SchoolArts Magazine

NOV 2018

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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18 NOVEMBER 2018 SchoolArts Amy McGlinn S ome of my students' best creative moments happen when we step outside of our four-walled class- room. That's why I put nature at the center of my art curriculum. When my seventh- and eighth-graders engage with their natural surround - ings, they step into a place of empathy and awareness. We use our art garden year-round, and it grows along with us, with each season bringing new sur - prises and a changing landscape. As we head back to school in August, we relish in the summer's final blooms—pink coneflower, orange trumpet vine, and yellow heli - opsis daisies. These warm-colored flowers ease the transition from the heat of summer into the coming fall, when we start our first sketches of the year. The Garden Sketchbook Students keep a sketchbook through- out the year that they use for garden drawings. When they take their spiral-bound pages outside and into the garden for the first time, I pres - ent them with the following expec- tations: (1) Enter nature calmly. (2) Boldly draw what you see. (3) Respect each student-artists' space. After initial sketching, students add brilliant color with water-soluble crayons, focusing on value and unity. The students practice this routine throughout the school year. Fall As petals fall to the ground and colors change to deep reds, we commemorate with watercolor paintings. Students begin with light sketches and move into plein-air painting as they freely observe the richness of our surround- ings, equipped with drawing boards made from recycled cardboard bor- dered with masking tape. We also read Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert, a beautifully illustrated book that uses a variety of collaged leaves to tell the tale of Leaf Man and his surroundings. Students gather their own collection of leaves and collabora - tively make leaf critters and habitats from their bounty of leaf loot. Finally, fall would not be complete without leaf rubbings and watercolor resists. Winter In the stillness of winter, I use the barren trees to teach line and char- coal drawing. We focus on form and composition as we draw our trees with overlapping branches fully in sight. Winter also lends itself well to black-and-white photography. On one cold day, we caught our garden stunningly encased in ice and excit - edly grabbed cameras and iPads to document the rare splendor. Spring Daffodils bring the first sign of spring and the promise of warmer weather. The excitement of these early bloomers is a great time to incorporate artworks of impression - ist and post-impressionist painters such as Monet and van Gogh. Once students finalize their compositions, they create vibrant works on canvas with acrylic paint. With signs of new life all around us, I partner with our science teacher on a plant anatomy unit. While stu- dents explore the intricacies of plant parts and their function in science class, their focus in the artroom is to visually represent plants from different perspectives. Their drawings are later turned into ceramic flow- ers, built on a 5 x 5" (13 x 13 cm) base and glazed to perfection. In another favorite spring activity, inspired by the environmental artworks of Andy Goldsworthy, students create flower mandalas using petals, leaves, pine straw, acorns, rocks, and sticks. As we use our sketchbooks for the final time before breaking for sum- mer, students reflect on the series of drawings they have created through- out the year. Summer The beauty of our garden does not go unnoticed during the summer months, as our campus is used for summer camps. This is a time for hammered flower pigment transfers, nature prints using sun-sensitive photo paper, and large oil pastel flow - ers inspired by the artworks of Geor- gia O'Keeffe. When students engage with their natural surroundings, the tep into a place of empath and awareness.

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