About this Site and Me

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Flower Mound, TX, United States
Hi, I am an artist, wife, mom, gamer and the Elementary Art Educator at Donald Elementary, a sweet and wonderful school in Flower Mound, TX (outside of Dallas). This is a great place to see how we are integrating studio habits with technology and interdisciplinary connections. I also love to share my "wisdom" (Re: Experiences. From mistakes.) about teaching Elementary Art. I love what I do, and I've been doing it for a long time. Creating and teaching Art is what I live for. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Back to School, 2016-2017!

Witness me getting smart, after 20+ years of teaching...

From this, May 2016:

Students spent the last few weeks of school creating collaborative murals to welcome them back to school. The murals were either an extension of a lesson or metaphor based.

These were rolled up, placed in plastic bags and stored in my closet over the summer break. We even had major roof leaks and they were fine.

1st grade is "Floating to 2nd grade!"

1st grade lesson on depth and transparency

Kinder is "Swimming to 1st grade!" Gel markers and imagination.

...last week of school, June 2016:

To this, Back to School, August 2016!

19 Bulletin Boards are covered! Ready for students on Monday!

Quick display promoting our Specials programs. Our Librarian aide did it for us.
 I have 3 display cases.

If you already do something awesome like this, go ahead and roll your eyes. I deserve it. 20 years it took me to figure this out. If not, now you know what to do during the last few weeks of school ;)

Oh, and in case you are wondering from my last post...this summer I read 14 books, finished 2 major oil paintings and started a new painting series (!!!SO EXCITED!!!), caught up on all the great TV shows (Netflix-"Stranger Things", omg), belted out the soundtrack to "Hamilton" and finally learned how to take a delicious nap. Blissful.

Happy Back to School for those starting now in August! If you start after Labor Day...enjoy the break and have a nap for me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

6 days and counting! Summer 2016 is almost here...

Last full week of school for the 2015-2016 school year! HOLY COW. This year flew by.

Sad, empty halls.

My younger grades are creating "Welcome Back" banners for August Back to School using Crayola Gel markers and construction paper crayons. Loving it!

...twenty years of teaching, I finally get smart.

This was a rough year. I need to recharge! I am so looking forward to my fav things: reading fantasy novels, listening to loud music, gardening and working in my studio. 

Part of my garden--larkspur. I LOVE it. 

Gardening in Texas is a challenge. All this was $100 and will most likely die a terrible death. 

Now that my kids are older, I have time to paint. I have a notebook full of ideas, hopefully this summer will be productive. Most likely, I will keep the couch from running out the door. 

Work in progress
Took me all school year. Finished painting: "I'm Not Dying Today-Ophelia"
Oil on canvas
24 X 36

Have a wonderfully restful, joyful and safe summer! See you in August!

Monday, May 16, 2016


 This year, I was lucky enough to receive an LEF grant for printmaking supplies. I purchased more Gelli plates (I had 6, needed 6 more to make a half-class set), splurged on foam printing plates and nice printing papers. Worth it.

Springtime = printmaking for 4 out of 6 grade levels! Yes, it was a messy, experimental and really fun time.

I have already posted about printmaking with Gelli plates with younger kids and all its awesomeness here: 1st grade printmaking-it's how we roll

First up: 5th grade, Plant Study
Inspiration: Japanese Wood Cuts of plants and flowers
Integration: Science

Research. We used iPads and fake flowers. Sorry, I did not have the funds to provide real flowers over a few weeks. That would have been ideal. Also, no gardens to observe. That would have been great, too. Fake flowers were great for observing details and the parts of the flower.

Observational drawings, focusing on texture, details and organic shapes. 

Students traced their sketch directly onto the foam, then used ball point pens to incise. The key here is deep lines and good shapes. The more detail, the better.

You can find foam plates at the Dollar Store, just trim the edges. With the grant money, I purchased Scratch Foam Boards and I really liked the clean, sharp lines and shapes. 

Printmaking Station: when the kids finished drawing, they began printing. The goal was 3 strong prints, but they might have printed 7-8 times before they had their 3. 
They discovered the coolness of ghost prints and some loved them more than their original print. 

With the foam prints, we found acrylic paint was best. I gave them the primaries and off they went. (Ignore that purple bottle...ha) I use Sax True Flow acrylic in Chrome Yellow or Yellow Ochre, Phthalo Blue and Bright Red for wonderful color mixing. Beautiful greens, oranges and purples. 

You can't beat these happy faces.

Some students chose to add color pencil for more color intensity. 

Next, 3rd grade: Gyotaku (Japanese Fish Prints)
Inspiration: Gyotaku
Integration: Science

After seeing videos of Gyotaku artists, we used (again, fake, sorry) rubber molds of fish to create underwater biomes. Not. Using. Real. Fish. In. A. Landlocked. Area.

I have enough creatures to do half the class. The other half has an alternate project. The next week, they switch. That is basically how I manage printmaking with 24 kids. 

Printing "seaweed" with a variety of leaves and grasses.

Added habitat details in watercolor, the fish eyes are so important! For those up to the challenge, I taught them how to add shadows using complementary colors. 

1st and 2nd grade: Plant Mono prints using Gelli plates
Inspiration: Durer watercolor, "The Large Piece of Turf", various examples of plant prints, Gelli's You-Tube tutorials (the kids LOVE these, plus they are quick)
Integration: Science

The kids loved the experimental quality of mono printing. I had a variety of grasses, weeds, and leaves from around the school. On the rainy day, we used fake leaves. It was fine. 

Again, we used acrylic paint in primary colors, allowing for color mixing and experimenting.

I have a variety of papers for printing. I especially love music sheet paper. My music teacher donated the freebies she gets at conventions. Other great paper: scrapbook, copy paper, rice paper. The thinner, the better for Gellis. 

We focused on creating masks (the white areas that are blocked out), which created interesting shapes and textures. After a ghost print (the second pull of a print, resulting in a very light print) the students printed the actual texture of the plants. They were so excited by this process. There was so much time for exploration and experimentation. 
Besides applying scientific knowledge to their art, which was cool to hear, students happily collaborated by sharing their favorite color formulas, grass and leaf combos and their newly discovered EXPERT printing advice.

At the end of class, the first group shared "printing tips" with the second group. When both groups finished, they each selected their favorite 3 prints as their editions. These 3 were trimmed and mounted for display (I only displayed one per kid, as I couldn't display over 240 prints).
Another option is for the kids to create a "Print Book" with all their favorite prints and Artist Statements/Reflections. So many options!

New topic. I need a manicure.

Friday, March 18, 2016

1st grade printmaking, it's how we roll

Printmaking with first grade: foam printing on top of Gelli Monoprints!

First grade: "Texas Wild Flowers" Styrofoam print on top of Gelli monoprints

I received a grant for 12 Gelli plates, which allowed 1/2 the class to print at timeFocus was on exploration, color theory and textures.
Some cool first grade monoprints

The rest of the class was given an alternative project. Each kid was able to print and do the alternate project. 

Monoprinting in action: after the surface is painted, kids added textures with found objects (bubble wrap, cardboard, cups and lids, popsicle sticks, stencils, rubber bands, yarn, anything that could add interesting textures)

So fun and so easy!

Student papers were kept on the chair behind them to avoid smudges.

First grade was studying Texas wildflowers, so we did an observational drawing of a Texas wildflower onto a foam plate (hello integration!). I had a TON of black ink, so that's what we used. Plus, it would show up on top of the colorful Gelli prints. 

SO COOL! And....this was actually the kid's idea: I had thought about using the Gelli prints as a frame, but they wanted to print on top. Many kids planned where the color would show through--very sophisticated planning! White paper was available for kids who did not want to print on their favorite monoprints. These would look cool with colored pencil added. 


Friday, February 5, 2016

iPads in the Art room---using the time lapse function, so cool!

Sometimes a picture is all you need:

(I know what you're thinking: Holy cow, she didn't write a novel! Wow! But really, this is easy. And the kids came up with the idea. Time Lapse is part of the Camera function. We use book stands donated by the Library to hold the iPads in place. These videos can be placed in their digital portfolios or for sharing with family and friends!)

Monday, February 1, 2016

way cool lesson: Chore Robots using Simple Machines

*From the sounds of my last post, I hope you don't think student art making has suffered. Not at all. This post however? Has taken me months to write. 

First off, I love integrating with other subjects. LOVE IT! I love making connections. Dig that "aha" look on the kids’ faces. I feel it adds a rich layer to my teaching, making my lessons more robust. I don't do it all the time, but when I do it, I DO IT. I research our district's curriculum. I align with the standards, use a variety of vocab, check for understanding, and make sure the art lesson is a great balance between Art and ...Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Math, Music, Etc... And if all the planets are aligned and the tides are low and the breeze is balmy, I can even collaborate with the Gen. Ed teacher (Never happens, btw. We try. Never. Happens.).

"Create a Robot that Does a Chore around the House"

This lesson is actually from my *ahem* college days:  a cool lesson on Form and Function, and over the years, it just made sense to add Simple Machines- you've got your Science connection, STEAM connection, engineering connection. This is a great way to teach low relief sculpture (a favorite of mine as I have space issues and cannot house eighty five sculptures in my room). I save cardboard boxes and chop them up, but if you don't have that option, this can be a great collage project.

Love the spray bottle lever!

This particular school year I have dubbed "CLEAN OUT THE CLOSET!" I have been at Donald for fifteen years. I have been gifted with a lot of awesome, expensive-y craft supplies over the years, and I have not been able to use them as quickly as I thought. Such as? Googly eyes. Pom poms. Feathers. Beads. Wooden beads. Sequins. Seed beads. Ribbon. Pony beads. And nine miniature hats. 

Just a sampling of some of our found objects.The doll hair kinda freaks me out, but the kids loved it.

All great stuff, and trust me, when I worked at a school with no budget, would have given my eye teeth for (well, maybe not my teeth. I need those. Who gives away eye teeth these days? And where are the eye teeth even located?). But I admit, these supplies have been sitting around doing nothing for some time. So this project turned into "Found Object Chore Robots Using Simple Machines". A little clunky. But you understand. I just had to pull out the beads and pom poms.

AND THEN, an art teacher friend mentioned Rube Goldberg and I was all like DUH! That's the missing piece! His work connected everything together. Brilliant.

I did this project with third grade, and it took about five-six rotations, from introducing concepts to assessment. 

The kids viewed this video about Rube and we toured his website (lots of great resources for teachers). I created a presentation about Simple Machines, their definitions and then we compared them to a Rube Goldberg cartoon:
Where are the levers? The pulleys? Incline plane, anyone?

After the video, they were so excited to get started. Like, I mean, really excited. I actually crushed their dreams a little when they realized we wouldn't be building a full on Rube Goldberg Machine (my line: That's for when you're in HS or college...)

Step one: Research, Planning and Sketching

Form and Function are related. Students had to select a specific chore, and design a robot to do that function.  I selected some actual Rube Goldberg Contest Tasks: make a hamburger, put toothpaste on a toothbrush, water a plant...plus some of my own...pick up toys, walk the dog, clean a toilet, wash dishes...

They had to use simple machines where appropriate, so we had a lot of questioning: if the robot dispenses toothpaste, where does it live? On the counter? On the floor? How does it know how hard to squeeze? How does it stay clean and sanitary? What kind of simple machines does it need?

Step two: Building the Base

Plan your work and work your plan!

Once they had a working plan, students began to build the base of their robot using scrap cardboard (pre-cut to manageable sizes.). Please note, I use cardboard students can safely cut themselves. If it is too thick for them, I chop it up into smallish shapes.

Those little boxes hold small wooden blocks, brass fasteners and thick, long nails (not a handy woman here) for punching through the cardboard. 

Attaching the cardboard was fun: we used brass brads. I have small wooden blocks, nails and a bunch of brass fasteners. This acts as the screw. Students used the nail to gently push through the cardboard into the wooden block, allowing for a hole and not allowing for punched finger tips. Monitor and make sure they are safe and all your nails are accounted for! Using the brass brads creates levers, so do not skip this. Non moving pieces are glued down.

Step three: Painting and the Importance of Craftsmanship

Who doesn't like a sleek, cool robot? It's all about the paint job. We used tempera and metallic paints. The big conservation was about craftsmanship, and it went something like this:
    "Pretend you are the President of Target (or, Ikea, or Best Buy, or insert-your- robot-purchasing-store-here) and you want to buy a robot that makes lives better. Would you buy it if the paint job was weak? Things were falling off? Sloppy work? No. No you wouldn't. Make this for the President of Target."

Step four: Building the 3D Elements and adding the details

This is where the creativity and imagination really popped, and out came the Found Objects: wire for pulleys, pompoms for controls, beads for power supply, google eyes for, uh, personality. Sharpies for text. We talked about them first: "Yeah, these feathers are super cool. Are they going to help make your robot do its job?" But ultimately, I let them loose and have fun.

Fun use of feathers!

Conscious use of beads here.

Some kids opted for no add-ons, and preferred to draw the details.
Step five: Assessment

Since these are relief sculptures, I had the kids display them on a background paper with their Artist Statement (self-reflection piece). This was purely selfish on my part: it made it easier to display in the hallway. Their name, teacher, and objectives are clearly listed, easy peasy. Looks awesome. Done.

Great 3D elements!

Basic Self Reflection sheet

But then I started thinking...huh...these kids have been so excited about these creations, I bet they would like to talk about them. Duh.

We reviewed the criteria:

  • The robot had to perform a specific function
  • The robot had to utilize simple machines
  • The robot had to exhibit strong craftsmanship
  • The robot has to demonstrate 3D elements
  • And then...someone said, "The robot has to be bought by the President of Best Buy!"
Which made me laugh and immediately led to:

Buyers and Sellers Assessment:

Students took turns pretending to be "Buyers and "Sellers". This assessment activity took about 20 minutes, and I was able to introduce our new project the same class period. They were super excited and on board.

One group of students were "Buyers for *insert store name here*". They had to act the part of a powerful professional, seeking to purchase a robot that will make their store a lot of money and make the world a better place (haha). They had to ask relevant questions based on the above criteria, and then they started asking questions about materials, power supply and cost, which had real world application. It was so fun.

The other students were the "Sellers": the inventors of a robot that took them a long time to make, a creation they believe will change the world, that they have invested time, passion and energy into building. They had to be able to answer the "Buyers" hard questions and make the "sell".

After about 10 minutes, they switched groups. I was able to visit every child and ask questions as well, which was helped with my depth of understanding. Because before I talked to kids, to be honest, I had no idea why some of them built what they did.

The kids loved this assessment and wondered if we could do this for every project. 

These robots are a fun, easy way to integrate Art and Science, teach low relief sculpture, 3D form, STEAM, imagination and creativity, careers, and has real world applications. Plus, it cleans out the closet.