“It’s Raining Men!”

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Stormy Weather

Literature – Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Language Arts – Idioms (“It’s Raining Cats and Dogs”)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History –  Surrealism – Rene Magritte

Repetition/ Pattern

When I first heard about the children’s story and subsequent movie,  Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, I instantly thought of Rene Magritte’s “Gloconde” ( I’ve always thought of it as the Raining men painting, not to be confused with the1983 pop song “It’s Raining Men!” )


Magritte was a Surrealist painter in the 1920s. Surrealism is a form of art that is dream-like in nature. Unrelated objects are placed together. Probably the most famous Surrealist painting is Salvador Dali’s drooping clocks named “The Persistence of Time”. ( It can be seen here : http://www.wikiart.org/en/salvador-dali/the-persistence-of-memory-1931 )  You can find more information about these two artists in the picture book Dinner at Magritte’s by Michael Garland. A young boy named Pierre and Salvador Dali join Magritte and his wife for dinner. Strange things occur in the illustrations that are variations of Magritte and Dali paintings. See how many you can recognize. Find some examples of  Magritte’s work here: https://museummasters.wordpress.com/tag/magritte-for-kids/

Primary students would enjoy Magritte’s Marvelous Hat by D. B. Johnson. You can find a video preview of this story here: https://vimeo.com/38385363

Another video about Magritte can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yD53mLZ_y8k

Here’s an example of one of the Magritte lessons that I taught before I retired.


This project was very involved and took multiple class periods. However, your classes can create a more simplified “Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful” picture.

Probably the easiest way is on some kind of computer drawing program. I used Kid Pix. Begin by choosing a sky or landscape background. Then, just choose a stamp shape to be your creative weather event. Repeat your stamp big and small all over your picture. Voila!

If you don’t have access to a computer lab,Try this:

First, you will need a background. You could use

preprinted sky or rainbow stationary,

landscape or cityscape pages from magazines


the kids could draw or watercolor paint a sky.

Next, just stamp your wild weather with one of these two items:




Here’s a wild weather project for intermediate students:


Stickers might  work just as well. No cutting involved. Lightly press them on watercolor paper. Paint your watercolor background. When dry, gently remove stickers. Color in the weather details with magic markers.

“Painting in the Rain”

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Rain

Literature – Poetry

Art Concepts: Art History – Claude Monet

“Singing in the Rain” was a famous song and movie, but did you know there was an artist famous for “Painting in the Rain!”? In the 1870’s, the paint tube was invented. Before this, artists mixed pigments into a liquid medium to freshly create their paints for each color and use. Their studios were like scientific laboratories (not very portable). This new tube freed up the French Impressionist artists to go outdoors and paint.

Impressionist, Claude Monet, became famous for painting outdoors at all times of day in all sorts of weather.

Here are some of his rain paintings:


“Cliffs at Pourville – Rain


“Belle Ile – Rain Effect”

A Blue Butterfly, A Story about Claude Monet by Bijou Le Tord is a delightful little picture book. The author uses poetry to chronicle Monet’s painting adventures outdoors. The illustrations are painted in the artist’s brushwork style. Some of the illustrations look a lot like Monet’s actual paintings. It might be fun to match painting reproductions to their illustration twins.

Visit here to find five ways to go “Painting in the Rain!” yourself:


Have a Blast!

April Showers

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Weather – Rain


Social Studies – The Silk Road

Possible Art Concepts: Art History

Color Wheel, Drawing, Painting, Relief, Pop ups

Educators teach in themes and very often artists are inspired by these very same themes.

Rain is one such theme.  When teaching the characteristics of rain,

why not look at a famous painting in place of textbook photos or illustrations.

For the next few posts, I will be highlighting rain in art.

When thinking about rain, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

Umbrellas! Umbrellas! Umbrellas!

Even though umbrellas have been depicted in art work as far back as the Egyptians,

the Chinese are generally recognized as the inventors of the folding umbrella.

Through trade, the idea of an umbrella travelled to



“Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ōhashi Bridge and Atake”  by Hiroshige

and Europe (by way of the Silk Road).

Parisans in the Rain With Umbrellas, Boilly.jpg.

“Parisians in the Rain With Umbrellas” by Louis-Leopold Boilly

As a fashion statement, women in the late 18th Century carried umbrellas or parasols

“Come Rain 


(“Paris Street, Rainy Day” by Gustave Caillebotte)

Or Come Shine!”

Woman with a Parasol Monet.jpg.
(“Woman With Parasol” by Claude Monet)

Here are some other famous umbrella paintings of the late18th Century.

The Umbrella Renoir.jpg.
 “The Umbrella” by Claude Auguste Renoir


“Rainy Day in Boston” By Childe Hassam

( Does this look similar to any of the above paintings? A great compare and contrast opportunity!

Caillebotte was a French Impressionist painter. Hassam was an American Impressionist painter who travelled and studied in Europe.)

“Ladies in the Rain” by Maurice Prendergast

Look here for art  project ideas to correlate with a rain unit:




(This last project would coincide perfectly with the Caillebotte and Hassam paintings.)

Next up, “Painting in the Rain!”

Earth Day

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Ecology

Reuse and Repurpose

Possible Art Room Concepts: Art History

Collage, Sculpture, Kinetic Sculpture

Sorry, I know I promised you April Showers next, but Earth Day crept up on me.

So, I’m doing a short and sweet post on recycling and I’ll do April Showers next.

Artists were recycling and repurposing long before it became necessary or in vogue.

It’s very timely that I talked about Alexander Calder in my last post

because he was one such artist.

In the 1950’s, Calder built a series of bird sculptures out of cans.

“Only Only Bird”

Find the story behind this bird here:


Look here to find “Only Only Bird” lesson ideas:


See more examples of Calder’s tin can birds here:


Find ideas for recycle bird art projects here:




I love this last project the best because it moves like Calder’s work does.

I would make the whole thing out of recycled boxes not just the body.

Enjoy your Earth Day!

Alexander Calder

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Simple Machines

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Alexander Calder

Kinetic Sculpture, Performance Art

Today we will be investigating another engineer turned artist.

Alexander Calder is most famous for inventing the mobile and stabile.

Calder Mobile

Before he did all that, he created a miniature circus comprised of kinetic sculptures.


It all started when a newspaper, the National Police Gazette,

assigned him to illutstrate a story about the

Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.

He spent the next two weeks attending the circus. He fell in love.

In 1929, he moved to Paris where he immediately began building his circus.

Ultimately, he packed all his treasures into two suitcases

and began toting them around Paris and performing his circus.

This is believed to be the first ever performance art.

To see Calder performing his circus go here:


A great book to share with student’s about Calder’s life is:

Sandy’s Circus: A Story About Alexander by Tanya Lee Stone

You can find the story on youtube here:


To find circus performer kinetic sculpture ideas look here:





http://buggyandbuddy.com/science-kids-balancing-robot-free-printable/– Students could make their own balancing acrobat this way instead of the robot.





In my last three posts,

I hope that I have helped you find one or more enriching ideas

to spice up your simple machine unit.

Coming in my next post: April Showers!

Rube Goldberg

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Simple Machines

Literature – Poetry

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Rube Goldberg

Cartooning, Drawing, Collage, Performance Art, Sculpture


Rube Goldberg was an engineer turned cartoonist.  At one point, he created cartoons that took a simple action and created a complex set of steps to complete said action.  As time progressed, people started trying to physically create similar actions. They were called Rube Goldberg machines.

I found two cool videos about Goldberg on the web. The first is from Sesame Street.  You can find it here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMpmit5YMcg  This video is just perfect. It not only introduces Goldberg, but also simple machines and a kinetic artist. I don’t know if intermediate students would appreciate it. In my experience, even first graders can be snobbish about preschool things. I remember one year, a first grade teacher saw a cool purple dinosaur and created a poster of him for her classroom. The first day of school, the students walked into the classroom  and exclaimed, “Eww, Barney!!!” If you can get away with it though, I’d use it. The other is definitely for intermediate students.

You can find it here:  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/318207529897664345/

(I would only play it up to the point where they talk about his machine comics. The rest is about political cartoons which is off topic.)

A good place to find 29 examples of Rube Goldberg can be found here:  http://anengineersaspect.blogspot.com/2009/10/29-rube-goldberg-machines-on-october.html .

Two great physical Goldberg videos can be found here: 




You can find information about simple machines here:


(The video included is good,but it must have been made in another country because they pronounce lever differently.)


You can also visit the daVinci website that I talked about in last week’s blog. You can find it here:


Can students name the simple machines used in this complex machine?


If you choose to have the students simply draw a machine,

I’ve always found this poem and illustration by Shel Silverstein inspirational:


Or, maybe create a collage. You can find a cool lesson here:


If you choose to go the actual machine route, here are some places that might help:









And last but not least, another website that I mentioned in my last blog is Brain Power Boy.

You can find it here: http://brainpowerboy.com/play-and-learn-with-rube-goldberg-machines/

It has a whole unit on Rube Goldberg including addresses for video games and other resources.

The “Goldburger to Go Game” is Great!


Leonardo da Vinci

Welcome to my very first post.

For the next three weeks, we will be looking at fun ways to teach simple machines

with art history themes.

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Simple Machines

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Leonado da Vinci

Drawing, Sculpture, Sketchbooks


Leonardo da Vinci is most famous for painting the Mona Lisa, but there are many other facets to this

complex man. Let’s just say that if the IQ test had existed in Leonardo’s time,

he’d have ranked right up

there with Einstein. We know so much about da Vinci

because he left behind many hand written books filled with notes and sketches.

For today’s purpose, we will delve into some other facets of da Vinci’s talents.

We will look at da Vinci as an engineer and inventor. In his sketchbooks,

he drew plans for machines and military equipment.



Delve further into da Vinci’s inventions and some information about simple machines at this interactive website:  http://legacy.mos.org/sln/Leonardo/LeosMysteriousmachinery.html

Look at these websites for some simple machines kids can make:




















Related Books:

Leonardo da Vinci By Ibi Lepscky

Leonardo da Vinci By A.& M. Provensen

While investigating information for my next blog, I discovered a homeschool site  entitled, BRAIN POWER BOY. Check out this school unit for Leonardo da Vinci:


Perfect! Great for encouraging girl’s interest in the sciences too!