Kindergarten’s artistic journey has begun

photo: A. Reed

In our first unit of inquiry, the Kindergarten students have been looking at the concept of Change and how personal journeys show the way that people change and can lead to new opportunities. We are looking at how our artwork changes and grows over time, from ELC last year, to Kindergarten this year, and on to Grade 1 next year.

In the artistic journey that these young artists have begun, they have

  • drawn & painted their own self-portraits from observation
  • observed and discussed different artists’ self-portraits
  • experimented with a variety of lines, shapes, colors, tools, materials, and processes in creating personal 3-D crowns
  • begun making choices about artworks based on personal preferences and interests.

We aim to enjoy experiencing artworks, to show curiosity and ask questions about them, and to realize that our artwork has meaning.

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 artwork properly and cleaning up our workspaces.

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 3 plans, constructs, and creates a performance

Grade 3 students (and their teachers) have been collaborating intensively for several weeks with a focus on the central idea that performance engages an audience and invites a response.

Having brainstormed ideas for their drama performances — by pondering the questions: “What do you need to plan a performance?” and “Visually, what best communicates your story to the audience?” — the students worked in small groups and as a whole class to discuss, plan, and build the primary props, set pieces, and backdrop imagery for their plays. The ideas and the execution of their plans were theirs alone, as they took complete responsibility for their artwork and their performances, as well as for planning how to get their materials to the auditorium for the day of the play.

Two plays — one by 3L and another by 3M — were presented in December before the Winter Break, to great acclaim and applause. Congratulations, Grade 3 artists and designers, on your excellent collaborative work, on your risk-taking in creating objects you had never made before, and on your reflective and open-minded approach to your planning and your construction!

The kindergarten artists identify themselves visually

The kindergarten art students have begun the year with a focus on themselves — as learners and as creators! 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 they 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. At the same time, the crown is a physical space on and with which the children can explore and experiment. Additionally, 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.

Kindergarten crowns in-progress

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. As young artists, we are focused on the notion that artistic development reflects people’s personal histories and is a dynamic creative process. 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. May), 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 2014-15.

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

Third Grade confronts limitations and glue guns

The 3rd graders began the school year in art class by working in three-dimensions, learning to manipulate two-dimensional pieces of paper to create 3D sculptures independently and, next, working collaboratively to construct new sculptures — developed from a detailed plan, larger, made of a variety of materials, and containing personal symbolism to represent themselves and the Third Grade as a whole.

After a long break to work two dimensionally on developing original comic strips (see earlier Grade 3 post), the Third Graders are back working in three dimensions. But this time, rather than create a plan first and then deciding on the materials after, this time the students were presented with a limited type and amount of materials (primarily scrap wood pieces but also including — if they wished also to incorporate some or all — wire, string, fabric, paper, and paint). And in working with and playing with — and sometimes building, breaking apart, and reconstructing — these materials, the students created original sculptures in a different manner than previously. Some students chose to create realistic things (a restaurant, a boat, a video game), others made abstract sculptures, and some built highly imaginary, partly realistic, partly abstract creations.

See the young artists at work (below) and hear their critiques of their artworks on the Twitter feed to the right (look for the artists’ first names):

Dear 5th Graders, Here’s your final art project of Elementary School

We’ll discuss this project in more detail during class, but have a look here and start thinking about what you might create:

DISCLAIMER: As to the city of Yokohama giving us land to create and install forty-five different 100-foot tall sculptures, that’s actually not true. Nor is the construction of the 100-foot sculptures. Of course, you’ll still be creating small sculptures as if they were going to be built as the large public ones — just as working artists create models to present for commissions or for public art competitions.  This project is both an opportunity to use your imagination and to pretend that you are about to embark upon the biggest sculpture project of your young life. Have fun!