Tag Archives: art

What Students Love: #writeout

As promised, here are some of my students’ poetry inspired by Lee Bennett Hopkins’ City I Love.  (For more details, check out this previous post.)

Even before pulling out City I Love, I launched the idea of writing about place by reading All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan and Where Am I From by Yamile Saied Mendez.  Students then created heart maps of the places they love (ala Georgia Heard).  By this time students were excited about the places they love, eager to tell each other and me all about them.  But instead of diving right into the writing, I asked students to “map” themselves.  I tried to keep this direction pretty broad, letting students take it in any direction they wanted.  These watercolor and black sharpie marker masterpieces are the result!

This map is a wonderful map creature by H.

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And his poem:

Morro Rock I love

Looking at the dormant volcano 

The fish swarm in the water 

The sound of the sea gulls

The smell of the salty sea.

Casting a line

Getting the bait 

catching the fish.

It’s just sitting in place

Day after day

Year after year

For hundred of years.

Walking on the beach

looking at the fish and crabs

and looking at the ocean scenery

Sitting on a dock waiting for a fish

like waiting for a train.

 

And a pineapple map by I.

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And her poem about a very special bench that honors her grandmother:

The Bench I Love

 On the bench I sit at

      Bench I love 

I watch the flowers flowers flow 

As the birds glide slow as they pass by their home

Through the palm tree garden I go 

Past the great sun’s glow

On the bench I sit at

Bench I love 

I sit down and watch the tide curl 

Up & down it will go 

On the bench I sit at 

bench I love

The breeze flies past my hair 

And chases the ocean’s salty waves

On the bench I sit at

 bench I love

I sit down and inhale

Look up and exhale

And a horse map by S.

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Accompanied by a barn poem:

Barn I Love

Barn I go to

barn I love.

Horse smelling wonder beyond city.

Gallops of emotion. Races of hearts.

Barn I go to 

barn I love.

Each morning a sweet smell of hay .

Each night a thankful nay.

Barn I go to 

barn I love.

Morning wet covers the arena.

Full of playful horses running.

Barn I go to 

barn I love.

Stardust black mares galloping in the cold moon.

 Sunset colored  butterflies leave at the end of the day.

I told my students that I would use my blog to amplify their voices (our vocabulary word from last week!).  I know they will appreciate your comments.  And know that these are just a glimpse of what my students created as they thought about the places and activities that matter to them.

How are you celebrating writing in your classroom, in your home, in your life?  #writeout

                      

Temporary: NPM 2019 Day 30

30 poems in 30 days…poof, April is done.

Today’s poem was inspired by the art I saw carved in the sand on my walk today and the power of fleeting experiences.

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Temporary

 

Swoops and swirls

scratched in the sand

transform the expanses of low tide

into a canvas

 

The view from above

reveals a seascape

nautilus shells and giant kelp

dwarfing people who mill around

brushstrokes along the shoreline

 

Like voices spoken into the wind,

laughter shared between friends,

the magic is elusive

rising tides erase each mark

washing the canvas

into the sea

 

Though seemingly temporary

art experienced,

laughter shared,

words spoken

leave trails in our brains

and on our hearts

 

A canvas wiped clean

makes space

for reimagined creations

interactions with

space, time

sand and sea

 

Temporary

is time enough

to make a mark

 

©Douillard

The Art of Learning: Day 27

Art is essential to learning.  I like to integrate it into all we do in the classroom.  Art takes many forms: writing (like the poetry we’ve been composing), music (singing and dancing), and of course, the visual arts including painting, drawing, photography…and today, clay.  Art seems to release inhibitions and increase confidence when students have the space to fail…and to iterate.

We’re lucky at my school.  We have access to clay, glazes, and a kiln to fire the products we make.  But as the classroom teacher, I have to have enough confidence and knowledge to teach the skills and processes to my students.  And I am no expert.  I talked with the teacher at my site who is in charge of the clay materials and kiln about working with clay, the ideas I had in mind, and then used the internet to further explore possibilities.

Yesterday I showed my students my ideas for our clay project and a short video demonstrating the techniques they would use today.  And today, I pulled out the clay and the creating began. Students created pinch pot ocean creatures.  The room hummed with creativity and imagination.  They supported each other, they accepted feedback, and they worked independently. They know that disaster might be around the corner as our creations hit the kiln…and they are hopeful.  We’ll try a second iteration on Monday.

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Clay

 

Earth offers

her treasures

damp soil

a malleable medium

shaping ideas

creativity

possibility

hands molding

smoothing, crafting

cool earth

warmed through manipulation

giving life

to expression

embodying imagination

forming tangible objects

as earth

becomes art

 

Douillard 2018

And a student poem about earth’s bounty:

The Artichoke

Dragon scales tough and sharp

An artichoke with leafy greens like dragon wings

Flapping high in the wind as it soars

To a new spot with its dragon-like head.

Kai

Art and earth…and of course, day 27 of poetry!

Stories in Glass: Reflections on Making and Learning

Intense heat and human breath give shape to these vessels. Twirling, pinching, another breath, back into the fire, working and reworking until art emerges from what was once sand and rock. Is this what makes us human? The ability, the desire, the necessity to make…to create from the materials around us?

Evidence abounds, from cave paintings to stained glass creations, super-sized cloth installations that line valleys and islands and spray-painted graphics on the sides of railroad trestles and freeway overpasses. They all suggest a need to make and mark our world.

A visit to the Chihuly glass museum in Seattle served to pique my interest in this question of making and art. I love an art museum and had heard from others that this was a museum worth visiting. I had seen photos of glass art and had already visited a glass studio, just down the street from our favorite donut shop in Seattle. Yet, I was prepared to be underwhelmed, to see beautiful bowls and other vessels, delicate blown glass creations too pricey for my budget.

Instead, I walked into the first display and was mesmerized. My eyes were drawn to the white: shiny glass lighting up a dark room. Long stalks of lighted glass protruding like shoots from irregularly shaped bulbs. As in nature, the irregularities were an essential part of the beauty as this stalk curved, that bulb leaned. It was impossible to see where one piece ended and the reflection from the shiny black floor began, creating a sense of infinity that stretched the exhibit well beyond its actual size. This wasn’t a piece of blown glass that I was enticed to purchase, this was an installation of many glass pieces arranged and lit to create an effect. I was drawn to the description “…created by simultaneously blowing and pouring molten glass from a stepladder to the floor below…electrically charged by argon and mercury…” I stopped to take a picture or two, knowing that I would want to look at it and think about it again and again.

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I moved from space to space, now intensely curious about what each turn would offer. In one room an enormous sculpture twisted and curled to the ceiling; fish, octopi, and other sea creatures nestled within it. In another, the room was bare…until I looked up and found a glass ceiling filled with individual pieces that together created a stained-glass effect of intense color and variation. When did glass bowls and balls morph into something more: stories in glass, sweat, heat and breath?

I find myself thinking not just about the exhibits and sculptures, but about the maker and making behind the art. I’m a maker too. As a writer and blogger I use words to pull ideas closer so that I can think about them, poke and prod at them, turn them over and look under them, and invite others to look along with me. As a photographer, light becomes my medium to inscribe meaning through my camera lens. And I know that ideas in my head often don’t come out through my words or my lens in the ways I intend. But that, for me, is part of the allure…the seduction of making. I surprise myself with new understandings born from moving my fingers on the keyboard or ducking under the bench to get closer to the weed growing along the crack in the sidewalk.

I’m reminded of Seymore Papert and his theory of constructionism. In this theory, different from constructivism, learning happens when the learner is engaged in a personally meaningful activity outside of their head that makes the learning real and shareable. The activity could be making something tangible like a robot, a puppet, or a model bridge—or it can be something less concrete like a poem, a conversation, or a new hypothesis. What’s important is that the making come from the learner rather than being strictly imposed and directed from the outside (from a teacher or an employer). This element of choice and ownership often propels the maker to tinker and improve their make to meet their own criteria for better, allowing for reflection and reworking based on that reflection. This self-directed making can be a challenge in the classroom.

Traditionally it is teachers who direct and make decisions about student learning. So it’s important to create spaces that allow students to see possibilities beyond their own experiences, yet still offer choice and opportunity for experimentation and iteration. Chihuly’s first experience with glass blowing came from a college classroom assignment that required him to incorporate a nontraditional, non fabric material into a weaving. He wasn’t directed to use glass, but may not have experimented with glass without the constraints and possibilities of the assignment.

Making is about transformation. Transformation of materials, like glass or words, or images through a lens. It is also about transformation of thinking and ideas. And it begins in playfulness. Mitch Resnick of the MIT media lab describes a cycle of learning (and making) based on his observation of young children. Beginning with imagination and spiraling out to creating, children make and learn based on their ideas. As they play with their creations and share the ideas and creations with others, they have opportunities for iteration and reflection on their experiences, which leads them back again to imagine new ideas and new projects to work on or ways to improve their original idea.

I could see this in Chihuly’s glass creations. Elements of one sculpture showed up in new ways in another, chandeliers hanging from ceilings in one display turned into bigger and more elaborate free standing sculptural elements in another. And yet, each also showed new thinking—about color, about translucence and light, about placement and size, about cultural references and interactions with the larger world. I watched a few videos that included Chihuly’s reflection on his work where he talked about how his experience with a particular exhibit gives him vision for the next. I was particularly interested in the garden beneath the Space Needle in Seattle and its origins. I learned that this space, formerly a parking lot, was a blank canvas for Chihuly, something he—in collaboration with the landscape architect—could transform to allow others to see the beauty of his hometown in new ways, to expand their experience beyond the glass into the fairyland where light and glass and flowers and bees play with the backdrop of Mount Ranier and the Space Needle. Chihuly’s reflective videos helped me see and understand the spiral of experience and design and how it propeled him to new ideas and new thinking about his chosen media.

Photography is like that for me. I find myself looking at my world through the lens of my camera, and instead of limiting my view, the lens draws my attention to details of light and shadow. I see the variation of blues in the ocean waves and the foamy white of the lacey breakwaters. The white head of the bald eagle catches my attention and I watch, rapt, as it dives and swoops and then soars into the trees. I have many photos that are not taken, where I’ve missed the moment because I moved too slowly, had the wrong lens in place, or simply had to stop and wait and watch. But those missed photos become inspiration and information for tomorrow’s attempts. As I imagine, make, share and reflect, new thinking emerges and my understandings transform.

I want this for my students too. Opportunities to make and create new understandings, to transform the world as we know it. Learning, like blowing glass, needs to nestle close to the flame—the flame of needing and wanting to know and understand—and then the learner takes a breath and blows out and maybe even includes the breath of another to add dimension, depth, and diversity. Learning needs to be shaped by the learner, to expand beyond basic facts and figures and matter in the world, and in the world of the learner. Learning needs space for reflection and nudging from co-learners and outsiders—and teachers and employers—to expand the realm of the possible. Maybe we need a museum for visitors so they can walk through the breathtaking beauty of learning at the hands of those who learn best: children.

Rather than pushing children to think more like adults, we might do better to remember that they are great learners and to try harder to be more like them. –Seymore Papert

Weekly Photo Challenge: #Make Art

Some days finding a photo to take and post is a challenge.  Most of the photos I take are “found”–meaning that I don’t stage them other than moving around to get a better angle or to change the light.  I seldom arrange things or stage a shot.  But yesterday was different.

First, I was thinking about the idea of re-mediation, a concept being explored in the second make cycle of the CLMOOC.  My photo-a-day prompt was shadow…and I had just gotten home from a full day at the Summer Institute.  As a break from working on my #beachpeople documentary, I grabbed my camera and headed outside to look for a shadow opportunity. Nothing was grabbing my attention–the shadows I noticed seemed ordinary.

That’s when I decided to pick a dandelion puff.  As I looked at it I wondered how I might photograph it in a different way.  I thought about blowing on it…but couldn’t figure out how to hold it, blow on it, and photograph it at the same time…and where would I get shadow from that?  Instead, I started holding the dandelion out to see how it cast its shadow.  I tried the sidewalk, the side of the house, my car mirror, and the shiny paint of my car.  I had to work to get the focal length of my lens right so some portion of the shot would be crisp.  I took a number of shots.

When I headed back inside to study my work, I noticed some interesting images…but I wondered if I might re-mediate them in some way.  I rejected my go-to apps and started to explore some that I seldom use.  PicsArt caught my eye–could I transform this experiment into something that looked like art…rather than a photograph?  (I do think photos are art–but I was looking for something that looked less like a photo and more like a painting or some other kind of art.)

Here’s what I started with–the original, unedited photo.

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And here’s the art I made as I re-mediated the image.

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I love the resulting image–the crispness of the near dandelion and the echo from the shadow.  I might need to print this one and hang it in my house somewhere!

So, make some art!  That might mean playing with some new editing apps, staging the perfect scene, or maybe even catching someone else making art like I did on today’s beachwalk!  (Love catching #beachpeople in action!)

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You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!)

I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #makeart for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

So grab your camera and make some art!  You make the rules…and feel free to re-mediate and let your imagination run wild!

Enormous Smallness: April’s Photo a Day Challenge

Photography reminds me to appreciate moments, to slow down and notice light and shadow, a fleeting smile, the graceful curve of a limb and the reflection in a mirrored wall.  Another blogging photographer I admire, Joy of Joyfully Green, just today said, (photography) “…literally lets me stop time for a split second.”

There is something enormous about capturing the smallness of moments–making time stand still–so we can look more closely, study the details, and savor what is often unnoticed.  Paul Strand (among others) did that with his photography.  A friend of mine recently gifted me with some Paul Strand photo postcards from the recent exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art…and I am inspired by the simplicity and grandeur of the everyday moments he captured.

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And I borrowed the title of this post from the title of a picture book I ordered today about the life of ee cummings–a poet who captured enormous smallness through his poetry.  It seems fitting to celebrate the special qualities that photography and poetry share during April…typically a month that celebrates poetry (at least in schools).

Just this afternoon I was mesmerized by the buds on the orchid plant that nearly didn’t survive some time outdoors during our recent kitchen remodel…and the afternoon sunlight highlighted the enormous smallness of these emerging blossom.

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And this tree that grows near my driveway often appears in photos when the sky catches my eye…like this sunrise a week or so ago.

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Sometimes the enormous smallness is found in places where I share experiences–and food–with friends and family.  And the people who accidentally appear in them serve to enhance that quality, like this photo of the Shake Shack in Washington DC…

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or this from the inside looking out from Milk and Honey in Baltimore.  (I like the way the words are reversed since I was photographing from the inside rather than the outside.)

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Sometimes it’s in the grandeur of the mirrored high-rise that I notice the reflection of the neighborhood…

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or the durability of historic architecture that reminds me that there is much to be learned by reading the world rather than solely depending on books.

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Then there is the interplay of past, present, and future in our nation’s capitol–the place where government resides, but doesn’t live.  Our laws and values are enacted in our neighborhoods and cities, but there is something about buildings like the capitol building that remind us that what is national is also local.

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And in my local community where this historic movie theatre still hosts first run films, a place where people gather in the shadows of those who settled this area before the streets and infrastructure that we take for granted existed, we see that our lives interact with those who came before and will influence those who come after us.

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So April’s photo-a-day challenge is to seek out enormous smallness, the beauty in the everyday, the complexity in simplicity, making meaning of seeming chaos.  If you need them, here are some prompts to get your started:

1. April Fools

2.  history

3.  place

4.  outdoors

5.  new

6.  family

7.  work

8.  poetry

9.  laughter

10.  inside

11.  misery

12.  in front of

13.  behind

14.  tears

15.  life

16.  tired

17.  energetic

18.  writing

19.  fear

20.  house

21.  wheels

22.  doors

23.  nature

24.  advocate

25.  old

26.  near

27.  eyes

28.  food

29.  small

30.  enormous

So for April, find the poetry in the everyday…be on the lookout for enormous smallness. Pick a single photo to post each day or create a gallery of your efforts. Post a photo or gallery each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts. If you would like to expand your exploration, write the poem or the story of the photo, compose a blog post about a photo, a week’s worth of photos, write a photo essay, or make a video or slideshow. You are invited to create a pingback by linking to this url or post your blog address in the comment section. It’s fun for me to see what others are doing with the same prompts I am using!

You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life. You can post your pictures in the order of the prompts or post the one you find on the day you find it–or make up your own prompt for the day or the week! You get to make your own rules as you seek out your own enormous smallness. Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them!

Appreciate those moments…and be on the lookout for instances of enormous smallness in your life.  I can’t wait to see what you capture through your lens!

In the Spaces Between

Between the ocean waves and the shear drop of the cliffs is a stretch of beach…at least when the tide is low.  This was the perfect setting for a walking, photo taking, trash picking up meeting today.

There’s something wonderful about between-ness.  Meeting between activities we love and see as rewarding, walking this stretch between water and road, noticing the sun between the clouds, feeling the sand between our toes.

And today’s walking meeting ended with a wonderful, playful find…sand castles decorating the spaces along the cliff wall, tucked into small caverns, some close together, some standing tall and separate from the others.  This felt like performance art as I spied a couple, almost hidden, sitting up above this temporary work of art.  Were they the artists?  Perhaps…but either way, they enjoyed our delight in the sand castle find.

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cliff castles

close up castle

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