If you give an art student a label…

This year each art student has a binder. This is a cross between a portfolio and a sketchbook. It will hold artwork and class discussions notes, and serve as a sketchbook for artwork ideas. I figured a binder could hold different types of paper, unlike the sketchbooks typically available. We started by creating something for the front pocket. Using large sheets of paper, we dragged paint with mat board scraps, attempting to make layers of semi-translucent strokes. We looked at some of Eric Carle’s art, which is created using shapes from paintings, then we cut our large paintings apart. Students used their own paintings to start their collage then shared their scraps for variety.

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Soon after we had covers, we added some pages to our binders. We have folders, page protectors, tracing paper, and some other items… so far. I hadn’t planned on this, but we decided to make name labels. No matter how hard you try, it’s tricky to remember to put your name on the back of your artwork. For example, this beautiful watercolor painting by a middle schooler has no name on it!

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This painting will be claimed by the artist, that’s not a worry. However, we are still trying to develop the habit. The students were using all kinds of markers and pencils to make a sheet of name labels when I remembered I had some great texture sheets to put underneath. Now, we were making textured name labels.

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It wasn’t long before a new idea was sparked, and I was suddenly getting requests for different types of paper from one student. She started to wet the paper down and press it into her textured sheet. The great part about this was when other kids came around, wanting to try it out, they did not come to me. They came to her and she shared what she had discovered so far. At this point I stepped back and watched.photo 5

Two things about the Montessori method of education came to mind as I watched. One is the way children children learn from one another. I wasn’t hearing competitive words between kids. I was hearing six or seven kids share what they had used to wet their paper and how it compared to other methods. I heard encouragement and friendly advice. The other thing that came to mind was how learning can be constricted or given freedom based on the materials presented and made available to them. I have to admit this experience also brought something else to mind:  Laura Numeroff’s book, “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.” Apparently if you give a McGuffey student a blank label, they might wind up teaching a friend how to make textured paper.

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