Archive for May, 2012

The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds

Posted 22 May 2012 — by Jennifer
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Amazon.com: The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds 9780691147789: Richard Crossley: Books.

Listen to Crossley explain the process and reasoning behind his innovative book on bird identification. The graphic design communicates so much information on one page, and it is a refreshing take on that dinosaur, the field guide (of which, I should add, I am a huge fan).

Lessons from roses

Posted 08 May 2012 — by Jennifer
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Lesson #1: Love

I went out to the front of a school today to pick some roses as models for drawing. Walking back into the classroom, people were sort of…shocked. “You mean you just ran out to the front and cut those flowers?” “You have a lot of energy.”  A teacher commented that I was a little crazy (not in a negative way). I told her, “you haven’t seen the half of it,” and thus began our discussion of the lack of love and fun in school.

It is a very difficult thing to talk about love and beauty and caring in a school system that is struggling to keep its head above water. Recent statistics point to unconscionable levels of illiteracy. Yet without nurturing a culture of empathy, respect and beauty, I don’t foresee test scores rising. If children don’t learn to care–about their environment, their friends, their work–we will remain mired in a cycle of ignorance and mediocrity.

Lesson #2:Details matter

Amelia Gambetti’s (an educator from Reggio Emilia who I worked with for many years) voice still rings in my ear: “Details, details, details.”  It is important to be aware of the choices that we make, from the most minor decisions to the most significant. Drawing the roses, there were two types of markers available, fine line and broad tip. We spent time talking about the differences in the lines, and I asked children to consider which marker they needed, instead of grabbing haphazardly. Attentive decision making, discerning, selecting, choosing, builds self-awareness and consciousness–the opposite of indifference.

 

Rapunzel

Posted 03 May 2012 — by Jennifer
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Leo is enamored with Rapunzel. He draws and paints her in every scenario possible, and at every opportunity.

I found this drawing to be particularly interesting. We had been on a walk to look at bridges and when we returned to the classroom, a long, narrow piece of paper was available for drawing, as well as some other choices.

Leo drew a bridge, with Rapunzel standing on top. Notice that the head is missing. The image above is not cropped–Leo drew this way intentionally. He asks us, the viewers, to imagine Rapunzel continuing in space (the yellow line is her hair cascading into the water below the bridge). Most children his age (just  turned 4) would have drawn a tiny Rapunzel, or perhaps contort her body to fit in the available space.

For Leo, this is a significant leap in his understanding of the conventions of drawing, and a beautiful example of creativity. He knows that the reality he is inventing extends beyond the boundaries of the page.

How often do adults recognize these important moments, these stories within the story that show the intelligence of children?