What is Home?: An Illustrator Study of Carson Ellis

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We recently received a Donors Choose grant for an education set of 3Doodler pens. These pens allow you to design 3D sculptures.  Think of them as hot glue guns that aren’t quite as hot and have more design control.

The education set is great because it comes with books of design ideas, multiple filament strands, 12 rechargeable pens, and several molds to use for creating pieces.

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As soon as the pens arrived, I showed them to our art teacher and let her borrow one of the design books.  We didn’t immediately plan a project because many times an idea will appear out of nowhere over time.  That’s just what happened.  One day I pulled some Carson Ellis books to show to a class and Home was at the top of the stack.  Ms. Foretich started looking through the illustrations during BTV and her creative wheels started turning.

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Before long, she came back to me with an idea for 5th grade.  What if we explored the idea of home with our 5th graders and had them create a sculpture that symbolized what home meant for them?  The sculpture would have multiple parts and multiple materials that would come together for one piece of art from each 5th grader.  The 3D pens could be a tool that students used to create a part of three-dimensional sculpture.  They would also use paper and cardboard along with other art materials.  That’s where it started.

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We booked multiple times on the library calendar for the project and Ms. Foretich made plans for work that would be done in the art room as well.  This week, during art, 5th grade came to the library for the initial lesson.  We wanted to use this time to look at Carson’s work as well as read Home.

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We looked at a variety of art on her site and in her books.

Students made many noticings such as the mixture of dark and bright colors.  They noticed how often times there is a bright color that seems to pop off the page.  We also noticed that her work had an embroidered or handmade quality to it as well.

After reading Home, we watched a short video to see Carson’s actual home and hear a bit about the environments she put into the book.

This brought us to a discussion of the word “home”.  Most students started by talking about a physical structure, but then Ms. Foretich asked them to think about what they missed when they weren’t at home.  This brought many students to bring up things like smells, objects, people, foods, pets, and more.  We referenced that in Carson’s video, she zoomed in to things like a fireplace, apples hanging from a tree, chickens strutting through the yard, and a guitar propped against the wall.  Ms. Foretich told students she wanted them to stretch the idea of “home” to go beyond the physical structure.

Next, we gave students some planning and exploration time. We split the class in half.  One half worked on brainstorming.  

They made a list of possible things that represent home and then selected what they would focus on the most for the art piece.  They also sketched their image as well as what part of the image they would use the 3Doodler for.  This brainstorming step is a step students will continue in the art classroom because they only had enough time to begin their planning.

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The other half of the students explored the 3Doodler pens.  I showed them the basics of how they worked as well as some examples of things that could be made based on the instructions in the books.  Each student got 1 strand of filament to experiment with.  I encouraged them to try writing their name or making a cube.  Some of them created their own designs as well.  Since this was a tinkering session, they did not have to create anything specific.  I wanted them to see the possibilities and the limitations of the pens so that they could do better planning back in the art room.

After about 10 minutes, each group switched so that students visited both areas.

We are so excited about the possibilities of this project and the many standards that it will include.  I can’t wait to learn more about the students by seeing what represents home for each of them.  We will continue to revisit the work of Carson Ellis as we go.  Planning will continue in art as well as the creation of the paper and cardboard pieces of the sculpture. Students will return soon to begin working with the 3Doodler pens.

More @3doodler practice today for our art collaboration using @carsonellis books #art #arts #librariesofinstagram #home

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It’s always so much fun to collaborate with art. Ms. Foretich plans the most meaningful projects for our students and I can’t wait for them to get to showcase these in multiple ways at school and in our community.

Trying out our 3Doodler pens for an art project. #art #collaboration #home #librariesofinstagram

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A Visit with LeUyen Pham

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The American Library Association just held its annual Midwinter Conference in Atlanta, and that meant that some amazing authors and illustrators were in town.  One of the speakers at ALA Midwinter was LeUyen Pham.  Who has worked on over 80 picture books!  Her current picture book is The Bear Who Wasn’t There and it is one she wrote and illustrated.  We were so thankful when her publisher, MacMillan, reached out to Avid Bookshop to offer a visit with a local school to celebrate her new book.

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The Bear Who Wasn’t There is a hilarious tale that invites the reader along to look for a bear who has gone missing from the book. There’s evidence of a bear along the way, but the reader and the animals in the story just can’t seem to find him.  Meanwhile, the duck in the story uses the bear’s absence to show off some magic tricks and try to sell his own books.  This book has a lot of mischief and laughs along the way, and readers might just discover a bear if they look very carefully.

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We didn’t learn about the opportunity to host LeUyen until late December, so the prep time for this visit was very short. Normally, I try to have students make decorations, but it was tricky to pull off this time. Instead, we really focused on reading the books. I pulled all of LeUyen’s books from our library and showed lots of classes the huge range of illustrations she has created from Freckleface Strawberry to Vampirina Ballerina to Alvin Ho to Princess in Black and more.  We read several of her books as well including The Bear Who Wasn’t There.  Every class laughed out loud on every single page.  We also took time to learn how to pronounce LeUyen’s name by listening to it on TeachingBooks.net

With over 350 K-3 students in the audience, LeUyen was magical!  With her twinkle fingers, she sprinkled the room with focus and students were hanging on every word.  She took them on a journey by looking at some of her very first drawings to the drawings she does as an adult. Students learned about movies that she worked on before she became an illustrator such as Prince of Egypt and Spirit.  She did some storytelling as she recounted her journey to Africa sketching scenery and animals.  LeUyen pulled out one of her many notebooks and showed students how she sketches everywhere she goes.

Students are hanging on every word from LeUyen. #avidevents #avidinschools #athensga #author #illustrator

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One of the moments I loved, was when she told students that she doesn’t spend too much time on one drawing. In fact she shared some pretty amazing drawings that she created in less than 15 minutes. She always draws in pen.  With a pen, you can’t erase your mistakes, so you can look back at those mistakes and learn from them.  That one statement has so many connections within and beyond art.  I want to bring that idea back up with students as we create together.

 

Next, LeUyen read A Piece of Cake, which is a perfect story for a big group read aloud.  There are so many unexpected things at each page turn and the kids had a blast shouting out what they thought mouse and bird would trade cake or objects for.

Listening to A Piece of Cake #avidinschools #avidevents #author #illustrator

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To close her time, LeUyen created some illustrations.  Students were selected from the audience, and she turned each of these models into an animal version of themselves reading a book.  While drawing animals with the features of our student models, she also took questions from the audience about her inspiration, her longest and shortest books, and more.

Turning kids into animals with LeUyen #avidevents #avidinschools #author #illustrator

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Animal kids with LeUyen Pham #avidevents #avidinschools #author #illustrator

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It was during this time that we heard about how a student at a school could suddenly become the inspiration for an illustration as one student did for Grace for President.    You just never know where your next idea may come from, so LeUyen is always watching, listening, and sketching her world.

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Our young readers listed to LeUyen for an hour, and I was so proud of their excitement for her.  She is such an inspiring and sweet person who is insanely talented at illustrating.  I know her books will fly off our library shelves, and I can’t wait to see what students create and talk about after exploring her books.

Personal drawing of my kids by LeUyen=AWESOME! #avidinschools #avidevents #athensga #author #illustrator

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As she left, LeUyen signed lots of books.  She lovingly included an illustration in each book she signed.  If you didn’t get a book at the visit, we have many books for checkout in the library or you can visit Avid Bookshop to purchase one.  As always, we are thankful to publishers like MacMillan for sending authors and illustrators to independent bookshops and schools.  Thank you, LeUyen, for spending part of your travels with us and sharing your talents and stories.  Thank you to Avid Bookshop for connecting with your community and enriching the reading and creative lives of students.

Hooray for LeUyen Pham! #avidevents #avidinschools #athensga #librariesofinstagram #author #illustrator

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Community Collaboration: Book Making in the Makerspace

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I love opportunities to connect with community and bring expertise, talents, and interests to our students.  Recently, a parent contacted me to tell me that her child’s grandmother was traveling to Athens to visit and would love to do book making with some students at our school.  I immediately responded back that we would love to have this opportunity in our makerspace, and the planning began.

Grandmother Kathleen sent me a list of supplies we would need, so I ordered those from Amazon in advance.  She packed everything else on her flight from Texas.

I also communicated with Gretchen Thomas at UGA to let her know that her students could help Kathleen during this makerspace time.  I let teachers know the topic of the makerspace in advance and students signed up to participate across two days (Tuesday and Thursday).

When Kathleen arrived, her enthusiasm for art was contagious.  You could tell that she was an amazing art teacher in Texas.  She had multiple examples of books she had made from instruction found in Making Books that Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist, and Turn.

So many amazing book making projects in this text. #librariesofinstagram #bookmaking #makered

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She had a different kinds of book planned for each group who visited the makerspace: 1st & 3rd grade, 5th grade, and 4th grade.

Before each group arrived, she put materials at each chair with the  help of Gretchen’s UGA students.  She gave very clear, step-by-step instructions for each group and me and the UGA students went around assisting students as needed.

Book making in today's makerspace #makered #librariesofinstagram #bookmaking

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A grandparent from Texas is leading book making in makerspace #librariesofinstagram #makered #bookmaking

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Because each project took more than 30-minutes, we reached a stopping point and then stored the projects for Thursday.

Each book had its own purpose and made me and the students think about so many possibilities. One book allowed you to record things from different perspectives. Another book allowed you to write your own Choose Your Own Adventure story with pull out cards.  Another book fanned out like a flower and allowed you to put poems, photographs, and more within the folds.

Each time Kathleen showed us a book, my mind was swirling with connections to each grade level’s curriculum.  Students were focused, productive, and buzzing with excitement about today’s makerspace.  I bet that when students are involved in the process of creating their own published books, they are more likely to fill those books with productive writing.  I know that when I personally made my own book during the final 30-minute session, I really wanted to go home and fill it with writing and photographs.

This book I made in makerspace today amazes me. #makered #bookmaking #librariesofinstagram #community #grandparentsrock

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I was reminded once again about how many interests and talents are hiding within our students, families, extended families, and community.  Alone, I would not have thought much about book making or how to attempt it with groups of students.  However, now that the expertise of a grandparent was shared with me and our students, I’m considering new possibilities with projects.

How many more talents and interests are just waiting for us within our communities?  How do we tap into these resources? This was an opportunity that was given to me, but I know that if I had a way of unearthing and organizing the wealth of talents and interests in our community that more opportunities like this would make its way to our students and teachers.

 

 

 

Athens, GA & Seodaemun, South Korea: A Global Art Collaboration

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In June 2015, the mayors of Athens, GA and Seodaemun, South Korea signed a Memorandum of Understanding.  This MOU calls for both cities to exchange leadership programs in private and public sectors that promote economic development.  That basically means that our cities have a friendship to exchange ideas.

 

As a part of this collaboration, the 2nd graders at our school are engaging in a collaborative art project with students in Seodaemun.  This has been an exciting and challenging undertaking for our students and teachers, but it has been full of rewarding experiences.  The classroom teachers, art teacher, and media center all supported the students at Barrow in carrying out the project.

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In class, students read the book Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki Shaw.  This set the stage for students thinking about how our city of Athens is the same as Seodaemun and how it’s different.  My wife, Denise Plemmons, in the Athens-Clarke County Economic Development Department, shared several websites with us to learn more about Seodaemun. I added some additional sites for students to visit that included resources from our state-funded Galileo databases. These were all housed on a Symbaloo page for students.

Teachers paired students within their rooms to research and create art together.  Students used a Venn diagram to write brief notes on what was the same and different between our cities. For example, students learned that we have an arch at UGA and Seodaemun has an arch at Independence Park. They saw that we go to school for 7-8 hours per day and Seodaemun may go up to 16 hours per day.  Research was done in the library, and prior to letting students search on their own via the Symbaloo, I provided some tangible examples like these to put into the diagram.

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The research was a challenge.  One reason was just the lack of resources on a 2nd grade level. The other big challenge was that students are 7 and 8 years old. There are currently studying regions of Georgia, so adding in a country on the other side of the world was hard to grasp within that context. We found that some students thought they had been to South Korea when in fact they were thinking of South Carolina. It may seem humorous, but it was valid conversation that we worked to clarify in the library, art room, and classroom.

After an hour-long session of research, students took their work to Ms. Foretich in the art room.  They used their Venn diagram to decide what art they would create that would show something that was the same or different between our cities.  One of the partners painted the Athens side of the art, and the other partner painted the Seodaemun side.

2nd grade artwork preview; studying South Korean culture. #barrowbuddies #barrowschool

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More 2nd grade artwork featuring South Korean culture. Come see the display on Sept 12. #barrowschool #barrowbuddies

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In classrooms, teachers continued to share maps and facts about our two cities. Mrs. Yawn, the 2nd grade team leader, worked to plan a morning of rotations for all of the 2nd graders. Some of our students are from South Korea, so she invited the parents of those students along with support from UGA to offer rotation topics on culture, games, and food.

2nd graders learning about South Korean culture! Thanks Barrow parents for sharing. #barrowschool #barrowbuddies

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Another part of the rotations was for each class to come to the library and record a Flipgrid video explaining what each pair of students learned about Athens and Seodaemun and what they created in their art.

Students used Flipgrid to explain their Athens & Seodaemun artwork. #global #athensga #southkorea #librariesofinstagram

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Our goal is to send these Flipgrid links to Seodaemun so that the Korean students can respond back when they create their own art.

To celebrate the end of our portion of the project, the mayor of Seodaemun visited our whole 2nd grade along with members of the Athens Clarke County government.

Dr. Ellen Sabatini, principal, welcomed everyone.

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Ms. Yawn, 2nd grade team leader, explained the project to our visitors and families.

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Students shared pieces of the project that they worked on.

Student presentations on what they learned about South Korea #barrowbuddies #southkoreaexperience

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Commissioner Harry Sims spoke about how the students’ art work would now be a world traveler as it goes across the ocean to South Korea.

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Finally, Seok-Jin Mun, the mayor of Seodaemun, spoke to students about how we are all connected to one another because we are all mankind. Even though we have different beliefs or different skin color, we are all connected.

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To conclude the visit, Mayor Mun, teachers, and all guests explored the student artwork on display in the 2nd grade collaborative space.

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Mayor Mun pointed out his observations of what stood out to our students and clarified some facts from our research.

Collaborative art showing Athens GA and Seodaemun South Korea is on display. #collaboration #athensga #southkorea #global

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It was inspiring to think with him and the members of our Clarke County government about how we can continue to build upon this friendship between our two communities.

Now, our artwork is preparing to make its journey, and we look forward to seeing what our new friends in South Korea learn and draw about Athens, Georgia.  We thank the Athens Clarke County Economic Development Department for this opportunity to connect our students with our global community.

 

A Visit with Christian Robinson

Christian Robinson (17)

We are one fortunate school. Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and Avid Bookshop we welcomed illustrator Christian Robinson to our school in promotion of his newest book School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex.  Christian has illustrated numerous books including the award-winning Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena.

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Prior to Christian’s visit our Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade classes all read the book in the library during library orientation. We loved thinking about our own feelings on the first day of school and relating those feelings to the feelings of the school. We also loved examining the illustrations to see the face of the school and discovering connections to our own lives in the illustrations.  One of those connections came on the spread in the book that shows the children arriving to school. Students loved finding the way that they come to school on this page because they were all represented somewhere.

In classrooms, students created drawings of our school and turned them in to the library. Each student who completed a drawing had his/her drawing displayed in the library windows the week before the visit. Christian Robinson took some time to appreciate them all when he arrived at our school.

Our visit with Christian was in the library, so I pushed shelves and tables away to make room for over 250 little students.

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He began his visit with a reading of School’s First Day of School.  It was so fun to hear the book read by one of the collaborators. I hope students discovered something new after hearing the book again.  I know I did!

Schools First Day of School with @theartoffun #avidevents #avidinschools #illustrator

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Christian Robinson walked us through his process in creating the book. We learned about starting small by making sketches on tiny post it notes.

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We also learned about making mistakes. Christian showed us one picture of a big pile of mistakes, and he stressed with students that mistakes are a part of the process.

Learning about process and inspiration from @theartoffun #illustrator #art #process #tlchat

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He showed us the research that went into the book including visiting actual schools and looking at buildings that seemed to have faces in real life.

Christian also took questions from the audience.

How long does illustrating take? #kidquestion #illustrator #process #timeline

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Finally, he created some drawings.  Students imagined an animal and he called on different students to suggest an animal to draw.

Quick cheetah drawing #illustrator #avidinschools #avidevents #art @avidbookshop @theartoffun

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Thanks to our incredible PTA every classroom got a copy of the book to put into their classroom library, and Christian signed them all.

The impact of these author and illustrator visits is very special. Different students connect in different ways.  Some are inspired to write and illustrate their own books that they proudly show off in their classroom, the library, and at home.  Some realize that being an artist isn’t something that has to wait until you are an adult; the foundation starts now. Some students connect with an author or illustrator as a person and realize that there’s a friendly face behind the writing or art on the library shelves. Some students connect with a story in a way that they didn’t connect before because they know the story behind the story.  Often after a visit, the author or illustrator’s books fly off the shelves and stay consistently checked out.

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Today as I was walking down the hall, two boys in Kindergarten stopped me to ask, “Where’s Christian Robinson?”. I smiled knowing that they had met someone who they respected and hoped to see again at our school.  Thank you so much for supporting our local bookshop to bring authors and illustrators like Christian Robinson into our schools. It matters to our students.

3D Jewelry Artists in 1st Grade Using Blokify

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In my latest collaboration with our superstar art teacher, Rita Foretich, we are crafting with 1st graders.  One of her art standards has to do with students creating a craft, which is defined as an art creation that serves a purpose.  Rita is always pushing herself as a teacher to try new things and stretch the boundaries of what kids have experiences with. Along with this standard she wanted students to work with technology and to design in 3D.  What resulted was an art project where 1st graders are designing pendants in a 3D design tool called Blokify, 3D printing those pendants, and then using them in art to create a functional necklace.

When Rita first told me about her ideas for this project, my first reaction was whether or not Blokify was the right tool.  I had made pendants and charms in other tools like Tinkercad, but I knew that Tinkercad would be very tricky to do with a 1st grade class in the time frame we had.  Blokify is very user-friendly for very early learners, but I had trouble envisioning a pendant.  I even tweeted out to ask other people what they thought.

What helped me in the end?  Tinkering.  During our book fair, I pulled out an iPad and just tinkered at making a charm.  I can’t say that I came up with anything brilliant, but I did come up with some examples to help students see. The most helpful thing was for them to be able to visualize what the hole for the string might look like.

Each 1st grade class came to the library during their art time.  Ms. Foretich started the lesson with a quick video of a Makerbot in action.

It was fun to hear students talk about what was happening in the video because at this point many of them knew that it was a 3D printer, which would not have been the case a few years ago. Then, we showed the students the Blokify program. I really didn’t go into a lot of detail, but I showed them how to zoom in and out, how to add a block, and how to change blocks.  Then, students had time to tinker at tables and get familiar with the Blokify program.

Ms. Foretich and I walked around to assist students who were getting frustrated as well as encourage students to try various parts of Blokify such as adding a row, deleting blocks, switching worlds, and switching blocks.  Tinkering looked very different this year than it has in previous years, and my hunch is that students have more experience with Minecraft now, so they make the connection to this very similar program. I saw students being much more intentional about block placement even in tinkering instead of just tapping all over the screen.

We invited students back to the carpet after their tinkering sessions and gave them the specific task of the day: to design a one-layer pendant. We showed the examples that I had made as well as samples from other classes that had already printed.

Then, students went back to iPads and started a fresh design.  They only had a short amount of work time to create their designs, and I was so impressed with what some of them came up with.  They were so much more creative than my own designs!  As each student finished we had to email the files to a central email.  I had the email account pulled up on the board so that we could see if the emails came through.  Many of them didn’t, so we were slowed down by errors.  We had to go into the outbox of the email on the iPad and resend most of the emails.  For students that we couldn’t email in time, we put post-its on the iPads so that we could email the files after they left.

Amazed at the designs 1st graders come up with for 3D pendants. #studentwork #studentvoice #3dprinting #makerspace #librariesofinstagram

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On the library calendar, I blocked off time slots for me to specifically work on prepping all of the files for 3d printing.  When you are working with over 100 .stl files to print, it’s time consuming.  I was able to put about 8 pendants on each print plate.  Each plate takes anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on how large I make the pendants.  I name each file “Pendant 1”, “Pendant 2”, etc.  Then, on a sheet of paper I write out the name and teacher of each individual pendant on the plate.  These names are also written onto Ziploc bags so that finished prints can go into the bags ready for the art teacher.

1st grade blokify charms are 3D printing this morning. #makerspace #3dprinting #jewelry #studentwork #librariesofinstagram

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I can’t wait to see how the final necklaces turn out once they return to art class.  This has been an adventurous collaboration full of challenges, but there have been many rewards along the way too.  It was especially rewarding to see some students shine at using Blokify even when they might struggle in other subject areas.

Organizing over 100 prints for art class. #makerspace #artsed #3dprinting #organization

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A Visit with the Amazing Henry Cole

Henry Cole (1)

When I saw that Henry Cole was coming to Avid Bookshop for a special storytime, I knew that we just had to get him to our school. I started chatting with the Avid and Peachtree Publishers teams to see how we could make it happen.

Henry Cole (2)Henry Cole is the author and illustrator of more books than I can list here. A few of the books he illustrated include:

  • Three Hens and a Peacock by Lester Laminack
  • And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  • I Know a Wee Piggy by Kimberly Norman

Books he has written and illustrated include:

  • A Nest for Celeste
  • Unspoken
  • Big Bug
  • On a Meadowview Street

Henry Cole (7) Henry Cole (8)

Henry Cole’s newest book comes out in April. The Somewhat True Adventures of Sammy Shine is a tale of a mouse who is sent into the air in a remote control airplane that crashes into the woods. There his adventure begins as he goes on a quest to find his way home and meets many helpful friends along the way. As a part of his special visit, the publisher allowed our students to purchase the book before it comes out in April. Our fabulous PTA purchased 3 copies of the book for each classroom n grades 2-4.

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During Henry’s visit, he told stories from his childhood, which revealed to us the many places that where he gets his ideas. Rather than taking questions from the audience, he anticipated the typical questions that authors and illustrators often get and wove those into his presentation through storytelling. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a speaker quite as animated as Henry Cole. He yelled, whispered, shrieked, danced, and leaped across the front of the library as he told stories of being pushed off the roof in a makeshift airplane and getting giddy with excitement at art assignments in school. Across the course of his presentation, we knew where Sammy Shine came from, where the inspiration for A Nest for Celeste originated, and how grueling it is to get boxes upon boxes of questions from editors to improve writing. He connected this to the same process that students go through when they get feedback from their teachers. We heard how many revisions a single illustration in a book can go through and that when something isn’t quite right, you just do it again.

For a solid hour, our students rolled in floor from laughing but then hooked right back in to Henry’s presentation. It was magical. He closed his time by illustrating two pieces of art choreographed to a soundtrack.

We are so excited to have these two pieces on display in our library now.

Henry Cole drew Sammy Shine for our students. #art #illustrator #authorvisit #inspiration #librariesofinstagram

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We want to thank Peachtree Publishers and Avid Bookshop for making this happen. Please take a moment to check out Henry Cole’s website. His new book can be purchased at Avid Bookshop. If you don’t get it now, then look for it in April and purchase it from your local bookstore.

Henry Cole (25) Henry Cole (24)