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.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Design Education in the Elementary Classroom: the Cherry on Top of your Art Sundae.

 A few years ago, I noticed an abundance of mandala-inspired graphic tees and hoodies in my classroom. I was already planning to do a lesson introducing radial symmetry to third grade, so I thought: hey, let's use this current fashion as a reference. I gave the kids a job: they were to pretend they worked for Target and they had to create a new t-shirt/skateboard/snowboard design using radial symmetry:

Julianna, 3rd grade

While they worked, I talked about art careers ("Could you imagine doing this as a job? How cool would that be? Most of this is done on computers, so you need good drawing skills!"). It took no time to add Design Thinking to the lesson. I didn't leave anything important out: 
  • I still introduced, reviewed balance, pattern, line, shape and color (radial symmetry = great math integration).
  • I still introduced the proper way to use markers and color pencils, and explained the necessity of high quality design (technique and aesthetics).
  • I still was able to show and explain examples of mandalas (history and world cultures).
  • The kids had student choice within the assignment (media).
I simply started the lesson with a job, a product (the Big Idea, the metaphor, etc.).
Liberty, 3rd grade

Anna, 3rd grade

They had a blast, and they were totally excited about the idea of creating a product for people. These third graders absolutely loved the idea of creating something for others to enjoy.

Welcome to Design Education: the idea of using design to create products to make the world a better, or prettier, place.

Today, Design Education is a THING. What we used to just call graphic design has morphed into a plethora of design careers:

 “Apparel Design, Architectural Design, Environmental Design, Exhibit Design, Fashion Design, Floral Design, Footwear Design, Furniture Design, Game Design, Graphic Design, Industrial Design, Interior Design, Product Design, Transportation Design, etc.” *

Repeat after me, most of the jobs our students will have haven't been invented yet. And we know that the majority will involve creativity, innovation, design. It's crazy, right? We need to get these kids ready to be the creative, innovative designers of their future. 

The beautiful this is that you don’t have to sacrifice anything to add Design Education to your lessons. All you doing is adding another layer, making your lessons richer and more robust. That cherry on top.

Start by looking at your kids. Drive around their neighborhood, look at their community. What's missing? What's a problem? Or use global issues, current events. It all depends on your kids, your school, your community (be sensitive, be knowledgeable, be respectful).

When I taught in an urban elementary school, my kids lived in a food desert-there were no grocery stores close by. The only place to get food- chips and candy really- was the corner store. They also didn't really have playground- it was broken, on blacktop, surrounded by chain link fences. Could they create their own playground? What else could be a part of that space? A garden?

Could you imagine the kids creating their answer to these issues? Collaborative collage murals, paintings, digital art, ceramic reliefs?

And what if this work of art was presented to the school board? The mayor and town council? This art would not only teach the elements and principles, but also community involvement, empathy, creativity and innovation. What would be the long term impact of such a lesson? 

Are stray dogs a problem? How about a dog hotel (never said this had to be realistic!)? Check out the fictitious, “Dog Island" *website for inspiration and a good dose of digital citizenship.

Shoe design is a huge thing right now, especially design-your-own. While you are doing that shoe-based art project, ask the kids what they could add to the shoe design that would help their community or the world. Talk about upcycling, sustainable resources, odd materials. You will be surprised at their answers, regardless of the age group.

Today, in my suburban school, we have three STEAM labs, student iPads and Mac labs. It is easy to include Design Thinking to many lessons. I added Design Education to my Free Choice Centers Challenges for early finishers. From architectural design (create a lakeside restaurant with a fun place for the kids), to creating a dog park, to clothing design for the future. They draw these or build them in Minecraft.

Adding design to your lessons is not about giving up anything, it’s about adding student-led creativity, community and world awareness. It’s about getting our kids ready for a future they create. Who doesn’t want that cherry on top?




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