mid-year musings from the elementary choice studio

This photo gallery shows student work completed in the last six weeks.  With three snow days to interrupt our flow, students nonetheless have shown great focus and persistence in creating original works in a variety of media.  My students are working hard to prepare work for our annual art show on March 31 in the school gymnasium.  I am starting to receive artist statements from some of the fourth through sixth grade students which reveal more about their thought process and intentions.

The architecture block center is popular with select children, primarily but not exclusively boys.  With the addition of animals, the blocks can be transformed into a zoo or animal world.  Built structures from our oak unit blocks have included long roadways with ramps, towers, bridges, tall buildings, fortified houses, zoos and other enclosures.  The line drawings students complete after building help them to see the structure in a new way, interpreting it in lines and shapes.

Easel painting is a popular choice for painters.  The easel functions as a “space of one’s own” (to borrow loosely from Virginia Woolf,) which allows children to screen out distractions and focus on their own work.  I have a few children who choose to draw at the easel.

Our focus for demos and five minute museums in February is the element of color.   We are exploring how color can be an expressive force in artworks and a powerful presence in our world.   The first thing I asked my classes to do is to look at the colors of their clothing.   We looked at the color wheel and reviewed color relationships–triads, opposites, and color families.  Now we are looking at the work of Impressionist and post-Impressionist painters as well as student work to examine how artists use color for expression and to enhance their imagery.  The reproduction of Marc Chagall’s blue house sparked conversation about color vibration when opposites, or complimentary colors, are placed together.  The blue house and yellow grass in Chagall’s painting make a vivid example of this phenomenon.

The collage and construction center is going strong.  Mixed media construction occupies many children with the challenge of combining materials effectively to express an idea.  Many children request cardboard boxes to build small dioramas, houses, and other worlds.  When I am out of small boxes, I encourage students to use a cardboard base and build it up with construction paper, oak tag, and other materials from the construction center.  It is more work this way but children need to practice paper construction skills.  The plain truth is I simply cannot keep up with all the requests for boxes.

Students like to furnish their constructed environments with elements made of clay or model magic.  For the first time I am allowing children to paint recently formed wet clay (it is the Mexo White air hardening clay.)  Thus far, the tempera paint is adhering to the wet clay surface and staying there when the clay dries out.  So often, students are in a hurry to get things made.  I usually ask them to slow down a little with clay, but I’ve been a bit more flexible these days.

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