Fall Flower Invitation


We have a ton of marigolds on the farm. For the past month I’ve been dreaming of plucking them and stringing them like the garland I’ve seen in so many depictions of Indian celebrations. I wanted to get some done for Crafty Cora’s Autumnal Equinox birthday party. That didn’t happen. But today, with our first frost due in just a few days, I collected a basketful and dumped them on the table with a few needles and thread. Cora was on it like a moth to a flame. Maya, who never ceases to amaze me with her fine motor skills, was close behind.DSC_0954DSC_0959


For more on creative invitations (language I borrowed from Tinkerlab, see my initial post on the subject: An “Invitation” to Keep Quiet While Mommy’s On the Phone for Work. 

Teaching for Artistic Behavior (@Home)

Note: This was an old post that I really never got around to finishing and just hit publish on today. I need to get back to the @Home part.

I’m just wrapping up a course on curriculum in teaching art. I’ll be honest, it’s not my favorite course to teach. Students expect it to be very method, and it is to an extent, but it is mostly theory. What makes a great art lesson? With the whole history of art, design, and visual culture before you and just 40 weekly sessions with your elementary students, what should you teach them? They want answers; we give them questions.

And then there is another reality that is increasingly creeping into the course, standards and testing. Many people would be surprised to hear about testing in art class. Some would probably even laugh at the notion. When you take a subject that is so expansive with so much room for personal interpretation and try to pare it down to common denominators, you kill what makes it special. You wind up teaching to the test, a test that emphasizes the memorization of dates and definitions at the expense of the head, heart, and hand.

Like Gude (2004), Eisner (2001), and others have suggested, art educators don’t get into the game because they long to teach kids the elements and principles of art (color, line, shape, form, value, texture, movement, unity, harmony, variety, balance, rhythm, emphasis, contrast, proportion, and pattern). We do it because we fell in love with being in the studio experimenting with materials and visiting museums to stand face-to-face with masterpieces. We do it to share that passion with our students.

We want our classrooms to buzz with creative energy like the ateliers of Reggio Emilia and Room 13. We want our students to be self-determined makers. All too often, however,we find ourselves facilitating projects with safe, pre-determined outcomes. No surprises. No big messes to clean up.

All this makes sense given the culture of testing and overcrowded classrooms teachers face today. But there still are folks out there trying to provide students with authentic experiences in the artroom. Teaching For Artistic Behavior (TAB) is one approach my students gravitate towards but are not convinced they can execute.

Eisner, E. (2001). Should we create new aims for art education? Art Education, 54(5), 6-10
Gude, O. (2004). Postmodern principles: In search of a 21st century art education. Art Education, 57(1), 6-14.

Creamery Hill Racers: Rural Community Art Education in Action

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Trent Benesh, a high school art educator from Iowa and graduate student I’m working with at the University of Florida, renewed a tradition in his community last weekend as part of his capstone project. “Creamery Hill Racers” was designed to explore questions about how community-based art education, so often heard about in urban contexts, might play out in a rural setting. But racers also points to trends in contemporary art and design education including DIY/Maker culture and devotees of Caine’s Arcade and the Cardboard Challenge.

Playing cheerleader from afar on this endeavor has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my career as an art educator. Trent is one of those rare, highly self-directed students who make my job easy, giving me space to converse with them as peers. I loved hearing about his appearances at city council meetings, conversations with local business owners who served as sponsors for the project, experiments with his high school students, and local response to the final event. I wanted to be there to see the cars race down the hill. I wanted to smell the crisp autumn air. I wanted to be part of the multi-generational exchange of memories and new ideas.

I’m not going to take the wind from Trent’s sails by revealing his findings, but let’s just say the event was embraced by the community and a 2nd annual event next fall seems like all but a foregone conclusion. If folks can wait that long.

Check out Trent’s blog for field notes, photos, and reach day videos. If you like what you see, look for an event near you this Saturday (October 11, 2014) as part of the Imagination Foundations Global Day of Play. Last year we were at the Columbus Museum of Art participating in Oliver Herring’s TASK. Bummed we had to miss it this year.

Picturebooks on the Potty: Vol. 2, No. 12



Here’s a little collection for October featuring witches, monsters, and some incredible costumes.

I am working on a post in my mind about the pop star-like crushes I have on a few picture book author-illustrators at the moment. Peter Brown is one of them. I wrote about The Curious Gardenhis homage to the NYC Highline Park, last year. His imagery has a fresh, contemporary feel about it and many of his stories fall a bit outside the parameters of everyday life. See for instance Children Make Terrible Pets. My Teacher is a Monster (2014) touches on both back to school and Halloween themes. Perfect fall reading.

Fraidy Zoo (Heder, 2013) isn’t about Halloween either, but I highly recommend it for any family looking for DIY costume ideas. When Little T’s family postpones their trip to the zoo to try to figure out what’s scaring her about going, they spend the day transforming themselves into a colorful menagerie of animals through some surprisingly creative repurposing of household materials.

Finally, A Very Witchy Spelling Bee (Shannon/Fearing, 2013) will get you in the magic-making spirit of the season. It includes lots of clever plays on words that introduce young readers to the nuances of spelling. There is one mean old witch but even she is a friend by the end.