Thursday, November 20, 2014

Friendship Tales

We started Friendship Tales with Cartoon Day and some very fun results!

The kids learned about word bubbles and drawing simple cartoons with basic shapes.

Some even had previous experience and were working in panel form!

Students participated in get-to-know-you games, helped build our learning community, and listened to Mo Willems’ My Friend is Sad. We worked together to figure out if the story was sad, silly, or a little of both.

Corduroy by Don Freeman and Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel helped us persevere to learn sewing skills.

Finally, our button artwork came together in fine form. Meanwhile, we thought about different ways friends can help each other and work together to solve problems.

After reading Mr. Putter and Tabby Write the Book by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard, we made a list of good things, just like Mr. Putter. Then we had lots of fun crafting books! It turned out the students were already experts at this.

Ling and Ting - Not Exactly the Same! By Grace Lin led us to a painting activity. I had plans for the kids to paint the covers of their books, but the students declared mutiny and decided to create these beautiful paintings instead. We struck a happy truce!

While reading The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss, we began creating stick puppets to help us tell stories of friendship. Best Friends for Frances, by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, helped us continue our crafting fun, by this time settling into a great routine for our final few class sessions.

I am so proud of the thoughtful discussions we had on some difficult friendship problems. The Sneetches helped us talk about how it’s okay for friends to look different from each other.

Hearing Frances’ troubles helped us think about ways to get past hurt feelings and be friends again.

We decided you can have time by yourself and still be friends. But, we all especially agreed that it's not okay to exclude people because of who they are.

Our final class, we were inspired by Little Bear’s Friend by Else Homelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. This story helped us find ways to stay friends, even when we had to say goodbye!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Art and Design at Family Learning Program

This spring session of Family Learning Program I've been fortunate to lead three art and design classes serving a whole range of different ages, styles and interests! As summer approaches with a finish to these energy-charged classes, I want to share some highlights from our learning experiences.

Interactive social games remind kids of the basics while strengthening classroom relationships.

Then, we're ready to get serious with some advanced painting studies. Many students would stop nowhere short of the "fancy" color wheel this session. I was continually amazed at their level of focus and dedication.

Even my youngest artists, with support from their parents, were fascinated to study the behavior of paint under various conditions.


I've noticed amazing collaborative exchanges among these artist teams.


Whether studying watercolor techniques, printmaking methods, or mixed media construction, we agreed that creativity is something important to ourselves, our families and our community. 


Mixed media experiments with the older kids included ink drawings on a clear sheet to create sun-print images.

Many of the kids enjoyed drawing and then painting over their drawings. 


This basic illustration technique is incredibly versatile.

When classroom dynamics got a little complicated, I brainstormed up a set of worksheets to give students an additional way to interact with complex drawing instructions. It was difficult to put aside fears that worksheets might stifle their creativity, but I forged ahead while encouraging students to honor their own unique ways to draw.

I was relieved and overjoyed to find that the results were as wildly varied as the kids are!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Drawing, Painting and Design at Family Learning Program

This week the artists of Drawing, Painting and Design (ages 5-8) launched an acrylic painting project using templates and under-drawings, while expanding our study of color schemes and a comparison of art with design.

When leading each unique gathering of learners with a wide range of strengths, challenges and interests, I want to allow them to build on their existing skills while introducing a rich variety of concepts, tools and active learning experiences.

Watercolors and acrylic paints share many properties, both being water soluble. Among their differences, though, watercolors are much more translucent, and we have tried painting with both pan and liquid watercolors to discover how each behaves.

Our first mixed media experience blended charcoal drawing, glue transfer, cut paper and ink, with a little surprise at the end of class (red liquid watercolor!). 

The glue transfer is an invention to avoid using toxic fixative spray on our charcoal drawings. It seems to work pretty well! The students roll a layer of glue onto a large sheet of watercolor paper and glue the charcoal drawing face up. Next, they roll a layer of glue over a sheet of waxed paper and press the glue over the drawing. Once the wax paper is peeled away, it leaves a thin coating of glue, keeping the charcoal in place. 

Have you local folks been out to Seattle Art Museum to see the playful painting and sculpture of Joan MirĂ³? I think some of my students have a similar sensibility! His art is visiting us all the way from a museum in Madrid, Spain. 

When putting together lesson plans, I often think of a talk called "How art, design and technology inform creative leaders", given by John Maeda, former president of the Rhode Island School of Design. (You can find it on 

Maeda tells us that art asks difficult questions, often with no clear answers, while design solves problems. The two often overlap and inform each other in surprising ways! 

I'll leave you with these ink nib drawings, showing a fun array of line, contrast, pattern, shadow and light.