Art+Science: Rocks and Soil (2nd grade) session 1/Observing the landscape at school

Arts Integration Residency with Montalvo Arts Center in Campbell, CA.

I met the first class of 2nd graders students in a class which is, amazingly, not used right now at school and can be our “Art Room”. Today is the beginning of a 10 week adventure with Montalvo Arts Center Teaching Artist program. 6 classes of second graders, with a project linked with their science curriculum, the occasion to implement the new common core standards: the “Rocks and Soil” unit.

First I show to the students a short power point presentation. Why I like landscapes and how they inspire me.

I show them 3 photos of the important landscapes that exist where we live, in the Bay Area: a Pacific Coast view at Muir Beach, the Wetlands in Sunnyvale, the mountains in Castle Rock State Park.

Then I showed them a satellite photo of the Bay area. I asked the students if they could show us where is the Pacific Ocean, the Bay itself, the wetlands, San Jose, Oakland, the Santa Cruz Mountains and finally Campbell, where the school is situated.


I proposed to the students to start our journey right here at school. Each of the students make a “viewfinder” with some recycled cardboard I gave to them. Once the viewfinder was done, each student grabbed a clipboard and we went outside. We looked at the landscape from the blacktop.We could see the Santa Cruz Mountains in the background, a series of trees and some constructions in the school including the playground in the middle ground and finally the foreground is an empty space.

We used our viewfinder, looking for a nice frame.

The students made a drawing (pencil on plain white paper), just to get the idea of what it is to try to draw what one sees in front of him or her.

Then it was time to go back to the class and to end the first session. I prepared the clipboards/white paper/pencils and recycled cardboard for the next class.

Art+Science: Rocks and Soil (2nd grade) session 2 / Sequencing the view

Arts Integration Residency with Montalvo Arts Center in Campbell, CA.

I took photos of the landscape one can see from the school yard and made a montage. I divided the photo in 22 pieces (22 is the most students I have in one class). I printed them, each of them letter size. I displayed the series of photos on a table and as the students entered the room we took some time to look at the panoramic landscape: background (The Santa Cruz Mountains), middle ground (trees and constructions) and foreground (empty blacktop).

We talked about the differences between seeing the landscape vs. looking at a photo of the same landscape.

Then each student chose a piece and traced the main lines of their portion of landscape (I had a projection with an example of what are “main lines”) on a white paper for wet medium. They retraced the lines with an oil pastel when they were fine with their first tracing and then they started painting. For this exercise I prepared the colors in advance. It helps for matching all the pieces of the landscape together.
We talked about proportions and empty spaces. the fact that trees look very “bushy” when they are next to each other, and it is important to pay attention to the photo and not to try to “draw” the shape of a tree when there is none. Paying attention to what we see is an important part of this exercise. Does the mountain look pointy? No, it does not. And why? Because it is very old and lost a lot of rocks.
Looking, looking and looking more! It’s about taking the time to pay attention to what is around us.

Art+Science: Rocks and Soil (2nd grade) session 3 / Sequencing the view

 Arts Integration Residency with Montalvo Arts Center in Campbell, CA.

At the beginning of the session we talked about what was already done and what we were going to do. To have both the series of photos of the landscape and the series of paintings was interesting. The idea of working on a little piece which is part of the whole ensemble was clear.


We took some time – with the print of the satellite photo of the Bay Area – to situate Campbell. And I asked them “Where is the mountain in the landscape you painted?”

Also: “Can you tell where is nature and where is the landscape transformed by us, humans”? They can point to the blacktop which covers the ground (and all the structures visible from the playground), vs. the mountain, which looks untouched, and the trees (although most of the ones we see were planted).

I told them we are trying to understand that landscape we see every day, trying to look at it with new eyes. Do trees have a defined shape when they are grouped? Not really. We can see that on the photo. Trees together look “bushy”. Trees together become a green “mass” with texture. As opposed to the sky, which has a fairly even color in the photos.

Then I gave them a short demo about how to use the brush with tempera paint.

They spent the rest of the session painting.

Art+Science: Rocks and Soil (2nd grade) session 4 / Finding and drawing rocks

Arts Integration Residency with Montalvo Arts Center in Campbell, CA.

We started the session with a look at the paintings on the wall. We had a short discussion; there were some comparisons between the landscapes made by the different classes (6 in total).

Before we went outside, I explained what the idea with the session’s exercise was: we are artists and naturalists, we are going to try to look at the rock(s) we will find outside with a lot of attention.

“Do you think it is possible to find two rocks strictly identical?”
I drew an example with a rock I had in front of me.
I gave them the choice to work with a Sharpie or an extra-smooth graphite pencil or both – They could make several drawings if they wanted to (and they did!).


We went outside to explore an area where we could find rocks. I asked them if they knew where the rocks come from – got some good responses: they come from the mountain they just painted, the Santa Cruz mountains they can see in their landscape. It was a long time ago, the mountain is very old and lost a lot of rocks. The place where we found the rocks at school is not covered by any construction and was apparently not changed (I showed the area to my mom when she came and she said it looks pretty much untouched). So it is interesting because there is this small area of “natural space”.

Each student selected one or two rock(s).

Then drawing session –

 

 

 

We went back to the class, each student carrying 2 rocks they chose. (Next session we’ll wash them and we’ll see beautiful colors appear. We will make a painting of a few of them).


We looked at all the drawings for a few minutes. The discussion was about finding interesting things in the drawings and saying why.

It was fun and the kids did an amazing job at really looking and drawing!

Art+Science: Rocks and Soil (2nd grade) session 5 / Painting the rocks

Arts Integration Residency with Montalvo Arts Center in Campbell, CA.

Here’s what happened during session 5 this week.
One by one the students washed the rocks they brought back at the end of the last session, from the place at school which is non-constructed and not landscaped. All the rocks have interesting shapes and after washing them the students could see that the rocks have interesting colors too.
Meanwhile the other students started a drawing of their rock(s).

Then I gave them a short demo about how to find different shades of tan/brownish colors, starting with a palette of blue/red/yellow [in each class one or two students knew about the primary colors)] and white. I added some black to help them make very dark greys. I also showed them how to try to follow the contour they traced with the pencil, so that once painted we can still see the interesting shape of the rock – that’s the most difficult part!

 


The session was about observing closely the rocks and mixing little by little the paint to match the colors with the colors of the rocks. The students had a lot of fun mixing but were concentrated enough to get beautiful and different shades of grey-browns.
At the end of the class, the rocks have been put in lunch bags with the names of the students and will be re-used during the next session.
This week we talked a lot about colors and shades/tints. Next week we need to make a stronger link with the students’ sciences studies (can we identify the rocks found at school and tell if they are metamorphic, igneous or sedimentary?).Some of the students are becoming attached to their rocks and have asked if they can bring them to their home!

Art+Science: Rocks and Soil (2nd grade) session 7 / Finishing to paint the rocks – going outside drawing trees

Arts Integration Residency with Montalvo Arts Center in Campbell, CA.

During the first part of the session, the students finished the painting of their rock(s). I gave a short demo, showing how the first drawing can disappear under the paint, the paint was not necessarily controlled and it is OK, but it is always possible to draw over the paint and change the shape again. The motto for this session was – do not follow what the brush did, you can change it the shape again.
And then, if they wanted to, the students could paint in white parts of the painting they did not want to be visible. That part was tricky because the students had a tendency to cover with the white the drawing they had just made, loosing their nice tracing again. But it does not matter, what I wanted to show them is a layering technique where things can always be changed. For the 6 classes, I had to prepare different steps for my short demo, so that they saw me doing what I was explaining. But I needed 3 steps for each class, 18 paintings of a rock at different stages.

During the second part of the session, we went outside to draw a tree.
Before going outside I asked them “What is soil made of?”. They are learning about Rocks and Soil in Science and that’s the program we are following. They knew about the rocks which are eroding and giving minerals to the soil. The rest was not obvious but the students in pretty much each class found all the different elements. We talked about the living organisms, the plants, the animals that either are alive or dead and what happens to them. And now the question is: “And what does that soil do?” it grow plants! All sorts of plants, the plants which decorate the streets, the plants in the forest, the trees and all the plants we eat.It is just amazing! I tell the students that I am still amazed by the fact that a seed can become a tree taller than a house!
So let’s see one of those trees, there is one just outside the classroom. It is unique. Let’s pay attention to its shape, to its trunk and main branches. How is it structured? Does the branches grow equally around? Is one side more developped? Drawing on white paper, with a soft pencil and/or a sharpie.

At the end of session we looked at all the drawing. And we talked about what we like and most importantly why.

Art+Science: Rocks and Soil (2nd grade) session 8 / Gathering elements outside and drawing them

Arts Integration Residency with Montalvo Arts Center in Campbell, CA.

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medium: drawing on paper

Ressources
material: pencils, crayons, sharpies, drawing paper.

How it works

1. I introduce the lesson with a short presentation with a question to the students: What is the soil around here made of? Several students answer and we have a short discussion.
I propose to them to go outside and see what we can find which will be part of the soil soon if we leave everything on the ground decaying slowly but surely. Then we will draw what we found.

2. We go outside the class to gather a few elements that we are going to draw in class: leaves, decaying leaves, twigs, pieces of plants, anything that is laying on the ground (not the trash though!). The students can keep their findings in their hands or put them in a collective box.

3. We come back inside the classroom. The students have either their findings with them or pick some elements in the box and go seat at their desks.
On the table, pencils, crayons, sharpies and paper are available.

4. The students start drawing. They can draw one element or several on the same paper, do one or several drawings, it is their choice.

5. Group discussion with all the art on the floor. One interesting reflection about what a soil is made of, is that leaves are decaying on the ground. Some students drawn the decaying leaves. We talked about what “beautiful” means for them: not necessarily a “perfect” leaf, but a damaged leaf is also beautiful and very interesting to draw.

Art+Science: Rocks and Soil (2nd grade) session 9 / Painting a Google Earth view of the school (collective painting)

Arts Integration Residency with Montalvo Arts Center in Campbell, CA.

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medium: tempera paint and black oil pastel on paper

Ressources
material: tempera paint, brushes, all media paper, black oil pastel
printed google map photos, one piece for each student

How it works
The idea is to look at the school and the surroundings with a different perspective. I talk about Google maps and the mapping of the entire world. The bird eye view is interesting because suddenly  we can see what is constructed and what is not. Where the soil is still visible and where it is not. We can see that human activity produce a lot of concrete, needed for housing ans schools, and roads.

1. I prepared 130 half letter size prints. One for each students (there are 6 classes of 2nd graders with approximately 22 students per class). This is the only piece on which the students from the 6 classes work together. All the photos are on the floor, and I give them to the students row by row, to avoid any confusion.
The students look at the satellite photo of their school, an unusual vision. They can see where it is built and where one can still see the soil. So there are pretty much three colors:  the grey of the constructions, the green of the trees and lawns, and the brown of the bare soil. With a photo like this we can see that the area is very constructed. It is interesting to note that all the material necessary for the construction comes from Earth.

2. The students study the main lines from the photos, trace them with a pencil, then with a black oil pastel and then paint.

3. Group discussion.

Art+Science: Rocks and Soil (2nd grade) session 10 / Wrapping up the project

Arts Integration Residency with Montalvo Arts Center in Campbell, CA.

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This is the last session of the project “Rocks and Soil”.

How it works
1. The students look at the ensemble of the paintings made from the Google map photos. Now it is hanging on the wall and it is easier to see it from a little far.

2. the students curate their last work and decide what will be on the walls for the exhibition we are having to show the project to the parents. Before this session I spent a few hours hanging most of what the students have done in the past sessions.

3. We have a last discussion about the whole project. We share our thoughts and ideas. I give them a special postcard I have made for them.