Grade 1 students create an environmental treasure

In their homeroom classes, the First Graders are studying the rights and responsibilities of people and living things — looking at how people have an impact on the environment. With Ms. Robidoux and Ms. Saito the students are discussing and considering our natural environment as well as the impact of the choices people make on that environment. And so in art class we have learned about sculpting and drawing living things (animals, insects, fish, birds, and so on) so as to transform to our upstairs hallway outside the classrooms. The first grade students are now embarking on the creation of large, three-dimensional paper sculptures of their favorite living creatures, and it is these sculptures — these treasures — which will fill the hallway.

The following video shows the process the 1st graders — and all ES students — use to become proficient at drawing what they see.  Limited to 10 minutes, the video is a basic overview and does not cover all the finer points of observational drawing. Students who are practicing at home with this 3-step drawing process are encouraged to bring their drawing to Mr. Reed for discussion, suggestions, and “next step” ideas!

how to draw what you see from YIS Academics on Vimeo.

We’ve also read the book The Butterfly’s Treasure (by Schim Schimmel), observing the realistic illustrations and following the old monarch butterfly’s journey around the world as he discovers a particular treasure that exists here on earth. The students have had a variety of reactions to what the butterfly saw on his flight to different parts of the earth. We also had an opportunity to look at photographs of various living things and of the environments that they live in, and the students had the chance to observe and comment on how human beings can affect the natural environment and why they do so.

The Butterfly’s Treasure storybook cover by this blogger Aaron Reed – you are free to copy, distribute, transmit, and adapt the work

Currently, the students are in the process of turning their large 2-dimensional drawings into 3-dimensional sculptures of each student’s favorite creature — using pencils, paper, paint, newspaper, and staples. Over these weeks the young Grade 1 artists have been learning to express their opinions about art and to engage with and to enjoy a variety of visual art experiences. Soon, we will turn the 1st grade hallway into our imaginary natural environment, filled with “treasures”: animals, fish, bird, and insects. The students hope you will then come visit and see these treasures.

Grade 4 artists create their personal Ainu garments

The Grade 4 students began the year discussing and creating patterns, noting that patterns are things (shapes, pictures, lines, motifs) that repeat in a regular manner. These activities were a warm-up toward creating the art project of their first unit: a study of Ainu culture. The unit’s central idea is that people continue to migrate for many reasons. The students have been studying the Ainu’s clothing design as a method of developing designs of their own to use to create wearable garments during their presentation for their parents. Our concept focus in art class is ‘change’: how the study of another culture’s artwork can affect and alter one’s own ideas and art.

The students designs are inspired by the actual garments worn by the Ainu people of northern Japan. Students have been looking at patterns — both those of their own creation and also that of M.C. Escher, a Dutch artist who was inspired in his cross-European travels to Southern (Moorish) Spain — and they are basing their designs on the various motifs used in Ainu culture and are also adding an original motif of each student’s own design. The students noted similarities in all the Ainu clothing: patterns which are symmetrical and abstract, and which always occur at the openings of the garments (ask your favorite Grade 4 student to explain why!!).

The children are using their sketchbooks to plan their ideas and are now beginning to construct the garments. They have been working hard on turning their plans for individual, Ainu-inspired garments into reality. Based on their sketchbook designs, the students have been using paper stencils to make colored cloth motifs, which are then glued onto variously-colored muslin cloth (white, brown, black, grey, or dark blue) to bring their own designs to life. It has not been easy to translate small, colored pencil designs on paper to large, cloth patterns, but the students have persevered and hope to have their garments ready for their November 12th presentation — during which they will wear their garments during a performance celebrating the learning about the Ainu they have been doing thus far this year.

Grade 5 students begin self-portraits

In their homeroom classes, the 5th graders have been addressing the central idea that “there are many ways to create peaceful solutions to conflict” by looking at: personal experiences with conflict and how each student manages situations of conflict and interpersonal problems. And so in art class, we are taking this opportunity to create self-portraits that express either each person’s experience with conflict or a his/her belief about some other conflict in the world.

At the beginning investigation stage, students were instructed in different ways of observing themselves in mirrors and depicting their faces by drawing, with a focus on observing and looking more at the subject (i.e. their faces) than at their paper/drawing.

Students then brainstormed some ideas by writing down thoughts and words and by sketching the images that come to mind when they think about ‘conflict’ and ‘peace’ and ‘solving problems’.


As they move to the planning stage, students each decide exactly what his/her goal is, what it is he/she wants to communicate about conflict or peace. Then they begin to consider the composition of their self-portrait: where will the different elements (such as their own face) be places on their paper? Where and what kind of other images, colors, and words be created?

Students will incorporate both drawing (pencil) and collage (magazines primarily) to represent their own faces and to communicate their particular belief or understanding about peace and conflict resolution. And they will have to incorporate some type(s) of symbols — images, colors, facial expression, lines, for example — to help communicate their ideas. The students are also required to use text (words or sentences) in addition to imagery in their picture.

Currently, students are finishing up their plans and beginning to draw, paint, and collage their final version of their self-portraits.