Category Archives: early education & play

Art Lesson -Wire Sculpting Inspired by Alexander Calder’s Circus

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For this months art lesson with third grade, I chose to make wire circus performers inspired by Alexander Calder’s circus.  When the children were in 1st grade we made Giacometti inspired wire sculptures. The thicker wire in these sculptures was difficult to bend so I chose thinner wire this time.

The lesson began with the book  Sandy’s Circus by Tanya Lee Stone. This picture book tells the story of Calder’s youth, how he came to enjoy wire sculpture, become an artist and create his moving circus.

The Whitney Museum of American Art have actual video footage of Alexander Calder working his circus.  I showed the children this video from 1927, but there are many others.

For our project we made trapeze artists.  I thought they would look great on a display especially if we could string them across the classroom.

Alexander Calder's Circus wire sculptures

Materials Used

  • wire
  • scissors
  • masking tape
  • markers
  • material scraps
  • wool/yarn
  • paper
  • straws
  • wooden ice cream spoons.

How to make a wire person

  1. Bend the piece of wire in half and twist the top to create a loop for the head.

making a wire person

2. Fold from half way along the remaining wire towards the centre to make arms.

making a wire man

3. Twist the arms, leaving a loop at the end for hands. Twist part of the remaining wire together to form a body.

making a wire person

4. Open the bottom of the wire out to make legs (cut if too long). Add loops for feet.

wire person

5. Cover the surface with masking tape. Add extra layers for padding out specific areas.

Decorating

Once the class had made their basic shapes for their trapeze artists, they were given a variety of materials to create, costumes, hair, faces and props. To join the material to their sculpture, some made holes and threaded pieces through, some used tape or glue and some used the wire to wrap around the material, joining it to their circus performer.

Making the Trapeze

Join two pieces of wire to a wooden ice cream spoon and attach to a straw. The children posed their trapeze artists in different positions and we took pictures to remind ourselves of the poses, when we put them on display.

Alexander Calder's circus trapeze artist

I love the way they turned out and how each child put their individual character into their sculpture.  I’d love to have the time to do a full-scale project and create a whole circus. We could investigate different ways of building and making the models move, perhaps with individual groups working on different aspects of movement. Perhaps some of the kids will be inspired to do this at home?

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links meaning if you purchase an item via these links I receive a small commission.

Art Lesson (3rd Grade) Wire trapeze artists inspired by Alexander Calder's Circus

If you love this lesson, pin to Pinterest for future reference. Other art lessons can be found on my Art Lessons Board

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Why Ice is the Perfect Loose Part

Why ice is the perfect loose part

My children are fascinated by ice. I’ve added loose parts to ice before, but never considered that ice could in itself be a loose part.

When the cold weather comes, the first thing my kids do is to check if their water table has frozen and any other containers they have left around the garden.

ice
the cauldron has loads of ice in, not like yesterday. How can we break it?

The next thing they like to do is to go to the storm pond near their friends house to see if it has frozen.

Last year it froze solid for the first time. The kids loved throwing sticks to try to break it and even ice skated on it.

ice skating on the pond

When the ice wasn’t solid enough to walk on, it was just as fascinating.

The children broke off the surface, ice sheets very carefully and had competitions to see who could break the largest piece.

carrying a sheet of ice

My youngest insisted on carrying pieces home, even though her fingers were numb and left them on the doorstep to see how long they would remain frozen.

When the pieces broke, they used them to make these pictures.

Ice is a perfect loose part. It

  • Encourages expoloration
  • Is a full sensory experience
  • Can be any shape or size
  • Can be easily found
  • Presents challenges as it changes form.
  • The children can help create it in different shapes and forms
  • And is fascinatingly beautiful
Ice
I broke this piece – look at all the lovely patterns.

If you don’t live in a cold climate you could make your own in moulds in the freezer or place a few bags of ice outside and see how the children explore.

 

ice on bare feet

child looking at ice
This piece looks like a magnifier. I can look through it – see.

 

An Art Project About Line Inspired by Piet Mondrian

first grade art

Last Year in Kindergarten, my art lessons were centred around investigating different art materials.  This year, now they are in first grade, we will explore those materials further, whilst learning about the elements of art and introducing new artists.

A Lesson about Line

  • Ask a child to draw a line. The first child I chose drew a bumpy line. The next child drew a straight line.
  •  Discuss different types of lines and introduce the terms horizontal, vertical and diagonal.
  •  Look at how to use the different lines to make shapes, two diagonal lines and a horizontal line make a triangle etc.
  • Introduce Mondrian’s paintings. Talk about  how he arranged horizontal and vertical lines to make the shapes and sizes he wanted.

It is then time for the children to try their own.

Materials needed

  • Black tempura paint in a flat tray
  • A square or rectangle of stiff cardboard
  • Paper
  1.  Show the children how to dip the edge of the cardboard in the paint and remove any excess paint by dabbing it on the tray.
  2. Show them how to print lines on the paper in different arrangements to make shapes.  Though Mondrian only used horizontal and vertical lines, the children in my class were also allowed to use diagonal lines in their compositions.

 

3. While the children print, talk to them about the shapes and arrangements they have made. Remind them to close up their shapes so they can be coloured later. As Hallowe’en was looming, spider webs were particularly popular.

Making a Fancy Line 

While we waited for the paint to dry, we talked a little more about lines.  We looked at a sketch and found the different types of lines used in the picture.

The next challenge was to make one long line, composed of five different types of lines, without taking their pencil off the paper.

I demonstrated them some examples.

art project on line

They tried their own in pencil and then went over their lines in marker.  Some children had difficulty making a single line and wanted to join it to make a shape.  For those that did this I encouraged them to focus on the line by outlining it in marker without filling in any colour in the centre.

Mondrian and Primary Colours

  • Look at Mondrian’s compositions again. How does he use colour?
  • Talk about primary colours, what they are and why are red, blue and yellow  the primary colours?
  • Look at how Mondrian paintings used primary colours to shade some of the shapes in his compositions.

The second part of the project

Ideally, I would leave the black paint overnight to dry.  We have limited time for art so this was not possible and some of the paint was still wet. We blotted the worst of the paint off with a tissue.

Materials

Red, yellow and blue markers (you may also want to include black)

What to do

Use the markers to fill in some of the shapes,  leaving some  of them white.  Try to fill in each shape with solid colour and not leave any gaps so they look like Mondrian’s compositions.

Mondrian inspired paintings

The Finished Products

 

If you like this lesson and you’d like to save the idea, use this image to save it to Pinterest. You can find my other art lessons and those that inspire me, on my Art lessons for Kids Pinterest Board or art activities for home and free play on my art and craft for kids board.

Art Project about line inspired by Piet Mondrian - elementary art

Have You Ever Eaten Every Part of a Plant? We did on our field trip to Oxbow Farm.

Oxbow Farm is my favourite place for field trips.  The guides are wonderfully entertaining and keep the kids motivated with songs, movement, challenges and a fast paced, hands-on journey through the farm.

The children learn about the farm plants and have an opportunity to investigate, pick and taste everything, whilst being shown respect for the plants and their environment.

They eat leafy plants being careful not to stand on the plants.

picking Kale leaves
Snap off a whole Kale leaf and eat it. “It tastes like broccoli”

They eat seeds, learning about where the seeds come from, how they are spread and dried out in the greenhouse.

seeds drying in the greenhouse
The children collected bean pods in the garden, split the pods and brought the seeds to dry in the greenhouse

taking the beans from their pods

They eat stems. We found tiny celery sticks to try.

They eat flowers. We ate small yellow flowers that tasted like licquorice.

edible flowers

They eat fruit. We ate juicy apples from the tree and found the seeds inside them.

They eat roots. We pulled salad turnips and carrots from the ground, washed them and ate them.

tasting a salad turnip
tasting a salad turnip. “It tastes a bit spicy”

The children found a caterpillar

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Found out that runner bean leaves stick to you

runner beans

and even played hide and seek in the rhubarb

And everyone had a juicy pumpkin to take home.

My Top 3 Picture Book New Releases

From my most recent Picture Book new release previews ,the titles below are my favourites.

  1. For under 5’s and early readers

I Am BatI Am Bat by Morag Hood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love the simplicity of I Am Bat. I can easily hear it being read in my own child’s voice and see her acting out and reciting the text as she does with Elephant and Piggie books. Bat is over dramatic in a similar way to Elephant and this really appealed to my kids.  The illustrations evoke the bat’s emotions perfectly. A wonderful book for younger readers.

2. For parents and middle children

Middle Bear

Middle Bear by Susanna Isern

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a parent of 3 children, I love Middle Bear. It is heartwarming and uplifting without being overly sentimental and conveys perfectly the mediocrity of being a middle child. I love the shell-shocked/glazed expression of the bear and the use of child like illustrations, as they convey perfectly his perception of himself as unremarkable. As the story unfolds, middle bear find out that there are some things he is just perfect for. I loved the way this unfolded and it made me smile.  A perfect book for middle children everywhere.

3. For Teachers

Chocolate CakeChocolate Cake by Michael Rosen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book by Michael Rosen about stealing chocolate cake. What isn’t there to like? The sumptuous use of onomatopoeia and descriptive language makes it a perfect book to use in the classroom. Chocolate Cake would provide lots of inspiration for children developing their descriptive writing and would be a great opening to language and vocabulary lessons. I love the way the typeface changes to enhance the descriptive words as they work seamlessly with the pictures. The illustrations are atmospheric and  the boy’s expressive eyes are skillfully drawn to show every emotion throughout the book. (currently only available in the UK).

 

 

Disclaimer – Amazon links are affiliate links, meaning I receive a small commission if you order via these links.

Do Hallowe’en Celebrations Encourage Greed? Send a Different Message with Goodwill.

 

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There are many things I love about Hallowe’en, but it can easily be perceived as a festival that encourages children to be greedy. It certainly seemed that way to me when I first moved here.

  • How many goodies can they collect?
  • Who gives the biggest and best treats?
  • Who has the most elaborate costume?

It doesn’t have to be that way. Hallowe’en can be a perfect opportunity to encourage children to reuse, recycle and support their community. A number of initiatives persuade children to trade in  excess candy and if we help children make their own costumes, they can utilise objects that might otherwise be thrown away. One thing I hadn’t considered until now is that donating and shopping at Goodwill thrift stores could help my kids be more socially responsible this Hallowe’en.

Last week I was invited, with a group of fellow Seattle bloggers, to visit the Milgard Work Opportunity Centre in Tacoma,  a job training centre funded by Goodwill.  When I donate or buy from Goodwill, I am glad to be reducing landfill and helping a good cause but I’ve never really looked into where the money actually goes.

Goodwill thrift store profits and donations, fuel programs that help people with limited income, disabilities and disadvantages to overcome barriers to education and employment. There was a lot to take in at our visit, the facility was inspirational and the staff and young people were unreservedly passionate about the facility. The model reminded me of Children’s Centres in the UK – a one stop shop with multi-agencies under one roof but for young adults rather than families. A place to go for training, support and education.

Youth Build
Learning construction skills at the Youth Build Program

Some of the facilities available at the Milgard Work Opportunity Centre are:

  • A job resource room
  • Barista training
  • A culinary school (they served us a really delicious, high quality lunch)
  • Financial advice
  • Youth build (learning the construction trade whilst working towards the GED)
  • Drop in Math support
  • GED program
  • Warehouse and Logistics Training
  • Computer and Office Skills Training

The following graphic explains the centre’s  community impact.

The People served by Goodwill

The second part of our visit was to the Goodwill  Hallowe’en Thrift Store in Spanaway – the largest such store in the country.  It was a treasure trove of costumes and accessories.

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I rarely buy new costumes. Part of the thrill of dressing up for Hallowe’en is deciding on a costume and using materials from Goodwill, Buy Nothing Groups or things we have at home, to create something unique. Rushing to buy the an expensive, ready-made costume feels like cheating to me.

Some of my favourite costumes over the years, have been made from simple materials. This girl in my daughter’s class  was a vending machine-made from a cardboard box.

vending machine costume

Every year my daughter’s school dance in the Thrill the World Event in Redmond Town Centre. The zombie costumes are great fun to make and each year they decide on a theme. Last year we put together this Hamilton inspired zombie from a dress somebody donated.

hamilton zombie

My younger daughter is joining in this year and wants to be a zombie fairy.  I found some great items at the Goodwill Costume Store which I will share with you soon. We have a family trip to Goodwill scheduled this week. My youngest wants to make a bat costume and  I’m hoping the others will  find inspiration for their costumes. I’ll share the fruits of our labours soon.

I know it can be tempting to simply run out and buy a ready-made costume but consider these great reasons for creating your own.

  • Recycling old costumes and clothes helps reduce landfill
  • Your costume will be truly unique
  • Encourages creative thinking
  • Encourages working together and problem solving
  • Learn skills
  • Encourages sharing as you request materials from friends and community.
  • Reduces costs
  • Encourages forward planning and design
  • It is a great family activity
  • It raises money for worthy causes.

 

 

Why not donate last years costumes at a local thrift store/ charity shop or organise a costume swap to encourage your kids to recycle and help those less fortunate?

 

 

 

Max and Bird:Book Review

Disclaimer: The links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links meaning if you purchase any of the products through these links I will receive a small commission.

max and bird

When Max and Bird arrived on our doorstep, the illustrations were immediately familiar, but I couldn’t quite place them.  They were familiar because Ed Vere is the author of one of our favourite books, the story of a jazz playing gorilla called Mr Big.  Mr Big was chosen by the Book Trust as the official booktime book for 2009 and distributed to 750,000 British schoolchildren.

I had high hopes for Max and Bird and it didn’t disappoint.  Max and Bird is charming from start to finish. Ed Vere is wonderfully skilled at portraying emotion through his characters’ eyes and even before reading the text, you can’t help but fall in love with Max and Bird. The opening

This is Max.

Max is a kitten.

Kittens chase birds.

This is Bird.

Bird is a bird.

Birds get chased by kittens.

is a perfect introduction to the humour and tenderness present in every page.

Max and Bird is a book about friendship. Max wants to be friends with bird but also would quite like to eat him. That isn’t what friendship is about, so when bird needs help learning to fly, the two discover a way to celebrate their friendship in a way that is much more fun.

max and bird pigeon

The tension in the relationship and playful humour was a hit with my youngest daughter, an ‘Elephant and Piggie’ fan.  The girls particularly loved the British phrase “Not a sausage” and the manic, show off pigeon who tries to show Bird how to fly.

It isn’t often I receive a book to review that I instantly fall in love with. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, an absolute must for all teachers, librarians and parents. I have no doubt it will become a classic, favourite in our household. Now I’ve been introduced to Max, I can’t wait to read the other Max titles, Max the Brave and Max at Night.