Creating self-portraits is a challenging – but important – way to explore feelings and emotions.
At Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael, first graders started their self portrait journey by looking in the mirror and making different faces. In the first week, they drew five expressions: happy, sad, angry, surprised and scared. We made the faces together, then individually while looking in the mirror.
It was important to give students time to really look at themselves without the distraction of pencils and paper on the table. We felt the bones in our cheeks and noses and noticed details like eyebrows and hair. How is my hair different from yours? Students labeled each face they drew, practicing skills they use in academic subjects making diagrams.
The next week, we drew our own faces in pencil, using the whole page. Then we used black Sharpies on the best lines and added colored pencils. It was a great project to do before moving to our newly rebuilt old school around the corner after the holiday break.
This project was the end of a 12-week residency with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman exploring how to make and keep friends and social-emotional skills. Self portraits by kindergarten and first graders will be on display at the YIA Gallery on April 10 as part of the annual Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts exhibition, now in its sixth year. The show celebrates the life of 5-year-old Walker Rezaian and his love of the arts and is part of a program funded by the Rezaian family.
How do I make brown? How many different shades of brown can I make? Second graders at Short and Laurel Dell elementary schools practiced mixing colors using only the primaries red, yellow and blue plus white.
We worked with tempera paint, waxy black markers and mat board. First we traced our own hands and the hands of our table mates, overlapping to create interesting shapes. We mixed different browns carefully and painted in each area. It was fun to see how purple and yellow make a brown that is different from the brown that blue and orange makes. We used donated mat board instead of paper to give students a velvety and durable service on which to work. Mat board is especially helpful with children with learning differences as it offers a strong sensory response, and won’t crumple with lots of paint.
Working with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, we have been exploring identity and our role in our communities and neighborhoods. The lesson followed a multi-week project in which students created richly detailed murals using collage papers, pastels and glue. In each class, we designed and envisioned our dream neighborhood after looking at artists Romare Bearden, Faith Ringgold and others.
Thank you to Lo Forti Fine Prints in San Anselmo for the generous donation of mat board.
First graders at Laurel Dell School in San Rafael have been exploring literacy through art with Youth in Arts’ Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. Students love to look at their art. When we make art with words, we look carefully to find what we know, which means we practice reading.
Students built a colorful word mural from important words they know. Using a donated canvas splashed with graffiti, old encyclopedia pages, oil pastels and glue, they made big words and cut them into interesting shapes. The words were glued onto the canvas, which will become a living document; students will be encouraged to add to their work throughout the year.
The goal of the project was to teach the young artists that words are fun. Teacher Vanessa Nunez helped with the project by encouraging the young artists to brainstorm about words they know. She wrote the words on index cards before art class so students were ready to copy them and practice their spelling. The final step was cutting their words into interesting shapes.
“Art is a wonderful way to teach literacy since all letters are shapes,” Bowman said. “Students love to engage in creative art making and show what they know.”
When a large box became scrambled while students searched for their letters, Nunez created a teachable moment. Students who are English Language Learners took turns sorting the letters and then naming them before putting them in the right place.
“Working at Laurel Dell is a great experience because Principal Pepe Gonzalez and his staff are so supportive,” Bowman said. “Working in partnership enables us to accomplish so much.”
Friends come in all shapes and sizes!
“Imagining Friendship” is at the YIA Gallery in San Rafael through May 24. The show features the colorful self portraits by kindergarteners and first graders at Laurel Dell Elementary School. The work was part of a residency this Fall with Youth in Arts’ mentor artists Suzanne Joyal and Cathy Bowman.
The Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts exhibition is now in its fifth year. The show celebrates the life of 5-year-old Walker Rezaian and his love of the arts. The show is part of a program funded by the Rezaian family.
“This is an exciting show that celebrates friendship in all its forms,” said Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Miko Lee. “The exhibition also features a wonderful cardboard for exploring. The exhibit shows families that art can be made from anything.”
As a backdrop for the show, Joyal and Bowman built a kid-sized, interactive cardboard world with tunnels to crawl through and doors to open. There are windows to look in and out of and a cardboard word game to encourage visitors to read and write. The show also features a giant word tower made from cardboard boxes inspired by the work of artist Corita Kent. The cardboard was generously donated by Sunrise Home.
Youth in Arts is also excited to announce the opening of its new ART LAB, housed in the YIA store. The ART LAB is open during regular Youth in Arts’ hours, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Laurel Dell fourth graders embarked on a 12-week journey exploring bridges to make connections between art and architecture. The course ended with tiny bridges that were built in a box. This project was another approach to a self portrait. Where are we now? Where to we want to go in our lives? The goal of this project was to bridge our current and future selves and dreams.
We began with a discussion of symbols and what images we would use to show our present and future selves. We sketched a design in our sketchbooks to work out what our bridges would look like. This was a crucial step in working out the details. Then we used watercolor to paint the backgrounds, carefully adding details with colored pencils. It was hard to wait for the paintings to dry! The paper was pre-cut so it would fit into 6 by 6-inch wooden boxes.
The final class was devoted to building tiny bridges made from thick white paper, string, buttons and glue. We used Q-tips to carefully apply the glue to small places. It was challenging to work small, but good practice using scissors and hole punches. Some students used traditional bridge designs while others got quite creative! One student built a lily pad bridge using clay. Several students said this was their favorite project.
What do we look like? What do you see? These are some of the questions that kindergarteners and first graders pondered at Laurel Dell Elementary School.
Looking into mirrors, we touched our faces. Where are our eyes, noses and ears? What color is our skin? How do we show emotion with our expressions? Students started with a sketch, encouraged to draw themselves big enough to use the whole page. We drew faces, necks and the tops of shoulders. Once the sketches were done, students copied their best lines in Sharpie markers. At the following class, we added watercolor. It was important to know when to stop and how to use watercolors carefully so we didn’t make mud! Kindergarteners then decorated cardboard frames, using black and white pastels. First graders used white pencils on black frames. We told a story in the pictures and words we used. The results were wonderful. The portraits will be part of a spring show at the YIA gallery. Stay tuned!
Master Architect Shirl Buss has been working with Laurel Dell Elementary students on their vision for the San Rafael 2040 Plan. Students presented their projects (sea level rise, their 2018-2040 Portfolios and their proposals for Gateways to San Rafael) to Kate Powers, environmental advocate who is on the San Rafael 2040 general plan steering committee. Kate served as a great audience for the students to practice their public speaking skills and shared information about the San Rafael 2040 General Plan and the work of the Steering Committee.
Laurel Dell’s 5th grade students have been invited to participate in the 2040 San Rafael General Plan planning process. The General Plan expresses the community’s vision of how and where our city will grow and change in the future. It’s an official document and covers topics such as housing, transportation, open space, arts and culture, natural resources, community design, public services, and safety. The intent of the General Plan is to envision how growth will be managed to protect the quality of life and make San Rafael more accessible, equitable, and vibrant for residents, businesses, and visitors.
The Plan is an opportunity for residents and leaders to think about and speak out about what we wish to preserve and what we wish to change. We will be adding youth voices to this process. The Plan will address issues that impact us all—including traffic, jobs, housing affordability, environmental quality, resilience, disaster preparedness, sea level rise, and public services. Once the General Plan is adopted, City Council, local commissions, and city staff use it to make day-to-day decisions about our future.
For the “Real World Challenge” portion of their architectural residency, students will work collaboratively in hands-on in-class studios with architects and planners from Youth in Arts and UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN. We will build upon the work we did last year for the Resilient by Design Challenge. We will research and make proposals about San Rafael’s future—from a youthful, but informed perspective, with a special focus on selected areas of the city (downtown, canals, open space, etc.) We will incorporate the academic focus on earth systems and apply this research to our recommendations. The students will have an opportunity to present to the General Plan committee members.
Mentor Artist Stephanie Bastos worked with every student at Laurel Dell Elementary School this Spring. Here are her thoughts:
I believe every child deserves quality arts education and schools like Laurel Dell Elementary strive to make it happen. My instruction there included Movement arts focusing on Brazilian Music and Dance that provided a rich experience for a community of mostly immigrant families. As a trilingual teaching artist having spent a lot of time in Brazil and throughout South America, I related to the kids and families by simply sharing my culture. I also have a disability that I do a presentation about for the learners so that they can see that every body can move and create.
The learners experienced a traditional dance class that includes a warm- up, skill building, and performance/ improvisation in small groups or individually. They also got to play drums and sing songs in Portuguese.
Laurel Dell celebrates their community every Spring with the Fiesta Del Sol: families and friends meet for a fun and music-filled day of dance and food. For the culminating event, students presented Samba Reggae choreography, Maculelé folklore- a traditional warrior dance and the beloved Capoeira- a game of movement, acrobatics, and song. I had the honor of entering a community full of love and simplicity that taught me a lot about the possibilities of what quality education looks like for all!
At Laurel Dell Suzanne Joyal continues with our Visual Arts program reaching the entire school. Our first graders use their imagination and artistry to create imaginary monsters and practice color mixing.
Creations were so unique, as students answered the same questions: How will it move? Does it need arms, legs, wings? How many? How will it see? How many eyes will it have? (More was pretty common!) Where does it live? What does it eat? Who are its friends?
What colors will you use? How will you make orange, purple, green? Can you make brown also?
We began the lesson by looking at the sky: what happens where the sky meets the land? Filling the white space between them was a big success.
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