Our First Nature Study

Our elementary students each collected the coolest, most interesting leaf they could find. Note:  The youngest children did not know that clovers,  palm fronds, and grasses were also leaves.

Inspired by John Muir Laws and the California Native Plant Society  curriculum,  Opening the World Through Nature Journaling – we traced,  crayon rubbed,  measured,  and described our Florida leaves. We explored page 5 of the field guide. It was fun,  and the results were amazing. Here are a few samples.

First grade
5th grade

Backdoor Garden

Cone flowers and Lupines,  Prima Confections Tropicals, 6×9″ Canson XL 140 lb. Watercolor paper

Trying out some portable paints, sketchbooks, and water brushes for our summer travels, I am attracted to April flowers. My neighbors are probably just wondering why we put off mowing.

Pale Violets in the Leaf Litter,  White Nights watercolors, Bee Creative 8×8″ marker paper, Aquash brush

English Roses Backdoor Garden,  Prima Confections Tropicals watercolors,  Bee Creative 8×8″ marker paper

Nature Journal Curriculum

This time of year most teachers are evaluating and adapting their curriculums for next year.   I am really excited about videos from John Muir Laws for my own plein air painting and sketchbook journaling, and this led me to a free resource from CNPS.  Law’s naturalist expertise is evident in this free curriculum from the California Native Plant Society –

Opening the World through Journaling: Integrating art, science, and language arts 

http://johnmuirlaws.com/cnps-curriculum .

 I am sampling the lessons and learning so much for my own nature journals.  I hope to also teach some of the activities during camp this summer, adapting for K-6, and then integrate with drawing from life lessons during the school year. I usually match my lessons to the curriculum whenever possible. Yeah STEAM!

The finished works being collected for our Academic bowl are great.  Insect wireframe and tissue sculptures with exoskeletons!

Bird sculptures, paintings,  and pencil drawings.  We also did some ocean creatures in clay.  I wish I could share them all.


Screens and Stencils for Little Ones

This week we tried modified screen printing in kindergarten and first grade. We made some modifications to help the littles understand the process better, so this is more of an introduction to stencils not actual screen printing.

1.) The children fold a half sheet of paper in half.  They can cut shapes out of the fold to create holes in the paper.  We introduced symmetry by unfolding the cutouts and seeing how both sides match. Demonstrate how an ice cream cone cut becomes a heart, and a number three cut becomes a butterfly. Save these pieces. My kiddos use half pizza boxes (tops) to catch messes like clippings and paint.gyp

2.) The children have a strip of paper and scissors.  Show them how to cut squares and rectangles,  then cut corner to corner to make two triangles from a rectangle.  Older children can also round off the corners to make circles and ovals.

3.) Children lay the pieces on a colorful sheet of paper (We used 8 1/2″ x 11) as they like.

4.) Using strips of mesh wall repair tape (it looks like screen and is lightly sticky on one side) to hold the pieces in place.

5.) Children dab tempera paint on their shapes and holes,  making sure to cover the edges.  Use a paintbrush,  sponge, cotton ball, etc.  A small sponge roller or large geometric stamp is more like printing, but can be difficult to manage with large groups of children. Avoid very wet paints that soak through, and dab to prevent paint being pushed under edges.

6.) Lift the ‘screen tape’ off to reveal the painted design.

7.) Optional: Glue the ‘prints’ and the negative shapes on the tapes to a larger paper. (We used 12 by 18 inch sheets.)

We did real screen-prints on paper in 6th grade. The winning designs were printed on t-shirts.










I love my students, and their art!

Today started out strange with a schedule change to a different weekday for my K-6 kids,  then they started making wonderful art!

This is the beginning of our sculpting unit;  Kindergarten and 1st grade created animals from play doh and then drew their animals, 2nd grade added spacers to their fruit cutouts to add dimension to their fruit bowl painted collages,  3rd through sixth did cardboard sculptures of animals, insects with exoskeletons,  and birds.  In art club after school,  a 7th grader reimagined two discarded canvases into her own creations (student names redacted for privacy; please do not reprint without permission) .

Next week we will be painting our sculptures and finishing up the 6th grade screen prints from last week.

I love,  love,  love watching these guys and girls turn a demo,  some pointers, and a few prompts into works of art!



Helping school children impact their environment through Art

Clean waters make for a healthy environment. Conservation lessons trickled down to kids putting their favorite sea creatures on the wall and thanking God for the responsibility to take care of them.

We love living close to nature, and everyone is learning how to keep trash (especially plastic) out of the waterways.

Our winning mural design of a coral reef was created by a second grader whose parents are scuba divers. He painted the first layer of color after chalking the outline. His little sister added a pink starfish.
Our winning mural design of a coral reef was created by a second grader whose parents are scuba divers. He painted the first layer of color after chalking the outline. His little sister added a pink starfish.

These last few weeks have been a STEAM-y mix of science, community  responsibility, and art. We also learned about how drawings on a basic shape or stick figure are like sculptures on armatures and shaped fillers. Composition became a key lesson when choosing from hundreds of student submissions.  The winning design of a lively coral reef was chalked on the wall by a second grader whose parents scuba dive.

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Chalk and markers for the rough drafts on Thursday.


Puffy paint for a coral reef lesson in first grade..


Air dry clay for a coral reef lesson with older students (grade 6).


Silhouettes emphasized a clean water lesson for third grade.

Trunk or Treat

img_20161030_170246I think these events are a great for the community and encourage children (and adult) imaginations. This ocean theme was my favorite booth setup this year there were very imaginative corals. I helped at this one, and when the candy ran out my son and I made balloon fish from the sea anemones.



Big Eyes

img_20161027_053928With a community art show and an ocean mural project this month, the entire school is excited about art. This inspired one generous benefactor to donate a hoard of foam egg cartons. I am now test crafting ways to use them in the classroom. I prefer to reduce, and reuse foam and plastic products, although they often accumulate more plentifully than we can repurpose them. These crafts are a good way to build 3D art thinking skills. We also like layering, pop ups, and puff paints to get away from flat paper while still being easy to store.

This week pairs of cups are hot glued to paper plates as fish eyes. Maybe you need eyes for something else, and the paperboard backing makes them friendlier to kid glues. I used the end of a glue stick dipped in acrylic paint to dot the pupils.


Some other ideas I have tried are crab claws and side legs, turtles, two types of flowers (daisy, rose), but I used hot glue because white glue did not holdthe slick foam.



img_20161014_114805I get a little feeling of joy that my son cooks and holds his cutting board like an artist’s palette.

While we mourn our friend Daniel (5/21/2000-10/10/2016) -forever 16- my son and I also treasure this day we have with each other. Please pray with us for Daniel’s mom and dad, sisters, and many others blessed to be loved by him.

This is the sunshine my teen son and I enjoyed together today.



Which way is up?

I made mannequins for my K-6 art classes  and transformed an abstract painting I did not like before. Now I like it upside down and sideways too. The working title is “Lazy Susan”.

Mannequins edited, resized and assembled from http://elementaryassistant.com/2014/08/13/poseable-jointed-figure-paper-template/  and inspired  by the excellent positive vs negative space ideas at http://arteascuola.com/2013/06/an-articulate-manikin/ & http://arteascuola.com/tag/positive-negative-space/.

The background was an experimental draft for Iris Beholder.