids and Family> Family Guides > What Should I Wear Today? Sorry, my link doesn’t seem to be working, but believe me it’s worth the steps to get there!)  To correlate with an inventions unit, students might identify the different fashion inventions found in the guide. (the bustle and baby crash helmet) Ask students where helmets are used today? Students could invent their own modern day helmets. Side note, the pleated collar fashion piece from this guide is included in the Manus x Machina Exhibit. You might also like to check out the invention and history of the hand sewing needle here and the colorful story behind the invention of the sewing machine  here or here or in the first five and a half minutes of this video.

This exhibit would also be a great inspiration for an Industrial Revolution unit.  The Haute Couture Houses do a good job of utilizing a division of labor. The garment passes among the necessary métiers until the garment is complete! I’m so jealous that I’m not teaching anymore. I would so teach the following lesson. First, I would divide the class into different métier groups. I would then adapt the following paper skill lessons:  emboideryfeatherworkartificial flowerslaceworkleatherwork (make the bark background), and pleating for corresponding métier groups. Using their skill, each métier group would make as many handmade papers as the the class period allowed. The next class period, with the choice of all the different handmade papers, the students each become designers and create a one of a kind collaged outfit on their mannequin. (You may have to enlarge the mannequin to 12″ x 18″ to be proportionate with paper samples.) See a collaged dress idea here and a sculptural example here. On the back of the back of their collage, students could list the different métier groups required to complete their outfit. If you wish to streamline this lesson, you could collect materials to symbolize different métier groups (i.e.- doilies/ lacemakers, brown paper/ leather, patterned paper/embroidery, flowered stickers/artificial flowers, cupcake liners/ pleating, etc.) and have the students construct a predesigned outfit [created by you or one of your students] assembly line style.

Let’s talk a bit about the technology part of the show. Technology of the late 1800s led to faster tanning processes which resulted in leather being included in fashion design. Back then all  the intricate leather cutouts had to be cut by hand. Today  this work is all done with lasers. New technologies have also created faux leather. Iris van Herpen  is a good example of a contemporary designer who uses technology in her fashions. Not only does she incorporate lazers, as mentioned above in the featherwork example, but she also utilizes 3D printers to create lace and exoskeleton-like structures  on her contemporary fashion pieces.

Do you teach a science unit on flower parts? Check out the Christopher Kane outfit among these images. This would be a fun image to pop your science unit.

Sometimes it takes thinking outside the box to motivate students. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, including baseball cards in math or social studies units might spark some sports minded students. For some other students, fashion might be just the inspiration to kindle an interest in science or social studies.

Stop by again real soon!