The Giving Tree

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Tree Purposes, Ecology (Recycling, Repurposing), Decomposition

Language Arts – Literature, Social Studies –  Careers/Community Helpers

Possible Art Concepts: Art History -Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Camille Pissarro, Winslow Homer, Grandma Moses, Eastman Johnson, Tinker Hatfield, Chakaia Booker, Irving Penn, Jacob Lawrence, John Grade

Medium (Painting, Sculpture, Printmaking, Other), Art Careers (Painter, Sculptor, Commercial Artist [Shoe Designer, illustrator, Photographer])

I was hoping to get this post completed by Earth Day. That didn’t happen! I didn’t want to wait another entire year to create the post, so here it is.

I’m sure, when you think “The Giving Tree”, you probably think Shel Silverstein. So do I. However, in the last couple of weeks it’s come to mean so much more. I was helping my friend and kindergarten teacher, Betsy, find some art exemplars for a tree unit. She wasn’t just looking for examples showing a tree’s structure. She was teaching a unit on “Why trees are important to humans?” That started me thinking. We all know the most important thing trees provide for humans is good ole H2O. We can’t live without that, but just as the tree in Silverstein’s book kept giving and giving, so do all trees. Trees provide fruits, syrups, drinks, and rubber, but check out how many ways the remainder of the tree can be used here. AMAZING!!!!

Artists also appreciate trees and have been inspired by them to create art works for many years. This post will provide some art works that you can use with your children to help discover tree uses or as a review for tree uses.

Artists have created paintings illustrating fruit picking.hb_19.164_av4

Can you spy the boy hanging upside down in the tree and throwing pears to the boys on the ground in this close up from Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “The Harvesters” painting?

Camille Pissarro depicts apple harvesting in the above three paintings: “The Apple Pickers”, “Apple Picking”  and  “Apple Harvest”.


Just last week, I had the opportunity to see Winslow Homer’s “Apple Picking, 1878” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent” exhibit. 

I’ve also talked about fruit bearing trees and an art project here.


Artist, Grandma Moses illustrates something we might do with the apples collected from a tree in this painting entitled, “Apple Butter Making”. Find the apple butter making process described by Moses here. Look closely at the painting. Can you spy the different steps in the apple butter making process?


Grandma Moses illustrates another product from trees, maple syrup, in “Sugaring Off”.  Another artist, Eastman Johnson has created oil sketches illustrating the sugaring off process.

We also get rubber from trees. I have talked about rubber used in sneakers (plimsolls) here.  Speaking of sneakers, has anyone seen the new Netflix series, Abstract, The Art of Design. There is a wonderful episode on Tinker Hatfield, shoe designer for Nike. This is a must see. Sculptor, Chakaia Booker recycles tires, which are made of rubber, to create sculptures.

Trees can be chopped down and their wood can be used to build things. First the trees must be taken down. Famous photographer, Irving Penn, took a photo entitled “Tree Climber and Pruner” . You can find the image here . Penn did a whole series of worker portraits which can be found here . Jacob Lawrence’s Carpenters”  shows people building with wood. Sculptor,  John Grade built a tree sculpture from reclaimed cedar for the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC. At the end of the exhibit, he placed the tree back in the forest where it will decay and ultimately become soil to grow more trees.

So, these have been a few ways artists have shown the importance of trees. I’m sure there are many more.

Thanks Betsy for the post idea!

Hope this post made you want to plant a tree. Humans really need them.

I’d love to hear what you think and/or how you might have taught trees in your classroom. Simply click on the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!

Here a Dot! There a Dot! Everywhere a Dot, Dot!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Vision, Spectrum, Mixtures/Solutions

Language Arts: Literature

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – George Seurat, Yayoi Kusama, Bridget Riley, Victor Vasarely, Roy Lichtenstein, Kelly Goeller, Ashley Anderson

Color Wheel (Primary, Seconday, Intermediate, Complimentary), Pointillism, Pop Art

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”         “Circus Sideshow”

Not too long ago, I learned a new expression: Frequency Illusion. It is defined by Arnold Zwicky as “once you’ve noticed a phenomenon, you think it happens a whole lot, even ‘all the time’. ” This has happened to me in the last couple of weeks in regards to dots. Recently my daughter and I attended the Broadway musical, Sunday in the Park with George. The musical is about the creation of George Seurat’s painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” . For those of you not familiar with Seurat’s work, he created whole paintings in nothing but dots. The next day, as we passed the Metropolitan Museum of Art, we saw a large banner advertising  Seurat’s “Circus Sideshow”, more dots. Of course, we had to check out the exhibit. Just this past week en route to the National Gallery in Washington, DC, I spied a very long line outside the Hirshhorn Museum and the barricades were all decorated with, what else, dots. Upon closer examination, I discovered that dot artist, Yayoi Kusama was exhibiting there. Frequency illusion, wouldn’t you say? So,I decided that I needed to do a post about the DOT.

Actually, I have already done a post on dots as they apply to mathematics (points/shapes). It can be found here.  I even mentioned George Seurat and Yayoi Kusama. However, at Seurat’s “Circus Sideshow” exhibit, I discovered that Seurat’s dot paintings have more to do with science than math. He was inspired by three nineteenth century scientists/writers, Eugene Chevreul, Ogden Rood and David Sutter. Chemist, Michel Eugène Chevreul, devised the first color wheel and the theory that all the other colors of the spectrum can be made from the primary colors (red, yellow, and blue). In art, we study the color wheel. In Science, you study the spectrum or rainbow. Chevreul also figured out that complimentary colors (Colors across from one another on the color wheel), when placed next to one another, appear brighter in intensity. He also discovered that if you stare at a primary color, let’s say red, for a while and then look away, you will see it’s compliment, green. There is a fun picture book that covers all these color theories called  It’s Me, Marva!. A Story About Color and Optical Illusion, by Marjorie Priceman.  It would be a great addition to a literature or science unit. Also Fifty’s Op Artists,  Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely created optical illusions with dots. I digress. The Impressionists had used larger brush strokes and studied the way light shone on objects. Seurat wanted to get away from that. He reduced the brushstrokes to small dots and employed the color scientists’ theory of placing pure colors next to one another. This way, when viewed from a distance, a third color was perceived. For example, red and yellow  dots would appear to be orange from a distance. One of the fifth grade teachers at my school used Pointallism to teach the difference between mixtures and solutions. She had the students simulate a mixture by creating a Seurat-style dot painting, using primary colors to create secondary colors, with q-tips. If need be, the students could cut the dots apart and still have the primary colors. Then she had them physically mix the primary colors into secondary colors to make solutions and create a second painting. There was no way of getting the primary colors back here. This was a logical way to see the difference between the two concepts. Find some Pointallism color wheel lessons here and here. Find a primary dot song here.

In dot history, science seems to have inspired art two more times. Simultaneous to Seurat’s work, the printing world was devising a method to cheaply reproduce images for newspapers. Up until this point, newspapers used a printing method called letterpress, where wooden/metal letters and wood carved images were inked and printed. Fine art images and photographs were more time consuming and thus more expensive to produce. They were still only used in expensive books and periodicals. Then came halftone printing. It is a method of reproducing the gray tones in a black and white photograph using varying sized black and white dots. With this process, realistic images came to newspapers. See a halftone example here. American, Benjamin Day, invented a method, called Ben-Day, to use like sized repeated dots to create color images. These were used in Sunday comic strips and comic books. Both these methods repeated dots, that seen from a distance, blend just like Pointallism. Pop artist, Roy Lichtenstien, was inspired by comic strips and created enlarged comic strip images that even included Ben-Day-like dots.

Then came the tv and computer. Repeated dots changed to repeated squares or pixels.As anyone who has tried to enlarge a low resolution picture has seen. Well, yes, now there are artists and filmmakers inspired by pixels. Has anyone seen the Pixels movie? Loved It!!! Check out some pixel artists here. The thing that is so amazing about the art inspired by pixels is all the different medium used (computer screen, sculpture, painting, cartoon). I am particularly enamored by Kelly Goeller’s and Ashley Anderson’s work.

Have you noticed how the above mentioned technology and art advancements echo how the eye (with it’s cones and rods) and brain work? I find it fascinating how life imitates nature. In a science unit on how human vision works, your students also may. What do you think? Could any of these artists help reinforce your science units? I’d love to hear how you might use them in your classroom. Simply click on the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Hope to see you again real soon.