I am finished for this school year and it has been so interesting and only occasionally frustrating. This is a great school with engaged staff and administration. My glitches were the business office ordering materials and getting the building folks to play nice with art and women. It all worked out and we had our grant extended into next year. This is so important for this type of learners to have at least 2 years. This is a developmental learning school and what I might take for granted takes more time. On the last day students finally looked at me directly and related verbally. Jayde learned my name instead of saying “excuse me” all the time. On the last day we got students to draw things for the next part of the mural. I think autistic kids and most of us need to see something concrete not abstract to understand. I have been blessed with being able to see the big picture and help others do the steps to create something. I’m kind of an art general contractor. Most aren’t like me that way I’m finally realizing. Hopefully this realization will make me a better teacher.
What we have so far. This is 16 ft by 8 ft high and the lighting makes it so hard to photograph. It is a curved wall so that is why I went with an appliqué approach. The high relief bits are attached with construction adhesive and temporary screws. It was decided that I could install. This gave me the opportunity to have students set tiles directly on the wall and one of the most rewarding parts of the process. We now have 16 additional feet to work with. I’m delighted students now get it and are excited about designing more. I can’t wait to see how things develop next year.
Our high relief dog. A student made a drawing of a teacher’s dog that we used. We have an F-16(I think that’s the right plane) that another student drew.
A kids Sponge Bob
Some handmade clay bits with our background of blue glass tiles. I had them set handmade tile and glass tile on small pieces of mesh. This was a great way to have kids apply tile to the wall. I always want to know what clay and glazes were used so for us it was some kind of low fire white that I found in the art room and rehydrated. We used Amaco velvet underglazes my go to glaze for inside and outside and a low fire gloss glaze. I had most of the kids use cookie cutters to make tiles but some made more unique tiles. John made his name and large! We spread the letters out throughout the mural.
I just finished a 5 day residency at RT Cream school in Camden with a second and fourth grade class. We made contraptions with a basic electric circuit.
I looked like Santa with my trash bags and a cart of materials going from class to class. We took 4th grade to the cafeteria to work since the classroom was so small. It wasn’t ideal given that being organized is hard for me in ideal situations! I would do it again in a heartbeat.
This is what a circuit with a battery ,switch, and motor looks like to a second grader. I am pleased that almost 100% of the kids mastered this and can wire a circuit themselves.
In fourth grade we started with doodlebots and vibration motors. They were such a great group I added pulleys and we made car like things. They earned the right to use hot glue so we could do more. Five days was way too short with this group. They were so engaged and became independent creative thinkers very fast.
Second grade started with doodlebots and then made vibration motor animals using a piece of foam noodle as a casing for the electric parts and adding decorations. The photos just can’t show how much fun I had with these kids.
Today we laid it all out on the floor and it looks amazing so far. I’m finding that mosaic and making small clay parts with cookie cutters and handmade parts when possible is ideal for this community of learners. Paper mache also. I think these kids benefit greatly from hands on tactile repetitive experiences. These are techniques that work with all levels of ability to create a fabulous whole. Today Dasante came running into the art room with a big smile on his face. We all need more art then we get normally. It touches us in places that can’t be measured. It touches these children in ways we should be paying more attention too.Dasante’s butterfly
I’m happy that I got the proportions right!
My big messy project is moving along. As always there were some scary times when materials were not arriving in time but nature took care of the delays with snow and school cancellations. As pictured I’ve been using paper twine to help kids follow whatever pattern we use. In this case a spiral. I’m finding that little parts like mosaic and small handmade bits engage these autistic types. Repetition is a great learning tool. I was told I was ADHD as an adult. I have a very short attention span or hyper focus. Mosaic is the only thing I could do all day and it works for these kids too. They seem to love it. I have no idea why it works for us but don’t really care. It works and that’s enough for me and the results are cool. I am loving working at this school. It feels like home. I drive almost 2hrs to and from so this is a good thing. Mosaic Art Supply pulled through getting us tile in time…we are using glass tile and applying them and the handmade bits to mesh to set on plywood with thinset later.this is a great way to have kids explore the medium and than cut and paste to make it work on the final piece. Handmade cutouts with mosaic look ok no matter what happens and that’s why I love it for my big messy projects.
I like to add unique big objects designed by kids or staff… in this one the art teacher Barbara drew a sketch of her cat to use. A student drew another teachers dog that morphed into a 3D version to mosaic. One student drew an F16 to add in the sky. All good by me.
I find it’s good to mix a few whites together for a thing than just one color. the cat is a combination of 3 whites and the background is a combination of 4 blues. the tiles are attached to the cat form with Elmers. I prefer tacky glue or Weldbond but they didn’t come in time. Any PVA glue will work. If it gets messy they are water soluble and scrub off of cement products in the end. Interior projects have more wiggle room. If the tiles are set too close it isn’t a big deal since you aren’t dealing with water penetration and frost.We have a kiln!!!! even if kids mush up the colors they work out. We used cookie cutters to make tiles for kids to underglaze. I have been using Amaco Velvets. It seems like even if kids mush up the colors it works out. Those that could make more unique parts did but every kid had a good time. The school had dried up white clay that we rehydrated and hand wedged and rolled with a rolling pin. We then put a gloss glaze on top so everything turned pink. I never get bored seeing things come out shiny from the kiln after the glaze firing.
Abdulla drew an amazing image of Gail’s dog. So much changes in the translation to 3D. I did my best to get the spirit of it. It will continue to change. These group projects are like whisper down the lane and what you start with transforms along the way as you add new techniques and materials. In the end it seems everyone involved feels a sense of ownership. I love this. Personally, I made some great discoveries about foam cutting tools this week. I will never use a corrugated shaper again because they make a fine mess that sticks to you and everything else by static electricity. A “knife” of all sorts is the way to go. I found some info online about using a sharpened drywall knife to cut foam and it is great. The trades are an excellent source of information to tweak to art. I bought knife blades for my portable jigsaw..also great. I then tried a knife blade on my Fein multitool and wow…amazing too. No more little bits to clean up! this is such a BIG improvement for me not only because power tools make things easier but doing hand cutting works better too. I now have shavings to collect and they don’t respond to static electricity the same way. We started making clay bits last week but I am having too much fun to photograph it…hopefully next week I will take some pics. The students are doing so well…I only wish I knew what was going on in their heads.
We are covering the forms with paper now. These students are doing so well that they complete whatever I bring in for the day. This is another messy job but we have a big tarp under the work table to contain the mess. This time I am using unyru paper rolls and diluted elmers glue. I love this paper but it has gotten too expensive to use in my future school projects. I will switch to bogus paper available at places that sell packaging material. It is recycled newsprint and kraft paper but slightly heavier. You need a paper that is unsized so it is more malleable. Sized papers are stiff. Unsized papers eventually become pulp. Unryu is very strong,stays workable for a long time and covers in one or two layers. Bogus paper usually requires more layers and isn’t as malleable but it works well enough and it’s cheap. My personal favorite is blotter paper. It is thick and covers in one layer but turns to pulp fast so hard to use with kids. Last year I used what I called art snot as an adhesive with what I called bogie paper. Great art terms for 2nd graders. It is methyl cellulose and I used Elmers art paste. I had trouble with the layers de-laminating and haven’t tested it again so I went with white glue which I know works. The paper needs to form a hard stable surface over the foam.
Last Thursday was our first day getting our hands dirty. Our design is becoming large foam forms to paper mache. I’m putting the forms together at home and bringing them in for the students to paper mache. The students are enjoying the process and do very well at this task. They are working well together which is good to see. These are the forms for the center of the mural. What will become the sunflower is almost 8 feet tall. We are using 2 inch polystyrene insulation board available at building supplies. I insert wood furring strips or washers in places so that our installation hardware will not tear through the foam.
The tools I use to cut and shape foam are pictured here. Knives cut foam better than saws. I tried a hot knife but wasn’t happy with it especially the smell. I use a utility knife and an old bread knife. I use a fine tooth handsaw for inserting wood. I tie the wood to the foam with rebar wire. You can use packing tape,duct tape,whatever works to attach other things together. You can make a shape out of more than one piece and join them. I often pin pieces together with dowels. Like doing drywall the form doesn’t have to be perfect but the better it is the easier it is to cover. It also needs to be structurally sturdy so no wiggly loose parts. I shape the foam with the bread knife and smooth it with a corrugated shaper. It is a messy process. I had the bad experience of having a school order the white foam made of little balls. Don’t ever get this. We had little foam balls everywhere!