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.

MakerSpace WonderLab Shelves

Why We Make

The Montessori environment is all about learning by doing and bringing learning to life, so it’s the perfect platform to apply the “Maker Movement”. Students are learning by doing in the classroom, and creatively learning by making in MakerSpace.

MakerSpace provides open-ended inquiry opportunities for students. They are able to combine art, science, technology, and engineering to demonstrate their knowledge creatively, while enhancing their hands-on classroom curriculum.

For example, when Upper Elementary students were studying the continents and plate tectonics, they used their MakerSpace Open Lab time to expand the classroom lesson. Students created outlines of the continents with blocks, then used blocks of different sizes and colors to map out the convergent and divergent plates.

With my background in Library Science, it was natural to develop the position into that of a MakerSpace Librarian. That means Lamplighter’s MakerSpace is based more on STREAM – Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art, and Math – than just STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

In Early Childhood classes, we use books as jumping off points for the lesson. Sometimes the book fits the subject we’re working on, like reading Scarecrow by Cynthia Roland when we were designing our school’s Scarecrow Contest submission, or reading Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter when we learned about Matisse. But sometimes the books are the basis of our exploration in MakerSpace that week, like reading Perfect Square by Michael Hall, and then letting our imaginations run wild with our own squares of paper.

In Lower and Upper Elementary classes, we often use books for background information and research, but also we have read books aloud to inspire our lessons. We read Fold Me a Poem by Kristine O’Connell George while we studied origami in MakerSpace and they studied poetry in the classroom. The book is full of poems about the art of origami, so after reading the poems out loud, practicing our expressive speaking voices, students wrote their own poems, shared them with the class, and then wrote them on origami paper before folding them up into an origami creation.

We have seen a jump in student enthusiasm and love of learning. The MakerSpace has been a catalyst for change, and we see that students are thinking more creatively in the classroom. Lessons learned in the classroom are being reinforced and explored in different ways in MakerSpace, and vice versa.

Abstract thinking students are able to learn on their level and have increased the scope to demonstrate their knowledge. Montessori allows us to reach students on any level, so MakerSpace goes hand-in-hand with this to ensure that all students are engaged in their lessons.

The Grand Scarecrow Finale

After learning so much from our Visiting Artist, Youngblood Studio, students were more than ready to work on the school scarecrow. The studio sent back 4 composite drawings and we had students vote on what scarecrow they would most like to make.

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We voted anonymously and then predicted what scarecrow we thought would win. Though the votes were fairly evenly distributed, number 4 won!

Youngblood Studio let us upcycle leftover shop materials to create our scarecrow body. We dedicated a day to applying over 9,000 sequins to our owl form! Every student had an opportunity to help out, so our scarecrow is truly a team effort!

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We named our scarecrow owl “Dr. Hoo”, and Youngblood Studio delivered him to Lichterman Nature Center for us.

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The very next day, we were informed that Dr. Hoo had won 1st place in the Best Critter category! All of the students are so proud, and excited to go see him in the wild. The win was a great way to wrap up our scarecrow project, and we can’t wait to have him live on our campus after Lichterman’s exhibit closes in November.

More Scarecrow Structures

Our students have been a roll with creative scarecrow ideas. They have been using unconventional materials to build unique scarecrows that we can’t resist showing off.

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A scarecrow drawing was transformed into a mask after using a paper punch.

 

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The Lego scarecrow has long arms for the birds to land on.

 

Even scarecrows built from blocks all look different:

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This scarecrow has two tall yet sturdy legs.

 

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This scarecrow includes elements of color and texture to attract birds.

 

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Students worked together to create a large, detailed scarecrow: notice the shoelaces on his feet! They are hiding a ticking timer in his arm to scare off birds.

 

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Inspired by all the scarecrow designing and building, a student decided to draw a crow!

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!

 

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!