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!

Natural Dyes for Textiles & Wood

One of my students asked me how paint got its color. Of course, I could have simply explained  the color comes from pigments, perhaps shown a YouTube video, but that would not be nearly as fun (or as memorable). That amazing question inspired our next lesson. Over the weekend I began experimenting with creating effective natural dyes, safe for little (and big) hands. Next week we will begin to create our own dyes using turmeric, blueberries, mint and beets. Here’s how it works….


Turmeric Dye for Wooden Beads (Hot Water) 

  • 2 cups of distilled water (tap water has too many hard minerals)
  • 4 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • unfinished wood beads

Bring water to boil and stir in turmeric. Add 15-20 unfinished wooden beads and salt. Continue to boil for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and allow beads to soak in turmeric bath until cool. Rinse until water runs clear.


Turmeric Dye for Wooden Beads (Cool Water: Classroom Edition)*

  • 2 cups of distilled water (tap water has too many hard minerals)
  • 4 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • unfinished wood beads

Pre-soak beads in distilled water. Bring water to boil and stir in turmeric and salt. Allow mixture to cool. Place beads in cool dye bath and allow leave overnight. Rinse beads until water runs clear.

*Cool Water Bath Recipe produces a lighter color bead


Turmeric beads (yellow), blueberry beads (magenta) and blackberry beads (light pink). The blackberry beads were dyed using a cold water technique while the brighter beads were done using hot water.


Art & Literacy: Fish Eyes by Lois Elhert

I have always liked Lois Ehlert’s illustrations (Growing Vegetable Soup, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, etc). In fact, I read many of her books on a regular basis to my own children, however, it was not until researching her life for this lesson that I feel in love. Elhert was born creating, from a young age she used a variety of materials to create art. Her mother would often give her fabric scraps and her father, a woodworker, would share bits of wood. Elhert has said that she felt the color of construction paper was ‘wimpy’ compared to the color of fabric. Like Elhert, I am not a fan of wimpy colors, I prefer mine to be of the bold variety.


To begin this lesson we read, Fish Eyes (which is wonderful). Maybe it’s because I am an art teacher, but to me, the book reads almost like an art lesson, instructing students how to assemble their own fish. Her illustrations are bold and beautiful, the large shapes make it easy for small children to emulate. Even though all the fish in the book are different, they are all beautiful (what an important lesson).


Thanks to the kind donation of a few old colored folders, we were able to create these fish inspired by Fish Eyes. Each Pre-K student drew, cut and glued their own tails and FISH EYES!

Next, we created marbleized paper using liquid watercolors and shaving cream. It may have gotten a little messier than I anticipated but….MESSY DAYS ARE THE BEST DAYS.

Ehlert used fabric in her illustrations but because fabric is difficult to cut, especially for little hands just learning to use scissors, we used the next best thing….scrapbook paper (kindly donated by a parent).



To be continued….

Keith Haring Inspired Art

Now that we have finished our Keith Haring box for public display (our front office lobby), we are moved on to creating individual works inspired by artist, Keith Haring. Haring’s work really lends itself to studying the Elements of Art & Principles of Design (especially line and movement). One of my favorite things about Haring, is he felt strongly that art is for everyone, because of this philosophy everyone in the school completed this project…although every student put their own twist on it!