November 2019

The Natural World

Art teachers use the natural world as a stimulus for big ideas and enduring questions. Students create watercolor paintings inspired by Alma Thomas, research and sculpt insects in clay, collect materials to weave into personalized reed nests, use photo-editing skills to generate mythical beasts, participate in an outdoor art workshop, and more.

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Highlights From This Issue

Editor's Letter
Editor's Letter

Editor's Letter

For the past eight summers, CRIZMAC president Stevie Mack and I have been leading a cultural seminar we call Tres Culturas: Exploring the Artistic Spirit of Santa Fe and Taos. A highlight of this experience is always a visit to Georgia O’Keeffe’s house in Abiquiu, New Mexico. Her first house was about fifteen miles north at Ghost Ranch, at one time a dude ranch and now a conference center.

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The Sensory Nature of Fiber Arts
Early Childhood

The Sensory Nature of Fiber Arts

For the past twenty years, I have been the early childhood studio teacher at Lincoln School, a small, independent Quaker school for girls in Providence, Rhode Island. My days are filled with joy and discovery as they are shared with the three- to six-year- olds in our Reggio Emilia–inspired program. I am a fiber artist and have lived on a sheep farm my whole life. My mother taught me to knit, spin, and weave at an early age. This immersion in the world of fiber and textiles has shaped me as an individual and as a teacher.

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Exploring Bugs: Entomology as Art
Elementary

Exploring Bugs: Entomology as Art

According to scientific studies (see Web Links), there are more than 200 million insects for each human on the planet! This is an astonishing fact I discovered while researching ideas for a lesson that was science-based and inspired by STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). STEAM-driven learning is an educational approach that integrates multiple disciplines. It challenges us as art educators to develop lessons that have both engagement and rigor.

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Be Calm & Hang On
Elementary

Be Calm & Hang On

For many children who attend large urban schools, there may not be opportunities to travel the world. The art teacher is in a unique position to bring the world into the classroom. The children at Loesche Elementary School in Philadelphia became part of a very special unit after I visite

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Weaving Nature into the Art Room
Middle School

Weaving Nature into the Art Room

There is a Lakota proverb that states, “When man moves away from nature, his heart becomes hard.” That said, the more we are drawn to nature, the more our sense of wonder flourishes. When we draw our students toward nature and show them connections to the world around them, we are giving them a gift far greater than any skill they can learn in the artroom.

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Painting the Aurora
Middle School

Painting the Aurora

I started my Aurora Borealis painting lesson by asking my middle-school students, “How many of you have seen the Northern Lights?” Students in the Alaskan Far North are very familiar with this wintertime sight, visible at night from fall through winter and into spring. For the many children of military families stationed here, the Aurora Borealis is a new and exciting experience.

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Mighty Morphs
High School

Mighty Morphs

Many of our students are into tabletop games such as Dungeons & Dragons, card games such as Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering, and, of course, movies and video games of all kinds. Fantasy, science fiction, and superhero stories abound with creatures that don’t exist, so no one has ever taken a photo of these things...but what if you could? That’s what this lesson is all about: making photorealistic images of the imagination.

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Branch Weaving
High School

Branch Weaving

Last winter, I rediscovered branch weaving, a technique that an art teacher friend introduced me to years ago. I became obsessed, making beautiful weavings for myself and for others, each weaving inspiring ideas for the next. I relished both the centuries-old structure – the warp and the weft – and the endless possibilities for combining colors, textures, stitches, patterns, and embellishments.

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Sketchbook Scavenger Hunt
Managing the Art Room

Sketchbook Scavenger Hunt

In the decade or more that I’ve been leading my school’s art program, I’ve never been able to take my students on a field trip. The administration has approved visiting artists and guest speakers, but field trips come with a unique set of problems. How will students get to the location? Where will they eat? Who will supervise them? The answer to each of these questions comes with a monetary cost.

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Laura Wacha: Exaggeration and Absurdity
Looking & Learning

Laura Wacha: Exaggeration and Absurdity

The imaginative, often bizarre characters in the paintings and sculptures of Laura Wacha give an exuberant new meaning to the word “fantasy.” Her works are narrative, featuring a cast of unusual characters who appear in various forms, often nonsensical. Her paintings and ceramic sculptures show an equal balance between allegories of everyday life and social commentary.

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