November 1, 2012

Art Integrating With Life


Illuminated Medieval Letter Artwork
Question:  what do ground up bugs, eggs, turmeric, chlorophyll, sandstone, soymilk, and crushed rocks have in common? Answer below…..

Enter our buildings and you can’t help notice the incredible artwork that adorns the walls.  In the elementary school, 2nd and 3rd graders are currently displaying their illuminated medieval letters and manuscripts.

Art teacher Rachel Relin thoughtfully plans art projects for our students that challenge them and are artfully interwoven into other areas of the curriculum.  This particular medieval project ties in beautifully to the classes’ study of the Middle Ages.  Rachel began by sharing with the classes the book Marguerite Makes A Book by Bruce Robertson, which is the tale of a young female apprentice who learns about the art of crafting a book in medieval times.

Most people in the Middle Ages were illiterate.  Artists used highly decorated manuscripts to literally and figuratively paint a picture to tell a story.  Just like the scribes, our students used images and symbols that represented themselves.

2nd Grade Stained Glass
Rachel’s students have also made these gorgeous stained ‘glass’ creations – actually painted on pieces of plexi-glass – currently on display in Jenn’s and Diane’s classrooms. Designing these has been an interesting exercise in executive function for 7-9 year old brains.  Not only did the kids have to think dimensionally to create these pieces, they also had to design them from back to front in a process known as reverse glass painting. Contrary to traditional paintings, our students added the final details first on the back of the plexi-glass, then layered paint, in order to view the image through the glass.

Rachel has also been hugely instrumental in bringing to Friends’ elementary school the traditional Mexican celebration of Dia de los Muertos, as she does every year. Celebrated annually on November 1, the day of the dead focuses on gatherings of family and friends to remember friends and family members who have passed away.  Calacas (or skeletons) are decorated in vibrant colors and shown participating fully in life, because that is how we choose to remember our loved ones.

Combining conversations and work on this art project with our Spanish teacher Samantha Squires, herself a native of Mexico, our students have enjoyed a wonderful integrated area of study in this field.  Samantha has discussed her own experiences with the holiday and brought in traditional rosca bread from her favorite Mexican bakery for us all to share. The children also made traditional calaveras (skulls). Between Rachel’s and Sami’s classes, our kids have enjoyed a great experience in learning.


Part of Rachel’s intent in having the children make pictures of skeletons was also to have them learn true anatomy.  A recently certified yoga instructor, with courses under her belt in anatomy as it relates to yoga, Rachel was eager that her students have a real scientific understanding of the skeletal system, combined with accomplished art skills.  The kids wrote wonderful reflections following this project.  After making a box in which her skeletons were posed dancing and playing guitar, Charlotte wrote: “Usually what you put on an altar is what the person was grateful for and it make you think of what you’re grateful for. This tells the story of a happy time in life when people were celebrating, singing, dancing, and having a fun time.”

We are lucky to have an art teacher at Friends’ who is so passionate about her work and bringing out the best in her students, who pays such attention to the craft of teaching as well as to the art of creating. Rachel does a masterful job of integrating science, history, reading, writing, geography, Spanish language and Mexican culture, and our Gratitude Project into her work with our students.  A shining example of what we mean when we use the term integrated curriculum.

Answer: the paint used to create the illuminated medieval masterpieces was all made by Friends’ students from the above ingredients, following the historical methods they learned about in social studies.  They even crushed the rocks and ground up the bugs themselves, specifically the shells of cochineal insects from Mexico. This picture below demonstrates the colors that each natural substance creates.


1 comment:

Kathy Noel said...

I love and miss this school!