Art students begin their first units of inquiry

The elementary students are a few weeks into their art classes now, working on their first unit projects. Students are learning — little by little — about themselves as creators, about how to communicate, to take risks, to reflect on their work, and about how to be independent, responsible art students.

Kindergarten  –  In our first unit of inquiry, we’ve started by looking at the concept of Change and how personal journeys show the way that people change and can lead to new opportunities. These young artists have observed and discussed a variety of other artists’ self-portraits, have drawn their own self-portraits from observation, have experimented with a variety of materials as they developed their drawings, and explored different lines, shapes, and colors in creating 3-D crowns. At the same time, the students are becoming familiar with the elementary school art studio, learning what and where our materials and tools are, and practicing being responsible, cooperative classmates in storing their artwork properly and cleaning up their workspaces.

Grade 1  –  Families, family history, and the concept of Reflection are our focus at the moment, in our unit about Where We Are In Place And Time. The young students are practicing how to draw people realistically, both by observation — using mirrors — and with a step-by-step drawing process, from simple shapes and lines to more complex details. We will soon be reflecting on our own family histories. Later, each young artist will create a large family portrait as a way to communicate his or her unique family history.

Grade 2 – These young artists are focusing on the concept of Connection and how people can be enriched by their own cultures and the cultures they connect with throughout their lives, in this first unit about Where We Are In Place And Time. In art class, they have been practicing various modeling techniques with playdough in creating realistic human heads — using their hands and a variety of tools. Soon, the students will focus on a particular person in each of their lives, someone with whom each student celebrates a certain, significant cultural event. And the students will then create original sculptures of these people using clay and colored glazes.

Grade 3 – Three-dimensional sculpture and the concept of Reflection are the current focus for these students, along with the overarching notion that exploring and creating collaboratively helps individuals understand themselves and each other better. Thus far in this unit looking at Who We Are, these young artists made several practice sculptures, experimenting with different methods of manipulating paper. Now they are beginning to work collaboratively in small groups to create large sculptures, in a variety of media, which reveal something about themselves and their interests, individual strengths, and desires.

Grade 4 – The Grade 4 students are currently learning about organisms in this Sharing The Planet unit, focusing on the concept of Connection. In art class they are beginning to see how the natural world can be a rich source for imaginative artistic creation. We are looking at several artists who use nature as inspiration for imaginative, fantastical imagery. The students are now practicing drawing nature from observation and will soon attempt to transform these realistic sketches into imaginative pictures of whatever fantasies their minds create — all with a focus on the connections between the world outside us and the world we create inside our minds.

Grade 5 – In their homeroom classes, these students have been focusing on the idea of conflict, on how conflict affects lives, and on the concept of Perspective, in this first Sharing The Planet unit. In art class, we have been looking at, discussing, and practicing how to create self-portraits. The students are also learning that portraits can be either realistic or abstract, that faces need not look ‘perfect’ to represent someone or their feelings or personality. Soon the students will reflect on a situation of conflict in their own lives and attempt to communicate it through a self-portrait, and they will have elements in their portraits which are both realistic and abstract.

Grade 5’s journey into Aesthetics

The Grade 5 students spent nearly 2 months focusing on AESTHETICS and the central idea that aesthetic expression can be influenced by a culture’s history and values.

Looking at how traditions are related across genres and over time and at how local traditions are similar and different to one’s home culture, the students focused initially on Japan. Concepts such as “wabi-sabi” (beauty in imperfection, hidden & transient beauty) and “ma” (space, such as the space in between sounds) were focal points, as were various Japanese arts which students were able to explore and research according to their interests.

In art class, this How We Express Ourselves unit began and ended with each student defining the word “beauty” for him/herself. On that first day, the students were presented with a pile of trash and discarded stuff and challenged to “make something beautiful”. Here are the results:

In the intervening weeks, students engaged in a variety of activities, culminating in each student’s presentation of an original work of art or design:

  • Explored an interactive PowerPoint experience (“Japanese Arts & Aesthetic Exploration”) to pursue the traditional Japanese arts they wanted to learn more about: calligraphy, ceramics, flower arranging/ikebana, tea ceremony, architecture, dolls, paper folding/origami, painting, gardens, sculpture, printmaking/ukiyo-e.
  • Two engaging visits from the artists Shoichi & Colleen Sakurai, who (1) introduced the students to the concept of “wabi sabi” and kicked-off their Wabi Sabi Project — creating wearable art from found and discarded materials — and (2) returned to assist the students’ in creating their projects.
  • Experimentation with specific Media, Tools, and Processes in art class, to be used in the creation of their Wabi Sabi Art.

Photos of Shoichi & Colleen’s presentation…

…and the children working with Shoichi & Colleen (and their amazing power tools!)

The Aesthetics unit culminated with the children’s presentation of their own wabi-sabi projects. Projects created from random trash and discarded objects included: handbags, a rain-protective bike helmet, picture frames, hats, a dartboard, a dress, a Christmas ornament, a sun-powered lamp, a candlelit lamp, a game, a cooking apron, a baby’s toy, necklaces, an ornamental wall hanging, a ring/jewelry, and a lot more. As the students presented their creations to the audience, a partner read their self-reflection which described their process, their materials, and their inspiration.

Presentation photos (above) credit: Ed Lemery

This unit of study is a one on which nearly all the Grade 5 teachers (homeroom, arts, and Japanese) collaborated. It has been an enlightening and engaging experience for students and teachers alike. We’ll end with some of the students’ recent definitions of ‘beauty’:

  • “Beauty is the thing made by human that made with person’s feeling and time.”
  • “Beauty is something that is pleasing to the eye and makes you feel good.”
  • “Beauty is something that makes you love nature.”
  • “Beauty is something that expresses someone’s opinions through simplicity.”
  • “Beauty is a combination of shapes, lines, and colors which is aesthetically pleasing.”

Grade 5 begins the search for BEAUTY

The Grade 5 students have begun Unit 4 a little early in art class. The focus of this unit is the central idea that aesthetic expression can be influenced by a culture’s history and values. And so in art class we have begun with a provocation revolving around the idea of ‘beauty’.

The students spent the first 20 minutes of class faced with the challenge to “create something beautiful” from: 1. a large pile of old stuff, junk, and unused items piled on the table, 2. some tools (scissors, staplers, tape, glue), and 3. their own notion of what ‘beauty’ is. Upon completion of that abbreviated challenge, the students wrote down their own personal definitions of ‘beauty’ in their sketchbooks (their ideas are listed after the photos, below). And finally — looking ahead to the visit next week from artists Shoichi & Colleen Sakurai — the students perused www.shoichi-sakurai.com, exploring questions such as: Who is Shoichi Sakurai? What does he create? How does he create it? Some students wrote questions and comments to Shoichi through his website. The children seem intrigued, excited, and curious to meet the artists next week.

5Q
Beauty is something that makes you happy. – Julian
Beauty is the steps of life. Like how we change both mentally and physically as a person. – Troy
Beauty is something people want or something they adore. – Ben
For me beauty is colorful, happy, smiley. Beauty is happy. – Thiago
Something people like, something people want to see, something people think cool, that there is balance. – Ryo
Beauty means that you make something is nice for everyone. – Kiko
Beauty mean it should good contrast, unity, and balance. – Sharan
To express your love or opinion on something through art or anything else. – Polina
Beauty is something you really like. – Taiki
Beauty is something that when you see it, it makes you happy. – Gala
I think beauty means something that makes people inspired. Also I think it means there’s a reason why it’s beauty. – Eileen
Beauty is looking pretty on the outside but more importantly feeling pretty on the inside. – Juliet
Beauty is something that you love or like from your heart. Beauty is something happy looking at it. – Taka
Beauty means something that looks amazing and something nice and something that catches your eye. – Aika
Beauty is something good to look at admire. – Karthik
Something you are pleased to look at. – Daniil

5F
Beauty is what it is fantastic. Something that you think is wonderful. – Sojiro
I think that beauty means 3 things. I think the first is nature. Nature is beautiful in its own way, the trees and flowers and other things. The second is people who wear makeup and big puffy dresses have their own beauty. The third is everybody. Everybody is beautiful in their own way. Its also other things. – Oscar
Beauty is something/someone that is nice and something I like looking at for me. – Mitsuki
Beauty means to me that something is pretty and balanced like a good piece of art. – Issey
Beauty is like beautiful flowers, and like butterfly. – Jun
I think beauty is interesting and nice looking. – Jungsu
Beauty is something that is aesthetically pleasing and it depends on the person. It means to me as something that I’m happy with. – Theo
Beauty for me is greenery with flowers that smell “beautiful”. I think beauty is peace, quietness, and nature. – Aya
I think beauty means love. Beauty is my heart, my everything. – Kento
Beauty means dreams, flowers, nature. – Azami
Flowers, architecture are beautiful. Beauty = beautiful. – Harold
I think beauty means something you like. – Le Le
Beauty has a lot of meanings. My beauty meaning is a awesome, pretty person, artwork, animal, gems. – Simon
Beauty is when something is or flowers or people that is cute. – Ken
Beauty is when something is nice or wonderful. Flowers, sun, colors. For me all those things are beautiful. For me art is beautiful. – Ingrid
Beauty means something that you really like seeing and looks really good. Opposite of ugly. – Julia

5W
I think that beauty is something that on the outside can make someone happy and sometimes light up the room or the world, and on the inside kindness, and someone that can think of others more than themselves. – Leylia
When something looks out of the ordinary. – Jack
Beauty is something pretty and sweet looking and cute. – Khadija
Beauty is something that is nice. Beauty is something amazing and wonderful. – Hemal
Beauty is something that is not ugly. – Taiga
Something that is cute and pretty and that stands out to you. – Lisa
Opposite of ugly. Nice. – Colin
Beauty means something cute or opposite of ugly. – Vincent
I think beauty is something nice and clean and neat. – Ryuta
Beauty is something pretty and cute. The opposite of beauty is ugly. Nature is beautiful. – Mai
Beauty is something pretty and pettit and nice. – Ellenah
Having a significant amount of prettiness, having the qualities of what you think is pretty. – Toshimi
I think beauty is looking good. – Luis
Beauty is something that grabs attention of someone. Beauty is something that someone likes. Beauty is something amazing. – Anish
Something that is cute. Something that is amazing. – Alicia
I think beauty is something you make or it’s already is something colorful. – Alvin

Our journey into beauty, aesthetics, and culture continues!

Grade 5 self-portraits about conflict via drawing, color, and abstraction

In the homeroom classes the Grade 5 students inquired into the central idea that “finding peaceful solutions to conflict leads to a better quality of human life” by looking at how each student manages situations of conflict and interpersonal problems. And so in art class, we were taking this opportunity to create self-portraits that communicate each person’s experience with or feelings about this theme. Our main lens through which we viewed conflict and each person’s approach to the artwork was the concept of PERSPECTIVE.

These young artists initially identified a personal situation of conflict and used this event as a catalyst for their art project. They have spent time reflecting on their perspective on these conflicts, learning different approaches to drawing realistic facial features, and exploring and practicing geometric and organic abstraction in paint. They have now finished putting their new learning together in creating their final self-portraits — attempting to convey their ideas both in a realistic and in an abstract manner. These self-portraits are each made up of:

  • foreground: a pencil and ink image of themselves — drawn from life using a mirror, showing a facial expression indicating the feelings aroused by this situation of conflict, delineated with traditional ink pens, nibs, and ink.
  • background: an abstract painting — either geometric, organic, or both — utilizing specific colors as symbols of the student’s feelings about this situation of conflict

Soon after completion, the students evaluated their ideas and the execution of their work by responding to these questions:

  • How does my abstract painting communicate my perspective about conflict?
  • What feeing or message is my facial expression meant to convey?
  • What was new or unusual about the process of creating this self-portrait?

The finished self-portraits and written reflections are now on display upstairs in the Kirin Building. Please come see the students’ amazing work and efforts.

Art students begin their first units of inquiry

The elementary students are a few weeks into their art classes now, working on their first unit projects. Students are learning — little by little — about themselves as creators, about how to communicate, to take risks, to reflect on their work, and about how to be independent, responsible art students.


Kindergarten  –  We’ve started by looking at how personal journeys show the way that people change and can lead to new opportunities. These young artists have observed and discussed a variety of other artists’ self-portraits, have drawn their own self-portraits from observation, have experimented with watercolor paints as they developed their drawing, and explored different lines, shapes, and colors in creating 3-D crowns. At the same time, the students are becoming familiar with the elementary school art studio, learning what and where our materials and tools are, and practicing being responsible, cooperative classmates in storing their artwork properly and cleaning up their workspaces.

Grade 1  –  Families and family history are our focus at the moment. The young students are practicing how to draw people realistically, both by observation — using mirrors — and with a step-by-step drawing process, from simple shapes and lines to more complex details. We will soon be reflecting on our own family histories. Later, each young artist will create a large family portrait as a way to communicate his or her unique family history.

Grade 2 – These young artists are focusing on how people can be enriched by their own cultures and the cultures they connect with throughout their lives. In art class, they have been practicing various modeling techniques with playdough in creating realistic human heads — using their hands and a variety of tools. Soon, the students will focus on a particular person in each of their lives, someone with whom each student celebrates a certain, significant cultural event. And the students will then create original sculptures of these people using clay and colored glazes.

Grade 3 – Three-dimensional sculpture is the current focus for these students, along with the overarching notion that exploring and creating collaboratively helps individuals understand themselves and each other better. Thus far the young artists have made several practice sculptures, experimenting with different methods of manipulating paper. Now they are beginning to work collaboratively in small groups to create large sculptures, in a variety of media, which reveal something about themselves and their interests, individual strengths, and desires.

Grade 4 – As the Grade 4 students are currently learning about organisms, in art class they are beginning to see how the natural world can be a rich source for imaginative artistic creation. We have looked at several artists who use nature as inspiration for imaginative, fantastical imagery. The students are now practicing drawing nature from observation and will soon attempt to transform these realistic sketches into imaginative pictures of whatever fantasies their minds create — all with a focus on the connections between the world outside us and the world we create inside our minds.

Grade 5 – In their homeroom classes, these students have been focusing on the idea of conflict and how conflict affects lives. In art class, we have been looking at, discussing, and practicing how to create self-portraits. The students are also learning that portraits can be either realistic or abstract, that faces need not look ‘perfect’ to represent someone or their feelings or personality. Soon the students will reflect on a situation of conflict in their own lives and attempt to communicate it through a self-portrait, and they will have elements in their portraits which are both realistic and abstract.

Welcome to Art Class 2015-16

AReed profile pic

Hello students and parents,

It’s Mr. Reed here, getting ready to begin learning and working and creating with the Kindergarten and Grade 1, 2, 3, 4, & 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 9. 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 2015-16,

Aaron Reed

Grade 5’s journey into Aesthetics

The Grade 5 students spent nearly 2 months focusing on AESTHETICS and the central idea that aesthetic expression can be influenced by a culture’s history and values.

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Looking at how traditions are related across genres and over time and at how local traditions are similar and different to one’s home culture, the students focused initially on Japan. Concepts such as “wabi-sabi” (beauty in imperfection, hidden beauty) and “ma” (space, such as the space in between sounds) were focal points, as were various Japanese arts which students were able to explore and research according to their interests.

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

In art class, the unit began and ended with each student defining the word “beauty” for him/herself. In the intervening weeks, students engaged in a variety of activities:

  • Two engaging visits from the artists Shoichi & Colleen Sakurai, who (1) introduced the students to the concept of “wabi sabi” and kicked-off their Wabi Sabi Project — creating wearable art from found and discarded materials — and (2) returned to witness the students’ Wabi Sabi Fashion Show several weeks later.
  • Experimented with specific Media, Tools, and Processes in art class, to be used in the creation of their Wabi Sabi Art.
  • Explored an interactive PowerPoint experience (“Japanese Arts & Aesthetic Exploration”) to pursue the traditional Japanese arts they wanted to learn more about: calligraphy, ceramics, flower arranging/ikebana, tea ceremony, architecture, dolls, paper folding/origami, painting, gardens, sculpture, printmaking/ukiyo-e.
  • An Art+Music collaboration: students connected the experience of listening to music (various woodwinds, Japanese/non-Japanese) to the act of visual creation (painting, sculpture). The art was created in art class, then discussed and critiqued in music class with their koto teacher (see more about the Japanese koto here).
  • A visit from some Grade 9 art students, who presented their own research and learning about ‘aesthetics’, ‘wabi-sabi’, Shoichi Sakurai, and Japanese arts. These students also presented their art research workbooks so as to display their working process to the Grade 5 students.
  • The creation of ceramic vessels: after exploring some Japanese “living national treasures” (see this online resource for traditional clay artwork), the students created their own clay vessels based on the various forms and designs/colors found in these traditional Japanese ceramics. The idea was for the students to become part of a historical tradition, using an ancient, natural, local material — clay — to create a basic object which has a long tradition in Japan (ceramic vessels, like teacups, bowls, vases).
  • And all-day visit to Sankeien Gardens field trip, as the culminating event of the unit. This visit included a presentation and exhibition by the photographer Everett Kennedy Brown, the opportunity to use photography to capture elements of beauty through the eyes and lens of the students, and the creation of a haiku poem using the surrounding environment as an influence.
Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

This arts-driven unit of study was a new unit on which nearly all the Grade 5 teachers (homeroom, arts, and Japanese) collaborated. It has been a very enlightening and engaging experience for students and teachers alike. With both students and teachers having provided one another with constructive feedback, we look forward to developing the unit in more depth next year.

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Grade 5 presents transformed landscapes

In the Kirin Building (2nd floor) there is a display of the 5th graders creations from their second art unit:  an original landscape drawing, in pencil, combining the observational drawing of an existing landscape (from a photograph) and their own imaginative/fantasy/invented scene. The overarching central idea for this unit was “Changes in the world affect how artists create art.”

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Focused on the key concept of ‘change’, the students first focused on a change in the world in the 19th century: the scientific and technology revolution which was the invention of the camera and how that affected the artists (the Impressionists) of the time and thereafter. One line of inquiry was “How discoveries have impacted society and the arts”; students had various opinions as to how photography might have affected artists both positively and negatively. Students also used this discussion of Impressionism as a jumping off point to learning to sketch a landscape and to experiment with colors, coloring mixing (painting), and related terminology.

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Next, following the line of inquiry “The transformation of ideas into art, factors involved”, students used an actual landscape (a found photographic image found via the internet, i.e. new technology) to help create a drawn reproduction (pencil, eraser, paper, i.e. old/traditional technology) of the scene. Then, with the concept of ‘change’ in mind — and having seen some imaginative landscapes by working artists — students mined their own imaginations and interests to transform the existing, actual landscape into something fantastical, changing areas of the image to incorporate their imaginative visions.

The 2015 YAMATE ART EXHIBITION

The annual Yamate Art Exhibition has begun!

The exhibition runs from Saturday February 14 to Monday February 23 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 23.

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 114 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!