SchoolArts Magazine

May 2016

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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SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 19 Stacy Lord THREATENED, ENDANGERED, I nspiration can come from many places. It came for me one day while I was creating a drawing for a teacher at school. Very seldom do I create my own work in school for students to see. In the past, it has created a "See, you're an artist and I'm not" attitude, followed by a reluc- tance to create. Any middle-school teacher will tell you that it doesn't take much to deter a student from working. To my surprise, this time it actually worked to my advantage. I had drawn a large image of a lion and was using oil pastels to color it in, creating visual texture that, for some reason, enamored my students. Con - versations ensued about working in pastels and the types of pets students had. One particular statement piqued my interest and made me rethink my plans for our next project. Making Meaningful Connections One of the things I love about teach- ing is making a connection between projects and real life. The interest had been sparked and the enthusiasm was there—all I needed was a project to encapsulate it all. That's how the project, Threatened, Endangered, and Extinct, was born. We started with a class discussion centered around what we all knew and hypothesized about endangered animals. For example, why are they endangered, and what could be some reasons for that endangerment? Selecting Endangered Animals I was determined to tap into students' prior knowledge of habitats, ecosys- tems, and the food chain—things they had recently learned in science. After our discussion, students headed over to the computers to look up different images of endangered animals. Students were instructed to select an image, which they would enlarge and color using oil pastels. I made sure students focused on large shapes and close-ups of animal faces, which would translate nicely to the medium in which they would be working. Students enlarged their images onto drawing paper, tracing the con- tour lines. This may be difficult for some students, but think of it this way: The focus of this lesson is on learning to use oil pastels to render realistic portraits of animals, not pro- portions and drawing abilities. When working with middle-school students, you need to have projects that the majority of them can be successful at, or they shut down and don't produce, resulting in behavior problems. In my room, I can have six students enlarge images at a time using a docu- ment reader and two image enlargers. Students who are waiting for their turn to trace are sent to the comput- ers to research information needed to fill out an endangered animal info sheet, which would be displayed next to their drawings when finished. Exploring Oil Pastels I love using oil pastels, so my passion for them shows through in my dem- onstration. It's contagious, and for the first fifteen minutes of instruction, I have students focused and completely enthralled. I demonstrate the quali- ties of oil pastels while explaining the need to layer and blend colors to create the realistic tones in the pho- tos. I find blending stumps and vinyl erasers to be very helpful, especially with students who are leery of getting their fingers dirty. (Be sure to allot enough time at the end of class for all students to wash their hands.) I love watching my students work with oil pastels, sometimes standing up to apply the color and other times with their heads bent close to the paper as they draw in fine lines. Many end up with streaks on their faces from their hands as they push hair back or scratch an itch. Something important to stress to your students at this point is that the first application of color will usually look "bad." I follow up by explaining that it takes many layers of color to build up to the final look. The end results are stunning. I love the look of pride on my students' faces as they tell a friend, "That's my drawing!" Stacy Lord is an art teacher at Worcester East Middle School in Worcester, Massa- chusetts. N A T I O N A L S T A N D A R D Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context. W E B L I N K One of the things I love about teaching is making a connection between projects and real life. Student work, clockwise from top: Jose A., Raymond, Laynanie, Lyanette.

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