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K-12 Teaching  Residencies

TAPAS (Teaching Artists Present in Asheville City Schools) Residency
Funded by the Asheville City Schools Foundation, Asheville, NC
5th grade Science Class at Vance Elementary School, April 7-10, 2015

I proposed a TAPAS project that would result in a large wall piece that illustrated the seasonal changes of the NC Dogwood and which would remain on display at a school. Ginger Hubner, director of Roots and Wings School of Art & Design in Asheville and in a position appointed by the Asheville City Schools Foundation to assist in connecting TAPAS artists with schoolteachers, connected me with Brian Ballenger, the 5th grade Science teacher at Vance Elementary School.  Each student would have a hands-on experience working with a partner to felt a sheet of wool fiber to a certain percentage of possible shrinkage allowing for engagement with the biology of the fiber, directional shrinkage and math for measuring and assessing the percentage of shrinkage. Each student was responsible for cutting designated shapes from their felt and contributing them in a communal layout to create a composition incorporating the felted shapes of all 70 5th graders participating. The piece was then backed with silk fabric in various colors celebrating the changes in the height of the sun dependent on the season and then, finally with many layers of wool fiber. This background created a network of fibers that would travel through the layers of fabric and the previously felted shapes when rolled, unifying the components into a singular felt. The piece was then fulled, stretched on a frame and presented to the students during a school open house celebrating the concept of STEAM, the integration of science, technology, engineering, art and math.

The first step is always planning! Sampling colors for the students to use to represent the stems, green leaves and the white leaves of the Dogwood and the density of partial felt from which the kids will cut shapes.
Bringing the felt studio into the classroom..including all the wool weighed out for the surface area the students will layout  and lots of towels!
Getting students to layout two colors in the same felt so that the fibers in the middle are at a consistent thickness was a challenge and so was moderating their soap application!
Making time for clean up and storing of their work between days has got to be part of the plan
On the second day, students finished rolling until the layers of fibers integrated enough to remove the felt from the bubble wrap to begin 3-D fulling, shrinking the area to 40% remaining of the original area
The stock of partial felts from which the kids will cut shapes on the third day
A shift to working dry and much more meticulously..such focus to cut out the bulbous tip of the bud!
Students working in small groups to arrange their branch pieces in a gradation from widest to the most delicate tips
The second group in charge of the white leaves (what most think of us as the flowers, are actually a type of leaf with the yellow flowers in the center!) had the special task of laying a plastic resist over all but the center to keep the white leaves from attaching to the background
The third group arranged their leaves from the smallest and brightest yellow/green to the largest dark green responding to the design layout of the prior classes...fingers spread like branches and high 5's for the 5th grade!!
The fourth and final day, students covered the design with grey and blue silks considering the height of the sun during different seasons of growth and a background of wool fibers that would navigate through the layers connecting all the components into a singular felt
The final class of the fourth day began the rolling, which necessitated some coordination of pressure and speed to keep the roll parallel!
Miss Lisa doing some final fulling in the STRONGFELT STUDIO to curl up the white leaves into the third dimension...wish we had had one more day in the school so the kids could do this as the concept of resists was new for the kids!
Of course, I had to add a few punches of free-motion embroidery to the center to detail the little yellow flowers
The addition of a label to document those involved in the effort!
The presentation of the finished piece at Vance's Open House offered a chance for the proud students to describe the process to parents!
The stretched felt on a three inch deep frame created a wonderful effect of the blossoms curling over the edge and several sitting on the top edge. The piece will be displayed permanently in the hall of the school! photo credit: Steve Mann

 

TAPAS (Teaching Artists Present in Asheville City Schools) Residency
Funded by the Asheville City Schools Foundation, Asheville, NC
4th grade Science Class at Claxton Elementary School, May 25-27, 2013

I was granted funding to spend three class periods with Neal Compton’s 4th grade science class to introduce them to felting. During the first meeting I presented a slide show that talked about the process, the different animals that grew fiber, regions of the world where felting was traditionally employed for utilitarian purposes and images of my contemporary use of the medium. Students then worked in pairs to felt a small sheet of fiber from which they cut a positive shape as well as retaining the negative shape. On the last day students organized their shapes onto a background of fiber as we discussed art principles of balance, repetition, variety and focal point and began the process of felting the designs into the background through rolled agitation in bubble wrap.

Demonstrating how to wet out the wool fibers, pushing the air pockets to the edge of the mass for release
Rolling the wool fibers in bubble wrap to initiate their interlocking and matting into felt
More intense fulling after rolling in bubble wrap to shrink up the felt
Students wetting out a larger background layout of wool fibers for their designs to felt into
Students considering the art principles of repetition, balance,  and focal point as they work together to place their partially felted positive shapes on the background
The positive shapes which didn't have as much shrinkage left became raised textures as the thinner background fibers shrank up more dramatically
The students' composition of the negative partial felt shapes remaining after cutting out the positive shapes

 

Founders Memorial Elementary School, Essex Junction, VT, 3/29-4/8/2010

While offering a felting workshop at the Northeast Fiber Arts Center, the owner, Jennifer Hoag, knowing that I worked with kids, introduced me to Founder’s Memorial Elementary School’s art teacher, Kerin Rose. Kerin and I worked together to propose a teaching residency at the school and the PTO funded my two-week residency. Working with 3rd, 4th and 5th graders, each student felted a symbolic egg that incorporated a piece of silk fabric on which I had free-motion embroidered their full name to represent their person. Students brought foods such as grains, beans and seeds from home, which they used to fill their hollow egg forms as a representation of the nurturing they receive from their immediate family. Students implemented basic stitching to close the form and secure the contents of their egg. The students then assisted me in covering a 2-D resist with wool fiber, which was rolled flat and then fulled into a 3-D nest representing the larger school community that further supported the development of each child. Students wove locally harvested branches as well as random materials they gathered from their locality into the holes created in the nest to represent the even larger community and environment outside their school. Each grade had their own nest to place all their eggs, which were then temporarily installed in trees on the school property and more permanently exhibited in the school.

Preparing materials for different grade levels with the help of  my little friend Elspeth whose dad, Dave Davidson, assisted in documenting the residency
Demonstrating the gentle agitation needed to coerce the wool fibers through the students' silk name tags to secure them to the surface of the felt skin
Students gently clasping their fiber covered balloons for the first dip in soapy water
Gently passing the egg back and forth between their hands to begin the integration of the exterior wool fibers
Dropping the felted eggs into a rinse bucket
Each class worked in an identifying color because there were ALOT of eggs!
Students used a funnel or a cake decorating tip to assist in filling their hollow eggs with seeds, grains and beans after removing the deflated balloon...then came the stitching up of the hole!
Quite a crafty kid myself in elementary school, I underestimated the challenge of stitching and so this activity kept me on the move untangling knots!
Something so fascinating about watching little humans in such deep concentration!
Some students' stitches were meticulously spaced, while others interestingly haphazard!
Students learned of another means for making hollow form by covering a 2-D resist to make the large nest forms
Students weaving locally harvested branches in and out of holes in the nest as mother birds work twigs into their nest with their beaks
Students also collected random materials from their environments outside of school to incorporate into the nests
Each of the grade levels had their own nest to contain their eggs
A temporary outdoor installation in the school yard prior to a more permanent installation in the school's library

 

Teaching Philosophy

My goals as a teaching artist are to provide an environment where students can learn the visual language of art and begin using it to study expressions of people throughout our human story, communicate their personal reactions to life and interpret the current world flooded with visual images; from the juxtaposition of physical matter to persuasive messages of mass media.

Students ought to be familiar with techniques and expressions in fine art media, but also have an opportunity to explore the transformation of traditional craft based materials as well as the use of non-traditional materials. The induction of fiber arts into a visual art or general curriculum provides avenues for implementing intercultural and cross-disciplinary learning. Raw animal and cellulose fiber has been transformed to meet the basic needs of shelter and clothing, as well as, employed by cultures and individuals as a medium to communicate aesthetic pleasure, and conceptual expression. By way of offering teaching residencies focused in the medium of felt, students are able to integrate learning in science, technological development, engineering, art, mathematics and social studies.

Artistic endeavors present opportunities for not only developing perseverance and manual dexterity but also the building of social skills. Group discussions/critiques encourage development of opinions as well as an ability to question ones perspective, acceptance and sensitivity toward those with differing views and learning how to give as well as receive constructive criticism. It is through this interactive dynamic that self-efficacy is built and higher ordered thinking is nurtured. Students learn to observe, analyze, interpret and evaluate artistic expressions, information, physical surroundings and their own personal experience and existence; the basis for developing meaningful art work as well as a meaningful life.

It is essential for an educator to model these skills and thought processes and to be self-reflective of their teaching methodology while evaluating student learning and effort. I highly value the opportunities for expression and interpretation offered by the visual arts and this has facilitated my interest in and respect for the visions of young people.

The finished piece from my teaching residency at Vance Elementary School

The finished piece from my teaching residency at Vance Elementary School