Ordinary ‘Ohana, Art=Opportunity



There is a professor at CSU San Marcos named Merryl Goldberg who started a program called Arts=Opportunity a couple of years ago. I’ve crossed paths with her a few times and have the book she wrote called Arts Integration: Teaching Subject Matter through the Arts in Multicultural Settings.

art book

It is a good book that gives many examples of how the arts can cross over just about any area of the curriculum. The book  discusses so many of the things I have seen as an art educator that of course, I really enjoyed it. She has examples listed as well as lesson ideas. A couple of the stories that I resonated with were when a teacher had the students draw a cell and write about it. That process helped bridged a language gap for a student. Another teacher had a guest puppeteer come in and help her students make president puppets which opened up a whole new dialogue about history in a social studies class. Another teacher used poetry to help students remember scientific names better. There are many examples and ideas.

ordinary ohana

My most recent interaction with Merryl happened on February 13 when Arts=Opportunity partnered with The New Children’s Museum to have Martha Barnette from KPBS: A Way with Words interview author Lee Cataluna and artist Cheyne Gallarde about their book Ordinary ‘Ohana.

lee martha cheyne

It was a wonderful interview and great to hear about the process they each went through to get to the point where they worked together on the book. They also talked about their own creatives processes and shared stories about their own families.


They also shared about their education and what teachers influenced them the most. Lee spoke about her time as a High School Creative Writing Teacher and told about how her grandmother who had a very difficult life and was only able to finish the 8th grade wrote a story for her when she was born. Cheyne shared how as a 5 year old, he would draw Saturday morning cartoon characters complete with the lines drawn after a character that show movement. At the end, he drew a member of the audience and talked about how “easy” it is to draw. They both stayed much later than 6 p.m. for questions and book signing. I picked up two copies of the book, had them both signed and gave one to the DSES librarian for inclusion in our school library.






Another lesson with Sonia Delaunay



I had an opportunity to see some of Delaunay’s work both in Paris and in Bilbao. I love her bright colors and simple geometric shapes. Students looked at Delaunay’s art and textiles in a PowerPoint and they created these images in tempera paint.


I had the students look at her work and we discussed the way color and shape interact.


We also discussed her work as a textile designer and how she and her husband Robert were the initiators of the Orphism or Orphic Cubist Art movement.


They could copy elements of her work or create their own version.


Year of the Dog Grade 2



I always like to teach my students about other cultures and celebrations. I think learning about other cultures helps us to create better relationships and allows us to understand others better.


At my school, we have a yearly Heritage Night and last year, we had a great Chinese New Year celebration. This year, is the Year of the Dog.


I showed the students images of dogs and we talked about how all breeds look pretty similar with their snout, their eyes and their nose. We also talked about their differences-coat textures, colors, size, and breed.61173484.jpg

I showed students how to make a basic dog face and then left them to create their own dog their own way. Amazing what they came up with!


After School Art


Students and families have been asking me for a couple of years to bring back after school art. This year with permission of and encouragement from our new principal as well as our PTA and Foundation, I agreed. It has been really fun to allow the students to spend time in the art room and use my personal materials such as watercolor pencils, pencils in different hardnesses, textiles, beads, and even my treasured gelato oil pastels to create fun art pieces.

wc pencil

Watercolor Pencils

The class is very loosely structured. I give them project ideas, teach them how to use the tools and elements of art and off they go. It is not necessarily a step by step drawing or painting type of class but we have done a bit of that. The students choose what they want to learn about and we create things they are interested in.

We made beaded bracelets and kumihimo weaving. bead-bracelets.jpg

weaving bracelet.jpg

One boy wanted to know how to draw things more realistically so I taught him the basics of gridding as well as creating and using a viewfinder.gridding

We created marionette puppets similar to the one I made at the Basil Twist workshop I attended last fall. They also made stick puppets.

.basil twist puppet.jpgpuppet.jpgstick puppet

We made CD spinners and talked about color and pattern and what would happen when the patterns and colors spun together.

cd spinner armin.jpg cd spinner.jpg

We made LED Origami balloons and talked about positive and negative connections as well as how folding and following directions in origami can be hard sometimes.

origami led.jpg

We talked about shadow and highlight and they create a picture of oranges. We also talked about and created gesture drawings of people.


They made their own sketchbooks

sewn sketch.jpg sketchbook

They created sculptures using chenille stems, cardboard, buttons, feathers, and washi tape.


Most recently, students looked at Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa. We talked about how it was made, what it represented, how the artist used color and how could we deconstruct it to reconstruct it using the art tools of our own choice.

the wave

The last 6 weeks have been a lot of fun having an open art forum and allowing students to play with art materials and be creative while learning. My favorite part is how my students are able to look at something, discuss it, figure out how it was made and then they create their own version.




I have a wonderful opportunity to teach weekly art to a group of students. These ponds were done at the request of a teacher to go with their grade levels pond unit.

These students get art with me for about 30 minutes each week. I started by telling the kindergartners about Monet and his water lily paintings. They created theirs using oil pastel and water soluble markers which they painted with water.


The next week, we made the green backgrounds. We talked about texture. I gave them green, yellow, and blue paint, forks, and my infamous paint daubers (sponges clipped to a clothespin).

texture greenyellow-texture.jpg

The week after that, they cut the ponds into a “pond shape” and glued them on the background and added cattails and dragonflies.

adding-the-pond.jpgpond2pondpond frog butyterfly

The last week, we added butterflies and frogs. I think they came out just stunning and will be great for their open house celebration.



The Grade Three team shared their curriculum map with me which makes my job oh so easy! I knew whales would be part of their curriculum for November and December.


I found some beautiful images on Etsy that I loved. Enormous whales, a lot of ocean and tiny ships or boats. The work is by Rachel Blyer of the Colorful Cat Studio. Her work is done in watercolor.


For this lesson, I had my students create these in a mixed media format. We did these in just under an hour.

They started by drawing the image of their boat and sky. Then they did some scrubby paint with a cardboard scrap and some “ocean” colors which I tossed in some blue glitter glue for fun. They used pre-painted gray paper for the whales. I put out lots of images of whales for them to use as reference. I think they came out pretty amazing.



WOW Festival


The WOW (Without Walls) Festival is a four day event hosted by the La Jolla Playhouse. There are various activities throughout the city.


This year, there was a Faetopia Faerie Flash Mob and puppet workshop at the New Children’s Museum. Every hour for about 10 minutes, the faery puppets would come out and move to music created by the UCSD percussion ensemble.


Across from the museum in the park they had different craft stations and they also had a thing called Quest 3.0 where you followed clues and went on a sort of scavenger hunt.

I got to meet Basil Twist and make a marionette based on his fairy puppets. It was so fun, I stayed the entire day.


Miner 49er Self Portraits



Our fourth grade students just went on a field trip to Rendezvous in Poway It is a yearly event where they have living history encampments showing how people lived and worked during the the civil war era and around California’s turn of the 20th century.



For this lesson, I showed the students my collection of tin types and ambrotypes.


I also showed them some information about the Gold Rush and talked about the tools miners used to find gold.


They then created a self portrait in colored pencil. They created a rounded or decorative edge on the paper and mounted it to black then embellished with metallic paints.


Fish like Sandra Silberzweig



If you have not seen the work of contemporary artist Sandra Silberzweig, I recommend you stop right now and go to her site. Her art is colorful, dynamic and beautiful and much of it is perfect for students to imitate. She also does some fantastic faces that are reminiscent of Picasso.


My Grade 4 students needed something fun and colorful (or maybe it was me) so we looked at Sandra’s work. We learned that she has synesthesia which is a condition where one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another an example would be when a synesthist hears a sound, it also produces a visualization of a color.


We discussed color theory: primary, secondary, complimentary, and analogous color and created these images in her style.


The students told me there is a book many of them have read called A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass and some of them have also read Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper both books have characters with synesthesia.


I think these fish came out beautifully. One of the teachers told me she is saving them to put up when the students study biomes.


Self Portraits with Calvera Masks


I have a combo class of grade 4 and grade 5 students that is just always amazing. Their classroom teacher has taught a combo class for several years. She creates such a great community in her classroom that it makes it easy to teach art to her students. The students are well behaved, polite, flexible and go with the flow. If I have a new project idea, like this one. I often choose her class as my test subjects.

Most of these students have been in my art classes since preschool or kindergarten so without a lot of directions, they drew a self portrait in oil pastel. I do self portrait almost every year with every grade level. Because I upload all of their art to Artsonia, we can see their progression as an artist.

We looked at some slides about Dia de los Muertos and sugar skulls and they used those as their inspiration for their calavera mask.

Once they were complete, we put brads in the top so the mask could be spun out of the way or removed completely.

I also did a felt calavera project this week with my 5th graders.  Hopefully that lesson will be in San Diego Family Magazine in November so the directions and my samples will be there.

The best part of this, one of the students brought in a ceramic sugar skull that she had at home. She shared stories of her family’s Dia de los Muertos traditions and I gave her a small Altoids tin so she could create a small nicho similar to the ones I did with fourth grade here. I love when they share things like that with me and want to do more with a project.