Open A Door To Creativity


Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts – Literature, Writing, Social Studies – Countries Around the World, Underground Railroad

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Karen Anderson

Types of Art – Sculpture (Relief), Elements of Art – Form


As we’re opening the door to a new year, I’m reminded of artist, Karen Anderson’s Tiny  Doors , that I saw on CBS’ Sunday Morning Magazine. Doors have always intrigued me. They come in all sizes and shapes. Doors can be portals to beginnings, endings and adventures. Thinking about doors opened up my mind to so many  classroom lesson possibilities. 

Probably the most obvious correlation would be in language arts. Doors have played a role in some famous literature. Just think about Alice in Wonderland, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Secret Garden and The Harry Potter books, just to name a few.  

For younger students, I found several picture books with door themes. The  first three are a series of wordless books by Aaron Becker entitled,  Journey, Quest and ReturnIn Journey, a young girl uses a red crayon to draw a door onto the wall, opens it and steps into a magical world of adventure. The story continues and concludes in the next two books. These stories remind me of a very sophisticated version of Harold and the Purple Crayon. The next picture book I found, Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim,  just so happens to also be about a red door. While researching for this blog, I discovered that red doors have significance in history and cultures around the world. To learn more about red doors check out this post by Apartment Therapy. Aaron Becker’s books are about imagination and adventure. Ruby’s Wish is based on a true story about a Chinese girl who yearns for an education and how she goes about getting it. Find a video version of this story here. This is a great book to correlate with a children around the world unit. Another internationally themed book  is The Old Man And His Door by Gary Soto. This story is about a Mexican husband who doesn’t listen very well, but ends up being a bit of a hero in the end. Find a video version of this story here. This book investigates the many uses for a door and I love all the Spanish words that are introduced.


So, if you are reading any of these books, studying cultures around the world or just want to open up your student’s imaginations, a door themed art project might just be in order. I love these popsicle stick doors from The WHOot. Dreamworks has produced  an adorable  instructional video which can be found here. For some more inspirational doors, check out my tiny doors board on Pinterest found here. A box of popsicle sticks is inexpensive and readily available at most craft stores. Tacky glue can be used in place of hot glue. All Purpose Elmers Glue can even be used. Simply glue and let the glue set before turning over. Add color with markers or watercolors. I bought pre-colored  popsicle sticks. Old buttons, jewelry and beads can be added for embellishments. Once the door is complete, students could write a description or a story about what’s behind their door. Find some teaching suggestions in this pdf and this pdf.  The tiny doors can be placed around the school to see what kind of buzz they might initiate.

What do you think? Could you use tiny doors in your curriculum? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Just highlight the title of this post, scroll down to the bottom and add your comment.

I hope you’ll stop by again real soon.


Crayon Themed Christmas Gifts



If you are anything like me, you are always looking for quick and easy gift ideas.  I find books to be a GREAT gift. And it just so happens that there are presently numerous crayon themed picture books to choose from. I like these particular books because each one has an underlying message about friendship or acceptance. I would recommend Drew Dawalt’s clever series of crayon books entitled The Day Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home. I also mentioned in my last blog post the crazy story,  Frankencrayon by Michael Hall. Hall has also written Red, A Crayon Story . You can find a read aloud of his book here. Another fun one is How the Crayons Saved the Rainbow by Monica Sweeny. You can view a read aloud video of this book here. I’m Not Just a Scribble  by Diane Alber is not about crayons, but about something you can do with them. This book even comes with stickers so your children can make their own scribbles. She also has great scribble activities on her blog page and Instagram page. (Holiday ornaments and a template so your child can make a 2019 calendar. More gift ideas!!!!!) Too bad The Crayon Man, The True Story of the Invention of the Crayola Crayon by Natascha Biebow isn’t out yet. It looks like it will be a good one. You can preorder it now and it will come out in March. So, you can simply purchase one of the books mentioned above, a nice new box of crayons and a sketch pad. Place all the items in a basket or tote, add a ribbon and, voila, the PERFECT gift!

Need a quick gift that you can make from things you have around the house? Let’s talk about the crayons themselves. Do you have a box or jar of old broken crayons in some closet or drawer? The kids don’t want to use them anymore because they’re not new looking anymore. Well, do I have a solution for you. Make recycled crayons! Trust me, you don’t want the old crayons to end up in a landfill. Did you know they never decompose and simply melt into a waxy sludge in landfills? (If you don’t wish to go through the trouble of making your own recycled crayons, please consider investigating where you can recycle them locally.) All you will need to produce your new crayons are old crayons, an old muffin tin or silicon mold, some oil and an oven. Find a how to video here. Here are a few extra pointers:

*First, cull through your crayons and make sure they are a safe brand found in this article. Unfortunately, some crayons produced in China were found to contain asbestos, so check yours out before you go any further.  * Your students or children can help take  the paper off the crayons and break them up. You may need to cut them in smaller pieces with a knife. *Brush metal muffin tins with oil before filling them. *This could be a GREAT sorting activity for preschoolers, putting all the same color crayon in a single cup. But, I think it is great fun to put different colored crayons into the cups. This way you can make rainbow crayons. (A specialty box of rainbow crayons called Chunk-O Crayons costs around $10.00. Yours will be virtually free.)  *To be on the safe side, bake the crayons while the children are not around and in a well ventilated room. *Allow the new crayons to cool completely before trying to remove from the mold. Placing the mold in the freezer may make the crayons easier to remove.  *Place several of your masterpieces in a pretty bag, add a ribbon and give as gifts to friends and neighbors.

Happy Crayoning!

I hope you’ll stop by again real soon!


Happy 200th Birthday Frankenstein!


Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts – Literature, Creative Writing, Science – Ecology, Weather

Possible Art Concepts: Types of Art – Sculpture (Free Standing, Relief), Art Media – Mixed


Sorry this comes too late for a halloween themed lesson. Please tell me I’m not the only one just hearing about the bicentennial anniversary of the Frankenstein novel by Mary Shelly. Frankenstein, a green faced monster with the signature bolts in his neck and stitches on his forehead, is a character that most children recognize. Looking at just one recent Halloween Pinterest idea page alone, I found three Frankenstein ideas. Two were food ideas found here and here. The other was a popsicle craft idea found here.

You may be asking, why teach a lesson about this monster? At first, I thought the same thing, until I heard the story behind the origin of the book. In the summer of 1816, Shelly travelled to Geneva with her future husband poet, Percy Bysshe Shelly. They were visiting another poet, Lord Byron. That summer it rained virtually everyday. And, evidently, the non rainy moments were cloudy and gloomy. The cause of all these dreary clouds was a volcanic eruption in southeast Asia. Since Byron’s guests were stuck inside, he proposed each person write a ghost story. Mary Shelley was experiencing a bit of writer’s block, until one evening, when she overheard the men talking about a recent scientific experiment. In the experiment, a scientist touched a dead frog with a jolt of electricity and the frog body flinched. This led to a discussion about bringing dead animals to life using electricity. Shelly began thinking about the implications of a human-like creature brought to life by electrical current. And Frankenstein, the short story, was born! Two years later the novel was published. So, if it hadn’t been for weather and science, there might never have been a Frankenstein.

Light bulb moment! How about an ecology lesson inspired by Shelley?  First read the picture book, She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein, by Lynn Fulton. This book is most suitable for intermediate students. Discuss how the weather and the volcanic eruption contributed to the artist’s inspiration. Then ask students to brainstorm or research recent science news. I was thinking the great plastic garbage patch in the Pacific ocean is a good example. A similar story occurred at  Yellowstone Park when a geyser spewed steam and trash. Students could pretend that the patch has come to life. Will it take on an animal shape, a human shape or perhaps the shape of a wave? If you’re anything like I was, you have a stash of recycle items in your closet. If so, set up a Pop Up Recycle Shop in your room like the Boston Children’s Museum did in this post. Next, individually or as a group, students can plan, shop for and create a recycle monster. The monster can be free standing or glued to cardboard as a relief. I’ve found that tacky or wellbond glues work best for adhering plastic parts. Then, students can write their own modern day horror story about their monster. Students should include some suggestions for improving the plastic problem in their story.

You can also celebrate Frankenstein’s birthday with the primary crowd. First ask students if they are familiar with who Frankenstein is. Then read them the crazy book, Frankencrayon by Michael Hall. You can find a video version here. I love that Frankencrayon is created from three recycled crayon stubs. I also love that this story keeps going on and on after it has been cancelled . There is not only the Frankencrayon monster but also a scribble monster. After finishing the story, students can discuss whether Frankencrayon is a story or not. Does it have characters, a setting, a plot, a problem, and a resolution? Afterward, students can create more recycle characters from old broken crayons. Glue on some arms, feet, hats. Add facial features with a thin black marker. Some ambitious students can also make a scribble monster. Students may wish to create a sequel to Frankencrayon and use their recycled characters as puppets to perform their story.

For more monster ideas, check out my Pinterest board here.

So, what do you think? Could the Frankenstein story fit in your ecology or weather unit? How about a literature or writing unit?  Do you have some other ideas, thoughts? I’d love to hear. Simply click on the title of this post, scroll down to the bottom and add your comment.

Stop by again real soon!

Hats Galore!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – History, Women’s History, Trades,  Science – Endangered Species,  Wind, Language Arts – Literature

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Rene Magritte, Skills – Paper Sculpture, Elements of Art – Shapes, Forms


Does your school ever have a Crazy Hat Day? Or, is there a hat themed story in your language arts unit?  If so, you might want to make hats a theme in your classroom for a day.

You could begin by looking at Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”.  While visiting the Renoir and Friends: Luncheon of the Boating Party Exhibit at the Phillips Museum last year, I was intrigued by a display of hats included in the show. Hats were worn by all but two of the people included in the “Luncheon of the Boating Party” painting. A close up of most of the models can be found in this slide show.  While viewing this painting, why not throw in a little math? How many models are there? How many models are wearing hats? How many models are women? How many are men? The men are wearing both formal (top hats and bowlers) and casual (boater’s hats) hats. Pictures of these kinds of hats can be found here. Can your students find the different kinds of  men’s hats in the painting? Which kind of hat is painted most? The women’s hats were produced by crafts people called milliners. Because hats were so popular during this time period and Impressionists painted everyday life, other artists also included hats and milliners in their works. You can find more information about hat paintings in this video about the Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade Exhibition.

With the popularity of hats and feathers and taxadermied birds on hats during this time period and beyond, many birds were being killed, especially egrets, just for their feathers. This was bringing this species and others very close to extinction. Two women, Harriet Lawrence Hemenway and Minna B. Hall, started a movement to save the birds. This group later became the Audubon Society. To learn more about these extraordinary women  look here. Add these women to a Famous Women unit or an Endangered  Species unit.

Hats could also be included in a literature unit. I used to always read Old Hat, New Hat by Stan and Jan Berenstain to my students on Crazy Hat Day.  Recently, I discovered Bridget’s Beret  by Tom Lichtenheld. Find a video of this story here.  After reading one of these books to the students in your class, have them create their own creative hats. You might want to try Art is Basic‘s idea found here. Or, you could use the idea that I used to use by The Color Lab found here. Students could also create a getting to know you hat by using Cassie Stephens pdf’s found here and hereSide Note: Another painter famous for a bowler hat is Surrealist painter, Rene Magritte. Magritte’s Marvelous Hat by D.B. Johnson is another picture book about a hat. Find a video of this story here.

I hope this post has provided you with some new approaches to teaching mathematics, science, language arts or social studies. I would love to hear any of your thoughts on the subject. Just highlight the title of this post, scroll down to the bottom and add your comment.

Stop by again real soon!







Shadow Fun

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Shadows, Recycling

Possible Art Concepts: Art History –Lotte Reineger,  Kumi Yamashita, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Vincent Bal

Elements of Art – Line (contour Line), Shape, Form Media – Collage, Paper Sculpture

Do you teach a shadow unit? If so, do I have some ideas for you.

Last week I visited “Black-out Silhouettes: Then and Now” at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. You can find an informative video about this show here. Now, this is not the first time I’ve talked about silhouettes. I blogged about Lotte Reineger, who made the first feature length animated film (and all with silhouettes). The post can be found here.  The black-out show has many examples of silhouettes from the past. Silhouettes became popular in the 1800s as a more affordable alternative than oil painted portraits. A silhouette is a contour outline of a person’s profile which is cut from black paper and glued onto another piece of paper (Glueing one paper onto another is also known as a collage.).


With the invention of the Physiognotrace machine, shown above, silhouettes became even more accessible and popular. 

The thing that most excited me about this show was one of the contemporary artists working with silhouettes and shadows,  Kumi Yamashita.


 As seen above, she will arrange everyday objects, (ie – blocks and 3D letters or numbers) and shine a light across them to form a shadow of a portrait. Yamashita will also manipulate the edge of what looks like a sheet of paper (is actually resin) to form a shadow portrait. Look here to see some close up examples.

After seeing Kumi’s work, I was reminded of a pair of recycling artists, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, who use rubbish or trash to create silhouettes. Most of their work is inappropriate for students to see, but I did find two you could show in your classroom. “Real life is Rubbish”  can be found here. And, “Sunset Over Manhattan” can be found here.

While researching projects to go along with this post, I ran across a blogger named “petit loulou” who already did all the work for me. You can find her wonderful post here. I love how she shows several shadow art ideas and found even more contemporary shadow artists. Tracing cast shadows can be good practice for eye hand coordination. Drawing shadows of everyday objects, figuring out what they look like and drawing in the details, like Vincent Bal does, would allow your students to show their creative side. Intermediate students could try their hand at arranging objects, ala Yamashita, to form some monster silhouettes. For a recycling unit, try arranging some recycling objects, like Noble and Webster.

Kumi also did an exclamation point whose shadow became a question mark . This reminded me of a recent post by Cassie Stephens on paper strip sculptures.  The “Question Mark” sculpture was basically made up of strips. I was thinking, what kind of shadows could students produce with paper strip sculptures?

Hopefully, this post has provided you with some new ways of approaching a shadow unit. Has it sparked even more ideas for you? I’d love to hear if they did. 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!

Rainbow Neighborhood

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Communities, Countries Around The World, Science – Color Spectrum, Recycling

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Camilla Engman, Elements of Art – Color (Color Wheel), Shapes (Geometric), Texture (Visual), Medium – Collage, Origami


On a recent trip to Italy, I discovered the magical island town of Burano, located a short boat ride from Venice. Like Venice, it’s actually several islands held together by small bridges. One thing that makes this small fishing village so special is its bright colorful houses. Each family has their own special home color. Most houses have been the same color for generations. This town takes its rainbow image very seriously. Neighboring houses may not be the same color.  And, if a family wishes to change the color of their house, they must ask permission from the local government. In the past, the family boat was even painted to match the house. No one quite remembers why they started painting the houses this way. One theory is that the colorful buildings stood out from a distance, making it easier for the native fishermen to find their way home.

How about sharing the details of Burano as part of a communities or countries around the world unit? Begin with some maps and locate Europe, then Italy, then Venice and explain that Burano is near Venice. Preschool students can practice their color words by identifying the different house colors from photos of Burano.  As a nice science connection, review the colors of the rainbow and see how many of these colors the students can find in Burano photos.  As part of a math lesson, students could create their own rainbow houses from geometric shapes (squares, triangles, rectangles) as seen  below.

 Each student chooses their favorite house and roof color. Arrange and glue together the house and roof. Choose smaller scraps for windows and doors. Arrange and glue doors and windows. Add details with marker. The houses could then be glued onto a class community mural. Just be sure no two same color houses are next to one another! Houses could also be arranged in rainbow order.

For a recycle science unit, one could borrow inspiration from collage artist, Camilla Engman’s envelope communities. Simply save all your colorful birthday and holiday card envelopes instead of sending them to the recycle bin. Have students choose an envelope, add visual texture using markers, add cut paper windows and use the makers to add window details. For additional ideas for doors, windows and visual texture check out my Pinterest page here,

For older students, he/she could make envovotuts+’s origami house idea as found  here.


I hope this post has inspired you as much as Burano inspired me. What kinds of fun ways do you teach communities? 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!

Everyday Workers

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Community Helpers, Careers

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Lewis Wickes, J. Howard Miller, Winslow Homer, Shauna Frischkorn, Gordon Parks, Ramiro Gomez, Gustave Blache, William H. Johnson

Art Genres – Portraits, Art Medium – Painting, Drawing, Photography

While watching last week’s Sunday Morning Magazine, I discovered that the Obama’s are not the only ones adorning the walls of the National Portrait Gallery right now.  “The Sweat of Their Faces; Portraying American Workers Exhibit” has many exciting  relatable images which would make a great addition to a community helpers or careers unit. There are some famous historical works such as Lewis Wickes’  “Icarus High up on Empire State“, J. Howard Miller’s Rosie the Riveter and Winslow Homer’s “The Cotton Pickers”. However, what I really love are the images that your students can really identify with and recognize from their everyday lives. Images such as Shauna Frischkorn’s “Kean, The Subway Sandwich Artist”Gordon Parks’ “Government Charwoman”Ramiro Gomez’s “Woman Cleaning Shower in Beverly Hills” and Gustave Blache’s “Cutting Squash”.  I also love Francis Criss’ “Alma Sewing”.  

I’ve adapted a career lesson from Mrs. Knight’s Greatest Artist’s  that can be found  here. You can use the above mentioned artworks as motivation. Brainstorm different community helpers or careers. The Sweat of Their Faces exhibit also has a William H. Johnson portrait who Mrs. Knight mentions in her lesson. It is entitled  ” Farm Couple at Work”.  Look at the simple shapes Johnson uses to create his figures.


Then, using a black crayon and simple shapes, students draw a career self portrait. Next, they add props and a background.


Just like Johnson, the students will paint in the shapes with bright colors. I used watercolors. The black crayon keeps the colors from running together. If you don’t have watercolors, crayons or markers will work just fine.

Hope this post brought you some fresh visuals for your social studies units. How do you teach community helpers or careers? 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!