Birds: Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek



I did this lesson a few years ago as a collage project. I love illustrator Laura Dronzek  images in the book. For this lesson, I had planned my shape birds for K thinking it was a “B” week for art but alas, it was “A” week and instead of a pile of Kinders popping into art, it was First Graders. Yikes! That’s what I get for not double checking my phone calendar.


Anyway, I had tempera cake, black crayons and skinny paper and immediately tried to think of things that were spring themed and could be done on the skinny paper. Laura Dronzek’s birds seemed perfect.

I always start my lessons with younger students with guided drawing for those who want that sort help. I also tell my students that they can move ahead if they have a plan. The only “rule” for this lesson was birds and trees.



Clay Wall Pockets


My mother has a clay wall pocket hanging in her dining room that my brother made in elementary school. I have always loved that little bit of clay goodness and was excited to be able to do it with my students. I told them the story and said that they might want to do an extra good job because one just never knows how long their art might hang in their family home.

Students rolled out a rectangle piece of clay. Added texture then folded and pinched. I encouraged them to make sure the sides were well attached and then they poked two holes and wrote their name on the back.

making the pocket

We are using Mexal Air Dry Clay by Laguna that I discovered a while back at the Mingei.

wall pocket close up

They are super fun to make especially when using lots of texture tools (shells, potato mashers, buttons, forks, etc.) and with some organizing, they were easy enough to complete in our 45 minute class period.

So fun to revive an old 70’s clay lesson!

wall pockets

We did pop a bit of brown paper towel in the pocket to make sure it didn’t collapse while it dried.  That’s it! So easy and so much fun.

Second Grade Suns



I used Mexal White air dry clay from Laguna with students to create these suns.



I gave each student a ball of clay about the size of a tennis ball. We talked about how to make it into a sun:

How do you flatten it? with your whole hand or your palm? Depends on the artist.
Do you pinch, cut or press to make the edges? Depends on the artist.
Do you add patterns or a face? Depends on the artist.


I told them the only “rules” were that they had to make a sun, they needed to make sure that the clay was not too thin, they could not get any clay in the sink or on the carpet and they had to have their name on their art.


They made their sun however they wanted to. After a few attempts, I realized it was best for me or a parent to write their name and double check the hole in the top so it could be hung up later.


We used Jazz Gloss Tempera Paint to paint them. I bought a set of regular colors and a set of metallics.

Clay Pinch Pots


lots of pots

This year, I received a stipend from our PTA for Curriculum Enhancement. I chose to purchase air dry clay. The pinch pots to go along with their Kumeyaay Social Studies Unit and their reading of Indian of the Oaks.

pinch pot

The clay we used is called Mexal White and made by Laguna Clay. The texture is similar to kiln fired when creating with it and has a nice hardness when dry. After drying for a few days, students got to paint them. We talked about how the Kumeyaay did not traditionally paint their pottery but painting with bright colors is lots of fun.

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NAEA Seattle 2018


san diegoseattle night

The NAEA Convention is such a great place to get ideas, meet new people and hear about things going on in the art teaching world.

My school is not able to pay for me to attend these conventions so I have to be really budget conscious if I choose to attend anything outside of my town.

I was so lucky this year that NAEA was in Seattle because I have friends who live a short walk from a Link Light Rail Stop. I am so grateful for their kindness and hospitality!  I loved getting off the train each day and seeing these images.

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The exhibit hall was packed with lots of vendors with great products and fun projects.


The theme this year was STEAM and as always, there were tons of excellent workshops and great speakers.

I always leave things like this full of new art lessons and ways I can improve my teaching.  Until next time Seattle!

seattle airport

Patterns in a 9 patch


I had a bunch of 3 inch strips leftover from cutting paper for a project and needed to do something with them. I also have a larger than necessary stash of bright orange paper that had been languishing in the cabinet for a while. We put the two together and came up with these cool nine patch images.

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There were a lot of reminders about how to use and read a ruler but they did a great job.


I can’t believe I remembered to take a picture of the steps we came up with! I put the time on the board since we only have 45 minutes from beginning to end so they could gauge themselves and have enough time to cut and glue.


Lettering Like Niki



A few weeks ago, I went to see the exhibit on Niki de Saint Phalle: Mythical California at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.


One of the K teachers saw an IG post about my visit and the second Saturday class I took at the center that was about lettering. She asked me if I would do letter embellishing with her students. I agreed.

The classroom teacher printed the student’s names in large block letters. We talked about many different ways you can embellish letters and how Niki de St. Phalle decorated many letters in her journals. We looked at letter like Niki as well as other decorative lettering and then the students embellished their names in marker.

I think they are so creative and fun. I can hardly believe they are just kinders.



Martina Nehrling



For as long as I have been teaching art, I have been going to art shows, gallery openings, and museums as well as taking classes.  I think that if I want my students to be life long learners, I need to be one myself.


I love to look at gallery sites and find things that might inspire me or my students to create something fun. That is how I found this artist.


I came across an article about Martina Nehberg on the Markel Fine Arts blog.  Her art is colorful and fun and my students loved seeing her work and the pictures of her studio especially when it included her dogs.


We used scraps from our box of colorful paper strips. It was a great lesson for my 1-2 combo class to practice cutting and gluing skills while creating amazing works of art.


Voluminous Art


rob sidnerThe Mingei in Balboa Park often holds educator’s preview nights. These happen before the show opens to the public and usually the curator of the exhibition speaks.


The newest exhibition which opened today is a really cool exhibit that brought in books from the collections of our local Universities: UCSD, SDSU, and USD. It is really an eclectic collection of beautiful books.


The curator for the exhibition is Rob Sidner. Rob is the Executive Director and CEO of the Mingei and an absolute treasure trove of knowledge. His passion for what he does is so evident when he speaks.  This evening for educators was no exception.


He talked about how they decided to bring the books to the Mingei and said that the privilege of a curator is they often get to choose what they like. He talked about how he spent an entire afternoon with the Nuremburg Chronicle, because well, he just had to.

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The books on display span from the 1200’s with a spelling book, a 1400’s Geometry book by Euclid of Alexandria,  to modern art books such as Directions of the Road and Hanging Laundry.

There are also classics like Moby Dick and Leaves of Grass as well as The 500 hats of Batholomew Cubbins including an illustration by Theodore Geissel.

500 hats

Perhaps my personal favorite was The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham with an intro by AA Milne and illustrations by Arthur Rackham. A treasure to have that trio contributing in one book! My father read it to me as a little girl complete with different voices for each character so it holds a special place in my heart.

wind in the willows

If you get a chance, go and see this exhibition and then try to make your own book at home as we teachers did after the preview. Rod says they will be turning pages once a month on many of these books so you might want to go monthly until it closes on September 3, 2018.

Monster Parade




The kindergarten students at one of my schools does an entire unit on Monsters.


For this lesson, I drew a bunch of monsters and then had a list of eyes, noses, face shapes, hairstyles, etc on the board.


The students could create their own monster portrait or copy one that they liked. The classroom teacher took it to a whole other level and had them write about them and do more portraits.


They did this in oil pastel.


Their classroom teacher took my white board scribbles and made her own monster parts menu and then the students drew more monsters and wrote information about them. So much fun to link art room and classroom lessons!

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