Erika Roberts: Visiting Artist

Last week Lamplighter had the privilege of welcoming local watercolor artist Erika Roberts to our campus for a day long workshop exploring the beauty of watercolor paintings. Mrs. Roberts is a mixed media artist whose work primarily explores different avenues of the southern landscape. In her workshop, Mrs. Roberts shared the wonder of watercolor and oil pastels with our students as they created their own Memphis skyline paintings.

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Our morning started with Mrs. Roberts giving a formal presentation about herself and her work, sharing with our students the progression of abstract to completely recognizable content, followed by very eager questions from all of our students. Immediately after Mrs. Roberts conducted customized workshops for our students from Early Childhood all the way to Upper Elementary.

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Upper and Lower Elementary classes each had sessions where Mrs. Roberts gave a formal demonstration and assisted with students as they created a skyline of their very own. With the usage of oil pastels, students were able to see the merger of oil and water as their paintings took shape. As she made her rounds to all of the children, Mrs. Roberts provided a brief introduction into the connection between color and emotion, demonstrating how saturation and hue can provide incredible insight into how an artist was feeling when they produced their work.

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Later in the afternoon, Mrs. Roberts welcomed our Early Childhood students into the MakerSpace for a less formal exploration of watercolors. Students were provided stencils to jumpstart their skylines and then allowed color and water to breathe life into their paintings. We are incredibly fortunate at Lamplighter to have had such a specialized artist come and share their knowledge and skillset with our students, who in every account blossomed in the room as each workshop took place.

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Mary Hall Surface: Visiting Artist

We are so grateful to the Orpheum for choosing Lamplighter Montessori School as a teaching site for their workshop, “A Playful Approach to Writing”. Internationally-recognized playwright Mary Hall Surface has been a teaching artist for over 30 years, and we were excited to experience one of her lessons.

Upper Elementary and Lower Elementary classes each had their own workshop session, which started with Mrs. Surface having them cup their hands and imagine holding something from their home. They turned to a partner and described their objects in five descriptive words. This exercise gave students the foundation of how imaginative and detailed they would be getting in the session!

Mrs. Surface then broke students up into groups of three, giving them a rolled up piece of paper to use as an object – any object. Stop for a second and imagine what your object might be. This was not a guessing game – it was an act of storytelling. Students took the paper and wordlessly acted out a story – beginning, middle, and end – not just a simple action. Another friend from their group then described what had happened in the story.

Everyone came back together for instructions on the second draft of their story – adding a conflict. It’s a great start to have your roll of paper be a hockey stick as you score a winning goal for your team, but what if… Students brainstormed possible conflicts, then broke back into small groups to act out their latest draft. Group mates interpreted the actions once again and identified the conflict.

The third draft of the story involved changing who was involved. Many students were acting as themselves, but what if you were suddenly a professional hockey player during the last two minutes of the championship game? How would you feel? What if you slipped on the ice? What emotions would we think the player would feel? What might be a resolution? How would different resolutions make him feel?

Students transformed rolled-up paper into creative objects that sparked fascinating stories. They put their ideas in a graphic organizer to explore later in class and MakerSpace. The session was a great exercise in imagination, storytelling, and empathy. Thank you again to the Orpheum and Mary Hall Surface for this experience!

Celebrating Memphis

We were excited to have the World Cargo Crate from Memphis in May at our school this week! We want to learn more about Memphis so we can help celebrate its bicentennial.

Each class learned about different aspects of Memphis, from the history of businesses like Piggly Wiggly and FedEx, to information about the riverboats and railroads.

We learned about the Memphis Belle and compared it with a model of a FedEx plane. We tried to lift a cobblestone and highlighted the contrasting textures when we touched the cotton.

We learned about Yellow Fever, got All Shook Up with Elvis, and listened to a sampling of tracks recorded at Stax. We asked each other Memphis trivia questions, and shared our favorite things about our city.

Thanks so much for choosing our school to host the World Cargo Crate, Memphis in May! We are excited to continue to learn about and celebrate our city this year.

Sydney Prather: Visiting Artist

Today’s Visiting Artist was our very own Sydney Prather! Ms. Sydney helps in Toddler classes and with After Care, so she’s a familiar face at our school. Many students didn’t know that Ms. Sydney’s passion is Musical Theater, and that she has 15 years experience as an actress, and 5 years as a director and choreographer. She gave presentations about musical theater before holding customized workshops for students from Early Childhood to Upper Elementary!

Ms. Sydney led character study sessions for Early Childhood students. They listened to “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” from the Lion King and identified the different characters they heard, as well as the emotions that came across in the vocals. Students practiced expressing different emotions vocally and through facial expressions. Then they walked to the music, first as themselves, then as different animals. It was so fun to move our bodies in ways we have seen and imagined animals doing! Check out how well they moved on Facebook.

Later in the day, kindergarteners had a chance to expand on this animal movement lesson. They learned moves Ms. Sydney choreographed especially for them! Check out the video of their routine on Facebook.

Lower and Upper Elementary students learned a dance created by Ms. Sydney, piece by piece. They made sure their faces were expressive while they followed the steps. They learned about staging as they put it all together and performed “Revolting Children” from Matilda the Musical. Teachers and staff were invited to see their final performance, which you can see on Facebook.

Bonus: Ms. Sydney is starting a musical theater club at Lamplighter! Lower and Upper Elementary students can enroll. The club will meet Thursdays from 3:30-5:00pm, from January 10th to May 2nd. You can sign up online at bit.ly/MusicalTheaterClub.

Starting Our Paper Study

[[Note: It’s been quiet on the blog, but busy in MakerSpace! This post was originally supposed to go up on September 28th… whoops!]]

Our Scarecrow Study wrapped up after we talked about shapes we see in art and everyday life. Even though we used over 9,000 round sequins, we created a different shape and structure from them! Students read I Spy Shapes in Art by Lucy Micklethwait, and we took some time to notice all the shapes around us, and what smaller shapes made up larger structures.

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This carried over into the start of our Paper study. We used colored paper to make collages, using only our fingers to tear the paper – no scissors! It was challenging but fun to try and rip paper into the exact shapes we wanted. We quickly learned that if you can’t tear the shape you want, you can tear small pieces and glue them into a specific shape on your paper!

Early Childhood classes read Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter, and Lower and Upper Elementary classes read Drawing with Scissors by Jane O’Connor.

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Through these books, we learned how Matisse created collages by cutting shapes from painted paper. This inspired us to use scissors for our next set of collages. Matisse is our Artist Study for the Fall gallery show, so you’re seeing our bright, bold collage-inspired paintings when you walk into the school!

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Chuck Jones, Songwriter: Visiting Artist

Singer/songwriter Chuck Jones visited Lamplighter School to teach students how to write songs. As always, the best way to learn is by doing, so we now have three hit songs under our belts! Songwriting pulls from various creative outlets – in addition to musical talent, one can also be skilled with words and language and craft a beautiful song. Our students learned that they can write a song about anything, with some loose guidelines and space to let their imagination roam.

Mr. Jones explained to each class some background of songwriting, like deciding on a theme or idea, and then picking a style for the music (country, rock ‘n’ roll, etc), a tempo (is it upbeat or slow?), and loosely planning the structure of the song. One song had a more traditional style of a verse followed by a chorus, a second verse, and a repeat of the chorus. Another started with the chorus, then had a verse before repeating the chorus again. One song didn’t really have a chorus, but instead repeated one of the catchy verses to finish it out. There are so many different ways to write a song!

Upper Elementary students brainstormed about what they like to do, and it came up that recess is their favorite part of the day. Mr. Jones taught them how to pick a word or phrase to be the “hook” of the song, and how to structure a chorus around that. With a song like “Recess”, students decided they wanted to have the verses follow the course of the school day. Mr. Jones said it was sometimes easiest to start with rhyming words and work backwards, so they would find a good word like “grammar” and put it at the end of a line, then think of a rhyming word to end the next line. Listen to their song here!

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Lower Elementary students wanted to write about something they were excited about, which was tonight’s “Kid’s Night Out”! The theme of the night is building, so they started writing about things they like to build, works they like to do in MakerSpace, and other fun activities they love at school. Some of their word choices had great rhyming words (perfect rhymes), but some were a bit harder, until Mr. Jones explained “soft rhymes”, which are words that are similar but don’t exactly rhyme. When the song was finished, all the students sang along! Listen to them sing along!

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Kindergarten students also got to write a song! After lunch, they were wound up and couldn’t focus on just one idea, so they went with the general theme of “Silly”! You can imagine how loud the room got while students came up with silly words and sounds and couldn’t hold their laughter in! They loved Mr. Jones’ guitar playing, and kept asking him to switch from county to rock ‘n’ roll, so their song is definitely a silly mash-up of styles that will have you laughing and singing along! Listen to it here!

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We’d like to send a huge THANK YOU to Chuck Jones for giving his time to our school and inspiring our students! They absolutely came alive during these sessions, and it is inspiring for them to see working artists making a living from the creative lives they love.

Scarecrow Study

To prepare to build our school scarecrow, students have been learning about the history of scarecrows and examples of durable materials.

Students shared what they knew of scarecrows’ design and purpose, and we learned that children in medieval Britain used to act as their own scarecrows! They would stand in the fields and wave their arms to scare away birds. This and other historical instances of humans acting as scarecrows led to our more modern interpretation of scarecrows dressed in human clothes, with lifelike faces. Scarecrows are still used today, and often use technology to help scare off birds with noises and movement.

We designed scarecrows using a variety of supplies in the MakerSpace WonderLab.

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A scarecrow puppet
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A scarecrow face designed with Tangram pieces – she even added a white moustache!
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Magnaflex pieces created a flexible dancing scarecrow

 

Students talked about durable materials, and what we could use to make our scarecrow last outside for two months. Students tested different materials for durability, and built sturdy scarecrow structures that were tall, yet tough to knock over.

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Our tallest scarecrow yet!
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A sturdy scarecrow with small arms – less room for the birds to land!