Thursday, May 31, 2012

More Portraits


The children continue to inspire each other to create self-portraits. They sit in the studio  and offer each other thoughts and suggestions. Their  conversation is often about the colors that they are mixing or the effect that they are trying to acheive with the paint. 

Sometimes they just talk about their lives and share the details of their days. Subjects like religion or the best way to pack a lunch are debated as well. It seems that the best conversations arise when the children are working creatively with a tool of some sort in the hands. 

Sydney’s Artist Statement

First I painted myself and then I did the background.  I thought about  “when I am done I have just begun” and I tried to add extra details. I painted my nails and put a lot of jewelry on me.’

I thought about what colors do I like and what do I think about color. I said to myself I like this purple and aquamarine and the green and gold. I learned that when you mix colors it always transforms into a new ones. 

I was thinking about details and more details and not to rush this when I did the background. There was a man who looked very brave on a ginormous piece of paper at the museum (VMFA) and that is how I got inspired to do this.

Melanie stopped by the classroom as Syd reflected and she said that she thought that Syd was probably someone that likes to have fun and is very active. Syd confirmed that this was true. Melanie said that you could learn a lot from a person’s self-portrait.

Fiona worked slowly and methodically on her portrait. She seemed to have a vision that she was working toward. She introduced a technique to the children to add texture to her hair and then later the backdrop. After she painted she used a toothpick to seperate the paint and give the illusion of seperate hair.s 

Fiona  made the discovery that she could start with one color and arrive at a different one. She began with the color she used to paint her stockings.  After adding a darker color, Fiona still felt dissatisfied but when she painted her hand with the newly mixed color it became evident that she might need to lighten it with either a yellow or white paint.

Fiona’s Artist Statement

I thought the hair needed lines and I thought to myself the toothpicks have lines maybe I could dip the toothpick into the paint and make lines

I was going to make the background purple but then I thought I would get tired of it so I added other colors. I made designs on the clothing and then I painted over the top.

I thought about the lips and I thought I don’t frown everywhere and I don’t smile everywhere so I tried to do a medium.

When I look at a mirror at my house I notice the design in my eyes and the dots. They are not just circles they are also ovals that have a corner.

The background (of a self-portrait at the VMFA) did not look like it is suppose to look. It looked gloomy and dark. I didn’t want to do that.

Bella likes to work large, bold and whimiscal.  At one point she entered our  classroom holding her large canvas in front of her. The canvas was shaking  back and forth, creating the illusion that it was dancing.

Bella:  I could wear this as my Halloween costume.

Nolan was dissatisfied with his flesh color, also. He painted his hand and felt like it was to dark. When he wiped the paint from his hand he realized that the remenants matched his skin tone. It was a happy accident.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

If I start at the tree

If we start at the "line up" tree and walked into the Forest is it possible to end our walk at  the "line up" tree?

Oliver felt that  this was possible BUT only if we walked into the forest facing forward and then returned to the school walking backwards.
The rest of the class was either not sure or thought that this was not possible.

We documented our many experiences walking into the Forest. The children expressed the walk in different ways and together compiled a shared language.

What are the landmarks? What parts of the walk held meaning for us? We named these parts and sketched maps.

Several children went to the Studio with Anna to reflect, discuss and document the perspective of their "mind's eye". 
How do the children perceive the path through the Forest? 
What shape does the path take in their mind? 
What parts of  the path resonate most? 
When they recall their memory of the Forest walk what does it look, feel, smell and sound like?

 As Fiona completed her two dimensional map of the Forest walk she asked to begin a "raised map". This work was appealing to others and led us to consider an aerial  viewpoint. 

The path was becoming more defined. 
Was it a circle? 
The children did feel it was now possible to start and finish the walk through the Forest  at the "line up" tree.  

As one learning community we will represent the path one final time. 

Pippin creates the impossible....a circle cavas or perhaps we should refer to it as an  inverted zoetrope (refer to earlier posts).

Monday, May 28, 2012

Neccessity is the Mother of Invention

The Kindergarten  tested their seats. 
They had discovered that they could prop the Ferris wheel between two wooden chairs. They held the axle as they spun the wheel.

But then one day .....the wheel fell off the chair and one of the struts broke. 

The children felt the time had come to design a permanent stand for the Ferris wheel so that they did not encounter this problem again.

The children asked Pippin to come to the classroom and listen to their theories and look at their sketches.

Oliver: We need a stand on each side.

ReeseL We need a big hole and then we can attach the stand to the wheel.

Owen: Rees's idea wouldn't move around. If you put the axle in a letter U it would work.

Dillon: I agree with Owen. We need to be able to take  the wheel out.

Tom: Yeah, so we can fix it if it breaks. 

Oliver:  A pyramid on each side would work

Lucas: That looks like a Chinese A.

Drew: My concern is that it could collapse.

Lorenzo: Yeah like this (He drops into a split).

Lorenzo's design includes roots to stabilize the triangles.


The children know that the Ferris wheel needs to be raised from the ground so that the seats can go circle without touching the ground. How will the people board the wheel? Dillon sketches a staircase.

This is a side view of the Ferris wheel stand. The stand is collapsing under the weight of the wheel.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Who Am I?

Isabel’s Artist Statement

It makes me remember about the studio I went to when I was five years old. My dad was there and he had a friend’s daughter and she had art there that had splatter on it. This is how I did this beautiful picture.

My mom teaches how to write art and tell stories about art. She taught me how to make the paint look artistic. Every color that I mix starts with same color that was in the other colors that I made. There are three colors that I would start with dark and light blue and dark green.

I feel most satisfied about the hair. There are many lines in the hair. The splatters are most of the design but the splatters are the main characters.

We watch as the children enter the K classroom at the beginning of the year. Some are wide awake to the world around them and others are sleepy. It seems to be part of their journey at this age to notice the world and wonder about their place in it. 

How am I similar to others and how am I different? 

The questioning often begins at a surface level.  

What do I look like? 

Later it  shifts to questions that are sometimes harder to answer. 

What experiences or things are easier for me to accomplish than my friends? What are greater challenges for me? 

The children begin to distinguish themselves and also find ways to strengthen the binds that tie them to others.
"I can run faster and farther than you"
"We are twins. We both have short hair."

All of this work prompts many emotions in children. It is both
reaffirming and  yet a sometimes isolating experience.... seeing oneself as a part of the bigger world. 

We have been representing this experience all year. 

Who Am I? 

The representation began at the beginning of the year as we drew our portraits. Leaving detail behind we explored abstraction. How do we define ourselves through color, movement, and shape? This led us to the more personal reflections. 

The children sat and soaked in the art of   Kehinde Wiley at the VMFA They were intrigued by the size of the canvas, the ordinariness of the portrait and  the contrasting background and sword. 

When they returned to school they wanted to represent themselves on a big canvas. Many of them wanted to concentrate on the background.

Kaiya’s Artist Statement

I kind of got inspired to do the full body because of the picture of the man with the sword because there were so many details. Because he did a full body he was able to do a background and that is why I was able to do all of these details.

I wanted myself to be really pretty. I made my body long so I can have a long dress that goes over my feet. I put pretty patterns on my dress, too. I put a lot of my favorite colors in my dress, too. I made a lot of twisty designs in my background and something that looks like a P. I put purple freckles on my face because Isabel said she thought I was growing in purple freckles.  Mary helped me make my skin color. Everyone else had peach color and I have brown skin. W used watercolor crayons for my skin. It was very hard to make my skin color. I also like doing black on my hair because I did not want to mix colors.

I noticed that someone was holding a sword in his hands (in a portrait at  the VMFA) to show that he was important and brave and strong. In one portrait the girl was really fancy and so I wanted to look really fancy in my portrait. I am not really copying that portrait though because that portrait had white skin.

I made a lot of pretty designs in my background. I put my favorite colors like light and dark purple, turquoise, green and gold.  My favorite artist is Frida Kahlo and so I try to paint like that. We studied her when Christine was here.

 Poppy’s Artist Statement

 When you were showing all those pictures of the portraits and their background. There was a little girl in a garden and I wanted to make my background a garden. I don’t think I have ever done so much detail on my face but usually I draw a circle for my head, two circle eyes and a mouth. This time I started with a circle head, oval eyes with points. I added my pupil, my eyelashes and eyebrows. I put some freckles on me and my mouth is open to show my teeth.
 I made my legs and then I made the paint on it. I started with this color paint for my legs and then added white for the socks but then I thought it looked like leggings with my legs sticking .So whatever you think it looks like that is what it is.

Owen’s artist statement

I like to draw and paint. I wanted to make a self-portrait of my head.  I tried to capture the details of my mouth. There is lots of red.  I remember working on my hair. I used pastels. I had lots of stuff in mind My hair is not just straight right here It is kind of bumpy. Pieces of hair stick out here. I worked on my skin with lots of watercolor pencils. I used water to go over the different colors, like brown, red and yellow.

I used the whole paper because I did not want any white space. My background looks like a stormy sky because I like storms It is fun to hear the thunder.

Lots of things that I did elsewhere inspired me. I do lots of drawing at home and that is what inspires me.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Provocation Becomes a Pursuit

Sometimes all it take is a good provocation!

In September, our class went to the Studio, Anna, our atelierista, had placed a record player on a stool. Many of the children did not recognize the turn table.....they had never seen one before. They were open to all of the possibilities of the contraption before them.

Some of the children determined that the turntable looked and felt like a road. So after a lot of messing about the children attached a car to the needle using a wire. It traveled around the turntable and as it did  Reese sang a tune.  It was silly, fun, collaborative and engaging. As one child left the group,  another would join and more would be figured out.

We asked Anna if we could borrow the record player. How could we represent the Trip To Nowhere (the name given to the song documenting all of the potential stops the car could make). 

A circular piece of paper became a game board. It resembled a record. The boys sang the song and the waited for the tired turntable to run out of steam and stop. Would the car park at the gas station, the bathroom, the toll both or the hotel?

Tom thought we should make a fence around the turntable to keep the car from zooming off into the air. They constructed a a new model for the Trip to Nowhere. It was three dimensional and the children seemed very satisfied. The model did encounter some problems but the children were committed to solving the problems.

The children were telling the story through simple automation. The repurposed record player was a catalyst and also the means by which the Trip to Nowhere moved forward. Thestory spinning  reminded several of the teachers of the old zoetropes. 

Nancy, the Meadow Room teacher, had a Phenakistoscope which is very similar to a zoetrope. The children had many experiences with this nifty invention both in the classroom and in the Studio. They sketched their animation and watched as their drawings became a fluid story. It was the spinning motion of the disc that brought the story to life.

The children wanted to create a huge zoetrope. We struggled with this idea. How would we be able to scaffold this intention? 

Cheri, returned to our classroom after an inspiring weekend in Charlottesville.
She had seen a large circular canvas capable of spinning.  It seemed to meet some of the criteria. What would the children think? What story would we convey on the inside of the large zoetrope-like creation.

Pippin, our on-campus woodworker extraordinaire, supported our endeavour.

Let the story spinning begin.

Trial and Error

The Ferris wheel needs seats. 

During the course of many days, we document the children's  conversation, work and decisions. Their work shifts from the design of the seat to the mechanics of the seat and its attachment to the wheel. 

The process of trial and error is powerful. 

The children's "mistakes" and the feedback that they receive from the group transforms their collective understanding of the stability of the seats in relationship to the turning Ferris wheel 

As the children work they list their beginning priorities.

Tom: You need to be able to look at the view.

Oliver: We went on a field trip and now we know about aerial views.

Sydney: It has to be the right size for my stuffed animal.

Isabel: I made my seat so the door opens and you don't have to jump over the side. The seat cushion is soft. I made it look like a bird.

Trial and Error

One by one each child brought their prototype to  the Ferris wheel. Sydney and Tom turned the wheel and as they did the children observed and critiqued the efficiency of each seat.

Poppy: The seats shouldn't go upside down like that.

Drew: If I had a seat belt my passenger would not fall out. 
The children were using wine corks as their passengers. If the cork fell out then they would deem the seat unsafe for their stuffed animals.

Tom: Actually Drew if your seat did not turn upside down you would not need a seat belt.

Kaiya: I think that seat needs sides. It looks like a seat but it is not safe because the cork comes out of the side. I will put a pink wire in mine so the passengers can hold on.

Emerson: Maybe if it goes faster the seats wouldn't turn upside down.

Emerson has a sense that the speed in which the wheel turns impacts the stability of the seat.

As the days of trial and error continued the children's theories became deeper and more constructive. They begin to have more substantial observations...considering the the  spin and the seat.

Tom: I think my chair needs oil. It is too unstable. Oil will make it move.

Sydney: This seat is not stable because it is not attached. It  hits the ground and then just drags.

Owen: Lukas and Drew's seats are wider and so it works better.

Oliver: I just think that my material is too light.

Isabel: The material does need to be heavier.

Dillion: Tom's seat is perfect. When the wheel moves the seat moves. It stays in the center of the dowel.

Owen: It balances like a sea saw.

The children acknowledge that the seats need to be balanced...equal amount on both sides of the dowel. They were familiar with the word "stable" and used it to describe seats that did not flip and cause passengers to be ejected. They are also acknowledging that the seat cannot be anchored to the dowel but rather needs to move.

Owen's imagery comparing his seat to a seasaw was powerful.  It was a shared experience from which they could construct meaning and derive understanding. 

Lukas: Instead of the seat tipping over and hurting the people if it is balanced the seat will swing but not tip.

Lukas understood that the seat must be able to move and cannot stay in place.

Tom: If your seat is not balanced it will tip over and the people will fall out.

They add another word to their shared vocabulary....pivot point.

Drew: The pivot point is where the seat connects to the Ferris wheel.

Nolan: It a point where you balance the seat.