“The Eclipse Is Coming! The Eclipse Is Coming!”

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Astronomy, Anatomy (The Eye), Ecology (Recycling,Repurposing)

Social Studies – Inventions

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Raphael, Cosmas Damian Asam, Roy Lichtenstein, Alma Thomas, Rufino Tamayo, George Grosz, El Anatsui

Art Medium – Photography, Painting, Printmaking (Engraving, Silk Screen), Metal Art

Art Movements – Pop Art, Futurism

Principles Of Art – Pattern/Repetition

isaac-and-rebecca-spied-upon-by-abimelech-1519-1.jpg!LargeRaphael and his workshop’s “Isaac and Rebecca Spied upon by Abimelech”

With all the excitement about the solar eclipse, which will cross the USA on Monday, I was reminded of my first experience with a solar eclipse as a young child. I distinctly remember not being able to look directly at the sun and using some sort of box to view the event. This got me thinking. I remember that event ever so clearly even today. If a nearly 65 year old woman has such vivid memories of a solar eclipse so might today’s students. Let’s face it, we’re in the remembering business, so why not capitalize on this event? Find a video on how to make a solar eclipse viewer box here. So, once students view the eclipse, here are some extension activities. This viewer box the students just used is essentially a pinhole camera known as a camera obscura and the basis for all photography?  Look here for a slide show with a concise history of the camera. Look here for a video on camera history. Students can convert their eclipse viewer into a pinhole camera using the directions in  this video. (An Interesting side story, a man named, Tim Jenison, believes the artist, Johannes Vermeer, painted his very detailed paintings using a camera obscura. Tim spent five years going about proving his theory. There is a documentary called “Tim’s Vermeer” which chronicles his journey. It is a must see.) could also point out that the way the pinhole camera works is also the way the human eye works.

Artists often record experiences through their art, so, I went searching for solar eclipse masterpieces. I wasn’t disappointed. The Princeton University Art Museum had a whole collection of  eclipse works on their site. What did surprise me was when these works were produced. I fully expected to see lots of paintings from long ago, such as Cosmas Damian Asam’s “Vision of St. Benedict”. Surprisingly, there were more works from the modern age and from other countries. I love this engraving of people watching an eclipse in 1865.  So many were abstract (you can tell what they are but they are not photographically real looking). My first surprise came with  the work entitled, Eclipse of the Sun, by Roy Lichtenstein. Lichtenstein is a Pop artist, famous for his comic book theme. His eclipse print is in his graphic style, but looks more like a futurist work (where artists repeated a shape over and over again to simulate motion). Can you see the eclipse happening? I had seen Alma Thomas’ Eclipse painting before, but had never scene the title. Wow, so GREAT! Now let’s travel to some other countries. Mexican artist, Rufino Tamayo painted “Total Eclipse”. German artist, George Grosz painted Eclipse of the Sun foreshadowing WWII. Ghanian artist, El Anatsui, created his Solar Eclipse from recycled metal pieces. Notice the repetition of circles in this one also. So, students can view these artist’s interpretations of a solar eclipse before or after they create a drawing or painting of their own eclipse experience.

How are you planning to experience or teach the eclipse? I’d love to hear. Simply click on the post’s title 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.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!






Looking At Clouds From Both Sides Now!


Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Cloud Formations

Language Arts – Literature, Reading For Information

Possible Art Concepts: Art History –  Rene Magritte, John Constable, Armando Pollini, Samantha Fields

Drawing (Observational Drawing, Illustration), Art Careers (Illustrator)

Well, it’s happening again. What you ask? Frequency Illusion! I’ve talked about this concept in the past.  Frequency Illusion is when you see something and then you start seeing it everywhere. This time I keep seeing Clouds.


So, it all started when Armando Pollini’s Pump (a walk in the clouds) made an appearance on my Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Masterpiece a Day Calendar. Then a friend sent me an email with all kinds of fantastic cloud photos. To top it off  my new blog obsession, The Jealous Curator, posted some paintings of clouds by Samantha Fields that look just like photographs.  So, I think the universe is trying to tell me that I should talk about clouds.

A funny thing about the sky and clouds. I’ve always loved them and considered them an ever changing canvas. I once mentioned this to my husband. Now it’s a running joke with us. Every time I point out a beautiful sky or cloud formation, he pipes up, ” The sky is an ever changing canvas!” Now everyone thinks he’s so clever! LOL! Well, I’m not the only one who loves clouds. Keith Christiansen, Chairman of European Paintings at the Met, NYC, talks about clouds and art here. So, if you are looking for a different way to introduce or review the different kinds of clouds, you could always visit the art world. Some science teachers seem to agree with me. Check out this interactive post that shows  paintings featuring clouds and cloud photos as reference.

Pollini’s Pump reminds me of the many cumulus cloud paintings of Surrealist artist, Rene Magritte. Look here for some excellent examples of Magritte’s cloud paintings. As part of a literature unit that includes Rene’s clouds try Dinner at Magritte’s  by Michael Garland  or Magritte’s Marvelous Hat by D.B. Johnson.

Before the invention of the camera and all the electronic devices we have today, scientists,  like artists, observed and drew objects to show the structure of the natural world. Your students could create these small sketchbooks. Then each day for a week, they could go out and do some observational drawings of clouds, figure out what kind of clouds they are and label them. This would be a GREAT activity for your visual learners to help recognize and identify cloud formations. Students could also use their imaginations to see objects in the clouds, like we used to do as kids or those found in Eric Carle’s picture book,  Little Cloud. John Constable, mentioned in the interactive post above, did a number of observational paintings of clouds. Find a lesson on Constable’s Cloud studies here. Find a science lesson on scientific sketching here.

For an intermediate level Language Arts lesson on reading for information, try out Tomie de Paolo’s The Cloud Book. Find a video of the book here.

Also, when teaching any of the picture books mentioned in this post, remind students that illustrations are works of commercial art and that illustration is an art career.

So if your students are having problems understanding clouds like Joni Mitchell, why not use artworks or illustrations in picture books to help out? How do you teach clouds? I’d love to hear. Simply click on the post’s title 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.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!


Another Day, Another Stage

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Countries Around The World (Japan)

Language Arts – Literature, Story Telling, Retelling, Mathematics – Measurement

Possible Art Concepts – Art History



In my last post, I talked about toy stages popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Europe and the USA. It just so happens that Japan had their own version of miniature stage in the 1900s called Kamishibai.  Toy stages were performed by the children. Kamishibai stages were performed by storytellers who travelled from town to town. The storyteller carried their stage on the back of a bicycle. Upon entering a town, the storyteller would bang together two sticks, called clackers, to announce his presence. Sort  of like the jingle of the ice cream trucks of today. Children would gather around and, using illustrated cards housed inside the stage, the storyteller would share two or three stories. The stories would often contain cliff hangers to insure the return of children upon his next visit. At the end of the story the Kamishibai man would sell candy. You can find an informative video that explains Kamishibai here. To see a Kamishibai story performed look here. Kamishibai became even more popular when silent films started because in Japan silent films were narrated just like Kamishibai. Some people in Japan call a television an electric Kamishibai because it is an animated version of the storytelling stages of the past.  Kamishibai illustrators started drawing  for manga and anime when the story telling tradition lost its popularity in the 1950s.

For a literature lesson about the Kamishibai, you could read the story, Kamishibai Man by Allen. You can also find a video of the story here.

You can give your students a Kamishibai experience of their own, as simple or involved as you’d like to get. Each student could illustrate a section of a story you are studying in class and then take turns retelling the story. OR You could go all out and check out these lessons that include correlations with social studies, math and language arts.

So, if you are looking for a new retelling activity, or something to spice up a unit on Japan, Kamishibai may be right up your alley.

I would love to hear what you think. What kinds of lessons do you use to teach retelling or Japan in your classroom? Simply click on the post’s title 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.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!


Family Game Night


Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Families (Pastimes), Careers

Language Arts – Story Telling, Retelling, Fairy Tales, Science – Recycling, Light

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, Es Devlin

Art Careers – Illustration, Set (Stage) Designer, Art Media – Printmaking, Drawing


In an effort to get the family’s faces out of their electronic devices and be more present, many parents are initiating “Family Game Nights.” I even saw a family game night event organized at our local mall. A game night is usually comprised of playing board games like Monopoly, Scrabble, Pictionary, etc., but what of families from long ago?  I recently discovered toy theaters. In the 1800s, children played with these miniature reproductions of famous theater plays.

Theater, ballet and opera were popular forms of entertainment in this time period, like our blockbuster movies are today. It follows that some Impressionist painters, who painted images of everyday life, created works of the ballet and opera. Examples by Degas and Cassatt can be seen below.

Edgar Degas, “Dancer with a Bouquet of Flowers”       Mary Cassatt, “The Loge, 1882″

The emerging print trade hopped on the bandwagon and would also send several artists to the opening night of each show. One artist would draw the actors gesturing, another drew the sets, and yet another drew the stage itself. Still another person would write a short synopsis of the performance.  All the different sketches and a script would be printed out on sheets of paper. Customers could buy the sheets plain for a penny or hand colored for two pence. Colored sheets were then glued onto cardboard and cut out. The pieces of the stage were then assembled onto a wooden base and the characters could then be slid in and out by the children. Youngsters would practice and then put on shows for the family on their version of “Family Fun Night”. To learn more about these toy gems, whose popularity lasted about 150 years, check out this post from Jane Austen’s World Blog, here or at Craftsmanship Quarterly here.

So, if you’re looking for a new method for retelling a story for a book report or a creative evaluation tool, building a toy theater might just do the trick. Students could build a stage from a cereal box as shown on Kidspot here. Students could also create stage-like tunnel books like those found  here and  here. Do you study fairy tales? If you do, you can find a printable toy theater version of the Pollock Company’s Cinderella here.  Students could get the true experience of building a toy theater just like the children of the 1800s. For easier cutting and to eliminate the step of glueing the images on cardboard, print the sheets onto card stock. Make this a class project and divide the sheets among students to color and cut out.  Assemble the theater and students can take turns retelling the story.

Earlier in the post I was talking about seeing toy theaters in different places recently. One of the places I saw one was on Netflix’s Abstract Series’ episode on contemporary set designer, Es Devlin. (If you have not seen this series, it is a must see. The shows are as creative as the people they highlight.) Devlin built a toy theater with her children in the show. Before this , I had not heard of Es. Since then, as so often happens lately, I’ve discovered Devlin everywhere. I found out she designed the sets for the opening ceremony of Great Britain’s Olympics and Katy Perry’s recent performance on the Grammys.  She designs sets for plays, operas and even rock shows.  Structures, light and projected images are important elements of her work. If you don’t have Netflix and want to know a little more about her look here or here. For a mind blowing  example of Es’ work which can be shared with students look here. Devlin could be discussed in class for a career unit or when talking about story tellers of today.

I would love to hear what you think. How do you teach retelling in your classroom?Simply click on the post’s title 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.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!


Imaginative Trees

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Trees (Purpose, Structure)

Social Studies – Countries Around the World (Canada), Language Arts – Literature, Journaling

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Jay Dart, Dr. Seuss, Gustav Klimt

Medium (Drawing, Illustrating, Murals, Mosaics), Color (Tints), Art Careers (Fine Artists, Illustrators, Painters)

While listening to a podcast from my latest blog obsession, The Jealous Curator , I discovered Canadian self proclaimed drawist,  Jay Dart.  Dart has created a series of drawings about an imaginary world called Yawnder. In these drawings, a woodsman named Jiggs and his trusty dog, Floyd, venture through this fantasy world.  Yawnder has many trees, but not quite the trees you’d see walking down the street. One tree might have many different pastel (tints) colored blossoms or trunks. Other trees could have a rainbow of different colored saps and their cross sectioned rings are also colorful.

In my last post, I talked about the purpose of trees. Jay Dart’s trees make a perfect addition to said post. He illustrates a logger here, a tree related job. Also, in the top drawing here, he shows Jiggs gathering colorful sap from trees. Students could guess the flavors of these colorful saps. In his Field Guide to Yawnder, Jay also shows the structure of his imaginative trees. Some of them actually grow from planting colorful beards. As a review of a tree unit, students could compare and contrast the characteristics of real trees and Yawnder trees.

His work would also be a welcome addition to a Canadian past times unit. (logging, fishing)


Gustav Klimt’s “Tree of Life”

Jay’s fanciful trees remind me of some other imaginative tree’s in literature and art.   How about Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax’s colorful truffula trees. I’m also reminded of Gustav Klimt’s stylized Tree of Life. Writers like J K Rowling have made up entire imaginary worlds like Jay Dart has done. Who can forget her whomping tree. Younger students might identify with Harold and the Purple Crayon.  Wouldn’t it be great fun to brainstorm with students where they might wander if given the opportunity? Students could construct their own guidebook or journal like this, this, or this. In this journal, students could draw their world and add written descriptions. What would the trees in their imaginary world look like? How are they the same and different from trees in the real world?

So, what do you think? Could you use Jay Dart’s work somewhere in your curriculum? I wish that I were still teaching. I would so love to make an imaginary world with a group of kids. I’d love to hear what you think. Simply click on the post’s title 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.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!

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.