When Mrs. Kavney’s first grade class wanted to make an aurora borealis for their Alaska project I went home and experimented with all sorts of materials to see if I could come up with something reasonable. After many failed attempts I am happy to say that I have a lovely technique to share. By the way, I am doing my best to spell aurora borealis correctly throughout this post, but forgive me if I slip up. The spell check doesn’t get it.
The first step barely hints at how the end product will turn out. I opened up #4 white coffee filters and asked the students to decorate them with bands of colored markers. I provided Crayola Gel markers, because I like their hues, but any water soluble marker will do.
You might have noticed the protective shiny paper on the work area. If I didn’t have this freezer paper around, I would have used waxed paper under the colored paper.
To blend the rough edges of the strokes of the markers, students gave their colored coffee filters a light coat of water, then….
… they slipped their little hands into plastic bags and squeezed and smooched the colors around, to create streaks and blends. This is when the WOW effect began to emerge.
Our Northern Lights now needed to dry. This took only of couple of hours.
Students then pinched together a few little folds,to mimic the rays of light streaking down from the heavens.
The added advantage of this step is that the project took a step away from the original shape of the coffee-filter.
Notice that we’re still using the freezer paper to protect our work surface. Here, a thin coat of white glue (like Elmer’s Glue) is lightly applied to the BACK of our Northern Lights paper.
Now, the colored, creased, and glued paper is laid, unglued side up, upon the black paper of the final project. The glue that strayed on to the black paper virtually disappeared after drying.
One last touch, which had to dry overnight, was to use tubes of glitter glue to create a bit more drama. I limited each borealis to three or four glitter-glue streaks.
Students then cut out a silhouette of snowy mountains. Finally we were done with THIS part of the project.
Visit my previous post for more of a look at the finished product.
May 6, 2013
It’s been a busy book making season here! Lots of books have been finishing up in the classrooms, and now it’s time to start showing them off. This Alaska triptych (three panel) / folder was a project that particularly caught my fancy. Students had been following the Alaskan Iditarod. Using the Iditarod as a backdrop, the teacher Mrs. Kavney connected the study of geography, math, science and reading. Continuing with the Alaskan theme, her class work on this book that included a report, tucked into the front pocket, a Haiku, mounted within the book, a pop-up tree, an Alaskan animal, and the aurora borealis in the background.
Each student studied a different animal. I gave the students a choice of cutting out and coloring a drawing that I gave them of their animal or drawing their own. If I had more time with these children I would have liked to have spent a full period helping them to do drawings of their own, but that was one detail that I had to forgo.
Still, the decision to put in a drawing of their own was offered, and I was happy when that was the decision that was made.
Mrs. Kavney did a Haiku lesson with her students, which was proudly displayed to the right of the Alaskan landscape. The students liked writing the Haiku so much that they asked to do more!
My friend Susan Share told me that the Alaskan landscape is full of tall spruce, so we created spruce trees to put on a pop-up. The star of the project, though, was the colorful northern lights behind the mountains. I will be writing a separate post on how we made these whimsical and colorful additions to the Alaskan night sky.
The folder/pocket on the outside of the books worked out well: the standard 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper tucked neatly inside. See my post on planning out this book for dimension details.
These books looked great when I had my final day with the students. I think that they will be adding more detail to the backgrounds and the water. I am hoping that they add waves to the blue areas, more trees, some mountain villages, and maybe some stars.
March 27, 2013
Last year I teamed up with second grade teachers to design a book project that supported their curriculum objective of researching a famous person. The project created a good bit of excitement, so we decided to repeat it this year. Repeating a project gives us all the opportunity to make the project even better.
The concept is this: on the first spread of pages there is a mystery figure, and a book of clues so the viewer can guess the identity of the famous person, and learn something about this person when reading the clues.
The second page places the person in their environment,. Here, Mary Musgrove is hunting a deer. The figure from the first page stands on her own, and can be exhibited in front of her illustrated home territory. There is an origami pocket on the left side that holds a small rubber band pamphlet, which contains a report on the person. As it turned out, having the pocketed book on the left (verso) page was a mistake: each time the page opens the little pamphlet book falls out of the pocket. Next time we will put the book on the right (recto) page.
The book structure itself is based on a fold which I call the Book Base, a simply folded but adaptable structure. Here the book about Marco Polo is opened up to show that the finished book is still just one piece of folded paper.
Here’s Marco Polo book set up for show.
Both the teachers and I did some things this year that felt better all around. Last year the teachers tried to get all the research done before and during the time that I was working with the students. I saw the students for three one-hour sessions over the course of two weeks. Trying to get all the research and writing done before my last day with the students turned out to be stressful and unnecessary. This year I asked only that the students know what their person looked like before I arrived. This was so that, after creating the basic book structure during the first class, that the students could start creating their person with paper, popsicle sticks, and material bits. A real stick figure! My other class time with the students was spent just creating the architecture of the book: we made a graduated page book for the clues; a rubber band book for most of the other written information; origami pockets to hold the stick figure on one page and the little book on the other: we made an origami base to for the “who am ?” piece; a pop-up on the second spread of pages and we explored decorative options. With all of this in place, then the research began in earnest, after my time with the students was over. I think we were all happy with this sequence.
These dressed stick figures were the last thing we did during the first class. The students loved doing this part of the project. The teachers told me that many students opted to continue working on them during recess.
There were so many really fine pieces of work done by these students that it was really hard to pick out which ones to show here.
I happened to walk into one of the classes about 10 days after my time with the students was officially over. The students were gathered around a student who was presenting his book about Neil Armstrong. After his presentation the second graders around him were writing.
Each student was writing what they liked about their fellow student’s book . What a lovely way to honor each other’s work! Next, there will be a presentation for the parents, where the students dress up as the person they researched! This should go well, as it will be the second dressing.
Biography project proposal
Biography Project decorative details
March 14, 2013
One of the best parts of being a guest teaching artist in schools is the relationships that I have with the teachers that I work with. Most of the work that I do is with teachers that I have worked with before. This means that year after year, as we get to know each other better, we can develop bookmaking projects that can dynamically align to the mandates of the curriculum. Each year the projects that I present generally are either repeat projects that are continually refined to serve the classroom needs better, or they are projects that are designed anew, to fit shifting interests of the teachers.
This past week I started a completely new project with Margo’ s second grade class. I have worked with Margo for years, but this is the first time that she is the primary teacher in the second grade. She said that she wanted to do some research with her students and that she wanted there to be a “global” feel to the project. After brainstorming a bit, we decided that we would reach for the global connection through the children’s snack bags. Each day for a week the class logged their snacks and noted where they came from. Pineapple from Thailand, bananas from South America, celery from California, Mandarin oranges from Florida, via Chinese origins. We had the concept, then I had to come up with a design that would work in her classroom. What I came up with is illustrated in the drawing above: it includes a pop-up (the snack popping out of the lunch bag), a window to peek through at the habitat of the snack, and two pages for writing. We started the bookmaking yesterday. I look forward to posting images when the books are done!
Last year I worked with Mrs. Kavney’s first grade class, making a Dinosaur Diorama. I loved this project and was looking forward to repeating it. This year, however, Mrs. Kavney wanted the book to be more of this world. She worked up a spectacular unit on following the Iditarod in Alaska, incorporating geography, math, and science. She wanted to have our bookmaking project put another spin on this unit, and she had her eye on studying animals and habitat in Alaska. She liked the Diorama book that we did last year, so I so I reworked the basic design. The animal is now central, a pocket is included that can hold standard size paper, which will contain the sentences that the first graders will write about their animals, and there is an area to showcase a haiku that students will write. Of course I couldn’t resist the opportunity to somehow incorporate the Northern Lights…which, when I mentioned this to the students, they responded by telling me that these lights are also known as the aurora borealis. I am learning not to talk down to these students…This project was also started this week. My next post will likely be on the aurora borealis part of the project, and I look forward to seeing how the rest of it goes.
Now, back to prepping.