Scrap Paper Fish

Maybe it is because I am an art teacher, or maybe it is by chance, either way, when I see beautifully painted bits of paper in the trash I must heroically come to their rescue. At first it was the big pieces, then the medium ones and slowly my obsession grew to collecting even the smallest scraps. As the pile of brightly colored shapes started to overtake desk, I realized they had so much potential, and were deserving of a second chance at becoming a masterpiece.  As I began to experiment and plan for a future project, I realized that what I really wanted was for my students to see the potential and possibilities that I saw when I looked at their beautiful scraps. And so it began….

Each student created an 12″x 18″ piece of textured painted paper. Students were free to experiment with different tools, different colors and even different brushes. Once the paper was dry, the project details were revealed….and things got a little “fishy.”


Each student cut out a fish body (a football/lemon shape) then, their scraps were put in a plastic tub in the center of the room. To create the detailed features of their fish they were only allowed to use scraps from their peers. Suddenly, those discarded bit of paper became valuable and students were eager to use them in new ways!






Elizabeth Rosen Inspired Collages

Artist Elizabeth Rosen is an New York based illustrator, painter and designer. This week we looked at her collage and mixed media work. Rosen creatively incorporates texture, a variety of paper, paint and simple shapes (Elements of Art) into each of her works. To see her pieces, visit (it’s nearly impossible not to love).

These collages were so much fun to create, the background texture was achieved by dragging a fork through wet paint! 1st & 2nd graders did an amazing job!

IMG_4397 IMG_4438




Transforming Spaces Through Art Education



Wet clay waiting to dry before being fired in our kiln!

Art has the power to change opinions, communicate ideas, transform spaces and change feelings. The power of art is limitless. This lesson focused on how art can be a vehicle for change. Together we looked at the young artists who transformed Brownsville, New York by creating a series of murals. These murals changed the way the community felt about where they lived.


  • How can we use art to change how we feel about our school?
  • How can art change other people’s perception of our school?
  • How can we transform a space on our campus?

Millions (well, maybe hundreds) of ideas followed through the art room. Here’s how our art room is using art to transform the front of our school (car loop). Our goal is simple…change how people feel when they approach our school (simple enough for a group of elementary students, right?).

Each student is creating two flowers (one for Columbia, one to keep and cherish forever). That 501 flowers that will be “planted” in a landscaped area in the front of the school. This large scale project will be too big to ignore!



‘ Together we all grow…




Dumpster Discovery

I think it is safe to speak for all art teachers when I say, we love trash. Here is the visual story of how an old, unloved chalkboard became something entirely different thanks to assistance of so many little painters! 

Georgia O’Keeffe & Painted Paper

Over the past two weeks we looked at the works of Georgia O’Keeffe. O’Keeffe famously painted large-scale flowers and beautiful desert landscapes. While looking at her work, we studied two Elements of Art, SHAPE and TEXTURE.  We built upon students’ prior knowledge by creating our own flowers using  organic and geometric shapes. Painted paper gave each flower a unique texture. Together we explored how shapes create images.



VA.1S.2.1 Practice correct use of tools with various art media, techniques and processes.
VA.1.O.1.1 Identify and use structural elements of art and organizational principles of design to support artistic development.

Summer Art Adventures: The Mural

Every morning for the past two years, I have been staring at the back bike rake wall dreaming of possibilities. The wall stands roughly 6 feet tall and 25 feet long, plus an additional 10 feet on the side. Over the past week I finally stopped dreaming and got to work. I have measured, drew and painted in the scorching summer sun (and loved every minute). I am so excited for students to walk their bike and be greeted by the bright colors next week! Eeeek. Here are the spoiler photos!

Planning Drawing & Swatches 


Playdough Plaster Molds

Surprisingly, this project falls into the “clean and easy” category even though it may sound slightly terrifying!

It has been raining for days, not just an afternoon shower but a slow, lingering rain that leaves you craving sunshine. Our days have been dominated by indoor activities which all seem to last a total of 4 minutes (despite my best efforts). This project was so much fun, it lasted over an hour (and clean up took minutes…with two boys under 4 “helping”).

Here’s what you’ll need….

  • Playdough
  • Plaster of Paris (Walmart, $3)
  • Small Shells, animals, sticks, leaves….the possibilities are endless!
  • Squeeze Bottle (Dollar Tree, $1)

IMPORTANT: Wait until all the molds are created before mixing plaster. The plaster will dry very quickly.




Filling playdough mold with plaster

Nature Mold

15 minute dry time

The finished product!


Summer Sketchbooks


Published in the International Journal of Science Education, Margaret Brooks’ article, “Drawing, Visualization and Young Children’s Exploration of “Big Ideas” explains how important drawing is for  children. Brook’s notes that “drawing is both a means of communication as well as a problem-solving tool. Through drawing [children] are not only able to see what they are thinking, they are also able to play around with and transform their ideas (Brooks 2009).” Even more interesting is that she believes that drawings are part of the learning process and should not be weighed as a final product.  

This research lead to our final project, SUMMER SKETCHBOOKS! 527 staples, 6 packs of drawing paper and over 200 sheets of colored construction paper later, these small books are now in the home of each student (or at the bottom of their backpack). These books provide at least one creative outlet for summer fun (and limitless drawing possibilities). I feel strongly that drawing plays an important role in education. Drawing helps students develop visual communication tools, important observational skills and learn how to express themselves in different ways. These sketchbooks are the perfect place for “bad” and “terrible” drawings. In fact, perfect drawings have no place in a sketchbook. These sketchbooks are all about figuring out how lines go together (or don’t), how shapes can be use to create different (even abstract) images, sketchbooks are a place to experiment, create and have fun. The best part of a sketchbook is it is YOURS!

Happy Drawing…



Creative Cardboard

Google defines creativity as the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of artistic work. Imagination and original artwork often go hand in hand, but one of the wonderful things about art is sometimes it happens accidentally. These creative mistakes, happy accidents or beautiful oops (the latter also happens to be a great book) happen on a daily basis and are an important part of the artistic process. Learning to work through these incidents are incredibly important. This project was created to force students to see their work differently, instead of beginning a project with a beautiful vision of their finished product, students have no idea what they are creating (and for the most part). Before you panic and imagine our art room as a giant free for all, this is an incredibly controlled project that gets even those students wishing they were in PE excited to create. We started creating shapes, then assembled the shapes together to create fish, dogs or cats (depending on the grade level).

Here are the results….

Step 1: Create a round shape from a rectangle.

Step 2: Cut out a “U” or a “V” (for 2nd grade and up)

Step 3: Cut triangles & circles in different sizes

Step 4: Assemble into a fish & paint!


Complimentary Colored Cardboard Creations


Kindergarten and 1st grade created these dogs!