Teaching elementary school art is tough work, especially at 40 weeks pregnant! Despite my efforts to stay in the game as long as possible, I eventually had to concede to the restrictions of my growing belly and hand off the duties of StudioMaury to some highly qualified and valued Maury community members (more on their awesomeness below) for the remainder of the school year as I prepared both mentally and physically for the arrival of Baby Morgan (Jeff’s last name–not the name of the baby).(Jeff and I at Honeysuckle Tea House in our home state of NC)
Despite my emphasis on punctuality, we are now eight days beyond our May 17, due date, and baby is either just too cozy, or not a fan of this DC rainy season, and refuses to evacuate. Grrrrrrr! What does an art teacher who misses her students and doesn’t quite know how to walk away from work do with the extra time on her hands?
After falling out of the blogging saddle during my third trimester, I am happy to use this “free time” to compose an ABC recap of all the outstanding work and creativity that has transpired over the past school year. Here’s hoping that recalling a year’s worth of awesome art-making will inspire baby’s debut!
A is for Animal Guides!
My sweet, and soon to graduate, Maury 5th graders are stepping into a period of great transition. They will be leaving the safety of their beloved elementary school and venturing into the wild world of middle school. Independence, responsibility, and integrity will challenge and motivate them as they grow into adults.
Our end of year unit explored the nuances of Cultural Appropriation, a term used widely throughout the media and in popular culture. Our very own Washington Redskins helped guide our weighty discussion, along with popular musicians, internet memes, and catch phrases that are quick to be used by many but often misunderstood, resulting in harmful misrepresentation of minority culture. In an attempt to better understand the origin of such popular expressions like, “Beyonce is my Spirit Animal,” we studied the root of what it means in many American Indian tribes to connect with a Spirit Animal or Messenger Guide.
In our attempt to better understand another culture–not steal from it–we gained a deeper respect for how traditions come about and the purposes they serve. By not simply choosing a “favorite animal” to inspire our art work, but going through a lengthy process to research and connect with one that held significance in the past, present, and future of our lives, we were able to create mixed media portraits that incorporated powerful text to express the strengths and characteristics of our own Animal Guides. We wrestled with the idea of whether or not we, as an outsider culture, could respectfully embrace the tradition of another culture without appropriating it. If we too were seeking something in our lives to serve as a messenger, protector or mentor during a time of transition and uncertainty–something all 5th graders could benefit from as they journey to middle school–could we successfully and respectfully use our own art to communicate the beauty of the Spirit Guide without feeling like phonies or disrespecting a sacred tradition? The question is still up for debate, but our 5th graders handled the challenge with grace and honor and will hopefully use the strength of their Messenger Guide to transition into young adulthood with confidence and open-mindedness.
B is for Bridges!
Architecture and art go hand in hand, which is why our Maury 2nd graders worked collaboratively for many weeks to explore the metaphors, design, and physical construction required of creating bridges that connect reality to fantasy. Before building our own bridges out of a variety of materials and found objects, we dissected what is or isn’t a bridge (Is an elbow a bridge? How about a boat? A twig across a puddle?) and examined the unique structures that many consider bridges from around the world.
we began exploring bridges by creating temporary structures made from clay and toothpicks to study how objects connect and support weight.
We then challenged ourselves with construction techniques. Students had to build bridges from nothing more than newspaper and masking tape in order to create structures that were either the length or height of a yard stick.
C is for Coco!
Early childhood kiddos got to experience the sheer joy of functional fine arts after creating quality coil pots from terracotta clay. After their work was glaze fired (and mostly water-tight), they enjoyed the fruits of their labor by celebrating their completed work with a coco party! The children really grasped the concept of how artists put their hearts and souls into creating works of art and how that sweat-equity results in the reward of utilizing something truly special and sometimes even functional in the end!
D is for Delicious!
Sticking with our ceramics and sweets trend, our inaugural “Bowls-to-Goals” ice cream social/fundraiser was an UN-BOWL-IEVABLE success! Students in grades 4 and 5 created hundreds of handmade ceramic bowls to sell at an Empty Bowls inspired event to raise the final money needed for the 5th grade Space Camp trip! The Maury community came out in epic proportions and together we were able to consume gallons of donated ice cream and raise over $1,200! Thank you to EVERYONE who attended and helped out. See you at next year’s event!
E is for Empathy!
Did I mention how the 4th graders chipped in their ceramic skills and event planning prowess to support their 5th grade friends in reaching their fundraising goals for Space Camp? In an honest demonstration of empathy, the 4th graders found reward in seeing their peers succeed. In true “pay-it-forward” fashion, I hope that the rising 4th graders will demonstrate a similar empathy when it comes time for our current 4th graders to reach a goal of their own!
F is for Facial Features!
A favorite project of mine is always the 2nd grade abstract facial features portrait project, which students are wrapping up as we speak. During this project, students explore the idea of portraiture through abstraction and find funky ways to use line, color and composition to express themselves. The results are always liberating and a great place to practice acrylic and watercolor paint techniques on a large scale!
G is for Glaze!
Gallons of glaze allowed us to complete numerous large scale ceramics projects in the studio this year. We used low-fire, brush on glazes to complete our coco party coil pots and high-fire dip glazes in 5 gallon buckets to complete hundreds of pots for our ceramic fundraiser. The studio acquired all of our glazes through grants and generous donorschoose.org donations. In order to keep the ceramics program afloat at Maury, donations like these are necessary each year to sustain and replenish our program.
H is for Habitats!
Kindergartners and 1st graders explored the idea of contrast during one of the four visual arts Cornerstone assignments this year. Empathizing with creatures much bigger and smaller than us allowed them to gain new perspectives about the world. We watched fun movie clips from childhood classics like Honey I Shrunk the Kids and Antz, then created miniature creatures out of Model Magic which allowed us to practice turning primary colors into secondary colors with a medium other than paint. We then created creature habitats from recycled fruit cups that protected our creatures from predators. The designs were both visually compelling and suitable for defense!
I is for Ice!
Have I mentioned how our Maury Ski Team took home the Elementary Division DCIAA Ski Championship for the 3rd year in a row yet? Coach Cooper and I could not be more proud. Being pregnant kept me off the slopes this year but I can’t wait to get back out there to claim trophy #4!
J is for Joy!
I had the two most amazing high school volunteers from St. Anselm’s come support me and our students on Tuesday mornings this year. Without Thomas and Ray, my job as a pregnant lady all year would have been near impossible. They helped me prep countless materials, clean, hang, staple, and provide one-on-one support to the kids. By the end of their year long commitment to us, we were all so sad to see them go but excited to shower them with love and joy as we wished them well in their futures!
K is for Kool-Aid!
Our 4th grade Fiber Arts unit is back by popular demand and with it comes the support and endless knowledge of Aunt Lizzy and Ann Barsi–our fabulous fiber gurus. Our ten week unit encompasses so incredibly much. We feel, frog, felt, swift, cake, comb, burn, knit, and spin various plant, animal and synthetic fibers. Our unit concludes with the creation of our sock superhero avatars! Dyeing the fibers with Kool-Aid is always a sweet day in the studio!
L is for Lunar Phases!
K-1st graders combined art and science with their in depth study of the moon and it’s lunar phases. Ask one of these youngsters to use their top notch vocabulary to describe the moon in the sky. With the help of their Alexander Calder inspired, kinetic moon mobiles (I didn’t have the chance to snap a photo before taking my full moon belly to the dark side), they should be able to tell you whether you are looking at a waxing gibbous, a waning crescent or a first quarter moon!
I want to reassure all my loyal readers out there that I will be returning to StudioMaury in the fall! My leave will take me to Labor Day weekend and I plan to hit the ground running in the studio right afterwards!
N is for Nature!
We did a pretty good job of taking the studio outdoors this year to explore our natural habitat. Our K-1 contrast unit really lent itself to exploring the environments of creatures big and small. Discovering mushrooms, beetles and even dead birds was a fun and sometimes sad experience for the observant eye.
O is for Oreo Cookies!
I think I am uncovering a trend here. Ms. Bomba likes to incorporate dessert into art-making whenever possible, like the time we used Oreo cookies to help us engage with our Lunar Phase unit. Hey, what better way to reinforce knowledge that to eat what you just learned?
Now this is a biggie! 3rd grade tackled the enormous task of bringing the work I authored this summer when writing Cornerstones for DCPS to life! This unit combined the ancient art of shadow puppetry with the student’s English language Arts content. We created silhouette puppets of literary characters, built one of a kind shadow theaters, then transported our characters to bizarre scenarios and asked the puppeteers to improvise what their original characters would do when placed inside a new and challenging situation. In music class, Mr. Rogers worked with students to create improvised sound accompaniments to enhance the drama of the performances. The kids blew me away with their teamwork, ingenuity, and imagination. Check us out!
Q is for Quandary!
Origami has always put me in a quandary but students seem to excel at the intricate art of paper folding. Once again, 3rd grade came through in a pinch and created fantastic sculptural books using star folds. These books expressed their neighborhood communities on the macro or micro level and narrated a story in a non-linear way for their reader. We used bone tools and stylus tools to carve into tooling metal to create our textured, front and back covers in relief.
R is for Rainbow Fish!
I wasn’t able to sneak many photos of the fantastic work from our PS/PK Rainbow Fish unit before my departure into (almost) motherhood but trust and believe that these kiddos learned how to identify shapes in objects from their surroundings in order to help them draw more realistically. With help from the fantastic book, Rainbow Fish, we explored the feelings associated with warm and cool color families and learned to paint like pros with watercolor!
S is for Super Sub!
She’ll kill me for this, but I have to take a moment to dedicate the letter “S” to my full-time sub extraordinaire, Beth! Beth is taking over for me while i’m out on maternity leave and the studio and students could not be in better hands! Beth is a friend of mine, an amazing artist, a mother of Maury students (past and present) and a Polite Piggies art instructor. She is really seeing to it that your kiddos are continuing to get a quality art experience while I’m away. There is no better reassurance for a teacher than to know that her students and learning space is in competent, creative and cool hands! Thanks, Beth!
T is for Tablecloths!
This year, in celebration of the fantastic work our Maury volunteers do for our school community, the staff got together to throw a potluck dinner in their honor. Maury art students helped create Henri Matisse inspired paper cutout tablecloths to decorate our sitting area. We learned how Matisse “drew with scissors” to create these stained glass looking masterpieces. Creating these collaborative works of art with contact paper proved to be a fun activity for all!
U is for Unity!
To demonstrate the unity of the 5th grade cohort, students participated in a Mission Patch design contest to create wearable artwork to adorn to their flight suits before takeoff! The winning designs had to creatively communicate the bond between classmates and the road they have endured to accomplish their fundraising goals. Congrats to Aiden and Kevin for creating clear, communicative, and creative artwork that represents the best of your class! Thanks to Ms. Ford, who makes the impossible POSSIBLE on a daily basis!
V is for Volunteers!
Another huge shout out to the other ladies in my life who make the art program at Maury function! Aunt Lizzy does countless things behind the scenes and on the front lines everyday! Without her ‘can-do’ attitude, wealth of knowledge, relationship with the children, and talent for hunting down the best scrap materials for our projects, we all may be lost! In my absence, she has also been assisting with grades 4-5. These kids were in the midst of some serious art units and she has seen to it that that work has continued to completion without missing a beat! Another shout out to my gal, Ann Barsi, for helping on Wednesdays with Fiber Arts and for making the costumes for the Wizard of Oz production so stellar! Love you guys!
W is for Watercolor!
Watercolor painting is such a vital experience in the elementary school art studio. I believe all grade levels interacted with this portable and pleasing medium this year. I encourage all students to own a set of watercolor paints for home so that they can continue to experiment with the many versatile ways to apply the paint on paper. Take your tray outside and paint en plein air this summer!
X is for X-emplary!
Our Maury Elementary students, and staff for that matter, truly are X-emplary! Did you know that teachers and administrators come from all over the local and global community to observe our teaching and learning practices in action? It’s true! Maury is the model for many of how a nurturing, empathetic, and community oriented school functions with high academic expectations and a strong emphasis on the arts and sciences! Go us!
Y is for Youngins!
Even though they are elementary school aged, I hold these kids to a high standard, teach them complex and often complicated things about the real world, and expect them to bring their A-game at all times. Our Maury artists are excellent at rising to the occasion and challenging themselves in all areas of learning. They are also just kids–youngings–and super funny, unpredictable, and full of love! Stay young, Cougars!
Z is for Zany!
Thanks for keeping it real Maury, REAL ZANY! I miss you already but can’t wait to see you again in the fall. Have a fantastic summer everyone and keep it creative!
Love, Ms. Bomba