Saturday, December 19, 2009

Virtual Cookie Decorating

Cookie baking has always been a part of the Christmas season in my house.

But you can only make so many cookies before you run out of people to eat them. When you’ve made enough real cookies, head to this site to decorate some virtual cookies.

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Create Your Own Christmas Carol Ornament

This project is best for older kids. The paper strips are small and the ornaments are made of glass. That said, I had a good time making mine!

Supplies Needed:

Clear glass ornament

Printed Christmas carol lyrics


Yarn or ribbon

Printer and ink

Google search for the lyrics of the Christmas carol of your choice. Here’s a good place to start. I chose Joy to the World. Copy and paste the lyrics into a word document and change the font size and color. I found that 18 point font is about the right size. Print two copies of the lyrics.

Cut the lines into strips and trim off the extra white paper. Bend, but do not crease, the first strip and slip it through the mouth of the ornament, center first. Repeat with every strip. The strips will open up and lie against the inside of the glass ball. If, after two copies, you don’t think your ornament is full enough, print another copy and keep adding strips.

Hang your ornament and enjoy!

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Create Your Own Gingerbread Man Garland

This is another kindergarten project that’s fun for all ages. When my sister was in kindergarten she made a gingerbread man garland that still hangs on our tree every year. My sister would be perfectly happy if that garland ended up in the trash and each year she tries to convince our mother to leave it off the tree, but her arguments only cause our mother to choose ever more prominent placements for that piece of kindergarten artwork.

Supplies Needed:

Brown paper (a bag will do)










I believe my sister’s teacher used a die cut to make the gingerbread men, but you can create your own tracer by copying and pasting this gingerbread man into a word document and resizing. You want the gingerbread men to be about 4 inches by 6 inches. They should fit neatly into a sandwich bag for storage. An adult will want to cut four of five gingerbread men for each garland. Kindergarteners and 1st graders will quickly become frustrated if they have to do it themselves.

Cover your work space! Glitter! Ahh!

Decorate each gingerbread man differently. Use any or all of the materials for each.

When everything is dry (this could take awhile), an adult can link the gingerbread men by stapling a length of yarn to the backs of the gingerbread men’s arms.

Hang on a tree or over a door and enjoy. Maybe it will still be around when you’re in your 20s!

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Create Your Own Patterned Candy Canes

I can’t take credit for this simple and easy project; I saw it in a kindergarten classroom this week. The idea is that the children practice making pattern using red and white beads. When they finish, they have an ornament to hang on the tree or in a window.

Supplies Needed:

Chenille stems

Red beads

White beads

String one bead onto the chenille stem and wrap the end of the stem around the bead to hold it in place. This may be a job for an adult.

Decide what pattern you will use. You could keep it simple and string one red bead, one white bead, one red bead, one white bead, and so on. Or you could be really tricky and string one red bead, one white bead, two red beads, one white bead, three red beads, one white bead, and so on. The limit is your imagination.

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NaNoWriMo 2009 Update

You’ll notice a 2009 National Novel Writing Month winner badge in this post. No, I did not earn that. Not this year. But my mom became a winner on November 16! I stalled out around 15,000 words. Whoops.

Congrats, Mom!

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween Pumpkin Carving

I spent the weekend moving! Yes, again. I know. It was humid and rainy as we moved my things into my new place, but I’m happy and settling in nicely. While I was lugging boxes up and down stairs, my family was carving pumpkins. My family lives in a different state than I do, so they weren’t able to help with the heavy lifting, but my mom did offer to write a guest post about her pumpkin carving experience. Enjoy that while I continue unpacking and preparing for NaNoWriMo. I can’t believe November starts on Sunday!

Pumpkin carving at Halloween has long been a tradition in our family. When our children were little, we carved out faces using simple geometric shapes. The kids would draw the shapes and we would carve them out. As the kids grew, pumpkin carving became a serious art in our house.

Before you begin, read the brief history of the Jack-o-lantern

here. For smaller children or to get in the mood for carving, try this fun site which allows you to virtually carve a pumpkin. It’s simple and very easy to use. For another, more realistic looking pumpkin carving experience, try this.

Creating jack o’ lanterns online is fun (and mess-free!), but there’s nothing like actually carving your own pumpkin. Let’s get started.

First, a few tips:

1) You don’t have to open the pumpkin at the top. Here is a great example of a pumpkin that uses the stem as part of the jack o' lantern.

2) Never use a jackknife or other folding knife. Pumpkin skin is tough and folding knives are likely to collapse on your hand. This one I learned the hard way. Ouch.

3) If a piece of your pumpkin breaks off, you can reattach it with a toothpick.

4) When you open your pumpkin, carve the sides at an angle so the opening section won't fall in when you put it back on.
Picking out the perfect pumpkin is the foundation of this project. Pumpkins come in many sizes and shapes. For some people, the perfect pumpkin will be round with a nice long stem. For others, it will be tall and skinny or short and fat. To me the perfect pumpkin is one that is oddly shaped or has unusual textures that can be incorporated into the carving. This year I have also purchased a squash that I think could make an interesting carving:
The next step is to decide what you will carve. You can use a pattern that someone else has drawn or you can draw your own. It is now possible to purchase many patterns you can trace and carve, although I don’t think this is as much fun as making your own design. For beginners, the simplest patterns are best. There are many websites dedicated to pumpkin carving which teach all the techniques. I like
this one which starts with a lot of free simple patterns and has a long list of instructions for all types and techniques of carving.
Once you have created your pattern, draw it onto your pumpkin. It’s easier to carve the pumpkin when you can just follow the lines you’ve already drawn. Young children can draw their patterns onto their pumpkins and then ask an adult to carve for them.

The images above show all the steps my daughter (Jessica's sister) took when carving her pumpkin. And here it is lit with a candle:
It came out pretty well. All the jack o’ lanterns came out well this year, as you can see below.
Enjoy carving jack o’ lanterns and have a safe and fun Halloween!

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Friday, October 16, 2009

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola

The Indian paintbrush flower blooms in reds, oranges, yellows, and pinks throughout the Midwest as it does at the end of this story. There are many tales about where the flower came from, and Tomie dePaola’s retelling of The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush is an especially captivating one.

Little Gopher is not like the other boys in his tribe. He’d rather draw pictures on rocks than run or ride horses of shoot bows. One day, as he and the other boys his age are nearing manhood, Little Gopher goes to the top of the mountain to think about what it means to be a man. There, he has a vision: one day he will paint a picture with colors as bright as the sky at sunset.

Little Gopher mixes colors and paints picture after picture. He can’t seem to get the colors right. Finally, he is called back up the mountain where all the colors he has ever needed are waiting for him.

This is a beautiful story with illustrations to match. I highly recommend it.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009

It’s that time of year again! Dust off that imagination that’s been hiding in the closet since you exhausted it last November and get to work! That’s right: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is almost upon us.

If you’ve ever read a story and thought I would have done it differently, there’s a writer in you looking for a chance to perform. If you make up characters and ask what they would do in different situations, you could be a writer. If you like to play games with your friends in which you pretend to be someone else, you could be a writer. If you think maybe, just for a little while, you’d like to live on Mars or visit Australia or be an archaeologist, you could be a writer. This November, prove it!

Plus, look how cool this novel machine is:

Those of us 13 or older are challenged to write 50,000 words (about 200 pages) in the month of November. If you are 12 or younger, ask an adult to help you set your own writing goal.

NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program has tons of resources to help you get ready to write and to help you through November. Be sure to explore the workbooks. They're pretty awesome.

Maybe you can convince a parent to take the challenge with you. I did! This year, my mom’s progress bar will appear in the sidebar with mine! Leave comments here throughout the month to cheer her on.

Click here for more information about
National Novel Writing Month, and click here to learn more about the Young Writers Program.

Is anyone planning to participate this year?

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tiny Art Director

I almost forgot to share this site with you: Tiny Art Director. No doubt many of you have found this on your own, but it's new to me. The artist's young daughter is a is a harsh critic and her critiques of his work are hilarious.

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Ms. Julie's Blog Carnival and More

Ms. Julie, who you've seen mentioned here often, has begun a monthly blog carnival called The Gallery. The Gallery is a showcase of art projects for kids, and this month one of my projects was included along with projects from ten other bloggers. This month's offerings include a fantastic line drawing project based on Kandinsky's work, a palm tree silouette project, and a project meant for preschoolers just learning their letters. Please visit The Gallery. If you've posted an art project on your blog that you think would add the The Gallery, sign up to be included next month. I look forward to watching the carnival grow each month.

While I'm sending you around you the web, here are a few more cool, art-related items you should check out:

* Nathan Sawaya, LEGO artist extraordinaire, has created a working cello out of LEGOs. It doesn't get any better than that. Watch a short video of Sawaya building the cello, then check out some of his other LEGO sculptures.

* Grand Rapids, Michigan is slowly being transformed into a outdoor art gallery. About 1,262 artists from around the world are installing sculptures and creating murals throughout the city as they compete for a grand prize of $250,000. I don't live in Grand Rapids so I won't be following ArtPrize for you. Jennifer of CraftSanity, however, has been enjoying the artwork with her children. Check out her posts, complete with many photos, here, here, here, here, and here. Be sure to bookmark her so you can experience the artwork with her as it's installed.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Create Your Own Picasso Painted Collage

Pablo Picasso’s art spanned many styles as he grew as an artist. I have posted about Picasso before and recommended that you try your hand at a music collage in his style. At the beginning of the summer I went to an art exhibit that had one of Picasso’s painted collages. Today’s project was inspired by that painting.

Note: My aunt created the jazzy painting with the brown background, and I painted the picture of the dog walker with the blue background. We used a lot of small pieces because we wanted to have fun with the project, but you can use as few or as many shapes of any size. It would be interesting to create a collage painting using only circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles. You would really start to notice the way objects are just made up of shapes stuck together.

You will need two sessions to complete this project.

Supplies Needed:

Poster board shape tracers
Foam board or heavy paper in the color of your background
Craft paint

The fun thing about this project is that two people will use the same shapes to create completely different paintings. My aunt and I both wanted to use all the shapes available so we could show this to you. You can pick which shapes you want to include in your painting and which you want to leave out.
Choose a sheet of paper or a piece of foam board in the color you’d like your background to be. You could also paint a solid color over the entire paper. Trust me; it’s a pain to paint the background after you’ve traced your image onto your paper. If you decide to paint your background, remember to let it dry before you go on.

Arrange the tracers into a picture on your paper. Move them around until you create an image you like. This seems like it would be difficult, but the shapes will form into pictures if you move them around enough. Remember, the color of the tracers doesn’t matter because you’re going to paint later.
When you’re happy with the layout, trace each shape with your pencil. This is the trickiest part of this project because the shapes can move if you aren’t careful. Take your time.
This is a good place to take a break if you need one.

The final step is to paint. At this point, you’re basically filling in a coloring book page. It’s much more satisfying, though, because you drew the outline yourself.

Allow your painting to dry and then compare it to the paintings your friends made using the same group of shape tracers. What similarities and differences do you notice?

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Stone Mountain

Last week I posted about Gutzon Borglum’s Mount Rushmore monument to the first 150 years of United States history. But Mount Rushmore was not Borglum’s first attempt at a major mountainside monument. In 1915, Borglum agreed to carve a memorial on the face of Stone Mountain near Atlanta, Georgia.
The completed Confederate Memorial Carving at Stone Mountain, Georgia shows Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, all on horseback. The carving is about the size of 3 football fields. It took 56 years and 3 sculptors to complete. None of what you see today was Gutzon Borglum’s work.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy’s original plan for the mountain was a twenty-foot carving of General Lee. Borglum agreed to complete the carving, but convinced them that a 20 sculpture was much too small for a mountain that size. He suggested a carving like the one on the mountain today. In my opinion, it’s still a little small on that huge mountain.
Borglum ran into a problem when it was time to begin work: How would he sketch his idea onto the mountain? He thought about this problem for a long time before developing a sort of overhead projector that could enlarge his sketch and project it onto the mountain. This projector was much larger than the ones teachers use in the classroom but worked in a similar way.

Gutzon Borglum prepared the mountain for carving begin in 1916. In 1923, real work began on the sculpture. Borglum and the United Daughters of the Confederacy did not get along and he finished carving only General Lee into the mountain when he left the Georgia.

Augustus Lukeman took over the project. His design was slightly different but still included General Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and General Jackson. In 1928, Lukeman blasted Borglum’s carving of General Lee from the mountain with dynamite. Unfortunately for Lukeman, Gutzon Borglum still had some friends working on Stone Mountain who did not want to see Borglum’s work destroyed. Lukeman did not last much longer.

No more work was done on the mountain until 1963 when Walter Hancock took over as sculptor. He decided to keep most of Lukeman’s design and workers cleaned the mildew from the mountain before continuing the carving. The sculpture was finished in 1970 but was not declared a completed piece of art until 1972.

I did not visit Stone Mountain on my road trip this summer, but I have been there. When I was in high school I took a trip to Atlanta, Georgia. In the evenings people sit on grass, listen to music, and watch the laser light show that is projected onto the mountain.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Mount Rushmore

I mentioned on Tuesday that I did a bit of travelling this summer. In August and September I went on an amazing, 17-day road trip across the country and one of the things I saw was Mount Rushmore. After a visit to the sculptor’s studio, I knew I would have to tell you all about it.
Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills in South Dakota:
About 2 million people visit each year and I can understand why. The massive faces of former presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln have been carved into the mountainside in stunning detail that’s impossible to portray in a photograph. It’s tough to believe that the monument was meant to be much larger.

In the mid-1920s, the United States Congress decided to build the monument at Mount Rushmore in order to increase tourism in South Dakota. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who I’ll tell you more about next week, decided to take on the project.

Because Mount Rushmore was to be so large, Borglum couldn’t sculpt the entire mountain by himself. Instead, Borglum designed the monument and managed the men who actually carved the sculpture. It was dangerous work. As they carved, the men hung from the side of the mountain in swings like the one shown below!
It wasn’t easy to carve the faces into the solid granite mountain. The men had to blast away a lot of the rock using dynamite before they could begin to carve. They used a jackhammer, like the one below, to make holes for the dynamite.
Below is a man using a jackhammer to create holes in the mountain.
Dynamite was also used to erase mistakes from the mountain. Borglum originally settled on a design for the mountain that put Thomas Jefferson to the left of George Washington. When he discovered that the rock on that side of George Washington wasn’t strong enough to support the sculpture, the men blasted Jefferson off the mountain and began again on the other side of Washington.

Once the basic shapes of the faces had been created with dynamite, the men were able to use chisels and mallets to carve the finer details. Finally, they used a tool like the one below to smooth out the granite. The metal piece slips into the handle and then works like a small jackhammer to chip away tiny pieces of rock.
This process took 14 years; carving began in October 1927 and ended in October 1941.

Imagine how long it would have taken to carve the entire monument that Borglum designed:
In March 1941, Borglum died and his son took over the project. The United States became involved in World War II and Congress decided that we could not spend any more money on Mount Rushmore. It declared the mountain a finished piece of art.
And if this wasn't enough, check out this Lego Mount Rushmore. I did not see the Lego version, sadly.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Create Your Own Thumbprint Animal

It’s that time of year again! I don’t know about you, but I am so happy to be back in school. I disappeared for awhile this summer in order to do some travelling and in the next few weeks you’ll get to see and read about some of the things I’ve been doing. Hopefully you haven’t forgotten about my little website.

I have decided, however, that I will not be posting every day. It has been a long time since I was able to stick to a daily posting schedule and I don’t want to burn out again. You can expect art posts two or three times a week. If you want more (and why wouldn’t you?), check out any of the great blogs listed in the side bar.

And now, on to the art project: thumbprint animals.
I’m sure many of you have seen this project done elsewhere, but I love it. It’s quick and simple, and each child’s art piece is unique and creative. I like it as a beginning of the year project, especially if you’re studying fingerprints and fingerprinting. In Maryland, fingerprinting is often the first science unit that third graders complete, so hopefully this post is timely.

Supplied Needed:

Ink pads
Cardstock or watercolor paper cut into two-inch squares
Choose an ink color. This will be the body of your thumbprint animal. Press your thumb into the ink pad and then onto the center of your cardstock square. You should push your thumb straight down and then lift it straight up so your thumbprint doesn’t smear.
Decide what animal you’d like to create. I made a butterfly, a frog, a spider, and a rabbit. You might choose to make a chick, a fly, or an animal from your own imagination. Draw the face and details with a fine-tipped marker.
Sign your name at the bottom of your square. Frame and enjoy!

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Create Your Own Butterfly

I recently had the pleasure of spending a full week with a wonderful class of second graders. I was able to create my own lessons so, of course, there was an art project involved. The second graders had been studying butterflies and were even tracking their life cycle. When I arrived, the butterflies were hanging in chrysalises from the roof of a mesh tent. Over the course of the week, all of the butterflies emerged. It was very exciting. One even came out of its chrysalis into my hand! It was a magical experience.
The kids loved those butterflies and wanted to spend every minute looking at them or talking about them. On the last day of the week we learned about the parts of the butterfly's body. Rather than just labeling a blank image of a butterfly, the kids made their own butterflies, added the markings of the Painted Lady (the type of butterfly they were observing), and labeled the body parts. They did a great just.

The students had the option of showing the butterfly from the top with its wings spread out, or from the side. I created tracers for the wings and body and handed out black and orange construction paper. The kids traced and cut out the pieces and then glued them onto another sheet of construction paper. They colored the wings so the butterflies looked like Painted Ladies. Finally, the students labeled the parts of the body, being careful to spell everything correctly. Some of those words are tough to spell!

The kids cut around their butterflies so that all the artwork would fit on the bulletin board. The students were excited to share their butterflies with their teacher on Monday.

It was such a fantastic experience. I learned a lot of lessons I could never have learned in teacher classes and I discovered just how much work it is to prepare for each day. I am so inspired.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Look! Look!

Look what just came in the mail!
I know what you're thinking: "Who did the art on that mug and where I can I get one???" It's one of Ms. Julie's tangles printed on a mug. Isn't she great? And yes, you can enjoy hot chocolate or tea or coffee or ice cream (Mm. Ice cream would be delicious out of a tangle mug.) or anything else you can put in a mug out of your very own tangle mug. Visit Ms. Julie's gallery at Zazzle to order your own. And don't forget to visit her awesome blog, too!

This one was a prize for helping title one of Julie's other fabulous pieces of art. Thanks, Julie!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Macaroni Self-Portrait Day

It seems that today is Macaroni Self-Portrait Day. Whose idea was this? I don't know. What I do know is that playing with macaroni and glue is fun and whoever thought that this activity should have its own holiday was on the right track.

Of course you don't need step-by-step directions for this one so I'll just show you my own self-portrait.
I hope you have as much fun with this as I did. Happy Macaroni Self-Portrait Day!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Create Your Own Rainy Day Masterpiece

It’s a rainy day here in Maryland. We’ve been having a lot of those lately and I know that a lot of you, at least in the U.S., have, also. So today, or the next time it rains, look out your window at the trees. Don’t they look dark and gloomy against the green and blue-grey background of the leaves and rain?

I must admit that I did not think of this project on my own. I saw it in a school where I worked last week and was so impressed by the artwork the students created that I knew I had to share it with you.

I recommend this project for upper elementary students as the paper cutting can be a bit tricky. It can be adapted for younger students though. Instead of keeping the black paper in one piece, just cut out individual tree shapes and glue them down.
Supplies Needed:

Watercolor Paper
Watercolor Paints
Black Construction Paper
Glue Stick
Gather your materials and cover your workspace.

Begin by cutting tree shapes into your black construction paper. Leave a border around the edges. This will keep your paper in one piece. You’re just trying to create the impression of trees; they don’t have to be perfect.
Set your tree paper aside and turn to your watercolor paper. You will use cool colors (blue, green, purple) to cover your paper. Paint with broad strokes and layer your colors on top of each other.
Let your paper dry. This shouldn’t take too long.

Finally, use a glue stick to glue the trees on top of the watercolor paper.
Hang and enjoy!

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