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 1 Reflects on Personal Histories in 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. For this “Where We Are In Place And Time” unit, 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. In the foreground of each student’s picture is their own self-portrait, drawn from observation.

See the students at work, below, shortly before the completion of these family portraits. Moms and dads even came one day (during Action Portfolio Week) to observe and help out!

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’ completed artwork below. Each student used his/her portrait as a talking point during the recent Student-Led Conferences to discuss his/her personal family history.

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.

Grade 3’s collaborative creativity & sculptures

After completing their Explorer Unit play productions earlier in the year the Grade 3 students at long last returned to their group “self-portrait” sculpture projects.

The central idea of this unit is that collaboration can lead to new learning, unforeseen creativity, and better understanding of one’s own strengths and weaknesses. At the outset of this project, each team of three students had to practice the various aspects of this sculpture’s process — ideating, drawing, painting, building, measuring — and then divide up the tasks according to each’s strengths.  Over time, the students have learned from one another and, for the most part, have all contributed in many ways to the development of their projects.

Their challenge has been to transform their letters into objects which display their imagination and represent their interests and personalities.  In the end, Grade 3’s three-dimensional letters have been combined — and all hung from the ceiling in the upstairs K-1 building hallway — to create a phrase focused on the central idea of their first unit (WHO WE ARE IN GRADE 3) and to be visually reflective of those images, ideas, thoughts, fantasies, and passions particular to these 3rd graders. Throughout the unit, the students have learned to identify stages of their own and others’ creative process.

Come view the finished artwork both from the vantage point of the basketball court, looking up to the 2nd floor of the K-1 building, and from a much closer viewpoint upstairs in the hallway where the sculptures hang.

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!

 

Grade 1’s living creature sculptures NOW ON DISPLAY!

In their homeroom classes, the Grade 1 students are studies the rights and responsibilities of people and living things — looking at how people have an impact on the environment. And the students finished their large 3-dimensional sculptures of each student’s favorite creature — using pencils, paper, paint, staples, foam, toothpicks, buttons, pipe cleaners and various other media — in art class. 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.

Now that all the sculptures are complete and the students have had a chance to reflect upon their work, the 1st grade hallway has been turned into our imaginary natural environment, filled with these “treasures”: animals, fish, bird, and insects. The students hope you will come visit their 3D art exhibition soon!

Grade 1 students create environmental treasures

In their homeroom classes, the Grade 1 students are studying the rights and responsibilities of people and living things — looking at how people have an impact on the environment. With Ms. Zoe 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 downstairs hallway outside their Grade 1 classrooms. The students began by drawing various living creatures from observation (photographs) and of late have been constructing large, three-dimensional paper sculptures of their favorite living creatures. 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 can use this video to practice drawing at home.

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. The students thus 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 finishing their large 3-dimensional sculptures of each student’s favorite creature — using pencils, paper, paint, staples, foam, toothpicks, buttons, pipe cleaners and various other media. 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.

Once all the sculptures are complete and the students have had a chance to reflect upon their work, 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 come visit.

Grade 5 instructions for new project (Unit 2)

Hello Grade 5 students!

We discussed some of the changes that occurred in science & technology around the time of the Impressionists, specifically the advent of photography.

You had some interesting opinions about how the camera might have affected the artists of that time. Suffice to say there was a big CHANGE in the art world as the 19th century became the 20th century.

old camera

Today in art class you will begin creating your own landscape picture, one which will also focus on the concept of CHANGE. You will need to use your powers of observation!

Please follow these instructions for Part One of the project — read & observe the images you see here:

If you have finished drawing your landscape, check with Mr. Reed for the next step and instructions (your imagination will now come into play).

Have fun!

Grade 4 artists use organisms to spur their imaginations

In their homeroom classes, the Grade 4 students have been studying organisms and cultivating their garden. They have been focused on the central idea that “organisms rely on one another” while in art class we’ve been engaged in the visual art inquiry into how “the natural world is a rich source for imaginative artistic creation”.

Photo: A. Reed

Photo: A. Reed

Students began their two-part drawing project by, first, focusing on organisms (in this case, plants) and on the realistic depiction of them through close observation. We looked at how we focus first on the simple shapes and lines found in the plants’ leaves and stems; then, how we refine the shapes and lines into something more closely approaching the actual plants; and finally, how we add the many small details which brings the image to its realistic conclusion.

Photo: A. Reed

Photo: A. Reed

Then the students moved on to the second stage of the project. Having left areas of their paper blank, these young artists then had to tap into their imagination — considering the plant drawing they’d just finished in color — and continue the drawing by depicting some imaginary, fantastical imagery. We discussed how artists do this: sometimes by thinking of their own interests and drawing those (animals, movie characters, patterns, particular colors); sometimes by closing their eyes and letting their minds wander; sometimes by looking around and noticing pictures or words in their immediate environment, one of which might spur a memory or thought or other image. We made available an “imagination box” just in case — a small box with printed words inside of it (“space”, “machine”, “food”, “cartoon”) that might help students tap into their own imaginations.

Photo: A. Reed

Photo: A. Reed

In the end, the Grade 4 artists had the opportunity to practice different approaches to drawing — via observation and imagination — in the creation of original artworks begun in the natural world and ended in the world of their own imaginations.