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!