Studio 307

Well, last week this time I was crying like a baby because I didn’t want to let go of my peaceful sixteen and a half day vacation. But, somehow I got myself out of bed super-early Monday morning, practiced Yoga, fresh juiced, and made myself presentable and early for my first day back…the beginning of third quarter!!! Hey–I had a fabulous week and I’m half way through the year!! Summer break will be back before I know it!!
So I thought it would be fun if I invited you to come to school with me for a day! Here we are driving…my school is in the dead center of this photo! We’re about five minutes away. I teach in basically a walled in community in the middle of the desert near the foot of those beautiful mountains you see. First thing when you walk in you see this bulletin board I just put together on Thursday. My fifth graders are learning about radial symmetry and we are creating our own mandalas. At the end of our lesson we are going to create a sand mandala together that we will then brush away–just like the Tibetan monks do. Presenting this idea was really disturbing for some of them…but it was such a joy to see the kids that really get it…to really pick up on the idea that these monks do it as a symbol that everything in life is temporary. I love sneaking all that spiritual stuff into my public school curriculum! Shhhh–don’t tell anyone!

As you can see, I’m really blessed as an Art Teacher. Look at all that cabinet and storage space, and I have not one but TWO sinks! That’s any Art Teacher’s dream!! Plus, I pride myself in running a tight ship when it comes to keeping the studio clean. That’s what we call the classroom–“Studio 307”—each student has a responsibility to keeping things clean, neat in order. I’ve seen Art rooms that look like a lost jungle, and I know for myself I would not be comfortable creating in that space, so I expect the same from our shared studio.

Here’s my corner of the room with my desk, computer, and some more stuff! Notice my super-cool surfer photo on the wall—my constant reminder of Costa Rica!!
This is the only thing I hate about my room—look at those windows!!! AAAaaghh! There are only two of them and they are glass block. Makes you feel like you’re incarcerated! I try to liven it up a bit with plants. I try. Even the kids think the schools in Arizona are more like prison cells. It’s sadly the truth.

Ooohhh..come on in to my little storage room! Pretty cool, huh?!?! Look at all that fun stuff to play with!

And look at all those gallons and gallons of juicy paint!!! Doesn’t it make you want to run right out and get your teaching degree? Seriously–this is what I do all day.

There’s fun stuff for everyone!! For whatever it is you like to do!

But my favorite thing…and the majority of the kids too, is clay!!!! Yep, clay is a deal breaker for me in my classes–especially with the little ones. I always start off the first of the year with clay with the older ones (5th through 8th grade) because it is a good way to keep them interested and motivated, and a good way to create community in the classroom. Clay work simply lends itself to a communal process. But I save it for a little later with the younger ones, because they have to demonstrate good behavior to earn the privilege to work with clay. This, I hate to admit it, is a huge motivator for great classroom management. I have a class that has lost their “privilege” this quarter, and will have to try extra hard to earn it for hopefully the last one. I’ll let you in on a little secret though–I always make sure kids do clay, it’s important that they have access to all forms of creativity–and it’s not really a privilege, as it is simply an honor. So I would never take it away from them..but as an Art teacher of classes of thirty-something students–you use whatever cards you got!!!

My eighth and seventh graders made masks this past semester out of clay. We created masks based on the theme “The Sky Is The Limit”—so it had to be something they created out of their own imagination that has to relate to a Sky theme. Some of them took it literally and were clouds, suns, stars, rainbows, etc. Some of them created their own super-hero like persona that could fly. Some were just funny, like an eight grade boy who created a mask of a new planet called Terry World–after himself!!! One kid chose to create a mask that was a satellite disk—funny stuff! But what you see above was made by me–and are not finished. Those are actually from demonstrations I would do with the kiddos showing them how to roll a slab of clay then to press it onto a mold. Then I would show them how to attach pieces. So what I would be left with is some random mask shape. I fire them anyway, and then I spend some time during our classes working on them also—just so the students can see an adult working on Art also. I think that’s important. I think it’s important for students to know and see for themselves that Art can carry over into their lives and they can take things they learn in art class and expand on them as an adult. Plus, it’s just fun for all of us to sit together and create, and a fabulous way to get to know the students better.

Here are some bells the fifth graders created.

They really ring when you pick them up and shake them!!

Plus, they each have a different tone. The sad thing I should add, is that I came to this school last year. This is my second year teaching here. Most of the students have never touched clay before they were with me…so projects I would normally give the younger ones, I’ve had to give to the older ones because they just don’t feel comfortable or possess the basic knowledge to work with clay in a more appropriate manner for their grade–according to all that humble jumble you learn in University. What I think is the most important is that they get something.

Here are some bobble head’s my sixth graders created first semester. Along with a little environment for them to sit in.

Pretty cute!

I absolutely love these two–the purple penguin and the bunny!!!

Look—it’s Batman!

Now my sixth graders ( a grade I absolutely adore!) are learning about Asia in their Social Studies. So we in Art are learning about Chinese calligraphy and Sumi painting. We watched some cool videos off of YouTube where real masters demonstrate how they paint and they discuss the significance of everything. As a little side note, I’d like to add how wonderful of a time I live in right now to be a teacher—YouTube and TeacherTube and the internet in general makes everything possible! At a touch of a button I can show my kids just about anything…it’s so cool, sometimes they’ll have a question I just can’t answer and we turn to the computer, find the answer and maybe see some cool video to go along with it. Lucky for me too, this year our school district put those projectors in our rooms that are connected to the computer–so YouTube videos look more like movies!!!

I started this lesson this week on Monday. And I am actually doing it with both the sixth and seventh graders. They are so into it! We even listen to both traditional and contemporary Chinese music that I found on the internet while we practice our calligraphy with our bamboo brushes!!!

Plus, here’s the fun part for me too…all the words are on a more spiritual sense in hope to prompt discussion—in those little hand-outs they have are the characters for peace, love, happiness, wisdom, energy, gentleness, etc. I have to laugh too—because some of the things they say are just so funny. Like yesterday a girl said “Ms. H (that’s what they all call me), no matter how hard I try I just can’t get happiness.” You have to chuckle. Then another kid a couple days earlier yelled out loud “Ms. H I can’t find love.” Funny stuff!

Friday, a big discussion between seventh graders happened trying to decipher the difference between knowledge of something and wisdom. Yes, I said seventh graders. Listening to them try to make sense and really reflect upon it made me all choked up inside. This is the stuff that education should be about. This is the stuff I sneak in and disguise as other things in my lessons…because I care about these kids. I want them to realize their potential–I want them to begin their journey of awareness now–not when thirty years from now. That conversation meant more to me then any realistic drawing or masterpiece of any sort they could ever create. What a great honor and responsibility I have been blessed with as a profession.
I’ll add, that the students are practicing the calligraphy in the photos and also creating 8 final pieces on the white rice paper. We are then creating our own, hard-cover, hand stitched binding books that we will put our calligraphy in, some haiku that we write, a few Sumi paintings, and for the cover we are going to create it out of copper tooling. This lesson will take us to the end of the year–and they are just as excited about it as I am!!!

So after lunch I have all the younger kids in the studio (grade K-4). This week with my third graders we celebrated Chinese New Years! We made fans and lanterns and last we talked about where China is on the map and discussed taking a trip by boat to get there. Each student used what 2-D materials they wished and along with their imagination created what their personal ship in this journey would look like.

It’s so much fun to see how different each student’s work is–even though we all work from the same theme.

With the little kids, it is so fun to see their imaginations unleashed!!! I love the energy and pure innocence that is alive when they are in the studio. I am always inspired by what they do and how they do it!

So the funny thing of it all, is that lately I have had no real desire or motivation to create on my own. I’ve been beating myself up about it like crazy. It wasn’t until this week…in my studio classroom that I realized that I do spend every day being creative–even if it’s not putting my own paint on paper. So much creativity and energy is oozing out of the doors and even through the cracks in the glass block windows! Who’s the creative force behind that?
I’m giving myself some credit here…and I’m stating that yes, I do live a Creative Life–and I do practice Creativity everyday…and for that…many other’s are blessed with the gift of Creativity in their life also.
Thank you for visiting Studio 307. Hope you feel a little inspired yourself!
Peace & Love.

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