Sunday, December 13, 2009

Art Caravan of Learning

Last Tuesday, I got to be part of the "Art Caravan of Learning", which was a day-long professional development experience that involved traveling to five different schools in HISD to observe art teachers during their class time. I was asked to be one of the hosting teachers, and taught a lesson to a fourth students who were working on their recycled birds and in the process of adding details such as feathers and color. The day was an amazing opportunity we art teachers hardly ever have - to see our fellow art teacher comrades IN ACTION! There were about 12 of us who traveled to the schools, and all of us felt that our time spent on the "Caravan" was one of the most valuable professional development days we'd ever had. Another bonus to the day was eating lunch as a group. There were so many amazing ideas being shared between professionals, collaborative brainstorming, and plans for further connecting and networking. I had not met most of the teachers on the tour, and I am so glad I now know them. I HIGHLY encourage teachers everywhere to talk to their administrators about organizing something similar. The day takes some flexibility, careful planning, mobility, and a little bit of schedule juggling, but it was SO worth it! Just wanted to share with you a bit of what we saw on the tour:
We started by observing Mr. Michael Bourquin at Sylvan Rodriguez Elementary School. He is one of the best art teachers I know - my mentor, collaborator, and an extremely passionate, imaginative, visionary educator. He recently started his own blog, so be sure to check it out! He was in the middle of a watercolor unit, and taught a lesson on wet and dry painting techniques with a group of all male fifth graders. (At Rodriguez they split the fifth graders up by gender, and apparently it works wonders!) Mr. Bourquin concentrates every year on a different major theme. Last year was "portrait," this year is "landscape." Based on the amazing exploration on the theme of portrait last year, I KNOW that the students are having all kinds of cool experiences learning about and creating landscapes in a variety of ways. There are some amazing plans in the works including a field trip that will allow students to photograph around Houston so that they can create original landscapes of their own city! Mr. Bourquin's room is chock full of inspiring books, materials and work stations. I also really loved the watercolor cups that hold brushes and water (see above.)
After Mr. Bourquin, the teachers and I traveled to BRIARGROVE, where I taught a lesson to fourth grade on adding feathers and other details to their recycled material birds. Here are a few images of the "birds in progress" from Tuesday:
The students used paint, fabric, cardboard, Styrofoam and all sorts of other recycled materials to add details that will make their birds more similar to the real ones they are studying. I was so proud of the way my students worked independently (and safely - we are using hot glue, after all!)
Next, we traveled to Lovett Elementary and observed Mrs. Beatrice Graham teach a lesson on building human figures out of aluminum foil. Mrs. Graham puts a strong emphasis on art history, and boy do her students know their Greek mythology! The conversation she had with her students at the beginning of the class was so engaging and incisive. Mrs. Graham had a great relationship with her students and such a sweet demeanor. The students discussed the David and Michelangelo's inspiration and techniques for creating his famous sculpture.
Then, the students created their own sculptures using aluminum foil. Mrs. Graham discussed the use of natural resources as art materials. Michelangelo used marble; the students used aluminum, which, though it is processed, comes from metal found in nature. The students really liked these connections! She taught her students a simple technique for creating figures out of the foil. Once the figures were made, they could form them into any pose they wanted. In a future lesson, they will be applying these sculptures to a scene that tells a story. Mrs. Graham's hallways were lined with beautiful works of art, it was so fun to take a look around!

We finished our elementary school observations by visiting Mrs. Penny Howell at Horn Elementary School. Mrs. Howell was teaching a lesson to first grade on color-mixing. The students used watercolor pencils to create an ice cream cone. They combined each set of primary colors on a different ice cream scoop, then mixed all three colors together on the cone. After creating the drawings, the students then used a brush and some water to mix each color together. It was fun watching the students see the color-mixing-magic happening right before their eyes!

Mrs. Howell had a great energy with her students! It seemed like a fun environment for the student to create in. There were lots of colorful works of art hung up around the room. I loved the ones hanging by the window! Mrs. Howell's room was arranged with large tables stretched out into long rows. Each student has a great amount of work space!

We ended the day by visiting Bellaire High School. The teachers at Bellaire were happy to show us around their classrooms and tell us about their program. It was really different being around high school students, but we found that our goals and experiences with our students are very similar. We all care deeply about our students having meaningful experiences in the art room. We want to give our students the skills and confidence they need, and facilitate worthwhile opportunities for original art-making and exploration.

So many interesting, creative, skillful works of art! So fun to visit a high school art class!
What a wonderful day. Thanks to everyone who invited us into their classrooms! Thank you so much to Ann Sledge who organized and coordinated the day, and to all of the administrators who encouraged and allowed us to participate! I hope we get to do this again soon!


Katie said...

I do an ice cream cone lesson just like that!

the photos are all beautiful..looks like LOTS of fun!

Debbie Weymouth said...

Thanks for taking us on the tour! What a fantastic idea. Now I can't wait to try it with my preschool teachers. There's something very special about teachers sharing ideas with each other! I applaud your administrators for making this possible.

Mr. Ted Edinger said...

I love this idea!!! I need to see if we can get something like that going here in Nashville!!! I took a professional day a couple years ago to do that...loved seeing the different flav. brought by other teachers!!