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Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Winter Silhouette Landscapes

WOW! This is one of those projects where I think, "Yeah, this will be a good one to do with the kids," but then I do it and, WOW. I was so happy with the way these came out and the creativity my students showed when making these pieces.

Look at that sky! Beautiful!

My homeschool art class just finished up a two-week session on Chinese New Year and we had a class to go before starting African art. I wanted to do a winter-related project that taught them a skill (such as color-mixing) but also tied in some elements of art such as value, etc.

I found this project for a moon-lit landscape in the book, "Using Color in Your Art," by Sandi Henry. It's published by Williamson Books and I LOVE their art books for children.

I also tied in another favorite book of mine, "The Day the Babies Crawled Away," by Peggy Rathmann. It's a great book that has striking skies offset with detailed silhouettes. The story is about a boy who notices the babies in his neighborhood crawling away from a neighborhood celebration (unbeknownst to their parents). He follows the babies to keep an eye on them and the images are hilarious! Oh yeah, and it illustrates the whole "beautiful background/silhouette landscape-thing I'm trying to teach with this project!

This project teaches a whole bunch of concepts to children, here's the info:

We started by talking about landscapes and what that meant. Then we discussed how there can be different values (lights and darks) of colors. When a painter mixed white with a color, it gets lighter. The values that are made by mixing white with a color are called tints. When a painter mixes black with a color, it gets darker. The values that are made by mixing black with a color are called shades.

In the first part of this project, we are going to make the sky (or background) for our Winter Silhouette Landscapes.

Supplies Needed to make the SKY:

  • 11" x 14" White Heavyweight Paper (I used bristol, but you could use posterboard)
  • Pencil
  • Blue tempera paint
  • White tempera paint
  • Disposable plate for a palette
  • Paint brush or piece of sponge
  • Water, paper towels & newspapers

Directions to make the SKY:

1. Using your finger, locate the center of the white piece of paper. Move your finger up about 2" and then over to the right about 2." This is where your moon will be. Use the pencil to make a little dot to mark the place.

2. Put some white and blue paint on the palette. Paint a 2" circle with white paint onto the dot you marked as the "moon" on your paper.

3. With your brush, get a dab of blue and mix it into the entire blob of white paint on your palette (not in your paper!). Use this brush or the sponge to paint this light blue paint in a ring around the moon on your paper.

4. Keep repeating the process (adding blue paint to make the paint on your palette darker and then painting a ring of color onto your paper) until the entire page is filled with rings of color. It's OK if some of the rings go off your paper. Just keep going and continue filling the page.

5. Let this dry. I brought a fan in to speed up the process since I wanted to send this project home today.

Supplies needed to make the SILHOUETTE-LANDSCAPE:

  • 1 Piece of 9" x 12" black construction paper
  • Bits of yellow construction paper, optional
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick

Directions to make the SILHOUETTE-LANDSCAPE:

1. I started by talking with the children about what they'd see if we went walking in their yard at night. We discussed not only what we'd see (houses, snowmen), but what we'd smell (trees, smoke from a chimney). Then I asked them what we'd hear (crunching snow, dogs barking, children playing). I also showed them the book by Peggy Rathmann and we discussed a few things we saw in there.

2. Draw a ground line on the black construction paper. Add a house, trees, etc. using the pencil making sure that the elements touch the ground and are large enough and simple enough to be recognized and easy enough to cut out with scissors.

3. Cut out the silhouette with scissors.

4. Glue the silhouette to the background/sky painting using a glue stick. The silhouette becomes the foreground of the picture. The moon makes a nice focal point.

5. Using bits of yellow construction paper and the glue stick, add a window or two to your house.

ENJOY the warm, inviting night-time winter landscapes!

This piece shows one of the babies from the book
getting into trouble by hanging upside from a tree limb!





Monday, January 23, 2012

FOUND! Antique Mexican Metal Ornaments

Wow! Look what a good friend of mine brought me today: three beautiful little metal ornaments from Mexico! Ornaments like these are the inspiration for my Mexican Folk Art Ornaments I posted in December. My friend found them in an antique shop in Massachusetts. Two have the tags on them and say "House of Openheim, C. Juarez, Mexico" and are priced for 25 cents and 39 cents. The other is stamped with "Mexico." All of them are colorful and have some amount of tooling. How great!

I love to have real examples of artwork for the children to touch and examine and these are perfect! I'm sure they will inspire my students the next time I present this project. Thanks to my friend Karen for thinking of me and my students!

Bell, Angel & Star Mexican Folk Art Metal Ornaments
And...the ornaments made by my students!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mini Craft (Popsicle) Stick Snowman

Snowman's Valentine
by Leland B. Jacobs

I have a jolly snowman,
The best I've ever had.
I'm giving him a valentine
that ought to make him glad.
For though he's very handsome
and sound in every part,
I noticed only yesterday
he hasn't any heart.
So quickly with my scissors
and paper red and fine
I made a fancy little heart;
my snowman's valentine!


Left: Back of piece
Middle: Front of snowman, partway through project.
Right: Completed snowman project
This is a nice little craft that uses supplies you may already have on hand. I sent this craft in for my son's 2nd grade class to do at their Holiday Party, but it is a cute craft to do on a snowy day or decorate your snowman with a heart, attach the above poem, and give it out for St. Valentine's Day!

Popsicle Stick Snowman

Supplies Needed:

  • Four craft/popsicle sticks
  • Glue (I like using a glue gun, but tacky glue is probably better for little ones)
  • White tempera or acrylic paint
  • Markers (we used black and orange)
  • Felt scraps, assorted colors. You'll need a 3.5" x 4.5" rectangle for a hat and a 9" x 1" rectangle for a scarf
  • One to two 6" pieces of yarn
  • Sticky-backed felt shapes or paper to make a heart, optional
Directions:

1. Line up three of the popsicle sticks next to each other with their long sides touching. Cut the remaining popsicle stick into 1" sections. Glue two of the small sections onto the back of the larger popsicle sticks for support, using tacky glue or hot glue. This is your snowman's body. Let dry.

2. Flip the popsicles sticks over and paint the front of the snowman white. Let dry.

3. Fold one of the long edges of the 3.5" x 4.5" rectangle to make a hat brim. Using the photo as a guide, attach the hat to the snowman (you'll need to glue it to the front of the snowman and the back). Then, use a piece of yarn to gather the hat and give it some shape. Knot the yarn and trim excess. If you are making the snowman an ornament, make a loop with the second piece of yarn and attach it to the back of the piece.

4. Using the markers, draw features on your snowman such as eyes, carrot nose, mouth and buttons.

5. Cut 1/2" long slits for fringe at either end of the piece of felt you will be using for a scarf. Tie the scarf around the snowman and secure with a dot of glue. 

6. Add a paper heart if you are sticking with the poem above.

You're done! Enjoy your little snowman!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Rainbow Turtle Craft

Are you looking for a quick, easy craft to make your preschooler smile and give you a few minutes to make dinner? Then try this flexible turtle craft! How can a turtle be flexible, you ask? Well, this can be a purely for fun activity or you can adapt it to be a learning activity. You can use sharpies, crayons, paints--whatever you have on hand that works with your idea or lesson plan!

Happy Rainbow Turtle!
A few ideas to try:
  • Colors of the rainbow (labeled with the names of the colors or not).
  • Numbers (put a different number in each section of the turtle shell and have your child put that number of stickers in each section)
  • Different Lines or Patterns (fill each section with a different line type or pattern)
  • When done, you could make a tambourine or shaker (not for little ones under 3 years of age due to choking hazard).
The ideas for this craft are endless. I'd love to see some examples of how you and your children decide to use this craft idea! ENJOY!

Rainbow Turtles:

Supplies Needed:
  • Two paper plates that are the same size
  • Pencil and ruler
  • Sharpie or black marker
  • Crayons, markers or paints
  • Scrap pieces of construction paper for head, feet and tail. Color, your choice.
  • Clear tape
  • Stapler
Directions:

1. Draw an octagon, or similar shape, in the center of one of the paper plates. I traced a puzzle piece from one of our puzzles. Then, draw a line from each of the points of the octagon to the edge of the plate creating 9 sections total. This can be divided however will work for you and your children (and the lesson you are teaching). Don't stress, draw the best you can. Have fun!

2. Go over your pencil lines with marker, if desired, to make them stand out more and make the sections easier for your child to see.

3. Labels the sections with color names and have your child fill them in using crayons, markers, etc.

4. Cut out a head, four legs and a tail from construction paper. Have your child draw a face on the turtle head and then tape the body parts to the bottom side of the plate. 

5. Attach a second plate, flipped the opposite way, to become the underside of your turtle. Staple the two plates together around the rim, making sure to go through the turtle body parts to secure the layers altogether. **If you want to turn this project into a music-making shaker, insert a few dried beans in between the plates before securing them together. You may want to use extra staples or glue to make sure the plates are securely fastened and the dried beans do not come out. Either way, you'll want to keep this craft away from anyone under 3 due to the small parts that will create a choking hazard.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rainbow Chicken Fried Rice

So you've made a dragon puppet, some lanterns and have good luck symbols adorning your home, now you need some food! I know, I know, this is an ART blog, not a food blog, but no Chinese New Year celebration would be complete without a feast! Here's an easy, kid-friendly meal that your child will love to eat and can even help you make. My four-year-old loved picking out the veggies for the meal and was able to chop some of them with his safety knife. My 9-year-old also cut the veggies (using a real knife) and did all of the stir-frying.
Mmmm...try this rice recipe...


Rainbow Chicken Fried Rice, Serves 6 or so

Early in day: 
Cook 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice with 3 cups of water.
Cook 3/4-1 pound chicken breasts until done. Cool and chop into bite-sized pieces.
Refrigerate rice and chicken until later.

At dinner-time:
Make egg pancakes: Beat 3 whole eggs and 1 egg white in a bowl. Heat 1 tsp. oil in wok over medium-high heat. Pour in half of the egg mixture. Cook, using a spatula to gently lift the cooked portion up allowing the uncooked egg to flow underneath. Gently flip the pancake over to thoroughly cook. When done, remove to cutting board. Repeat with additional egg mixture. When cool, chop both pancakes into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

Prepare the following for the stir-fry:
  • 1 red pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into "coins"
  • 1 can of stir-fry cut baby corn, drained
  • 2 scallions (green parts only), chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • oil, I use an olive oil/canola blend
  • low sodium soy sauce, about 1/4 cup, or to taste
Let's Go! (Method):

1. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in wok over medium-high heat. Add carrots and sauté for 3 mins.
2. Add peppers and sauté 2 mins.
3. Add peas & scallions and sauté 2 mins.
4. Add 1 Tbsp. more oil and add rice and chicken. Stir gently to mix. Heat a couple of minutes and then add corn and egg pieces. Heat through.
5. Add soy sauce to taste (I used about 1/4 cup).

Serve with oranges and fortune cookies. YUM! Good luck to you and your family in this new year!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chinese Calligraphy Placemats or Banners

Another fun way to explore Chinese culture is by trying Chinese calligraphy. While it is a very complex art form that takes many years of study and includes over 3000 characters, there are loads of books and websites that focus on teaching calligraphy to children. Doing Chinese calligraphy is fun and relaxing and it is a wonderful way for children to see how writing can evolve over time. 


On the left: "Peacefulness"
On the right: "Good Fortune," "Spring," and "Good Luck"


Here's a very simple and inexpensive project that will allow your child to explore this art form. I suggest having a few books on hand for inspiration or checking out some kid-friendly websites on Chinese calligraphy (see the list on my "Resources" page). Also, have some extra paper on hand for practicing! 

This placemat/banner project is a variation of one that I learned at the New Hampshire Art Educators Association's Fall 2011 Conference (www.nhaea.org) under the instruction of Claire Provencher. Claire did a wonderful presentation on designing an Art History-based curriculum. Her presentation was so inspiring! I created the banner with the ivory rectangle ("Peacefulness") during that class. The beautiful paper was provided by Claire, but she said it came from a Chinese market.

The symbols I used in the red diamond placemat are from "Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats," by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, and the Children's Museum, Boston. During Chinese New Year families often adorn the doors of their homes with good luck characters, or chun lion, to convey good wishes for the new year. 

Chinese Calligraphy Placemat or Banner

Supplies Needed:

  • Books, websites, worksheets for inspiration (see my Resources page)
  • Construction paper for doing calligraphy: 6" squares, red and/or 6" x 16" ivory
  • Construction paper pieces for decorating placemat or banner: 4 1/2" x 12" or other size scraps, good colors are red, orange, gold and purple
  • Tissue paper or decorative paper scraps for embellishing: mine were 3" x 4" and 3" x 5," good colors are red, orange, gold and purple
  • Black watercolor paint
  • Brush
  • Sharpie or other fine point marker if you would like to write the meaning of the symbols on the paper
  • Glue stick
  • 1 12" x 18" piece of construction paper for background, black
Directions:

1. Look at resources on Chinese calligraphy.  The symbols are little pictures, this is shown when you look at the evolution of the symbols throughout time. Early examples of symbols often look like the physical thing they are meant to represent (such as rain or mountain). Chinese calligraphy is made up of simple strokes (some say 7 basic strokes, some say as many as 30+). It is helpful, when beginning, to find a resource that shows the symbols with the strokes numbered in the order they should be created. When you are ready to begin, grab your brush and load it with black watercolor paint. Holding your brush up and down, start painting the symbols onto the ivory or red paper. Label the symbols as you go with the appropriate English word for what you've drawn so you will know what the symbols mean!

2. Once you have the symbols done, arrange them onto the larger sheet of construction paper adding bits of colored paper and tissue paper for decoration. Colors such as gold, orange and red are the colors of joy. Glue the pieces down with a glue stick. Laminate if desired.

Your placemat or banner is done! ENJOY!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Easy Paper Lanterns

Here's an easy way to decorate for your Chinese New Year Celebration! These paper lanterns take two sheets of paper, some cutting and stapling and you're done! Make a few to hang around your dining room for January 23rd, Chinese New Year 2012! 



Supplies Needed:

  • 1 9" x 12" sheet construction paper, yellow
  • 1 9" x 12" sheet construction paper, red (red is the color of joy)
  • 1 1" strip of paper for handle, any color
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Stapler
Directions:

1. Beginning with a short side of the yellow paper, roll up the paper to make a tube that is roughly 3" in diameter. Secure with a couple of staples (or you could use glue stick or tape).

2. Fold the red piece of paper in half lengthwise (like a hot dog bun). Use the ruler to draw a 1" line along the long edge that is not the folded edge. Use the scissors to make a series of cuts from the folded edge stopping at the pencil line you made. These cuts should be spaced about 1/2" apart. Make sure that you begin the cuts at the folded end and stop at your line that is 1" from the opposite edge.

3. Unfold the red piece of paper. Wrap the red piece of paper around the yellow tube about 1" down from the top. Secure the red paper to the tube using a couple of staples. Do the same by wrapping and securing the red paper about 1" up from the bottom of the yellow tube. That will make the red paper bow out and create the effect of a lantern with glowing yellow light within.

4. Secure a 1" paper strip to the top of the lantern. 

You are done! These look pretty hanging from the ceiling or lined up along the center of the table.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dragon Puppets

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy New Year!

Chinese New Year falls on Monday, January 23rd this year, the Year of the Dragon! In previous years I have had my art students create Dragon puppets and lanterns in honor of the holiday. This year, I'm going to post a couple of related projects so your family can mix and match and have a celebration of your own! These projects are appropriate for a variety of ages, have fun!



Dragon Puppets:

I have made dragon puppets in the past, but I really wanted to try creating the version I saw in Family Fun Magazine about a year ago. They are elaborate (in terms of kid crafts), but worth the work since they definitely have a "WOW" factor! You can find the directions here.

A quick note: I don't usually have projects where children create carbon-copies of the same craft, but these dragons we created in class look very much the same since I didn't have four weeks to let the children all do unique dragons in terms of color and body, etc. Someday maybe I can allow a bit more choice, but for now I chose the colors they would do. 

Here are some suggestions I have when doing this project with a group:

  • Enlist some grown-up help. I had one helper (besides me) for 10 children. We don't have water in our room, so I think I would grab a bucket of water so that no one was leaving to refill water buckets. Have an empty bucket for dumping dirty water into.
  • Precut the egg cartons in the sections.
  • Precut the fabric into rectangles.
  • Create stations to break the craft down into manageable pieces. I had a station for painting the eyes, a station for painting the mouth, and a station for painting the fabric body. When the children were done all of the painting they could go to the cutting station and cut out all of their "extra" pieces like the eyebrows, etc.
  • At each station, have step-by-step instructions for the specific piece they are creating at that station with a finished example of that piece (not the whole dragon).
  • Have grown-ups in charge of dispensing paint.
  • Create a drying area. I laid out sections of newspaper and wrote each child's name on a section. When they were done a piece of their dragon, they could put it onto the newspaper with their name on it to dry. This kept all of their pieces together and I could quickly see what each child needed to finish before class ended.
  • Allow for drying time. It would be great if you could leave the pieces to dry overnight. I don't have space for this since the room I use needs to be empty when I leave. Use a cardboard tray to move and store the pieces between classes if you have to move them.
  • Paint during one session, assemble during another. You could even make this a three (or four) part class if you had time. 
  • Photocopy the chin and tail templates directly onto the colors of paper you want to use. I also needed the children to cut multiple shapes at the same time, but cutting many layers of paper can be too tricky (and time consuming) for some. I stapled the paper together through the shapes they should be cutting out. This held the layers together so they could cut them out. Once the shapes were cut out, I removed the staples (the holes left behind are small).
  • On assembly day, work with 2 children at a time to assemble the finished dragons while the rest of the class does something else (maybe Chinese calligraphy?). It is a nightmare to try to walk more than two children through assembly process. Call in another grown-up if need be to speed the process along.
  • Cover everything with newspaper and have everyone (including grown-up helpers) wear aprons. I was painted on a couple of times yesterday by accident :-)
  • Don't use good paintbrushes for this. Due to the nature of this craft the paint gets ground into the brushes no matter what you do. Encourage the children to place the brushes back in the water when they are done painting so the paint doesn't dry on the brushes (especially if using acrylics).
Despite all of these warnings, I really did love this craft! I think it is totally worth doing and would be very manageable with a small group or single child. Just plan ahead and take your time! ENJOY!
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