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!

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Youngblood Studio: Visiting Artist

Visiting artists from Youngblood Studio, Tylur French and Amanda Nalley, gave a presentation about being working artists and shared some of the projects they’ve created, such as sculptures at Overton Park, structures at the skate park, and artwork for Le Bonheur and St. Jude hospitals.

Whether they are working on a large project or a smaller scale, Mr. French starts with an idea, then takes to paper with a loose sketch. A partner in the studio transforms the sketch into a detailed watercolor piece. From there, Ms. Nalley uses computer mapping to see how the completed piece might look and how it can be assembled.

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The concept changed slightly between the watercolor stage and the finished piece. Mr. French explained how projects can take several years and go through multiple design changes.

After the presentation, Mr. French and Ms. Nalley facilitated a scarecrow brainstorming session with Lower and Upper Elementary students. Each student sketched one to three ideas for Lichterman Nature Center’s Scarecrow Contest, then came back together as a group to explain their thought processes.

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Some students were very specific about how to build their scarecrows. There were many innovative ideas that incorporated technology, movement, and even trap doors!

Our students’ designs were creative and unique. Since it would be too hard to pick just one, Youngblood Studio is going to create composite designs, meaning they will take aspects of everyone’s ideas to be incorporated into our scarecrow.

Youngblood Studio will send three composites back early next week, and the school will vote for their favorite. Then we will choose what materials to use and decide how to manage our workload. We plan to start building at the end of next week, with all students from Early Childhood, Lower Elementary, and Upper Elementary helping out.

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Clockwise from top left: Mr. French answers questions about being a working artist; Mr. French and Upper Elementary students check out the scarecrow frame; Ms. Nalley and a student have a great time with the sketching process

A bonus quest: Students learned that Mr. French hid a golden squirrel eating a diamond in the bike arch at Overton Park. Try to find it whenever you visit the park!