Who knows how to Collaborate? First Grade does!

From fictional creatures to the US Forest Service, Maury’s first graders (and the Kindergartners from Ms. Vick’s class, because I see them twice a week) are the resident experts on all things collaboration.

Studio 007Thanks, Lulu, for filling your canvas with a wonderful 3-eyed creature!

To begin, an exciting collaborative project is in the works between Maury Elementary and Sousa Middle School. Why Sousa? Why middle school? Well, it just so happens that one of my best friends, Ms. Lee, is the awesome art teacher over in SE. Ms. Lee and I completed our Masters degrees together at the Corcoran and share a similar outlook on art education in public schools. After lesson planning together one day, we thought, how cool would it be to complete a collaborative art project that incorporates work from both our schools?! After hours of pouring over fellow art teacher blogs and brainstorming ideas, we came across a project that sounded too cool to pass up. At Apex High School, in my home state of North Carolina, the fabulous art teacher came up with a project called Monsters in a Box. The premise of this project is as follows:

1. Our Maury artists come up with the design for the fictional creatures

2. They also complete a writing component, filling their partner artist in on the likes, dislikes, habitat and name of their creature (this was hilarious!)

3. After completing a well-crafted, detailed, and creative drawing, we send the work over to Sousa

4. There, the students work in three dimensions to create a sculptural depiction of your child’s design

5. The middle schoolers will have to also work with digital media (a requirement in middle school) to design the logo for the box

6. In the end, these works of art return to our young students in the form of gifts, or toys, all boxed up and stemming from the origins of your child’s own imagination!

Studio 073Will’s creature is branching out!

Studio 076This creature is appropriately named, Bakey. Check out that tray of cookies baking in his stomach!



Studio 072I wouldn’t want to meet this guy on the street!

Along the way, Ms. Lee and I will share pictures of our students in action, to try and make more sense of the collaborative effort for all involved.

I know on our end, we have already had a ball. Everyday I get the same questions, “Are our creatures back yet?” “Have the older kids finished building my design?” Another question that I thought was appropriate and oh so honest was, “What if I don’t like the way the other artist designs my creature?” Fair point. This gave us a change to talk about commissioning a piece, giving the artist creative freedom to interpret a design, and working hard on our end to include details that give specific clues as to what you want to see included on the piece.

Studio 016I believe there were 27 eyes involved in this design, Good luck, Sousa artist!

Studio 015Creatures could take on any form, as long as they had features from our imagination, such as a winged cat!

In other collaborative news, all first grade artists have been chosen to participate in a recent partnership with the US Forest Service.

As it turns out, the Forest Service wants people to know that they are more than just Smokey the Bear and preventing forest fires. They are actually an international organization that promotes sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation all over the world. They have been looking for ways to reach out and get more involved on the ground level and thought that schools may be the place to start. Somehow, they caught wind that in art class, students are traveling around the world exploring the art and cultures of different countries and thought they may be of help.

Studio 111Collaborating with one of our enthusiastic US Forest Service volunteers.

Just last week, we had five volunteers on hand to help introduce us to El Salvador, a neighbor of Guatemala, the first grader’s specialty. We looked closely at the map, figured out where exactly we were, saw images of the landscape and food (volcanoes and pupusas!),  and then examined the work of Fernando Llort, the most well known folk artist from El Salvador.

fernando-llort-1Examples of Fernando Llort’s artwork.

Fernando LlortThe man, himself.

llort00005Amazing color, line, and shape displayed in Llort’s work.

miller-hopkins-cindy-stylized-llort-artwork-painted-on-gallery-wall-fernando-llort-gallery-san-salvador-el-salvadorLlort’s work has infiltrated Salvadorean life. His work can be seen on churches, schools, clothing, and numerous household items. Perhaps the reason for his popularity is that Llort is a master at capturing everyday life.

Instead of capturing scenes from Salvadorean life, our students brainstormed the things they see in their daily landscape. The ways DC differs from El Salvador is that we have more buses, more cars, the metro, parks, buildings, and houses that are tall and close to one another. We do not have many farms, or bulls in the streets. We are similar because we  both have schools, and families, and animals in our landscapes.

Our work was not painted, like Llorts. Instead we collaged paper to create the bold shapes and colors echoed in Llort’s work. Check out our works in progress.

Studio 115I spy a row house.

Studio 109Three cheers for art volunteers!

Studio 114Check out the listserv for more pictures. Aunt Lizzie was kind enough to join us and document our process.

And just for good measure, take a look at our Worry Doll board outside the studio!

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