Fall Whirlwind

Nature mandala created on a sunny September afternoon, after a lesson on radial symmetry.

In September I had thought that I might be able to post weekly in my blog.  At this point…I’m lucky to be getting in a post for October.  Last Thursday night I had written a lengthy post and was editing it when I received a phone call.  Apparently my session timed out, because all that I had written suddenly evaporated not to be retrieved.

An example by a kindergartener of student exploration of materials in the choice studio.

At the end of September I attended the Washington Art Ed Association conference at Highline Community College near Seatac.  I had a great time at the conference getting inspired to try claymation, testing out Gelli plates for monoprinting, and learning about altered books and sand sculpture.  I also made a presentation on facilitating a choice studio learning environment which went really well! And of course one of the great parts of the day was chatting with colleagues and meeting some wonderful new people!

The first weekend in October was our local fiber arts festival.  On Friday night the Museum and Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness valley had an opening party for the fiber arts exhibit.  Three of my art quilts were accepted into the juried exhibit, and I was pleased to see that there were entries from all over the US and even two from an artist in Manitoba, Canada.  The following day I demonstrated my techniques for creating objets d’arte and sculptures with plarn made from recycled plastic bags.  One of the other demonstrators was a spinner and I decided to take a spinning class.

This month in my spare moments I have been practicing my spinning with a drop spindle, and yesterday I learned to spin using a spinning wheel which seemed very magical.  I kept thinking about all the fairy tales I used to love to read as a child which revolved around spinning.  I also used online tutorials to learn how to wet felt, and taught my fiber arts class the basic technique too! It’s been a fun fibery month!  Now that I’m spinning I want to knit, which I haven’t done since I was a teenager. It’s kind of cool that we are going into the cold weather months so I can settle in for some indoor crafts.

A few of the sockpet buddies I've had fun creating from old socks and a few trimmings!

My other passion that’s been developing for about a year is socks.  I saw a book on sewing stuffed animals from socks, and had to try it. Last winter I made one sock animal and then over the summer I made five more.  Now this fall I’m teaching kids basic hand sewing and how to make their own sockpets.  My classes have been intense because the kids need a lot of individual help.  I would have gone bonkers if it hadn’t been for the great parents that have volunteered and been such incredible assistants.  So today when I was on an errand at the store buying some cat food…..what did I see but all kinds of great, new, colorful socks.  I succumbed and came home with some wild new socks so I can make some more sockpets for holiday gifts.

In my choice studio program my morning and afternoon groups have really been exciting and challenging.  As I am working with kindergarteners I try to start the year off slowly teaching basic studio procedures and offering a relatively limited range of supplies.  My morning group is quite small and has three boys that participated in the program last year as 5 year olds, and now again this year as kindergarteners.  They have been asking about adding additional media as they remember all the great materials we had over the course of last year.  One asked about the melted crayon center and another about the blocks.  Because this group is small, the kids really listen well, and are doing a great job setting up their workspace and cleaning it up. I am going to start broadening the selection of choices.

I’ve titled this spaceship “mischief maker”, because cardboard tubes caused a bit of mayhem in the afternoon kindergarten choice studio. This past week I followed up on their emerging curriculum interest with a demo on a method for connecting a cardboard tube so it can be attached to another surface with maximum surface area to create a sturdy construction.

My afternoon group on the other hand is another kettle of fish.  I have to minimize teacher talk and it’s very difficult to have an in depth discussion of a topic because most of them just haven’t developed the stamina for focusing for more than what feels like a few nanoseconds!   Our studio space is a shared space and sadly the room has recently become a bit of a dumping ground for the other folks that use the facility.  So…one boy spotted a recyclable plastic water bottle and asked if he could use it to make something.  Though drawing and collage materials are  what I’ve limited the choices to, I thought what the heck, and he made a Halloween decoration with it.  Then another boy spotted a bag of cardboard tubes and asked for one.  I didn’t think it would be an issue so I said yes.  Suddenly I had 6 boys all wanting cardboard tubes. They got really creative making spaceships and binoculars, and I could see that this is a group that is going to love 3d.  When class time was ending I gave the five minute warning to finish or save work for next week.  These boys were all sitting at a table together and disregarded me when I said it was time to stop and clean up. I again announced that everyone must put down their markers, scissors, etc…and look at teacher. I waited and when I had everyone’s attention I asked kids to tell me what they saw that needed to be put away.  I got some appropriate responses and then we started cleaning up.  Except for my 3d boys.  They were working faster and more furiously knowing they would soon have to leave.  I ended up having to restate to their table that it was time to stop and clean up, and then I had to pick up markers, scissors, and glue so    they could not work any longer. I had such mixed feelings.  On the one hand it was great to see them engaged, and coming up with some wonderful ideas.  On the other hand…how can I extend the largesse of the studio when kids don’t put their materials away and expect others to do it for them, while they go on working? Once the room was cleaned up I sat everyone on the carpet and gave them a lecture on the need for cleaning up their work area when requested (and I do always give the five minute heads up). Plus the reminder that other kids use the studio too and need it to be clean and ready.  Luckily because they had created some great pieces we were able to have a brief, but nice reflection and sharing  before I sent them on to snack, so I felt we ended on a positive note.

Halloween is coming, and I’m looking forward to pumpkin carving and possibly making haunted gingerbread houses! Is a weekly blog post in my future? Probably not…but I’ll keep trying!

Detail from a painting by Kyler, a homeschool student in my painting laboratory class.


About francifularts

I am an independent art educator. I had my first experience teaching ceramics when I was 24 and worked in the University for Youth program at the University of Denver. As an elementary school teacher I always found myself integrating the arts across the curriculum, which led to me working as an artist in the schools. In May of 2008 I began a master's program with Lesley University in their Creative Arts in Learning Program. It was a truly transformative and incredible experience which led me to decide to devote the rest of my teaching career to teaching art, and through the arts. About the same time that I completed my master's degree in January of 2011 I was hired to teach art in two different programs. I have never been happier in my work as a teacher, and I really appreciate the wonderful professors and cohort of fellow teachers I studied with at Lesley University. I also want to thank all of the wonderful arts educators that I have met online through the TAB/choice list serv for their thoughtful posts and insightful suggestions for teaching art!
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