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

In their homeroom classes and in drama class, the 5th graders have been addressing the central idea that “differences in beliefs and values are factors leading to conflict” 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.

These young artists initially identified a personal situation of conflict (during a drama class lesson) and used this event as a catalyst for their art project. These young artists have spent time discussing and reflecting on these conflicts, learning different approaches to drawing realistic facial features, and exploring and practicing geometric and organic abstraction in paint. Now they are in the final stages of putting their new learning together to create their final self-portrait — attempting to convey their ideas both in a realistic and in an abstract manner. These self-portraits are each made up of:

  • in the 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
  • a 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 will evaluate their ideas and the execution of their work:

  • How did you communicate in both realistic and abstract manners?
  • What did you learn during this project which was new to you?
  • What could you have done better? What would you do differently if you made this self-portrait again?

The finished self-portraits will be displayed here on this blog upon completion. Come back and look for them!

Grade 3 jumps into sculpture and their own passions

The Grade 3 students have embarked upon their first unit “Who We Are” and are addressing the central idea “exploring different learning styles helps individuals understand each other better”. In art class we also look at the related idea that “collaboration can lead to new learning, unforeseen creativity, and better understanding of one’s own strengths and weaknesses.”

Before beginning their first project — collaborative sculptures — the students learned a variety of paper manipulation skills (folding, curling, fringing, looping, and spiraling) and created unique sculptures by combining their different creations together. Students had the opportunity to approach these exercises in different ways: listening, observing, exploring, trial-and-error, and peer-coaching.

Grade 3 practice sculptures (1) by Aaron Reed

Grade 3 practice sculptures (2) by Aaron Reed

Next they spent some time in art class identifying their own strengths and weaknesses as individuals in the areas of drawing, painting, building, measuring, and ideating (thinking up ideas), as well as discussing how they can teach and learn from one another to improve in certain of these areas. Next, each child identified three  — or four — personal passions.

Student list (1) by Aaron Reed  Student list (2) by Aaron Reed

Student list (3) by Aaron Reed

Now they are working in small groups — of their own choosing — to create large sculptures which are essentially self-portraits (although they won’t actually be creating their own faces). These artworks are 3-dimensional paper constructions which describe and reflect the personalities and interests of these Grade 3 students, as decided by each group working collaboratively and based on each child’s passions and interests. The challenge for each group is to determine: How do we communicate ourselves visually through our sculptures?

Kindergarten artists explore materials, processes, and passions

Our initial central idea in kindergarten this year is that “personal journeys show the way that people change and can lead to new opportunities.” Another of our central ideas is that “materials can be manipulated to suit a purpose”. In art class over the past few weeks, we have been addressing both of these notions as the children have expressed their desires in how to progress with their work.

So, in art class, we’re addressing both ideas across a few different projects: paper crowns, plasticine sculptures, and masks.

We’re taking the time to:

1. to look at, question, enjoy experiencing, discuss the various types of three-dimensional works made by other artists (looking at pictures, watching videos, and examining others’ artworks);

2. to identify the materials and processes other artists use in the creation of their artworks;

3. to realize that our artwork has meaning;

4. to experiment with some different materials that can be used to create artwork (recently, we looked at, touched with our hands, and then used: paper, felt, burlap, paper straws, ribbon, wire, pipe cleaners, foam, string, uncooked pasta, scissors, glue, tape, staplers, hole punches, colored pencils, watercolor paints, markers, and pastels.

5. to explore the various processes that artists can employ with these materials and tools to create what they envision and to discover new ideas.

Through this exploration and by making decisions for themselves, the young students are creating original 3-D artworks — crowns of widely different designs, sculptures of people, animals, fictional characters, and various objects of interest to the children, and masks (an idea thought up by Ms. Zoe’s class with a very specific purpose, but don’t tell Ms. Zoe because it’s a surprise).

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.

Kindergarten artists identify themselves visually

The kindergarten art students have begun the year with a focus on themselves! It is part of their current unit in which they focus on the central idea that “personal journeys show the way that people change and can lead to new opportunities.”

Falling under the transdisciplinary theme Where We Are In Place And Time, the kindergarteners begin by constructing self-portraits in the form — not of faces but — of crowns. We’ve discussed what kind of creative work the children did last year in ELC and about the new artwork the will create this year in kindergarten. Students are being challenged to turn a long piece of white paper into a 3-dimensional crown and to transform it into something that represents themselves, their interests, their abilities. Learning about this new art studio environment — the many different materials and tools, where they are stored, how we work together to make and to clean up our projects — is a big part of this early part of the new school year.

The learning objectives of the unit have the children strive to enjoy experiencing artworks, to show curiosity and ask questions about artworks, and to realize that their artwork has meaning. Much of our time thus far has been spent talking about the children’s own experiences thus far in creating artwork and projects (at home, in ELC, with Ms. Brown or Ms. Zoe), reading and discussing storybooks and illustrations, and exploring a wide variety of skills, processes, materials, and tools.

Already, the similarities, differences, preferences, strengths, and unique qualities of the kindergarten students are becoming evident in this first visual art project of 2013-14.

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



4th Graders realize that Math + Imagination = Art

The fourth graders have been combining some new art skills (sketching, planning, cutting, gluing, building, constructing) with some new math skills (geometry, three-dimensional forms) — then adding a bit of their own imaginations — to create some very original sculptures.

After being challenged to create five basic 3-D forms (cube, pyramid, cone, cylinder, and sphere) using only paper, scissors, pencil, tape, and glue (from a hot glue gun) during the first day of this unit, the students then were asked to think of what new sculpture — what object, person, animal, fictional character, etc — they would love to make for themselves.  After brainstorming, sketching ideas, drawing their proposed sculpture, and making a detailed plan of how to go about constructing it (complete with each type of three-dimensional form labeled), each student began building with paper, cardboard, found materials, and some random things found around the art studio.  The requirements for the students were to use a minimum of three different types of forms in one’s sculpture and that the sculpture could be a maximum of 30 centimeters in any direction.  Once the “skeleton” was constructed, students covered it with a “skin” of paper macho, and then finally painted the finished artwork to their satisfaction.

See the student artists busy at work below!

Third Graders verbally critique their latest projects

As you may have read and seen in a recent blog post (click here if you missed it), the 3rd graders have just finished constructing their latest sculptures. This week the students are spending time in art class critiquing — describing, analyzing, interpreting, and judging — their artworks.

Check the Twitter feed in the righthand column of this blog (where it says “THE LATEST TWEETS!”) and click next to any Third Grade student’s name: you’ll automatically be taken to a new window where you can see the child’s sculpture and — by clicking the PLAY button — hear each young artist critique their work.

Congratulations to the students on a project well done and well critiqued!

5th Grade ponders mistakes and risk-taking as they prepare for Middle School

At the beginning of art class this week, the 5th graders were presented with a quote — “If you are not making mistakes, you are not taking enough risks” — by artist and designer Debbie Millman.

The students were asked to consider this idea about mistakes & risk-taking by responding to the following question: Why is this idea important for Grade 6 art students?  Below are their thoughts.

Tuesday, class 5G:

“Making mistakes is better because make you learn and thing [think].” – Ares

“I agree with this because when you try something new you take a risk and you make mistakes. It’s important in 6th grade because in 6th grade you try new things.” – Kiyoka

“I think this is important for us because we have to be risk-takers even you makes mistakes and humans are perfect and its okay to make mistake. You make mistakes, you learn form the mistakes and you get better.” – Reina

“Because if you don’t take a risk you will be shocked or you will think I can’t do this enymore.” – Sayo

“I think you need it for 6th graders because you’ll need to do a better job than now and you learn from mistakes.” – William

“I think that this tells people that if you can make mistake that mean you are taking risks. Because it proves that you are risk taking and you can trust yourself to make mistake. Because you can learn from mistakes.” – Sae

“I think making mistake is good because if you don’t make mistake it mean your not trying and if you make mistake you should try to make it better.” – James

” I think this is not true because making alot of mistakes mean to get scolded alot.” – George

“Because from taking risks you learn to always take risks and if you make mistakes you learn from them. So always taik a risk.” – Brazil

“I think it is not good to not take risk and making mistake because if you make a mistake you will learn a lot from it so you can do it better next time.” – Shannah

“I think that people should take risk to improve there skills and we need to take risk to talk.” – Phillip

“Because in 6th grade you do new things! It’s OK to make mistakes. Mistakes -> challenging. Mistakes -> take more risks. Mistakes -> it makes you become closer to perfect.” – Nina

“I think it because when you will be in 6 grade, you will take a lot of risk. So you need to try.” – Toma

“I think it is important for 6th graders because they need to know how do things right and better so for harder projects you will be able to do it easily. And when you take risks and get it right, then you find a new way to do things.” – Akhil


Wednesday, class 5W:

“This idea is important for the grade 6 because if they make something they already do they will never learn.” – Ryan

“Because that is the best way to learn and if you don’t make mistakes you’ll never know how to fix them.” – Lente

“This is important for Grade 6 art students because it shows them that they don’t have to be scared to make mistakes. It also tells them that life is all about taking risks, and if you take risks you try new things.” – Amelia

“Because if you don’t take risks you wont make mistake so you won’t try new thing. Because when you try new things you can learn from what you did.” – Isabelle

“I you don’t make mistakes it means that you are not trying new things. Because when you make mistake it means you were trying something but it didn’t do it as you expected. It’s important to learn from your mistakes.” – Ceci

“Do mistakes and learn by doing it. You should to mistakes and learned from it.” – Oscar

“This idea is good because when you get older you will have to do many more risks. And you can learn from those mistakes.” – Anna

“I think that is right because if you don’t make much mistakes, your not challenging yourself and if you don’t challenge yourself you won’t know how to do anything.” – Rei

“I think you are not taking enough risks because if you took risk you might fail. If you take risk you can learn new things.” – Kenryo

“It’s important because the point is to communicate. No matter if you make mistakes. Unless you communicate. Communicate helps your work gets better.” – Ryu

“Cause if you don’t take risk you’re not making mistakes and if you don’t make mistake you won’t learn anything. Also by taking risk you can get new ideas.” – Haruna

“It would be important because no boy in this work is not perfect. Which means it is impossible. You have to make mistakes because you will not learn.” – Everest

“It is important because it will make us risk takers, so that we can discover new ways of working.” – Athul

“I think it is important because if you don’t make mistakes, you can never learn.” – Meg

“I think if we make mistakes, we get experience.” – Leon

“It is important because if you don’t take risks you don’t know the outcome of the risk because then you don’t learn new things.” – Grace

“If you don’t take risk you would not learn anything. By making mistakes you learn new things.” – Hyun-Seo


Thursday, class 5B:

“I think its right because art is about playing around with paints and mixing stuff and if you’re too careful, you will not invents a new stuff and you will not sucess.” – Yu-Jin

“I think if you take risks that mens you not make mestakes. I think it is a good thing to take risks because wen you rode your first time your bicycle you take risks.” – Julian

“Because as you get older, you need more hard experience that means.” – Shoichi

“This matters ’cause if you do mistake you learn more about it. For example you go out to present a speech and you make a mistake and you do that in front of loads of people you take a risk.” – Hana E.

“If you take a risk, you can do more things to fix and create.” – Wongyung

“I think it is important for Gr 6 art students because you can improve your work by making a mistake.” – Vienna

“I think that is true because when I try doing a skill that I’ve never done before in gymnastics and I make mistakes, but whenever I do a skill that I already know, I don’t make any mistakes. When you make mistakes you can go further and you can improve.” – Elena

“It’s important because it means that you got a try to gues sometime so you will fail and learn from you’re mistakes.” – David

“It means you’re not trying your hardest at what your doing. Learn form your mistakes.” – Owen

“You won’t improve if you don’t make mistake and risks.” – Kai

“If you take risks you might find out that you are good at different thing. It is also important to try new thing.” – Liam

“This is important Gr. 6 students because if you don’t make mistakes you won’t be able to arrange the mistakes to a cool thing.” – Julynn

“Being messy is art and when you make mistakes you learn from it so if you don’t make any mistake, then you don’t get better.” – Andreas

“I think it’s important because if you don’t make mistakes you don’t learn anything.” – Kelly

“I think it is important for art because art dose not have a right answer. So people could learn from them or even fix it and change it a little bit.” – Hana C.

” I think this is important because if you don’t make mistakes, you can’t think in lots of ways.” – Shion