Toothpaste Batik – 2nd/3rd Grade

Exploring Toothpaste Batik and personal symbols

Second and third grade are working on investigating traditional forms of batik making in Indonesia and Africa through exploring their own personal symbols on fabric.  First we watched a video on Indonesian batik and looked at some amazing patterns and how they were made.  Then the kids sketched personal symbols in their sketchbooks, understood how resist works with white crayons and watercolor, and then applied these to fabric in a repeated pattern of choice, showing their interests.   After this dried a couple of days, they painted over the top using tempera, let that dry and then washed it out for lovely effects! We use a half and half mixture of toothpaste (basic Crest works best) and hand lotion.

sketches and application process

final Batik examples


Bristlecone Pine Dioramas for Earth Day – 3rd Grade

Third grade watched a video on Bristlecone Pines and learned how they are one of the world’s oldest living trees and we talked about human vs. geological time scales. We touched on the importance of Earth Day and how we can appreciate the natural world and learn from it in order to protect it.  Then they learned about museum dioramas, scale and miniatures and built their diorama!

The dioramas

Science and Art Connections – 4th/5th Grade

4th & 5th Graders made slime, glue nebulas, oil pastel animal eyes and botanical illustrations!

Fourth and fifth grade explored connections between science and art and realized that skills scientists use are the same as artists, such as observation, investigation and hypothesis.  The kids made glue nebulas after learning about how stars are born and die, close up animal eye observations and twisted botanical drawings using satire and humor!


Animal eyes

The kids learned about the evolution of animal and human eyes through a video and then touched on how to use proportion and shape and size relationships to use the science and art skill of observation. Drawing an animal eye up close with oil pastel not only helped them discover the diversity in eyes, but also see things more abstractly.  Everyone was amazed at how great their work was!

twisted botanical illustrations

The kids looked at the work of Edward Lear’s Nonsense Botany.  After discussing what satire is, and looking at an example, they started to draw and observe a botanical drawing and change it into something humorous.

Science and Art Connections Unit – 2nd/3rd Grade

2nd & 3rd grade worked on the chemistry of slime, shaving cream prints, a nebula painting and eco-sculpture!

Second and third graders made fun connections with science and art play in hands-on activities! First they made glue nebula paintings and then created slime and shaving cream prints.  The glue nebula came after watching a video on the cradles of stars.  Lastly, they delved into ecology by making a sculpture of choice out of recycled materials to have save the Earth.






Shaving Cream Prints

recycled sculpture


Comic Mania – 2nd through 5th grade

COllaborative comics!

For this activity, the kids worked in stages of development. They played a game where they had to put a cut up Calvin and Hobbes comic back in an order that made sense to them in order to tell a story. I also had them do warm ups at the beginning of class where they had to draw a cell (a comic panel) that either came before or after the image.

Then, I had them choose one of three pre-given characters to research in a comic book a panel of choice or at random.  They worked in groups to make a short comic which each other’s panel in a way that made a narrative.

After this, they created a character and we watched Faith Ringgold’s reading of Tar Beach.
This helped them think about designing their character’s superpowers.  For more inspiration, we also looked at Roger Shimomura’s, Super Buddahead. Then we chatted about the parts of a story and problem to be solved.  Working in teams, they then developed their panels, after going over what components of panels could be used.

Collaborative panel game!


A 2nd grader’s character

EXAMPLES OF finished collaborative comics



Lesson plan and rubric

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Thaumatropes – 2nd through 5th Grades

the start of animation in the 1820’s!

Kids were coming in and out from quarantine here at school, so I came up with some short one day projects since they were here today and gone the next.  The thaumatrope is a wonderfully fun way to talk to about where animation got its start. Check out their characters in motion! Here is more information on its history.


Videos feature kids’ art such as “pig on a skateboard” and “horse.”


Dot Paintings After Yayoi Kusama

2nd and 3rd graders made lots of dots!

We watched a video of the book, The Dot, by Peter Reynolds and looked at the installation and painting work of Yayoi Kusama for dot inspiration.  After chatting about scale and using different sizes, colors and lines with dots, I let the kids go loose in watercolors. They could choose to place their dots on a figurative object or simply create an abstract work.  We talked about the differences between both.

Heart Paintings – 2nd to 5th Grade

Hearts and Shapes — Painting in Layers

Second through fifth grade celebrated Valentine’s Day in art class with a layered painting of hearts or shapes of choice. They created hearts in oil pastel and painted a layer of watercolor, let dry and added a layer of rubber cement in a design. Then after that dried, they added another layer of paint. When the whole thing was dry, they rubbed the rubber cement off to reveal a beautiful painting underneath! I explained to them not to be perfect and messier is better in this case!

Afrofuturism – 2nd through 5th Grades

Create a Self-portrait as an adult in 2050 or invent a healing machine

In my art room, I pay homage to artists of color every month, but Black History month helps collectively highlight Black celebrations and events., past present and future.   My focus was on Afrofuturism, which is a cultural style that combines science-fiction, history and fantasy to explore the African-American experience and aims to connect those from the Black diaspora with their African ancestry.  We watched a video about Sun Ra, science fiction and racial equity and I showed them slides on Wangechi Mutu.

They could choose between making a self-portrait in the year 2050 with plants, animals and machines or they could invent a machine that heals people in some way.

Student work


Equity Posters! 4th & 5th Grade

Starting through research

In April, I received a grant from the Grinnell College Alumni Association to do an equity screen printing poster project about issues of racial justice.  This grant is in honor of Lori Ann Schwab, a classmate who passed away while studying abroad in London.  I’m grateful for being able to work with the kids on this!

I showed them slides on artists who work with screen prints, such as Black Panther poster maker, Emory Douglas, and this great video on Chicana printmaker, Favianna Rodriguez, as well as emphasizing how strong art can be in creating social change.

They started by doing research online, looking at posters, sketching and figuring out what subject area they wanted to focus on. They could do these choices or others: racism, BLM, gender inequality, healthcare inequality, police brutality, protecting people with disabilities, LGBTQI+. I had them work in groups  as screen printing needs many hands and it’s a great way to practice equity in itself!

Lesson PLan and Rubric

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Test Prints

This team worked on using the trans flag in their work!

They cut out shapes from construction paper for this step and placed them under their screens. They had the choice of this negative space technique and one where they do a positive shape print using screen filler paint to block ink. This was a challenge for them but they persisted!

A few final prints

The kids are still working on this project and some finished but many will pick up again next rotation when they return in a month.  The Still I Rise poster below is about a Maya Angelou poem.

Above is my example poster.