Posted by: dbjaquith | May 9, 2016

More and More Clay

Clay1We are up to our ears in clay artwork and it is fabulous! As the pieces come out of the kiln they are sorted class by class. Sculpture surfaces are decorated with watercolor; functional pottery is covered with glaze and returned to the kiln for one more firing. Every time the kiln is opened it is full of surprises. Clay2

A second-grader's first attempt with glaze.

A second-grader’s first attempt with glaze.

Even kindergartners can appreciate the tricky nature of clay. Too little water and it cracks; too much water and it can break apart. With lots of play and practice students learn what clay can and cannot do. Observing fired pieces shows clay artists what steps are necessary for kiln-ready clay: score attachments, hollow out thick parts, smooth cracks, names on bottom. As skills grow students are able to take more responsibilities with the clay studio, including cutting clay, labeling names and wiping down tables.

A first grader makes a frog in the water.

A first grader makes a frog in the water.

A special structure for Mothers Day.

A special structure for Mothers Day.

Two ladybugs lovingly created by a first grader.

Two ladybugs lovingly created by a first grader.

Posted by: dbjaquith | April 30, 2016

The Return of Clay

Third graders develop craft with clay techniques.

Third graders develop craft with clay techniques.

Attaching a foot to a bowl.

Attaching a foot to a bowl.

We’ve waited for months. We’ve been patient. We’ve had to trust the process even though that process took eight months for the kiln venting system to be rerouted and approved by the building inspector. Finally, in April, we have received permission to fire up the kiln. During the first firing some pretty nasty fumes emerged and were attributed to oil on the new duct work. I came in over the vacation week to fire again just to see if the odor would disappear and it did. Now, with three firings, it seems the kiln is once again working well!

Painting glaze designs on fired clay.

Painting glaze designs on fired clay.

About half of the fourth and fifth graders chose clay for their 4-class WOW exploration. Students in all other grades can choose clay each class. This means a ton of clay artwork to be fired and sorted by class. Which is great because we have all missed the spontaneity and flexibility of clay in the art studio. We are so happy to have clay back again!

Younger students decorate their art with watercolor.

Younger students decorate their art with watercolor.

Posted by: dbjaquith | March 27, 2016

National Art Education Association Conference


About 60 of the hundreds of TAB art educators attending NAEA Chicago 2016.

Every year thousands of visual art educators convene for a national conference featuring best practices. Our TAB group is ever-present with sessions on choice-based art education and learner-directed practice. This year my session, “What Were You Thinking?” focused on Studio Habits of Mind and assessment. This time spent with TAB colleagues was most rewarding and provided us all with valuable affirmation that the child is, indeed, the artist!



Posted by: dbjaquith | March 27, 2016

Non Traditional Drawing


Oil pastels on red sandpaper

There is a group of students who draw incessantly (you know who they are). Each year as these artists stretch/explore with new drawing media and develop their craft, they discover new modes of expression. But… somewhere around mid-winter the drawings can get stale. Maybe its the lack of sunshine or fresh air or all too familiar company, but the work appears in need of a shake-up.


What did I do to encourage more experimentation with drawing media in 4th grade? Non-traditional drawing! Just as they have “non-traditional homework” from time-to-time, this challenge might just shake up their divergent thinking skills. Students were shocked at first but agreed to try the plan for a few weeks.  Now that they have these new techniques will they ever use them again?

NonTDrwg5These students are drawing on black paper – it’s what you do when the teacher takes away the white paper that you love so much. To their surprise, drawing on black paper is not all that different, other than it provides opportunities for certain special effects.



NonTDrwg1                                                     Other media included drawing on clear and colored acetate and then layering the pieces, cutting away parts to show different colors in the drawings. The boy to the left is drawing on a piece of clear film with Sharpies.  Below two students “discovered” that they can off-set drawing marks by placing paper on top of oil pastels and then drawing lines with pencil.


Posted by: dbjaquith | March 27, 2016

Plaster is not the same as Clay

Plaster1In case you haven’t heard, we have not been allowed to fire clay all year. This, in addition to being denied the kiln last year from September through December. The issue is the not the kiln itself but its venting system, considered unsafe by the building inspector, then acceptable and then again unacceptable. The actual repair took less than a day but the work was wedged in-between so many other city jobs, apparently far more important than an entire school’s ability to access a vital part of the visual art curriculum.

Sculptors and ceramicists grew weary of asking “When can we work with clay?” and I grew weary of having no real answers for them. In February students in grade 3-5 were offered the opportunity to work with plaster as a 3D alternative. Though my 4th and 5th graders have sculpted with plaster every year this was the first time it has been offered to 3rd graders in my art program. They rose to the occasion and did a spectacular job!


Here’s how students developed craft with plaster sculptures:  Starting with aluminum foil and tape students construct armatures that are glued onto foam bases. The next step is to cover the entire sculpture with layers of plaster gauze, similar to the plaster used to make casts for broken limbs.



The final stages are to paint and decorate the sculpture. The yellow goat is the same sculpture as seen in the photo (above) of the aluminum armature by the laptop featuring images of goats as reference to the artist.

Awesome sculptures? Yes! Spontaneous like clay? No. These took 4+ classes to complete and required a lot of materials supervision. Super messy, super fun. But not the same as clay. And you can’t make a bowl you can eat cereal from. It sounds like our kiln might be ready very soon for use. Stay tuned!

Posted by: dbjaquith | March 27, 2016

100 Colors for the 100th Day of School

100th Day ColorsThe 100th day of school for us was on February 23, a little later than usual because of several snow days, vacation week plus a school closure last October.  A few weeks prior to the 100th day students were challenged to help create a collaborative 100 Colors poster to display upstairs in the main hallway. Painters began adding just one of the colors they mixed each class. As the date came closer and closer more and more students participated, eager to be the 100th painter on the poster. Painters named their colors: Bubble Gum Pink, Frog Blood Green, Orange Fire, Swampy Yellow, Princess Purple and so on. So many colors, so many great painterly minds!

Posted by: dbjaquith | February 15, 2016

February in the Creativity Studio



Contemplating next moves for the marble maze.

It has been a busy winter in art class! Everyone is highly engaged in their work and resulting work is phenomenal. Fourth and fifth graders are developing craft with their WOW (wonderful original work) art. Fifth graders were able to choose from needle felting, marble mazes, plaster sculpture, acrylic painting, and printmaking. Fourth graders had all the same choices except sewing in place of needle felting. Each student made a commitment to spend at least 4 classes with one specific art media to gain skills and understandings about the unique


Acrylic paints are more versatile than tempera paints.

properties of the media. Third graders continue to be intrigued by watercolor and some are practicing their techniques on large 140 lb. watercolor paper. First and second graders are printmaking. For first graders, it’s a “have to” while second graders can choose to make a 2-color print, applying their learning from 1st grade to a larger printing plate. Kindergartners have been working with our teacher intern, Rachel Howell. Some chose to develop skills with patterns and watercolor resist techniques on their Britto-inspired drawings.


A kindergartner draws patterns in hearts with oil pastels.


2-color alligator print

Posted by: dbjaquith | January 25, 2016

Developing Skills with Watercolors

All EffectsWatercolor_Painters_at_WorkThird grade is a great year of learning and discovery, when students eagerly take new information and apply it to existing understandings in art class, constructing deeper knowledge about familiar media and concepts. Approaching their watercolors as scientists and artists, students experimented and then observed what they could do with four basic watercolor techniques:

  • Wet brush on wet paper
  • Wet brush on dry paper
  • Dry brush on wet paper
  • Dry brush on dry paper
Painters add suggestions to the list of what the wet-on-wet technique is good for in a painting.

Painters add suggestions to the list of what the wet-on-wet technique is good for in a painting.

Resulting artworks ignited artists’ imaginations as they identified real and fantasy scenes in their work. A large chart invited artist-scientists to document what purposes each of the techniques might serve in a watercolor painting.  Next week students can choose to continue with watercolor on larger paper or continue with other art media in our Creativity Studio. In the video below a student wipes most of the water off his brush to explore the scratchy textures created by a dry brush on dry paper.


Posted by: dbjaquith | January 18, 2016

Teaching for Artistic Behavior

TAB_Un1Last Saturday a group of art teachers happily joined together for an all-day “unconference” on the topic of Teaching for Artistic Behavior at the McDevitt Middle School in Waltham, MA.

Kathleen Flynn and Susan Bivona look at Katie McCabe's "High Five" assessments.

Kathleen Flynn and Susan Bivona look at Katie McCabe’s “High Five” assessments.

“What’s an unconference?” you ask. An unconference is a focused gathering of individuals where no one has to prepare any powerpoints, lectures or handouts. Instead, the day’s sessions are determined on-the-spot, with attendees proposing ideas based on their interests and questions. Breakout sessions were held around the school with teachers sharing their best practices, asking each other for advice and gaining new strategies.

“What’s Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB)?” you ask. TAB is both a philosophy and an organization. As philosophy, Teaching for Artistic Behavior means facilitating classroom design and instruction to empower children to make their own art because the child (not the teacher) is the artist. As an organization TAB supports and advocates for arts educators who facilitate for learner-directed artmaking through choice-based art education.

TAB teachers listen to Colleen Haley describe her middle school TAB practice.

TAB teachers listen to Colleen Haley describe her middle school TAB practice.

Our lively groups’ professional discussions on Saturday included:

  • Expectations for social and artistic behaviors
  • Reluctant learners
  • Objectives and goals
  • Modified Choice
  • Studio Centers
  • Motivational language
  • Recontextualized hand turkeys (thanks to Lisa Grize)!


Posted by: dbjaquith | January 17, 2016

Print Around the Room

Happy New Year! We eased back into art class with a week of “Print Around the Room”. Sadly our fun with marble printing, bubble printing, object printing and foam printing was interrupted when the art room heater broke mid-week. My new teacher intern, Rachael Howell, and I traveled to classrooms with simple printing materials. Students loved playing with paint and water and carrageenan (seaweed slime) to create unexpected results.

Drops of tempera paint float on the carrageenan surface.

Drops of tempera paint float on the carrageenan surface.

Printing on foam surface with markers and damp paper.

Printing on foam surface with markers and damp paper.

Lower grades painted on objects and printed them on color paper.

Lower grades painted on objects and printed them on color paper.

After looking over their dry prints, students wrote What If? questions for future strategies with printing.

After looking over their dry prints, students wrote What If? questions for future strategies with printing.

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