Thursday, October 23, 2008

Student Art: Overlapping

Sometimes I'm at school until 6:00 or later, but I still can't help feeling like I'm the luckiest teacher alive!... fortunate... blessed. Whatever you want to call this feeling, I am happy in my classroom, with or without the students. I stay late some days because I'm hanging up the students' work. It's my gift back to the school.
The above photo shows the second Fall Trees display I've hung in a week... this one is missing the apple pictures. The paintings and drawings were done by kindergarteners (the single tree) and second graders (three trees reflection). This display I hung right outside my classroom... I had been returning the work to the teachers when the students finished their art. Then I started thinking, I should have something to show what's going on in my room out in the hall. I never get tired of looking at their work!

Third graders have just completed a project featuring a new skill and concept they've been learning: overlapping. This is their introduction to the idea of how and why artists use overlapping. In this lesson, they learned how to show overlapping. They were given nearly free choice regarding the colors they chose to color their picture. Most of them chose to use bold broad tip markers. I taught them how to make the strokes with the marker so their lines would be smooth. They used common household plastic lids (and other 'circle makers' that I've been saving just for this purpose) to make circles of various sizes.

The most difficult skill these third graders had to learn was drawing a straight line with the ruler. At the introduction to the project, I asked them how many knew how to draw a straight line with a ruler. Nearly all raised their hand. When it came time to draw the lines, I discovered that maybe a handful could indeed wield the ruler and pencil properly. It's a lot more difficult than you'd think, and for a third grader, it was definitely a skill they honed while drawing their lines. They are developing and strengthening fine motor skills with this one!

This student got around the ruler problem by not drawing so many straight lines. Clever little kid!

When you see the results, you'll see why I wanted to hang these in the first grade hallway... that's where my class is. I want to see the paintings and drawings when I walk down my hall... I'm not going to be greedy! There are five third grade classes... I just want the work of one of them near my room.

The colors are unretouched... I took the pictures with no flash... see how bright they are! Our next project is to make 3D glasses. Nothing gets their attention and makes them go "WOW!" like seeing their own work with 3-D glasses... each will make their own pair. I got the idea at last month's art teacher meeting.

This one above truly captures my interest. The student actually did not follow the rules I gave at the outset of the assignment, but look how balanced it all is. She demonstrates overlapping, but adds her own sense of line and color. I didn't make her do it over... she proves she understands overlapping. It looks great. This is natural talent sprouting in my room! I'm just providing the tools, a little motivation, and teaching the skills... and the rest comes from them.

Below is the display in its entirety. It looks so good, I'm thinking of staying late again tomorrow night to hang another!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pond Reflections

Carly at Ellipsis posts the Monday Photo Shoots at her blog. I decided to join in this week because I don't usually take part in these blog assignments. Usually it's because I don't have a photo ready to post that fits the topic of the week, and I don't have time to go in search of that special photo.

But this time, I did have a shot. In fact, I could probably fill an album with them. Pictures of our koi pond from years past. Memorable years that all seem like a dream now. The pond has been filled in for two years, and I've even gotten used to the front yard without it. I think I spend less time on our front deck because the pond is not a part of our landscape... the beautiful fish, the lotus, the water lilies, and water hyacinths, the cattails... the nightly summer chorus of frogs, and the snakes... I miss them all.

A grassy lawn has replaced what used to be a refuge for wildlife. Not that a grassy lawn doesn't provide a home to countless species of wildlife, and the woods that surround our yard and home are filled with all sorts of mammals and reptiles. But I do miss the fish. They were beautiful, graceful, fun to watch.
You would have loved it. They were the closest I would ever get to flying.

I used to post pictures of our pond nearly every month, the changes it showed through the seasons... it was fascinating to watch as the years passed.

If you have some Reflections to share, stop by Carly's and get the details.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I found a real Tribble today!

What is this?
Are you asking yourself that question?
I didn't know either, until I looked it up on the internet.
I love the internet! Beats any encyclopedia set, hands down!
I found this little guy crawling on my dining room table this afternoon.
He came in with a basketful of leaves I had collected earlier... an art project to be... the leaves, not this furry critter.

I did a search on "furry caterpillar." Nickname happens to be the Tribble caterpillar, or the Puss Caterpillar. You can see why.

I knew better than to touch the little guy (or gal, who can tell?)
Generally, I have found, that when a critter looks very unusual compared to other critters in the same family, like it's more colorful, has more striking features, or is unusually bright red or furry, it could very well sting you. That's been my experience... so don't touch these amazing little critters that look as cute as a kitten!

Even if it looks as cute as a Tribble. But it isn't a Tribble. It's a Megalopyge Opercularis. That's the scientific name for the Southern Flannel Moth. Apparently they are pretty common around here in the south and east. I didn't know that, since I've never seen one before. I read that their sting is very painful.

Well, you know me... I took care of a polyphemus caterpillar two years ago... for six months, and it emerged a beautiful Giant silkworm moth. I took the Tribble critter and put him in an insect cage to take to school... maybe it will cocoon like my last one did. I'll keep you posted. I don't know a thing about this critter, but as with the Polyphemus, I will learn as I go.

I do have a fondness for, at least, a fondness for Star Trek. Here is a YouTube video about the time Captain Kirk discovered what was wreaking havoc on his ship. This is my first blogspot video post, so I'm holding my breath as I hit the publish button.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bridge Reflections on a Fall Day

I was researching an author on the internet today when my friend Alyson called.

"Put on your shoes and let's go for a walk!" she said. The sun was shining... my other choice was to clean my refrigerator.

I hung up the phone, put on my shoes and walking clothes for the cool air (60 degrees), and headed up the driveway. She met me at the stop sign up the road, and then we headed for the bridge.

As we approached the bridge, a country neighbor across the creek appeared on his side of the road. We waved and hollered hello. Alyson and I took careful steps across the metal I-beam to the other side of the creek, and introduced ourselves to the neighbor. His dog and Alyson's dog greeted each other nose to nose, then did all the other obligatory sniffing that dogs do. Eventually their neck hackles laid back and they romped about the mounds of straw covered dirt and rocks like old friends.

Recent rains have left the bridge site wet and muddy. Piles of new wood lay strapped amongst other materials on the sides of the road. Two huge cranes stand like silent sentinels guarding the concrete posts and beams. I'd like to visit on a day when the bridge builders are out here, to hear the sounds and see the mechanics of the equipment hoisting and lowering, digging and pulling, spinning and groaning... I think it would be interesting to watch. I've never watched a bridge in the process of being built. Just seen the results when it's done. I'm beginning to appreciate what bridge builders do as I watch this bridge appear from week to week.

While the dogs chased each other playfully, the three of us stood and admired the construction of the bridge, and wondered at how much higher it is than the old bridge was.

We've all gotten used to the new dynamics of having a closed road nearby. The Neighbor said that a lot of folks, who don't know how far down the road the closed section is, use his driveway to turn around in because it's the last driveway before the bridge site.

From our side, we have to deal with speeders (45 mph speed limit) who don't pay attention to the Road Out signs... how do you miss those enormous bright orange and white signs, anyway?? And there's the issue of the detour for us... those living on our side of the bridge have further to drive to get to work.

Thank goodness the price of gas is down to $3.99 a gallon this week!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Fall Display: Student art, and Visual Journaling

It took me a couple of afternoons to get the pieces up, but it was worth it.

The single tree drawings are from a kindergarten class (a combination of oil pastel and crayon drawing). The apple drawings are from a first grade class (oil pastel). The three tree reflection (watercolor) is from a 2nd grade class.

At first I was just going to hang the kindergarten tree drawings in one of the main halls of our school, but then I remembered that one of the first grade teachers had not yet hung up her students' work, the apple pictures. I asked her if she had sent them home. She said no, but she wasn't sure where she'd hang them. I suggested she let me hang them with the other drawings I wanted to display, and she was thrilled.
When I hang a display, I don't just tape them to the wall... I mount them on poster board first... to give them that framed effect.

Well, while I was hanging the K's and the 1st grade drawings, I thought about the 2nd grade watercolors that were finished a few days earlier. I had not sent them back to their classroom yet. So I asked their teacher would she mind if I hung them with this other display, and of course, she was more than glad to let me do it.

As I hung them, and I hung them all from all three classes... I did not leave anyone out... I heard many positive comments from the teachers and parents that walked by. Many were surprised that the drawings and paintings were from the younger students. A couple of people shared their childhood memories of when they loved to draw and paint, and how they wished they hadn't stopped.

I hear that a lot now that I'm out. I say I'm 'out' because there was a time I didn't tell people of my interests and talents. I kept it hid from most people. Only my closest friends and my family knew that I could and would draw. I didn't tell people, I think, because when some people find out about one's talent for drawing, they will either ask you to draw something for them, or they will tell you what you should be doing with your talent rather than what you already are doing with it. I learned the hard way. Just keep it to myself.

But that was me when I was younger. Younger meaning under 40 years old. I've got a better handle on it now. People know, and if they do try to tell me what I should be or could be doing other than what I already am doing, I don't hear them. I do it with a genuine smile, and nod my head, but I don't hear them.

The other people, the one's I enjoy speaking to the most about what I do, are the ones who confess that they always wanted to draw, but quit. And they don't remember why they quit.
The conversation then opens up for me and I offer my ideas about why some people let their interest in art go the way of childhood toys. Probably someone (close to them, a parent, a teacher) deflected their aspirations with well-intended criticism which did more harm than good. In high school other more demanding interests took over, like dating, sports, and hanging out with friends who didn't like being reflective. Or their parents couldn't afford to buy the materials and supplies they needed or wanted. As adults, they became overwhelmed with the process of getting degrees (serious degrees... "not many people make good money as an artist, you see"), finding jobs, earning incomes, paying bills, and raising families... too much to do, not enough time to pursue something as trivial as art. Who were they trying to kid??? They weren't good enough... they remembered when someone long ago told them they'd never be an artist because they weren't good enough.
Inevitably, somewhere in that monologue, my words strike a familiar chord, and they start sharing their experiences with art. And their desire to pursue it now that they're older, with more time, less bills, kids are grown and moved away, and they even can spare a few dollars to buy the supplies they need, maybe take an art class.

Yesterday that happened. I was speaking to a woman who stopped to express her amazement with the children's art, and a conversation soon followed, it wasn't long before I discovered that she wanted to draw and paint. I suggested she get back into it... she could join an artist group or take classes at the local community college.
I talked to her about visual journaling, how it helps an artist get in touch with her dreams and express her ideas and images... her creativity... even..., no, especially her spirituality. The inner seeking we often turn away from when facing worldly problems. I showed her one of my visual journals... not many people get to see inside them, but I do open up for those who seem (to me) to be coming awake to their own inner seeking. She said it was something she would like to do... the visual journal... and after I talked with her, I thought to myself, I would like to get back into visual journaling myself. I haven't done it in six or seven years.

There are many ways to approach visual journaling. My first experiences began w ith Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way. Here's an excerpt of her book if you are not familiar with her work. I didn't have time to write all about her, or the book, but I think I provided enough links to get you started, at least to find out if you'd be interested.

You might also consider illuminating your paper journal. Often the journal entry will inspire you to create a page of art. Other times, something you paint or draw on your journal page will allow you to access deeper thoughts, and lead to a totally unexpected journal entry. Here's another link for some ideas on how to get started.
This is definitely a topic I could write about extensively, but that's enough for tonight. Have any of you taken up visual journaling? How did you use it? Are you doing it now? Let me know.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fall in the classroom, and Dixie Classic Fair

Fall is in the air. It's not quite as fall-ish looking as the watercolors the second graders worked on this week, but it's getting there. Temps are cooler... the skies are blue and clear.

Steve and I took advantage of the pleasant weather and a Saturday with both of us home. What to do? We haven't visited family living in the foot hills of North Carolina since Christmas. It was time to pay one of his brothers a visit. We drove to King, NC to visit with my brother-in-law and his wife.

Saturday evening the four of us drove to Winston Salem for the annual Dixie Classic Fair. It's been over 30 years since we attended the Dixie Classic... I think we were dating the last time we walked the fairways, rode the rides, and played a few games. The Dixie Classic is huge (they get about 325,000 visitors each year during the ten days it's in town)... the second largest agricultural fair (I imagine the Raleigh State Fair takes the first position) in North Carolina.

It was late afternoon when we got there, and we stayed until almost closing time... the sights and smells can't be beat. I enjoyed checking out the gourd entries by the kids. This photo to the right shows what some kids made out of apples. Check out that buffalo apple! Cool.

Food... the big draw at the fair for me. I love the smell of country food... the barbecue, the sausage, pepper, and onions,... the cotton candy, popcorn, and peanuts... then there was this vendor who sold apples covered with everything sweet and salty. I didn't buy one, but I did take a few pictures. To share with y'all.

I don't know how I resisted, but I did. I made up for it on Sunday, though, when we stopped at some candy making shoppe in the mountains, and I bought six chocolate truffles. Six, and I haven't eaten a single one as of this evening. I'm saving them for a moment I can savor them... as a treat for not eating a lot of junk food all week!

I don't plan on eating the truffles all at once... maybe one each week!

A young man was stacking cards in the vendor hall... he was in the middle of building the skyline of Winston Salem... not a house of cards, but a city of cards! His name is Bryan Berg.

I found a YouTube video of Bryan working on the Rhode Island State Capitol.

I enjoyed walking around the fair, taking in the sights, sampling the fare, and spending time with family.

My BIL and SIL live closer to the mountains than we do, and they're about a ten minute drive from Pilot Mountain. On a clear day, Pilot Mountain beckons the hiker in me. But we didn't go hiking on Sunday.

Instead, we embarked on an old fashioned Sunday drive for Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Floyd County, Virginia. The day was perfect to visit this old mill. It used to be a gristmill and sawmill, owned by Ed and Lizzie Mabry.

Something else I've noticed about this blog... the spaces between paragraphs keep growing with every added photo...editing takes a very long time here at blogger. Much longer than it ever took at aol journals. And I don't see any features allowing us to embed a YouTube video, so I'm going to check into that... one day.

I like to begin and end my entries with photos of students working on their art, or at least a sampling of what they've done. That's how I'm going to end this entry.

Do you find it hard to believe that the artist is a second grader?
Even if the reflection doesn't line up with the trees, it's still a nice painting! I found that the most difficult concept for them was to paint the tree reflection directly under the tree. That may be a perceptual development thing... I'm going to look into it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Apples for the Teacher

Apples! Everywhere there are apples in the first grade hallway. The first graders have been eating apples, applesauce, and apple pie, writing about apples, what they look like, feel like, and taste like, and reading about apples. Their favorite story is about Johnny Appleseed. Do you remember when you were their age and first heard the story of Johnny Appleseed?

In my classroom, they drew an apple in oil pastel. I showed them two red apples the first day... one was real and one was a fake I bought from Wal-Mart... have you seen fake fruit lately? It's amazingly real looking. The kids could hardly tell them apart... I could hardly tell them apart. We looked at the shape of the apple, the color variations in the skin, the placement of the stem, and the little shiny spot where the light reflected.

It took them about four 30 minute sessions to get from start (put your name at the bottom of the paper, now flip your paper over so you don't see your name... etc) to finish (we talked about the qualities of their drawing, about how they blended blue and white in the background). We discussed colors of apples, how they are not all red, and not all shaped the same. For the purpose of the lesson, we all drew the same apple.

The vigorous manner in which first graders color lends itself easily to the smooth rich color of oil pastels. The result of all their 'scribbles' in the background, which I encouraged, is an impressionistic style of painting. The kids don't know that yet, but their parents will appreciate it. The main focus was that they learned how to blend two colors with oil pastels by laying down a dark hue (blue) and applying white on top. They are beautiful to see as I walk down the hall.

Thinking about those first graders drawing this apple, now that I'm sitting at home in a quiet, relaxed environment without the distractions of managing a classroom, is quite different than what I was thinking about them as we drew the apple in that classroom environment I was managing. (I'm chuckling as I write that.)

Before I started teaching art (this is my second year), I pictured my classroom as being a peaceful refuge where students would fearlessly explore their creative urges, yet where they would sit attentively, listening to every direction and instruction I give them. Not only listening, but in this fantasy, they actually followed up and did what I asked them to do, in the order it was given. Yes, it's a fantasy that I strive to realize every day.

Yet, when the lesson is over, their work is done, and the teacher hangs it on the wall, I stand back and admire what they did... and I remember individual students, how one broke his oil pastels on purpose one day and I had to send him back to his classroom... how one girl was more interested in tipping her desk over, and another who thought she was finished coloring and started playing, and knocked her oil pastels to the floor. I recall stepping on oil pastels after I distinctly remember telling them to check the floor for pastels on the floor near their desks and chairs.

As the recollections pass before me, I also remember a student saying in surprise "Look! White and blue makes light blue, Mrs. Gilmore!" and another saying to a pal "Your apple looks beautiful, Shana." My mind preserves them all, like mini video clips... kids bent over their drawings so intently coloring that they don't realize I'm standing in front of them watching; the image of them as they walk into the classroom and see their papers and bags of oil pastels sitting on their tables... music playing somewhere in the background. The looks on their faces... a generous gift ... parents and friends have wanted to be a fly on the wall to see those faces.

Teachers, once in awhile, get to be flies on the wall... I count my blessings every day.

I dedicate this entry to teachers all over the world, in all types of classrooms.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wanderer is now an archive at

YES! The pages of Wanderer from AOL journals made it through the transfer to blogger. I just found out tonight. I am grateful to AOL journals and Blogger for making this move possible... and for rescuing me from having to save all those entries manually (three years' worth!) to my external hard drive. Ugh, that would have taken ever so long to do!

I was worried that the Wanderer hadn't made it. I had tried two days ago to transfer the journal using the links provided in the journals email, and at Magic Smoke. The link took me to this location:

There is also this link:

Many of my videos and pictures from the first year did not make the transfer, probably from the way I was dowloading pictures, or importing them... but I'm not too concerned. The main substance of the journal came through, and that is why I am pretty excited.

If you happen to be a Wanderer follower, here is the link to my blogspot version of Wanderer. I made a final entry to explain its presence here, and to redirect folks to A New Bridge. My new journal home. It still feels like a journal.

Okay, I'm going to enjoy the rest of my Friday evening in front of the television. Tomorrow I have lots to do, and I want to sleep in. I need it bad!

I hope all my other journal friends have made it to blogspot, or their choice of blogging location. I'm adding them to my list of Blogs I follow as fast as I find them.

I wonder how our British friends are doing ... are they surviving the aol journals/blogger transfer? I haven't spent much time reading blogs lately, what with all the attention I've given just to get mine moved. I hope you all will be able to make the move without losing your journals. Let me know where you are!

I'll settle in soon, and start writing regularly once more. Just need to catch my breath!

Leave a comment!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Wanderer is now A New Bridge!

Okay, it's taken me nearly two hours to figure this out. I'm new at blogger. Just in from AOL Journals. I'm hoping to find most of my friends here that have had to move this week. Most are doing it easily, while others are stressed from the time it taking or going to take to make this move.

I'm not a complainer, generally. But I'm allowing myself this one entry to be one. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

You see, my former journal was called Wanderer. I'd had it for three years. I was going to change the name this year, I just didn't know when. This time of transition seems like the perfect time to make that change.

Considering that my very last entry before I discovered I had to move from J-land was about crossing bridges, I took that as a sign. Even Patrick (Caregivingly Yours) in a comment (before anyone knew AOL journals was shutting down) prophetically noted "Paths cannot always be repaired or improved, rather the detour becomes the journey." Amen to that, Patrick!
I began writing about the small country bridge in early August, and rumor (and newspaper report) has it that it will be May before the new bridge re-opens. Although we are now having to drive many miles out of our way to get to work and back home again, my friends and I have decided to enjoy the new attraction by taking walks to check on its progress. I'll continue to post pictures and reflections as the months sweep by.

Just after I had emailed Patrick a response to his comment in my aol journal (I wrote "maybe I'll walk down to that bridge to see how it's going."), my young friend Marlene called and asked if I wanted to walk to the bridge with her and her mother. Her invitation couldn't have come at a more timely moment.

That's just what we did. It was about 5:00 pm, and the sun was 90 minutes from setting low enough to cause problems if I wanted to take some good pictures of the bridge. I brought my camera. We climbed a dirt mountain, admired the great digging machines, a pile of old wooden beams, and wondered if this bridge would be completed before May. We can only hope. The new bridge is going to much bigger than the old one... it is looking like a sturdy highway bridge.
I'm looking forward to seeing the friends I know here, and the new ones I'll surely be making here. I loved J-land, but I am one who generally goes with the flow. And now that I'm here, it doesn't seem like such a bad move after all. I just need to find out how to save all those pictures I had in aol pictures... do we lose those too? I know we lose the ones in Hometown File Manager. All those lovely animated .gif files. Any suggestions from you are welcome.
Alyson and Marlene, thank you for giving me this image to illustrate the direction I (we) should move ... forward, balanced, aligned, focused, and strong.
Funny, we didn't plan it this way, but I knew when I took the picture it was going to be the beginning of my new journal, A New Bridge.
Thank you for being there when there are bridges to cross.