Monday, December 7, 2015

December 2015

First Week:

116 went for a walk on Friday, December 4th. We have been having an unusually warm season thus far this year in Buffalo. In fact, we have broken the record for going the longest into the season without snow! This provides us with the chance to take the students to the Valley Nature Trail to see the changes that came about since our last visit in the fall. We were looking for the changes and to see what rules or laws apply in the community, at the trail and in nature.

The students noticed different paths and paid closer attention
to the factories and buildings, as the trees weren't blocking the view.

These red buds were one of the few colorful sights we saw.

We walked by the old bridges. The students are always quick to guess
that the bridges are from "a long time ago."

They found sand this time.

I took a similar shot in the Autumn, so it will be neat to compare these when
we get some Spring and Summer photos in, too.

We had a great view of the pond at this time of year.

This was exciting! The students found a few pieces of wood like this and quickly
predicted that a beaver lived on the nature trail now! 

Checking out the chewed up logs.
12/4 walk 

Shaytara- there's no leaves. Only sticks and sticks and sticks. 

Orfrelis- Can you ask them to be quiet? I have to say something. I heard something. I heard an animal like “raaaaaa” like a deer.

We hear the squeal of the train. 

Yarelis- it's a train!  It's like the horror movie music. Like Jason. 

Orfrelis- We found an empty factory. 

What do you think it used to be? 

Orfrelis- maybe a chocolate factory?!

With less growth, the kids are noticing more trails than they usually see. They are noticing the industrial buildings now, too. 

We walk by the old bridges. 

Shaytara- I think people lived here a long time ago.
Nairovy- like the 1980s. 
Aixa- a long time ago, like when our parents were two years old. 

Shaytara- it would be cool if there was a whale in the water. 

Shaytara- I see garbage in the water. 

Ericsson and Shaytara- it looks like pizza in the water.
Ericsson- like a metal pizza 

We see a train and Yarilys said its the polar express. 

Yarilys- our toys are on that train!
Kiarelys- Santa Claus! It's Santa Claus!

Kiarelys, Nariam and Shaytara never saw a train before. Kiarelys predicts it will never end. Shaytara says it has twenty cars. We wait for the train to pass and it took a long time but it did eventually come to an end. Then we went back to school. 

Second Week: 
Grade One:

I expect the students will be finishing up with their friendship mural next week. They are going to start brainstorming words and phrases that answer the question, "What does friendship look like?" and the middle part will feature their words, in their handwriting, in English and Spanish.

Melangell learned to outline the boxes using a ruler.

Almost there!

103 Mandalas to Math:

We are almost finished with our pattern and shape exploration. I find it interesting that when I asked them to tell me what they would say to someone else learning to create a mandala like this, most of the students went to the part about working with other kids. They were more concerned with working as a team than the procedure of how they created the mandala. 

Here is a snippet of the dialogue:
D- I see blue triangles.
K- I see purple circles and orange rectangles.
D- I see black circles.
Y- I see red.

What shape is the mandala? 
D- Circle.
What color is it? 

How many purple circles are on it? 
D- Three.
How many black circles? 
K- Three.
If there are three purple circles and three black circles, how many circles are there together?
D- Five?
Let's look again.
They count the circles.
D- Six! 

What do you think of your mandala? 
D- It's all of the colors. It's like a rainbow. 
Y- It’s cute.
K- It's looks pretty and shiny.

What advice do you have about making mandalas?
K- If you be nice together, you be friendship and you have something nice.

First grade completed the friendship mural and it will be shown in the Peace Project art show at Impact Artists' Gallery at Casa De Arte on Elmwood Avenue during the month of February.

Friday, December 4, 2015

November, 2015

This year, we changed my schedule so that I would be working in the classrooms for longer blocks of time. To accomplish this, I lost a documentation period in my schedule that allowed me time to write the blog and focus on the displays in the school. We've also gained a tenth class in the Reggio-inspired program with the addition of a third kindergarten. I love to write the blog, but it's proven difficult to assist the teachers with their displays and keep up with the blog on a daily (and sometimes weekly) basis. I just wanted to let everyone know that if there is less action on the blog, it doesn't mean we aren't producing. Rather, it means that we are very busy and focusing on the children and the environment here, so that the documentation is visible on the walls for them. 

To make up for this, I want to do a recap of what we have been doing for the month of November.

Pre-K: The pre-kindergarten has been working on the creation of 3D sculptures using papier mache. We used a theme of Puerto Rico, as we celebrated the Discovery of Puerto Rico in November. This culture is an essential part of who we are at School 33. Students wore or carried their sculptures in a parade we held to celebrate.  106 created careta masks like the Vejigante wear in the Carnival parades in Puerto Rico.

101 and 103 created the national bird of Puerto Rico, the Spindalis, also known as the Reina Mora. They were asked to look at photographs of the bird to see if they could match the colors and most of them demonstrated understanding of this use of artistic language for a scientific purpose- to teach other students about the Mora by using the actual colors of the bird.

First grade heard the story of Juan Bobo, a Puerto Rican folktale. Then they used visual language to retell the story. They were given the choice of modeling clay or paint. 

Other than our projects for the Discovery of Puerto Rico day, the students have been completing many different long-term investigations. 

103 has been continuing their study of mandalas and math with these geometric shape and pattern mandalas. They traced some pattern blocks, painted them with watercolors and outlined them in black. 

101 completed two of the three murals about where we come from. The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are finished. We are almost finished with a scene from the Valley Nature Trail behind our school, as the third part of this inquiry. 

Kindergarten has been drawing their houses in their other art classes with Ms. Ulak. We wondered what they would think about building a three-dimensional house for the class in the atelier. Using only cardboard and any other material they could find in the studio, they worked in small groups to create their classroom house. It's amazing to see what they think of when you ask them what is missing on the house. We have furniture, siding, doors, roof tiles... It's really been a fun experience. They are working with measurement using objects Is this piece of felt is the right size to be a blanket for the bed? How can I fit the popsicle stick siding if it doesn't fit this way? I'm seeing math and teamwork and problem solving. 

First Grade: 

This is one of those projects that comes along and everything in the universe lines up for us. The students were studying friendship in class. We wanted to tie in symbols, friendship and use an artist from our Buffalo Public Schools Art Curriculum, to create a mural that would tell a story of friendships between the first graders. 

I presented a painting from Aboriginal Australians that showed men hunting a kangaroo. It used only symbols. The students didn't understand the story at first, so we watched a video about Australia and then I showed them photographs and explained who the Aborigines are. The students immediately told the story and identified the symbols in the painting. We then switched to 1980s New York City and looked at Keith Haring's paintings of symbolic people expressing feelings. We talked about how they don't have faces or hair or clothing, but you can still tell what they are doing from their body language. 

The students brainstormed what friendship looks like: 
sharing (toys and food)
high five
walking together
love (hearts) 
having fun (playground, balloons) 

They then tried to draw Keith Haring inspired friendship stories. Each student was given a square to work with and we transferred their drawing onto a large canvas. The students were amazed by this technique like it was magic. They chose the colors pink, blue, purple, yellow, red-orange and green as the colors of friendship.

In their homeroom classes, they learned about friendship and then explored symbols, all while continuing to explore storytelling. The project overlapped in so many ways and is very meaningful to the students.

It's almost finished. In the center, a student will write a quote about friendship. Some students will learn to use a yardstick to outline the squares with permanent marker. This mural will hang between the two first grade rooms and the process will be documented on a panel for display in our Albright-Knox Art Gallery exhibition in June.

Second Grade: 

Both groups have been working hard at Story Workshop. 116 continued and finished up their stories on pirates. The students made connections between "evidence" they found on a nature hike with the legend of a famous pirate from Puerto Rico (Roberto Cofrisi) and then wrote their own stories inspired by what they learned. They also compared and contrasted what makes a person a pirate and what makes a person good or "bad."  They learned to create story boards and learned to use centers to explore their ideas for a story through purposeful play.

118 took the focus in a different direction. After Ms. Chowaniec read a trade book about different kinds of rocks, the students became very interested in learning more about geology. We took a walk outside and the kids each chose a special rock to take with them back to class. The students drew their rock and wrote stories about it. They continued to read and explore stories of geology and the month finished with a visit from a geologist who showed them different kinds of fossils, crystals and even "dinosaur poop" which was the one thing they remembered the most! 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Week of October 26th, 2015

The kindergarten students have been talking about farms and landscapes. A group of four of them came to the studio at a time to look at landscape photographs and choose one to draw. They drew it as a group, choosing areas to work on, discussing colors and lines. This particular example is of the farm in winter. These will be used as backdrops with the animals in their block area, to inspire story workshop. 

The first graders have been talking about symbols, how letters are symbols and reading is simply knowing what the letter symbols mean in that order. They looked at work by Aboriginal artists in Australia and the work of American artist Keith Haring. Using a style inspired by Haring, they created multiple drafts of a symbol for friendship. They shared these with each other for critique and when the design was clear, I showed them how to transfer it onto a large canvas donated to us by a friend of the school, Katherine Vitale. Each student will create a rectangle and in the center we will use a quote about friendship one of the students made during their study of friendship in the classroom.

The theme of pirates is still going strong in second grade. I asked, during story workshop, if there were pirates in Puerto Rico at some point, since most of the children in that class are from Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. Ms. Lopez told us about Roberto Cofresi, the "Puerto Rican Robin Hood," a pirate who helped the poor and defended the islands around which he lived. I brought this group in to teach me about him, because they had already had the lesson in their homeroom and I didn't have the experiences that they had. 

The students taught me all about him and the question came up of whether or not he was a good or bad man. Some students felt he was good because, even though he was breaking the law, he was generous and doing the right thing at a time when the wrong thing was being done by the ruling people. Other students felt that he was wrong because he was stealing and he went to jail. This is going to lead to a compare and contrast about goodness and badness in the homeroom. While they talked, I asked them if they wanted to create a portrait of what they think Roberto looked like, so they looked at photos of a statue erected in his honor in Puerto Rico and photographs and artwork of pirates. Working together, they created this image of him. 

Week of October 19th, 2015

With Pre-K 103 and 106, I've been finishing up with the identity portraits. 101 finished earlier, so we were able to move on with our study of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Buffalo, as part of a unit on our identities and where we come from. I brought a group of four students into the studio and we looked at many photographs of Puerto Rican landscapes. The students chose one and we identified the lines we could see. The students drew the lines on a large sheet of cardboard, one line at a time, with a lot of discussion between them about where the lines should go. They then looked at the colors they needed. I had them start with the building and water. We used horizontal brush strokes, repeating that vocabulary word again. It's turning out pretty well. 

Story Workshop is up and running in Second Grade. The walk we took to the Valley the week prior sparked an interest in pirates. (The students were sure that a sign they found on a tree stump was left by pirates.)  The students have been exploring this theme in their centers, creating ships, characters and writing out ideas for fictional stories about pirates. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Week of October 13, 2015

These are some of the nature mandalas that the pre-k students created with their sorted materials. They found materials using a color wheel and then had to group the colors together when they were creating the mandala. This activity was engaging for all of the students and they were very interested in creating patterns. These two were created in groups of students and then the students had the opportunity to create an individual one of their own. 

We took a walk with 116 and we found that the hornet's nest near the entrance to the Valley had been exterminated. There were still some dying hornets on the nest, so the children, from a safe distance, were fascinated to see the inside of the nest and the hornets moving around in it. On a later walk, Mrs. Christie was able to grab some of the exterior of the nest to show the students and they used it as a natural material for their letter wall collages!

116 found this little tin sign and decided it was evidence of pirates living in the nature trail. From that point forward on the walk, the focus of "What does fall look like?" turned into "What other evidence of pirates can we find?" Emergent curriculum at its best. They found the word "HEL" on one tree and decided it must be the word "help" just unfinished. They found cement blocks halfway buried under the trail. (Jangel- Look at this random stone here!") and wondered if it could be covering the pirate treasure. This is going to be a rich experience if we follow their lead. Ms. Colon is setting up centers to start the students with writing Pirate Stories in Story Workshop. We will collect evidence like scientists and try to study the history of this part of our community. What was the valley nature trail before it became a nature trail? Did pirates sail Lake Erie and the Buffalo River? We plan on discussing this with Ashley Cadwell at his next visit because we foresee so many possibilities of tying in the standards to this rich topic of pirates. 

104 (k) and 106 (pre-k) went on a hike to search for numbers and letters in nature. They decided to turn themselves into letters at one point in the walk. 

Week of October 5, 2015

We have been working with color in Mrs. Bennett's class lately. We noticed that this is an area in which the students need practice. We sorted our loose parts and then we took a color walk! We found leaves and other items outside using a color wheel. (Photos to follow when I upload them from the "good" camera.) We sorted those, just like the loose parts seen here, and then used them for a special project the following week.

 The kindergarten students in 104 went on a nature hike to find letters in nature. We also found that our former swampy pond is now completely dried up AND we found a little clown doll hanging out there. Some of the kids were delighted by the clown and some of them were scared of him. We asked them to tell us about the pond.

Where did the water go?
D- It went in the hole.
L- It dried up. It went under the mud.
T- Someone died over there. Look! A shoe!
Do you think that means someone died?
T- Yes.
J- A bear eat him!
S- Maybe the person with the shoe built that house over there and he died.
D2- I think he died because he sank down in the mud.
They then decided that the clown belonged to the dead man's son, who also lived here and died.

We are finishing up the Identity Project with all of the classes. Here are some shots of Pre-K students figuring out which color to use for their hair and skin tones. We want the students to look closely, like a scientist, when they are using their graphic language, so this is just one example of how they are learning to do that.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Week of September 28, 2015

After spending a few weeks studying lines, I was able to start the portrait process with the pre-k students. The manila paper is the self-portraits they created on the first day in the studio. The paintings are the finished portraits. Our study in lines created such a difference already in how the students look at the world around them and how they use the materials provided to them.

The portraits are coming along nicely. We are attaching the finished pieces to large sheets of acetate and installing them on the windows of the front entranceway to our school!  This way, visitors will be greeted by the faces of all 500+ students who attend Bilingual Center School 33 every time they walk in the door!  Ms. Ulak, the visual arts teacher, is working with grades three through eight, while I work with the pre-k through second graders to ensure that every student is able to create their portrait for our entranceway! 

We have installed one panel so far as a test panel. The students critiqued it with me and I asked some other teachers in the building to critique it with us, as well. We decided that it may need a black border, but we like the transparency of it. I can't wait to see it all installed!