Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Clay Bells are ringing with second Graders...

Clay Bells with Second Graders!

Completed bells and their " clangers"

Bisque fired ( fired once) and glazed but not yet fired again our transformed pinch pots are waiting to morph into beautiful bells. 

Just in time for the holidays second graders completed their fabulous clay bells. This was my first time firing the Y.E.S. kiln and it worked like a charm.  
Detailing and embellishing the bells. 
Students started by practicing their clay techniques of rolling and making small balls.  We then made larger pinch pots using a technique learned at Rowe School with Mrs. Landry.  We pulled our pots a bit taller and wider than we might have otherwise, checked that our clay balls could fit inside with space to ring as clangers, added a hole at what would become the top but was originally the bottom of the pot  and then embellished the exteriors with designs and texture. 

The bells were then bisque fired ( fired to 1900 degrees over a period of 12 hours to be hard and strong).  We then used artists glazed that added beautiful array of colors to the bells.  I fired them again, this time to a slightly lower temp and what we call a fast burn of 4 to 5 hours. The glazes melt to become beautiful and glassy. 

To assemble the bells adult help was needed.  If you are a parent of a second grader and read this feel free to adjust the order of the clangers; the length, order and number of clangers all effect the sounds of each bell. 

To see the kids faces when the finally got their bells in hand was pretty special. For some classes I had to hand them directly to their teachers as there was a time crunch but for others it was a treat for me. Kids were proud, they were curious about the sounds and very excited to bring them home. I hear more than one child discussing who they might give this precious bell too... I do hope they can ring in the new year for all our Y.E. S. second graders. It was an exceptionally rewarding unit for me.

Some vocabulary we learned in this unit:  raw clay, bisque ware, green ware, glaze ware, kiln and fire.
Oh and I almost forgot we also watched a great Youtube clip showing how clay is mined and refined.  It was fascinating and informative. Ask your child about it. I would be curious to know their take away from it. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Straw Weaving has taken over Y. E. S. like a storm...

Straw Weaving SLIDE Show of 3rd and 4th Grade Weavers:
As we wind our way through the three and half weeks before vacation straw weaving has hit epidemic proportions. Third and fourth graders have now mastered weaving with two straws and are branching out, some to 4, 5, 6, 9 and even 10 straws. I know that many kids are making bracelets, belts and scarves for family and friends and I am struck at the power of being a maker  and a giver and the satisfaction it is bringing to so many kids.  

For the past three weeks I have had an open studio for lunch recess on Fridays for 3rd and 4th graders and its been filled with kids engaging and extending their work.Our passwords for this lesson included such technical words as warp ( the threads that become a tassel and that we weave over and under) , weft ( the yarns we weave with) and PATIENCE,  PRACTICE and PERSISTENCE ( or PERSEVERANCE). ... We discussed how at first even making the two straw loom was hard but kids were patient and trusted they could do it and they did.
 As one child said to me today, " We are going to be sad after vacation when you teach us another lesson and we can't weave any more".... it got me thinking that maybe I should keep a weaving corner open for the rest of the year... we shall see... for now... here is a short slide show of some of our weavers in action... some are from class time, some are from indoor recess.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Straw Weaving has taken hold!!!    
Third grade weavers from Mrs. Colfer's class loving it!

If you have a Y.E.S. third or 4th grader, you may have noticed that he or she has been traveling around with a baggie, straws and bunches of yarn.  This is because we have officially started our ' hand-work unit' and kids are loving it.  If  you are ever wondering how your child might be challenged in art class, straw weaving is a great example of how art can engage many levels of learning, from simple, or not so simple, following of a multistep sequence of instructions, to being able to tie a few different knots, to having a spatial orientation on how to keep the correct direction as one weaves, how to create a pattern, how to notice a mistake and correct it so there will be no holes, and how to engineer the making and deconstructing of the loom. Plus throughout the process of weaving decisions are being made on color choices, how long, how short, how tight, how loose, do you want the weaving to be. 

As I write this update I am reflecting on what a  satisfying  week it has been for me.  My ultimate goal as an art teacher is to introduce kids to ways of seeing and making, and to empower them to want to do it on their own; to build intrinsic confidence and desire. Well straw weaving has taken, especially the 4th grade like wildfire. 
Straw weaving is basically a technique of creating a portable narrow loom, using two to 5 straws to keep the warp threads taught. 
In introducing it here at Y.E.S., once kids got it, they were amazed at how engaging and how much fun it was, how satisfying it is to do hand work, and how relaxing it is. One boy who was particularly reluctant to give it a try, was quoted as saying, " This is actually fun.", and chose to participate in a ' pop up' weaving studio we had in the 4th grade wing, during a recent indoor recess. 

I chose to teach this handwork unit before the holidays in hopes that children are inspired to continue weaving at home, in the car, in a plane, wherever you go during vacation, and also in hopes that a child will feel empowered to make some as hand woven gifts. They make great pet collars, bracelets, thin scarves if woven with 4 or 5 straws. I have extra yarns available in the Art Studio that your child can come in and take from.  

I believe hand-work and craftsmanship associated with it are an important part of a strong visual arts program, so hope you can extend this lesson at home. Straws and yarn is all that is needed. I am sure your child can show you how, but if not, I enclosed a straw weaving instructions with every kit that goes home with a child.  Try your hand at it if you get a chance.
I just did a Youtube search and found a nice site   if you want to get a handle on it, especially with 4 straws.  The versions I saw on Youtube were slightly different than how I taught it but very helpful and perhaps you and your child would want to try the other versions.  If you weave with wool you could actually make them larger and then boil them down to be felted bracelets, something I have yet to try.  Third graders are only learning the 2 straw technique to this would be a way to extend the lesson at home and feel confident on how to do it. 
For the month of December I will have plenty of yarn on hand in the Art Studio but if you have any yarn that is not too thin, that  you want to donate to the Art Studio feel free to send it in with your child. Too thin and its difficult to weave on a straw, same with too thick, so a 'medium' weight would  be appreciated. 
This weekend I went to   Ruth's Recyclables of Portland, an amazing resource of recycled items, that Yarmouth Schools are a member of. Any teacher can get items for classroom use for free at Ruth's if their school is a member. I was able to pick  up 40 skeins of ' fun fur' yarn that is fuzzy, fun and makes for a fabulous texture in ones weaving. I am looking forward to integrating that into the 4th graders weavings this week, and 3rd graders next week. 
Straw weaving in action!