The Yarn Bombed Pumpkin

Pumpkin

Yarn-bombing is a thing. 

Look it up.

This pumpkin is a project that I worked on with my family during the month of October a few years back. Let me tell you, bringing shape to this silly little idea afforded our family with a fun collaborative activity in the busy weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. It was peaceful work. We discovered it was work that taught us about the organic lines of the pumpkin. But most surprisingly, well, this project was scientifically thought provoking. This white pumpkin mummified in orange yarn did not begin rotting until July of the following year. And when it did, it only molded a bit at the bottom. In fact, only when I set it back into the garden at the beginning of the following October did it move well on it's way to dirt.  We enjoyed our pumpkin art for an entire year. And I imagine the dirt it eventually contributed to is not only nutritious, but rich with creative fodder.

 

Yarn bombing a pumpkin is super easy. Here's how:

1. Choose a pumpkin. 

2. Choose a yarn color. I chose orange to cover a white pumpkin but any color will do. 

3. Paint a small section with glue and cut lengths of yarn to cover the pumpkin from stem to base and begin covering the pumpkin.

Continue in this manner until the pumpkin is mummified with yarn.

 

-Kim

Butterflies of Winter

 Butterfly

When the cold of winter nips at your toes, remember summer with its warm, sunny days. While you are remembering, think butterfly. Remember how they come fluttering aglow with complex design—longings and swallowtails, and of course monarchs flitting through our blossoming gardens. Of course there is butterfly activity in every season, but when the rush of flitting color slows in the cold of winter, make a butterfly garden of paper and chalk pastel. 

Here's how:

For this project we began with a goodly weighted bristol, with a bit of a tooth. Pastel paper is best, but costly. Drawing paper will do just fine too. Begin by looking closely at a real butterfly. Next, study the anatomy of a butterfly. Pay attention to the symmetry and the complexity of these wonderful creatures.

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You will need to draw the shape of two forewings and two hindwings onto the paper you have selected. After drawing, you will need to cut out the wings and fold them horizontally in accordion folds. Unfold the wings. Using chalk pastel, decorate the shapes with butterfly details. Smudge some of the color, but leave some sketch marks. Be creative, but try to keep your creativity tied to the butterfly motif.

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Next, cut a thin, very long triangle shape of paper and roll it up like a croissant. This will be the head, thorax, and abdomen of the butterfly. Use a hot glue gun to attach the forewings and hindwings to the body. Finish the butterfly by blending the wing colors to the body using similar colors of chalk pastel. Attach a bit of wire for the antenna. Cut a length of the wire depending on the size of the butterfly you created, bend to a V, add some beads to both ends, and attach to the head of the butterfly with a drop of hot glue. 

Continue this process to create a rabble of butterflies. You will be amazed how wonderful these creatures akin to the real thing will brighten a winter garden window.

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-Kim

Take a Line for a Walk

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Here we are again, First-Days-of-School upon us. All of us teachers are certainly prepared with a hefty handful of academic goals, each comprised of an even heftier handful of learning objectivStill I can't help but smile, as Fall sneaks in from the wings stage right, and Summer exits the wings stage left. I'm in the audience applauding joyfully, overcome with Fall-feelings. And all this smiling reminds this teacher that education is more than the academic goals I have set for the coming year.

Education is looking up in delighted silence marveling that the leaves have, once again, begun to turn gold, rust, and chartreuse.

Education is learning to enjoy process, the process of entering into a great story, the process of engaging with a mathematical problem.

Education is the ongoing engagement with the process of success and the process of failure  

Education is embarking on a journey.

Truth be told, education is a kindred relative of art-making.

So this year let's begin by inviting Paul Klee to teach our students to slow down into their important work.

As students are taught to engage in complicated activities slowly over time, they will begin to recognize that becoming educated is something far more weighty that getting the right answers. Slowing into their important work, students will enter the art of learning.

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Introduce your students to Paul Klee, the Swiss/German artist of the 20th century whose whimsical paintings still take the world by storm, putting smiles on the faces of viewers of all ages.

Paul Klee reminds us that "A drawing is simply a line going for a walk." So let's go for a walk with Paul Klee lines.

Begin this exercise by providing a variety of finely sharpened colored pencils or a variety of colored, fine-tipped Sharpee pens. Have your student first choose one of the line/dot compositions to copy. Begin by showing the student how to trace from one line to one dot with a finger. Tracing enables the student to experience subtle angles on the page and to map out a plan for the copywork. Once a finger tracing is complete, start in one corner of a blank sheet of good quality drawing paper and draw the first "anchor" line with one color. When it is time for a dot, choose another color. For the new line that connects to that dot, choose yet another color. Continue this process until the Paul Klee black and white line/dot drawing has been transformed to a unique colorful masterpiece all your student's own.  Please note, this exercise will take time and is best accomplished over two or three hour-long sittings. It can be accomplished by students young and old, by anyone, in fact who can manage a pencil with a willingness to try.

Finally, keep in mind, this exercise, while led by a famous artist, is not primarily an art lesson. Art is a secondary outcome. This is a lesson in slow attentive observation. It is an activity that will strengthen strategies that will be useful in all academic pursuit. Most importantly, taking a line for a work demonstrates that learning is and should be a joyful pursuit.

Happy fall to all.

 

-Kim

PS … and if you want to try a fun Paul Klee painting exercise, click through  

Tiny Seed / Huge Plant

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Our Earlybird Spring Literature and Writing Discovery Guide features The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. Follow along with the blowing seeds as they land in different environments on Earth in this classic story with its beautiful collage art illustrations. It would be fun to plant some tiny sunflower seeds because they grow into such huge plants!

Take this opportunity to sprout some seeds and research the different stages of development. We put damp paper towels in a see through glass and put seeds next to the glass and watched them sprout over a week. 

Bean2When you do this, you are helping your student engage in multi-disciplinary learning. So go with it… pull out the Observation journal and have your student draw each step of the way. 

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Learning is so fun when it seamlessly WOWs the child!

 

-Sara

Smell the Roses

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Don't forget to stop and smell the roses? 

…oh, wait!

What I meant to say is, "Don't forget to stop and observe the seashells!"

And when you do, ask yourself, "What do I see?"

Notice the organic shape. Look for the complex colors. Do you see the orange and blue making each other sing?

And whenever you observe something, make note of it in your Observation Journal like Marlo does!

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Do you see how she closely observes line and texture and and shape and color inherent to the Nuttalia obscurata ("purple varnish clam")? 

Now you try.

Find an object from nature in your neck of the woods. Journal your observations using words and images.

And don't forget to smell the roses.

 

-Sara 

 

From Question to Quest

Ricketts
Rickettsia is a Monera that is transmitted by Arthropods such as fleas, lice, and tics and can cause harmful diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. This. This particular class of Monera was as named after pathologist Howard Taylor Ricketts

But what is Rickettsia? And why is it a Monera? 

If you are working through our 8-week unit Taxonomy of Living Things: The Five Kingdoms, the week #4 lesson is all about Monera. In fact, during the last 5 weeks of the unit, students will explore the characteristics of each kingdom and then be set free to do some independent research of a representative species. Included in each week's research is the opportunity to practice close observation. 

Close observation is not about developing art skills as much as it is about developing the concentrated skill of looking. The keys to close, scientific observations are to look purposefully, slow down, and keep going. Not everyone can draw like Leonardo, but everyone can draw. 

To begin, the more materials at hand the better. Use a variety of pencils and pens, and always use more than one color. The more details the better. Think line, texture, value, shape, color and always notice the relationship between the five.

And if getting started is difficult, look to someone else and ask, "What did they do?" Take a few minutes to look at Marlo's Rickettsia. What do you notice? What types of lines do you see? And what is the quality of those lines (thick to think straight, curved, jagged, dotted)? How does she make use of color? Texture? Value? Shape? And so on. Make a list and incorporate those qualities in your drawing. Be sure to label all parts and make notes as necessary. 

I hope, in the end, you are noticing all the questions involved in doing research. Science, after all, is an adventure that begins with a question and culminates in a quest. 

 

-Kim

Trick and Treat

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For the past 30 days we've had bones on our minds. I don't know about your neighborhood, but mine is sporting bones on every lawn! And bones make me think of art. And when I think of art, I think of Leonardo da Vinci. 

So how is it that Leonardo tricks us into believing that this 2D drawing is 3 dimensional? It looks more like he's carved those cranial cavaties, right? But it's just a mass of lines, textures, values, shapes. That's all. 

Da Vinci would say it begins with observation: "All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions."

Beyond that, the magic word is simply this: work.

You know the old adage: Practice makes perfect. Turns out it's true. When it comes to tricking the eye, only the tenacious succeed.

That's where YOU come in (yes, you).

Truth is, anyone can draw.

So why not try? Let Leonardo guide you. Start by asking yourself," What exactly did he do with line, texture, shape, and value? Grab a pencil, an eraser, some quality paper and get cozy (art does not happen in a flash). And when you think you're finished, set the drawing aside and come back to it later with fresh eyes. I'm sure you'll see something new to add, some small space to revise. Keep going. You'll know when your drawing is complete. And when you know, you'll see. Your drawing will be a treat to the eye ready, like Marlo's, to mark your initials.

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Happy Birthday Antonie van Leeuwenhoek!

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It began with a hefty dose of imagination, a glass pearl, and some strands of fabric.

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the very first microbiologist never intended to be the world’s first microbiologist. He was actually a tradesman who had never studied science!

From the time he was 16, he apprenticed in a linen-draper’s shop. Soon he became a merchant because he worked diligently. He developed a fascination for the small world that our eyes alone cannot see while working with fabric, using pearls of glass to observe the fine weave of linen.

He developed more than 200 microscopes during his lifetime and made many important discoveries including the first observations of bacteria which he called “animalcules” in 1674, “animals so small, in my sight, that I judged that even if 100 of these very wee animals lay stretched out one against another, they could not reach the length of a grain of coarse sand”.

During his lifetime, he made many discoveries and observations that he carefully documented and illustrated. He died a very old man who accomplished his important work, a work that inspired generations to follow in his footsteps..

So what better way to celebrate the birthday of this man of science (October, 24, 1632) than to create a close observation of something from the micro-world? You can begin with a microscope or, because we live in the 21st century, a Google image!

This amazing drawing of cocci (bacteria that can lead to diseases such as strep throat) was done by former apprentice Marlo. What makes this observation incredible is the detail she included. So did she complete this in 15 minutes? No way! Do you think it took over an hour? One sitting? Two sittings? The answer is unknown. But I can say with certainty that Marlo dedicated sincere concentration to this accomplishment. The reward is, well, obvious!

Anyone can create an observational drawing, think Dory’s song: “Just keep swimming!”

Collecting Echinoderms

Echinoderm

If you are adventuring through our brand new unit, Taxonomy of Living Things: The Five Kingdoms of Life, meander with me for a moment…

Echinoderm? Whoever said, "It's all in a name," sure got it right. Echinoderms got their name because they are spiny-skinned marine animals. They possess radial symmetry, and many possess 5 arms (or multiples of 5). Sounds oh so scientific, but we've all seen these animals- sea stars, urchins, and sand dollars. 

 
Why not begin an echinoderm collection like we did to get a closer look?  
 
It's easy to collect real echinoderms if you live near the ocean. But if not, you can purchase the skeletons of these familiar creatures easily enough online. 
 
With a collection you can observe intricate details and similarities between species. You can also observe dissimilarity. You can record your observations with drawings and notes in an observation journal. So have a look see, you'll be glad you did. And after you do, explore the poetic possibilities here. 
 
 
-Kim

Head in the Clouds

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Before the observing begins, explore the science of clouds. The invisible air around us contains droplets of water we can not see until they mingle above to form a cloud. This formation is the result of warm water on Earth evaporating and condensing in cooler pockets of sky above. We've all interpreted the shape of clouds, but scientists have categorized and named them. There are cirrus clouds and cumulus clouds and others too, and there are variations in many combinations: altostratus, cirrocumulus, cumulonimbus. 

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Now you are ready to explore. Over the course of many days, observe the sky, making little sketches of what you see. You will discover that no two clouds are alike. Clouds may have similar attributes (puffy, streaked, swirling), but from there, when you look closely and really think about what you are seeing, the similarities disappear.

So how do artists recreate clouds in two-dimensions? They begin just as you've begun, by looking. Using chalk pastels is a fun way to capture the essence of a cloud on paper. Begin by sketching your cloud shape in white, then begin smudging shades of blue in your sky space and tinted white. Sometimes clouds have bits of pink, yellow, blue, even purple, look closely. 

With a handful of chalk pastels, a small stack of 3 x 5 rectangles of bristol board, an aerosol of spray fixative (to spray on completed drawings so they won't smudge), pre-cut mat board, and your head in the clouds, you too can create a wonderful little museum of clouds.

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