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 2 artists create clay sculptures based on cultural celebrations

Earlier this year, the Grade 2 students focused on the central idea that people can be enriched by their own cultures and the cultures they connect with throughout their lives. In art class we focused on the personal connections the children make through their cultural celebrations.

The Grade 2 art students created clay sculptures: original artifacts of each student’s experience in reflecting on a cultural celebration that he/she experiences with family (and/or friends).  Having chosen a particular person whom the student associates with this cultural celebration, the children moved from the practice (play dough) stage to the final (clay) stage of their sculptures. The students have used these two videos to assist them in their work and to allow them to work at their own pace, accessing the desired instruction as needed. The first video focuses on the basic head, eyes, nose, and mouth forms:

The second video addresses additional details such as the teeth, lips, eyelids/eyelashes/eyebrows:

And — as the human nose seemed to be the most challenging facial feature to model — a third video was created later, as it became apparent that some students needed alternative approaches to sculpting a nose:

Having modeled and carved a head, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hair, and the related details in clay, the students attached the heads to a clay base and engraved the subject’s name. Once bisque-fired, the sculptures were glazed in color and finally glaze-fired.  The artworks were unfortunately not completed in time for display at the Cross Cultural Lunch in October; however, they are now complete and ready to share at the Student-Led Conferences this month.

Here are some images of the students at work in art class:

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 2 artists create culturally-specific clay sculptures

The Grade 2 students have been focused on the central idea that people can be enriched by their own cultures and the cultures they connect with throughout their lives. In art class we are focused on the personal connections the children make through their cultural celebrations.

Photo: A. Reed - CC BY-NC-ND

Photo: A. Reed – CC BY-NC-ND

The Grade 2 art students are creating clay sculptures: original artifacts of each student’s experience in reflecting on a cultural celebration that he/she experiences with family (and/or friends).  Having chosen a particular person whom the student associates with this cultural celebration, the children have moved from the practice (play dough) stage to the final (clay) stage of their sculptures: currently the sculptures are drying and will soon be put in the kiln for the first firing.

Photo: A.Reed - CC BY-NC-ND

Photo: A.Reed – CC BY-NC-ND

The students have used these two videos to assist them in their work and to allow them to work at their own pace, accessing the desired instruction as needed. The first video focuses on the basic head, eyes, nose, and mouth forms:

The second video addresses additional details such as the teeth, lips, eyelids/eyelashes/eyebrows:

And — as the human nose seemed to be the most challenging facial feature to model — a third video was created later, as it became apparent that some students needed alternative approaches to sculpting a nose:

Having modeled and carved a head, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hair, and the related details in clay, the students attached the heads to a clay base and engraved the subject’s name. Once bisque-fired, the sculptures will be glazed in color and finally glaze-fired.  The artworks were unfortunately not completed in time for display at the Cross Cultural Lunch on last Friday October 3; however, photographs of their works-in-progress were showcased there.

Here are some images of the students at work in art class:
(unfortunately, FLICKR slideshows are not compatible with phone/tablet displays)

Grade 2 artists create culturally-specific clay sculptures

The Grade 2 students have been focused on the central idea that people can be enriched by their own cultures and the cultures they connect with throughout their lives. In art class we are focused on the personal connections the children make through their cultural celebrations.

The Grade 2 art students are creating clay sculptures: original artifacts of each student’s experience in reflecting on a cultural celebration that he/she experiences with family (and/or friends).  Having chosen a particular person whom the student associates with this cultural celebration, the children are beginning to move from the practice (play dough) stage to the final (clay) stage of their sculptures.

The students have used these two videos to assist them in their work and to allow them to work at their own pace, accessing the desired instruction as needed. The first video focuses on the basic head, eyes, nose, and mouth forms:

The second video addresses additional details such as the teeth, lips, eyelids/eyelashes/eyebrows:

And — as the human nose seemed to be the most challenging facial feature to model — a third video was created later, as it became apparent that some students needed alternative approaches to sculpting a nose:

Once having modeled and carved a head, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hair, and the related details in clay, the students’ sculptural heads will each be attached to a clay base, engraved with a name, bisque-fired, glazed in color, and finally glaze-fired.  The artworks will unfortunately not be completed in time for display at the Cross Cultural Lunch on Friday October 4; however, photographs of their works-in-progress will be showcased there.

Here are some images of the students at work in art class:
(unfortunately, FLICKR slideshows are not compatible with phone/tablet displays)

The children are looking forward to sharing their artwork with their parents at the Cross Cultural Lunch!

2nd Grade glazes color onto their portrait sculptures

At long last, after much planning, discussion, learning from one another, and hard work, the second graders have reached the final stage of their sculpture project: the glazing. Having completed the modeling of the clay to resemble some important person with whom he/she shares a particular cultural celebration, each student has his/her sculpture fired. Subsequently, the students referred back to their original plan (colored drawing) in order to determine which colors of glaze to use to complete their sculptures. Now that all the glazing is complete, the projects go back into the kiln for a second and final firing. The students are very excited to see how their sculptures will turn out!

2nd Graders load their clay sculptures into the kiln

The 2nd Graders — having completed their clay portraits, inspired by a significant person and cultural celebration in each of their lives — took a mini-field trip up to the high school art department to load their sculptures into the kiln. Walking up eight flights of stairs and carefully cradling their fragile clay constructions, the students arrived at the small metal shed atop the main building, adjacent to the MS & HS art studio.  Inside, they each carefully placed his/her sculpture on the shelves inside the kiln. Once all three classes had completed the journey and the task, the kiln was turned on Friday afternoon and the firing process occurred over the weekend. This week, the students will move on to the next step of their project: using colored glazes to continue to bring their clay portraits to life!

How to attach two pieces of clay together

As the second graders near the completion of their clay “cultural portraits”, they will soon be attaching their creations to a base, to a rectangular slab of clay.  In order to affix the two pieces together securely, they will need to SCORE  and SLIP the clay.  The following video is being used in class to assist the students in understanding this process (one which is used in many types of ceramic work, particularly in the slab construction process).

how to attach two pieces of clay together from YIS Academics on Vimeo.

2nd Graders continue carving and modeling their clay cultural portrait sculptures

 

The 2nd graders have continued to create their clay sculptures: original artifacts of each student’s experience in reflecting on a cultural celebration that he/she experiences with family (and/or friends).  Having chosen a particular person whom the student associates with this cultural celebration, the children are now well on their way to finishing their sculptures, having modeled and carved a head, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hair, and the related details.  The sculptural heads will each be attached to a clay base, engraved with a name, bisque-fired, glazed in color, and finally glaze-fired.  The artworks will be on display at the Cross Cultural Lunch on Tuesday October 16.

 

 

Next the students will attach their sculptures to a base (a slab of clay), using the SCORE & SLIP process:

Keeping your clay projects moist and plastic

Our students create a variety of 3-dimensional projects and sculptures, and sometimes we work with clay.

Clay is a natural material found in the earth.  In order to keep the clay moist (slightly wet) and plastic (soft and pliable for easy modeling and shaping), it is important to take care of the clay.  Clay dries out slightly while we work on it and will dry completely if left exposed to the air for long enough.

In between classes — when the children are not working on their projects — we keep their clay sculptures moist and plastic by storing them in plastic bags.  The following video demonstrates how the children take care of their artwork at the end of each art class and how they should store clay if they use it at home.

 

how to store your clay to maintain moisture & plasticity from YIS Academics on Vimeo.