Campbell Union School District STEAM Conference

March 21st, 2014 – Rolling Hills Elementary School, Campbell, CA.

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My presentation:
STEAM content area: Sciences
Sciences and Art through Close Observation: We are Artist-Naturalists!
Making the best use of the resources we have in our immediate environment and creating a journey for the students in which they become enthusiastic artist-scientists, connecting with nature by observation of its infinite diversity. A new look at the students’ environment – the mundane becomes extraordinary.

Outcomes:
During my presentation the participants are actively engaged. After the presentation the teachers have the information and the necessary skills to take action and engage with their students in feasible art-imbued-with-science exercises and the desire to grow their knowledge. In the future, the participants are welcome to email me with questions to continue the dialogue.

Target audience: Elementary teachers
Handout link here.

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 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 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.

Art+Science: California Landscapes (4th/5th grade) Part II – Watercolors

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Short watercolor demo
I do the demo under the camera and it is projected on the screen. You can ask the students to gather in front of you.
The use of water is key: not enough is not enough, too much is too much! The best is to start with applying some water on the surface we want to color and then a little bit of color. If there is time, make some tries on a spare piece of paper prior to start coloring the drawing.
Use the ink already diluted on wet paper.
Use the ink not diluted on wet paper. Combine with another color.
Use the color not diluted on dry paper.

The students use watercolor inks to color their drawing

No detail here. At the very end, or when the paper is totally wet the following day, the students can  use a thin brush to paint details if they wish to.

Discussion / positive critique
Looking at what everybody did – all the different landscapes with all their specificities. What worked? What did you learn? Is there something you particularly, and most importantly, why?

The Wetlands in Sunnyvale
Notes
– always try to have a discussion at the end of each session
– The photos need to be printed in color at a letter size, one for each student and protected in plastic sleeves.
– For early grades, this exercise can be done with tempera paint. I do not recommend the use of watercolor inks before 4th grade.

Interpretation of a landscape (this session with the 5th graders)

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One session – one hour

material
– a photo of a landscape for each student
– colored paper, magazines
– glue (Liquitex fluid acrylic medium works really well)

The idea is to look at the photo of a landscape, to SEE the structure of the photo: main lines, main features: mountains, forests, lakes, etc… And then to make an interpretation of the landscape with torn pieces of paper. The accuracy of the colors are not important in this exercise, the structure is. Some students chose to work with the structure and the colors.