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 1 creates life cycle dioramas

photo © by A.Reed

photo © by A.Reed

In their homeroom classes, the Grade 1 students examined how all living things go through a process of change. With Ms. Zoe and Ms. Saito the students looked at the cycles of life, how the creatures in our world change over their lifetime. And so in art class we have focused on the key concept of Change, as the children created artwork in response to a variety of stimuli. In so doing, they were challenged to identify a chosen living creature, to plan a way to visually display its particular life cycle, and then to make specific choices of materials, tools, and processes.

The students came to art class with much knowledge and many ideas from their homeroom inquiry. And after several weeks of work, they recently completed their life cycle dioramas — having utilized colored paper, pencils, colored pencils, oil pastels, scissors, staplers, soil, sticks, leaves, playdough, toothpicks, popsicle sticks, paint & paintbrushes, beads, rocks & pebbles, paste, wire, hot glue guns, and other media. Ultimately, these art students have attempted to transform ideas and materials into three-dimensional dioramas designed to educate their audience (parents and other students) about the various life cycles of living creatures.

photo © by A.Reed

photo © by A.Reed

The parent-sharing day is coming soon. All their dioramas are currently on display in the Grade 1 classrooms. Come have a look!

Grade 1 students create environmental treasures

In their homeroom classes, the Grade 1 students looked at 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 discussed and considered 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 then constructed large, three-dimensional paper sculptures of their favorite living creatures. It is these sculptures — these treasures — which now fill the hallway.

The following video shows the process the Grade 1 — 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.

The students first drew pictures and made small playdough sculptures of living creatures as a way to recreate their ideas in both two and three dimensions. We also read the books  The Butterfly’s Treasure by Schim Schimmel and Oi Get Off Our Train by John Burningham, both of which convey the beauty of the natural world and allude to the fragility of our environment. The students have had a variety of interesting reactions to these stories. We also had an opportunity to look at photographs of various living things and of the environments that they live in, and 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 (photo by A. Reed)

The children finished their large 3-dimensional sculptures of each student’s favorite creature in art class — using pencils, paper, paint, staples, foam, toothpicks, buttons, pipe cleaners and various other media — 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 3’s collaborative creativity & self-portrait sculptures

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Photo © A. Reed 2015

With a brief interruption to design and create props, scenery, and costumes for their Unit 3 plays, the Grade 3 students have finally finished their Unit 1 sculptures which — as the students now realize — spell out WHO WE ARE IN GRADE 3 when strung together, as seen above hanging in the windows. At the beginning of our unit, there was much discussion about what these letters would spell!

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Photo © A. Reed 2015


Photo © A. Reed 2015

Photo © A. Reed 2015

The central idea of this visual art unit is that collaboration can lead to learning, creativity, and an understanding of one’s own strengths and weaknesses. At the outset of this inquiry, each team of two or three students practiced the various aspects of this sculpture’s process (ideating, drawing, painting, building, measuring) and then assessed their own strengths and weaknesses on each one. Students also reflected on their own interests, desires, and favorite activities and made notes in their sketchbooks accordingly for later use.

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Over the course of the unit, the students taught and learned from one another and all contributed in different ways to the development of the unique projects. The collaborative aspects of the project — making decisions, solving problems, and working/teaching/learning together — was quite challenging for some, but most teams came to appreciate the advantage of a collaborative effort. And throughout the unit, the students also practiced learning to identify stages of their own and others’ creative process.

VIEW THE STUDENTS AT WORK — AND THEIR FINISHED ARTWORKS — HERE:

Teams were assigned a letter of the alphabet to construct in three dimensions (using paper, rulers, scissors, tape, and papier-mâché). Each team then was challenged to transform the 3-D letter into an imaginative, sculptural self-portrait by showing their interests and personalities in, on, and around the sculpture (via drawing, painting, sculpting or collaging). Grade 3’s three-dimensional letters are now exhibited together (in the windows of the upstairs K-1 building hallway), visual, three-dimensional representations of the images, ideas, thoughts, fantasies, and passions particular to these 3rd grade students.

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Come view the finished artwork both from the vantage point of the basketball court, looking up to the 2nd floor display, and from a much closer viewpoint upstairs in the hallway where the sculptures hang — where you can also read each student’s written reflection about their work (about how “the sculpture is a reflection of me” and why “collaboration is important”).

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Photo © A. Reed 2015

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.

Grade 1 Reflects on Personal Histories in Family Portraits

In their homeroom classes the Grade 1 students 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 focused on the concept of REFLECTION, 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 with mirrors.

See the students at work, below, reflecting on their own family histories and attempting to depict them through various processes: drawing from observation, drawing realistically, practicing mixing new colors, and depicting details so that the audience can understand the stories and events.

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 reflect — on their inquiries in the homeroom class and at home with parents — 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 Parent-Sharing to discuss his/her personal family history.

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.

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!