A Community of Bees

2nd Grade is abuzz

Second grade has been working on learning about community collaboration in an installed group of bees and honeycomb drawings! They created a drawing that represented something about themselves, cut it out and I put them next to each other on the bulletin board.  I showed them how to draw a bee using simple shapes while looking at pictures of real life bees!

Identity Collage – 3rd through 5th Grade

Identity Collage with magazines!

Students looked at images in my presentation on many Black artists including Wangechi Mutu and others who are doing exciting work in contemporary collage. I also showed them Hannah Hoch, a Dada collage artist. These inspired them to create a choice of a free form layout identity collage or one in the shape of the shadow tracing of their head.  We talked about composition and selecting images that represent themselves and their identities.

Installation shot


Sketchbooks – 2nd through 5th Grade


To start the year, I had kids do some introduction community building art games then had them make sketchbooks by hand to house their sketches for the year, like warm ups that we do at the beginning of class, and as a place to develop their art ideas. These were made out of paste paper,  which is a type of glue from methyl-cellulose, a papermaking biproduct. After they made a pattern with a secondary color mixed into the paste (2nd and 3rd grades) or a tertiary color (4-5th grades), they let these dry and turned them into a book cover!

Examples of paste papers


INside the books!

The kids worked in teams to brainstorm sketchbook ideas after I showed them a presentation on various artist’s sketchbooks and discussed why sketchbooks are important and how artists get their ideas and use them.  They then drew from a myriad of choices including shading, eyes, animals and a long list of drawing prompts! I showed them how to draw things by looking at the main shapes first.

This was an activity I did where they had to complete the shapes and turn them into a thing.








Kids did a warm up for George Floyd on his birthday by drawing him a cake to remember him.

2nd grader’s work

Various 6/7th Grade Projects

eye Drawings

Students researched eyes on the internet or in magazines during distance learning. Then they took a photo of their own eye and made sketches of theirs or the ones they found.  Finally, they completed a final drawing with shading, after practicing value with pencils.








Poster for a cause project

The kids began by researching French protest art from the 1960s and used this resource as well: Center for the Study of Political Graphics. They selected images and filled out a GDoc on a few works with images. They then reflected on what they liked about these pieces and used the information to create their own poster for any cause they wished, real or imaginary, as long as it did not harass or cause harm to anyone.








color wheel project

Students created a color wheel using the primary, secondary and tertiary colors (12 colors) and including a theme of their own devising.










Some kids at this age really love math so I thought I would introduce them to M.C. Escher and perceptions of space through art.












Watercolors and Harold & the Purple Crayon

exploring watercolor and wax resist

After I read Harold and the Purple Crayon to 3rd graders, they investigated the themes of the book of imagination, invention and how humans create the world we inhabit. Using watercolor after applying a white crayon, the kids invented images of things they wanted to see in the world.

Chance Mythology Game

surrealism, Mythology & games!

Combining the Surrealists use of chance and the dream-like nature of mythology in a game unit seemed like a natural way to motivate and intrigue students in 3rd-7th grade.  They watched videos on Greek and Native American Mythology as well as the Surrealists.  They then made a gameboard in Google Slides with three categories: heads, torsos/arms and lowerbody/legs.  I let them choose any human or animal image to place in these, then they rolled a die to create sketches and make a final drawing with shading, or a monster out of clay.


Ecology Unit

Ecology unit: stained glass tree installation, endangered animals/insects & bird song project

In 3rd through 5th grades, students learned facts about global warming, watched a video on Danish-Icelandic artist, Olafur Elliason’s  Arctic Ice in Paris, did a warm up drawing icebergs and made a faux stained glass tree installation in the cafeteria. They also created endangered animal and insect paintings and drawings to highlight extinction issues after watching Lucienne Rickard’s Extinction project in Tasmania where she drew extinct animals for over a year and then erased them in a poignant performance.

stained glass tree installation





















Endangered animals/insects

Students researched an endangered animal or insect and made a drawing or painting about that creature, using emphasis as an Element of Art. For the insects, they had the choice of using symmetry (after watching a video and linking it to their math projects) and folding it to make a surprise painting with tempera.

Birdsong Project

The kids in grades 3-7 first started by researching a bird on the Audubon website and answering some questions and adding a picture to their Google Doc.  Then they cut out and layered their bird using construction paper. In the background, they then added the habitat in that they researched and chose a song lyric to match their bird’s personality and habits.

Task Box & Art Observation Games

Art observation

In grades, 3-5th in spring 2021, the kids played a few art games to get acclimated to school after being in distance learning so long. I had them play an art observation game where I chose a few Black artists like Alma Thomas and Virginia Chihota as well as Asian American artist, Yayoi Kusama, in order to have one person on each team describe the painting and the rest of the team try to paint what they hear. They competed against each other for points and had fun.

task box

This activity is based on Oliver Herring’s Task art project which involves audience in a form of social practice art.  Instead of performance art where the artist is the main focus and actor, Herring includes people as his raw materials, where they generate ideas for his work in the form of art parties where people are asked to make a task for others to do and carry out.

I asked the kids to make up drawing prompts for each other to do such as: draw a house that changes into something else, draw yourself performing on a stage and draw a loving wolf. This student-centered art project really involves the kids in creative ideas! They love it.

Drawing Bootcamp

Blind Contour, Modified contour, right brain drawing and expressive mark making

Many of the students in my intro classes hadn’t had any art in middle school, so they were sometimes functioning at a 5th grade level in terms of their drawing ability.   In order to meet them where they were, I had them do a drawing bootcamp to get their engines running again.

Blind contour



modified contour

“right brain” or upside down drawing

Picasso’s drawing of Igor Stravinsky: a classic staple of art education.

Student example









expressive mark making

Students chose an object and experimented with mark making using scribble lines, lines in one direction, lines in all directions, zig zag and another using all of them.

Clay Vessels

Open-ended clay vessels

In this unit, kids could make any vessel they wanted but it had to have some kind of attachment.  They learned about the stages of clay and hand-building techniques.  After that, students started doing research on five artists working in any medium using websites such as the Getty, Met and the Art Institute of Chicago.  I had them parse out what they found compelling about each artist in order to translate it into their own clay projects.  Then they developed prototypes using a choice of coil, slab and pinch pot methods.  Some focused on color, abstraction and others on a theme or concept.














Final projects

Jake experimented with using a balloon and slab building over the shape. He was working with how to combine nature and emotions.

He made objects that he felt an emotional attachment to and placed them inside the basketball sphere.