1st Graders’ Family Portraits

In their homeroom classes the 1st graders studied how one’s family history provides insight into one’s own personal identity, and in art class the students drew and then painted their self-/family-portraits. Each student developed the background of his/her picture by adding imagery from the memory of family events or from knowledge of his/her family’s history.

Created in response to a range of stimuli (photos, storybooks, conversations, sharing of personal experiences), students made personal connections to their artworks as they developed. The task proved challenging as the students had to determine how to represent, visually, what they envision in their minds and what they can discuss verbally.

See the students at work, below, shortly before the completion of these family portraits. Each student used his/her portrait as a talking point during the Student Led Conferences to discuss his/her personal family history.


The annual Yamate Art Exhibition has begun!

The exhibition runs from Friday February 14 to Monday February 24 at Bluff No. 115-3, The British House — link here — across the street from Y.I.S. (横浜市中区山手町115-3) from 9:30-17:00 daily, 9:30-12:00 on Feb 24.

This art show is part of the Yokohama Yamate Art Festival and includes the artwork of students from several schools in the Yamate area, each exhibited at a different residence on The Bluff.

There are 86 elementary school artists in this year’s show, so do come visit the Y.I.S. student gallery and see the energy, efforts, and two- & three-dimensional creativity of our Kindergarten through Grade 5 students!

Yamate Art Exhibition – ES Artists on display

A number of our elementary school art students will have their artwork exhibited in the annual Yamate Art Show: February 14 – 24 at Bluff No. 115-3, The British House — link here — across the street from Y.I.S. (横浜市中区山手町115-3) from 9:30-17:00 daily, 9:30-12:00 on Feb 24.

This art show is part of the Yokohama Yamate Art Festival and includes the artwork of students from several schools in the Yamate area, each exhibited at a different residence on The Bluff.

Do come visit the Y.I.S. student gallery at Bluff No. 115-3 and see the energy, efforts, and two- & three-dimensional creativity of our Kindergarten through Grade 5 artists!

1st Grade completes their Living Things sculptures

The 1st graders are now winding down their first unit, which was focused on the environment and the living things within it. It also had them consider the Central Idea that people have an impact on the environment, that many living creatures are affected by the decisions that human beings make about the environment. Each student finished turning his or her large 2-dimensional drawing & painting into a 3-dimensional sculpture, using scrap newspaper, staples, paint, and a variety of other materials.

All of these creatures are now displayed in the upstairs hallway outside the 1st grade classrooms in the K-1 building. The students hope you will come visit their jungle! And if you have your smartphone with you, click on the QR code displayed below each child’s sculpture and you will be able to hear each student’s critique of his or her artwork. The first graders are improving their ability to use technology to help them share their learning.

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.

Typhoon 18 & Art

Hi boys & girls,

Because of the typhoon, some of you (1S, KB, 3L, 5B, 4N, plus the Young Artists Group ESA students) will be missing your art class today. I’m certainly sorry about that!

If you’re interested in doing some art today, check the Online Art Resources up at the top of this page — let me know which ones you like or don’t like.

Stay inside and safe today, but don’t forget to look out the window too and see how the environment around you — the sky, trees, land, plants — looks different during a big storm such as this. And listen to the sounds! Did you ever try to draw a sound? An artist named Arthur Dove tried to paint sounds! Look at his painting below and try to guess what sound this is (you can write a comment below if you have an answer):

This artwork may be protected by copyright. It is posted on the site in accordance with fair use principles.

See you soon,

Mr. Reed

First week of Art Class in 2013-14

The beginning week of school is behind us, and most of the ES students have come to the art studio for the first time. Kindergarten and Grade 1 will have their first class starting in Week 2, although some of the kindergarten students were kind enough to come upstairs to meet Mr. Reed and to see their new art studio.

Grades 2 – 5 enjoyed the incredible picture book ‘Chalk’ (see it in the YIS Library!) and then each had a warm-up art activity to get their brains and eyes and hands ready for the upcoming Unit 1 projects. Grade 2 worked with plasticine (playdough) in anticipation of their ‘Where We Are In Place And Time’ clay portrait project. Grade 3 were challenged to create paper sculptures as they prepare for their ‘Who We Are’ 3-D sculptural project. Grade 4 played with abstract designs in creating patterns as they look forward to their ‘Where We Are In Place And Time’ wearable fabric project. And Grade 5 drew two self-portraits (one with a mirror and one without) in preparation for their ‘Sharing The Planet’ project on conflict resolution.

You can see some of the children at work here over the past several days:

Getting ready for ART CLASS in 2013-14!

Hello students and parents,

It’s Mr. Reed here, getting ready to begin learning and working and playing with the K-5 students in Art Class!

I wish you a warm welcome back to school for those of you who are returning, and for those of you new to Y.I.S. and/or to Japan, I hope you are finding your way around well (please don’t hesitate to ask questions).

We’re soon to begin our ES art classes, to reacquaint ourselves with one another, to welcome our new classmates, and to dive right into our first art projects. As you know, the ES art classes follow the Primary Years Program (PYP) and are well-integrated into the work the children are doing across their various classes and subjects. It’s an exciting place to learn and grow and push new boundaries.

I look forward to meeting you at the upcoming Back To School Night on Wednesday, September 11.  Please do feel free to drop into my classroom — room E-203, upper floor, K-1 building — at anytime to ask questions or simply to say ‘hello’.

Best to you all in 2013-14,

Aaron Reed


Summertime art opportunity in Yokohama

Hello parent & students,

If you are looking for some outside-the-home art activities, you might look into SmartStart in the Motomachi area. It was formerly run by a YIS parent and then sold to another owner.

They offer 4 different classes:

  • Arts & Crafts for children 3-6 years old;
  • Science Arts for children 3-6 ;
  • Arts & Crafts for 6 and older;
  • Art Classics for 8 and older.

Their summer school runs from July 16 – August 23, 2013, and they offer other classes and services.


*NOTE: I have brochures in my classroom. Please feel free come pick one up!

  • Their website is here:  www.smartstart.co.jp
  • You can email Aki Naito at  info@smartstart.co.jp, and the phone number is 045-680-0506 (Mon-Sat 9:00-17:00).
  • The address is: 6F Motomachi SKY Bldg., 5-203 Motomachi Naka-ku, Yokohama Kanagawa 231-0861

If your children do SMARTSTART this summer, please let me know what you think of it. You can email me your feedback at: reed@yis.ac.jp.


Drawing during vacation?!?!

I know that some students love drawing. Some of you love drawing after school, over the weekends, and on vacations. If you plan to do some drawing during the summer and want to practice your observational drawing (meaning that you want to learn to draw real things more realistically), then watch the following two videos.

This short instructional video reviews the basic steps to drawing realistically from observation (this mean: by looking closely at the thing you’re trying to draw):
*And always draw very LIGHTLY at first, so you can erase those lines easily later on.

The second video is a bit longer, reviews the same ideas, but goes into a bit more depth:

The key thing is to look closely at the different types of lines and shapes you see on the thing you’re drawing.

Don’t forget to have your eraser by your side. Erasing is important! It means that you’ve noticed something about your drawing that you can do better! So just erase your first effort and try again.

“If you are not making mistakes, you’re not taking enough risks.” – Debbie Millman, artist & designer