Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Celluclay Animal Finger Puppets

I have another guest blogger that I'm excited to introduce to you. Ashley McKee is a fellow Visual Arts blogger, author of Ashcan Works. She also posts on Instagram as @ashcanworks. Ashley teaches at an Elementary School in rural North Central Pennsylvania. I fell in love with one of her Instagram posts earlier this year and invited Ashley to contribute to MiniMatisse. She was happy to share her amazing project with us here.

When I asked Ms. McKee where her inspiration came from for this lesson she explained, "A 6th-grade teacher and I applied for a small grant for a collaborative project and we got it! Students are researching a person of interest and writing about them in her class, then we’re applying what they know about their person to create something that visually communicates what they’ve learned. There’s a lot of choice involved with this project. Some students prefer to work with 2D materials while others prefer 3D, and there are so many materials to work with! I developed a few examples, one based on Cassie Stephens Celluclay zombie planters. I chatted with Cassie to credit her in my post, and transformed decorative zombie planters into educational busts. These Celluclay animal finger puppets were developed as a mini-lesson to introduce students to the idea and to Celluclay (which is brand new to us this year!)."

As students began researching their person of interest in their classrooms, we began developing ideas for the art portion of the collaborative project in the art room. Before setting students loose with supplies I organized mini-lessons to introduce them to new materials and techniques that might be helpful to them as they brainstormed. This was one of those mini-lessons.

I ordered several 5lb bags of Celluclay, knowing I would need enough for this mini-lesson and for students who chose to use this material for their research project. We used approximately ⅓ of a bag of Celluclay for roughly 20 students to make their finger puppets. (I was able to use the leftover prepared Celluclay with 10 2nd graders who came to me for AR reading reward art time!) I taught 3 sections of 6th graders, each with roughly 20 students. 2 bags was more than enough.

Students watched me prepare the Celluclay in a bucket at the sink. I talked them through the process, cautioning them not to breathe in the dust, describing the dryer lint texture of the dry Celluclay that I broke up with my fingers before adding water, comparing it to tuna fish while mixing the water and working it into the Celluclay with my hands. They laughed and agreed it really DOES look like tuna fish! This lesson was completed in 3 40 minute classes, with a bit time left in each class to brainstorm their research project: 1 to sculpt, 1 to paint, 1 to embellish with sharpies.

DAY 1 Each student needed:
  • A messy mat to work on (cover your tables however you choose, this stuff is sticky)
  • They shared a dish of water with their elbow partner
  • A small plastic cup (communion cups would work well, mine were slightly larger than that, more like a medicine cup, and were donated to me by the school nurse, and yogurt cups might work nicely too)
  • A sharpie to write names and class sections inside the cups
  • An allotted amount of prepared Celluclay (that I passed out to them, scooping with my hand and plopping onto the edge of their messy mats, telling them I felt like a lunch lady- ha!)
During the demo students saw how to use a bit of water to smooth out the lumpy surface a bit. I told them it’ll never be completely smooth, but that’s ok. This material isn’t meant to be completely smooth, and they’re handmade so they’ll have loads of character! One of my demo animals was a bear, and students said it reminded them of the bears from the cartoon We Bare Bears. We called it Art Bear.

Once I showed students how to use Celluclay to cover their cups and add animal features, they were given the freedom to choose which animals to make on their own. Students problem solved by forming parts that looked like the animal they intended to make. A pig shouldn’t look like a horse! A few students made animals that typically have tails, such as a fox or pig, so they added tails to the back of the puppet heads to help viewers identify the type of animal they were making. Some students chose not to make an animal, flipping their cups to make mini planters for seedlings or neato pineapples. That’s ok too.
Once students finished sculpting we collected them in a copy paper box lined with wax paper (so the sculptures didn’t stick to the cardboard of the box). Messy mats were put away, water dishes are taken care of, and hands washed. I see my classes once every 3 days, which was plenty of time for the finger puppets to dry! The next time students came to class, we were ready to paint!

DAY 2 students needed:
  • Messy mats
  • Acrylic paints
  • Water dishes
  • Paintbrushes
  • Their finger puppets (of COURSE!)
For my demo, I chose to go funky Lisa Frank rainbow on this bear, and the kids loved it. I told them that it didn’t have to look real, that was a choice. Some mixed up some crazy colors, others were more traditional, and that’s ok too. As students wrapped up their painting, they cleaned up and went back to work brainstorming their project a bit more. We stored the drying painted finger puppets the same way we did before.

DAY 3 students needed:
  • Their finger puppets
  • Black sharpie (silver/gold optional)
To finish these up students embellished them, adding details with sharpies. Some used regular ol’ fine point, others used extra or ultra fine point, and some mixed the two for added texture. Everyone was pleased with their final products and the whole school asked when they could make them too!

This was a process based mini lesson meant to introduce and familiarize students with Celluclay and one of many ways of incorporating it into their choice research project. The larger concept for the research project focuses on visually conveying what students know about the significant contributions a person of interest has made to mankind, with examples such as former presidents, women in science and medicine, inventors, scholars, and entrepreneurs. Once students were familiar with the Celluclay we could talk about other applications for it.

I love that Ashley created such a simple and engaging lesson for her students to understand the material, Celluclay. I know this is a lesson that I can't wait to bring into my classroom. I know there are readers of this blog that will want to give it a try too.  This might be a perfect end of the year lesson as well. Thanks, Ashely for sharing the process with us. Read from some of our other guest bloggers in previous posts

Monday, April 9, 2018

Art Ed Blogger Network- Early Finishers: Architecture Challenge

The Art Ed Bloggers Network has agreed to post about Early Finishers this month. I'm really excited about this subject because this is an issue in every Art Classroom so it will be great to get others ideas on this subject. 

This lesson can be adapted in many ways but I'm going to address this project for the Elementary section that is ahead of the other sections.  You know... you're teaching the 1st grade about weaving and there is an assembly so you miss one of your 1st grades. Then your daughter is sick.... well there goes a missed class for another 1st-grade section.  This means that one 1st grade section successfully finishes their weaving and you want to get all of your sections back together again.  You need a lesson for the 'early finishing' group.  

I borrowed these awesome blocks from the kindergarten classes.  I laid them all out on the floor and then asked the 'number 1's' at each table to come and pick a block, then seat number two, then three, then four, and back to one again. I continued that until all the block is distributed.  At this time the students think that they are picking blocks for themselves. That is when I drop the bomb and tell them they will be working at building a structure with their table group.  The kids freak out and get started right away.

I give them a set time to complete their building and then I assign them to work on the drawing.  The first drawing I give the students NO help, no suggestion, no teaching at all. They struggle, complain and are frustrated... all by design my friend.  Again, the timer has been working (you have to set a time that is 'right' for your group). When it goes off, students come to the carpet for a team meeting. We talk about what was hard.  As the conversation starts, I gently direct the conversation to where the kids are understanding that blocks are just simple shapes that they already know how to build. If the drawing didn't fit, what can you do? If you have extra time, can you add 'made up' details such as windows and doors? what can you add around your structure drawing? How did it feel to work together to build the block? What do you think we want to change or do the same if you were to build with your team again? Lot's of ah-has in the class.

Then, the very good news! students are asked to take down their buildings and build a new structure. They cheer and skip back to their place (I love the energy in the room with this project). The process is repeated... maybe one, two, three more times. We wrap up by picking our favorite drawing to share with the class in a gallery walk. There might be some good lead-in's why practice is good, or sticking with a task is important, or even a conversation on collaboration and teamwork. So many directions you can take this powerful and engaging lesson for our early finishers. 

Here is the best part of this lesson. Once you have done it as a large group, you will see your Artist using this activity on their own.  I also have them challenge their families at home (and reports have come in that 'homework' has been completed). It's a fun one that I hope you can adapt for your students in your classroom as well!

Find more on this subject here...


Saturday, April 7, 2018

Tracy Hare -- Visiting Artist for Clay Week

I'm so excited to invite Tracy Hare to Prairie View Elementary and Middle School as a Visiting Artist for Clay Week 2018.  As many of you know, I'm allergic to clay so I have chosen to seek out a solution to allowing students to still have a clay experience.  In the past, I have organized a trade with one of the other Art Teachers in the district Sue Davies and Leah Schultz (read more about these exchanges here). 

This year, I am inviting Tracy Hare into my classroom to provide a clay experience to the Elementary Students of PVEMS. She comes highly qualified teaching for many years at Becker Middle School. This year she is working for The Art of Education, a company that provides professional development for Art Teachers around the world.  I lucked out, because not only am I friends with this amazing woman, artist, and teacher, but I also teach her kids. She will come to our school as not only an expert clay teacher but also a parent of students in our school. 

Clay week will take place April 17th through the 24th. Elementary students will have one hour with Mrs. Hare.  If the day is missed for whatever reason, a clay project will be created for the missing student to decorate. Join me in making Mrs. Hare feel welcomed as she visite PVEMS!

The Art Studio is looking for volunteers. You must have already had a background check with ISD728 and able to come to the classroom during the dates of April 17th- April 24th. If you are able to help, please email me at

While we are at it, I might as well mention the dates for an upcoming Art Show with a company called Artomé. Elementary students are making art that I will send to the company Artomé. Then the Artomé team will be framing and be displaying every work on art for an upcoming Art Show May 23rd, from 4pm to 7pm in the Prairie View Elementary and Middle School Commons Area.  You are able to purchase the framed art for $25 or simply just come and enjoy the Art displayed. If you purchase, you take the work home that night. If you don't, your student will get their original Art handed back to them by the end of the school year. Since I was posting this message for the parents of PVEM, I thought I would give you all upcoming information and encourage you to put this Art Show on your calendar. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

NAEA Guest Blogger

I'm very honored to be a part of the NAEA featured bloggers this month.   I will have 4 blog post that will be featured on the National Art Education Association page, please view the post here

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Working with Visiting Artist!

#NAEA2018 is well on its way. I would like to invite you to join me at a presentation at 1:30 PM. These presentations are great because they are casual and you get to hear from several Art Teachers in a Carousel Presentation.  This post is the support links and images for my portion of the presentation.

Center/Meeting Room 619 & 620/Level 6
Elementary Carousel of Learning: Working with Visiting Artists in the Classroom! 

I love introducing my students to Careers in Art. This idea came several years ago when I ran into a roadblock of bringing a Culinary Artist into my classroom to talk about her trade.  See, when we were in school, she was working. It was difficult to connect. I was able to send out a counselor from our building to interview and record on location. This was an amazing way to bring an Artist into the Classroom. Also, I was able to share her message to all the students in every class with her only dedicating about 20 minutes of her time to us.

Our school was celebrating it's 10 year birthday and I wanted to go big with this theme. I did the 2D and 3D artworks of treats, cakes, and delectable themes. But the BIG idea I had was to allow each of my students to become Culinary Artist themselves.  As a PBIS reward for our school, all students were able to come into my classroom and create real, edible cupcake filled with sprinkles and design.  As we ate our Artwork, I was able to play the video we had taken of our local Culinary Artist. This was a mom of one of our students so it was extra special to the viewers. Even though the Artist was not able to visit us, we were able to visit her virtually. Please visit my previous post about this experience. 

After having that great experience of bringing a LOCAL Artist into our school virtually, I was hooked... I wanted to bring others into my classroom but I wasn't sure how to get around that time restriction of the working day. Well, who better to reach out to than non-working people. I contacted a local organization called RSVP, they have retired adults looking for volunteer opportunities. 

Originally I asked them to come in a sit for us to have a subject to draw.  There were no takers for the Midwest retired community for this. So I changed this idea. I asked them to bring in items that they can talk about and we could draw for observational drawing. This was a hit. The variety that was brought it was tremendous!  The experiences I witnessed were one of a kind. Read more about what I ended up calling The Connect Effect here. 

Another way that I brought in the local and living was not so much as Artist but as subjects. I did something called the Pet Project. I asked parents to bring in 'table top pets' and allow us to draw them for the day. This was less about bringing in the Artist to my classroom and more about bringing in the art opportunities. It was also a way to create a connection between the Art Studio and the families I work with. 

I truly believe it takes a village to raise a child and I continue to invite my village into the Art Studio. I recently finished up a sewing project that I invited 'Community Experts' to help out with.  This post tells so much more, but what happened was these volunteers came in with the instruction to be a cheerleader and keep the calm. This is all my students needed to be successful. They did not need instruction, but more the encouragement from an adult... They needed my class numbers to be smaller, but when I received a 'no' for that... I made the classes teacher number go up.  Bringing these volunteers was priceless and again, a great experience for all. 

And finally... one of the best ways to bring visiting Artist into my classroom is through Artist Trading Cards. By having students trade with other students all over the world, they each have a little work of Art to be inspired by and learn from. They learn that art is universal and an Artist can be any age. There is so much to read about on this blog when it comes to Artist Trading Cards, please click here.