Archive for March, 2014

Opal School has a new ebook!

Posted 27 Mar 2014 — by Jennifer
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Opal School, a public charter school in Portland, Oregon, just put together their first eBook, based on a preschool story Caroline Wolfe and Lauren Adams  Creating Possible Worlds: The Teacher’s Role in Nurturing a Community Where Imagination Thrives.
Here is a summary and review from the website:
“This book documents a project that was facilitated by teachers Lauren Adams and Caroline Wolfe in the Opal Beginning School preschool classroom with children ages 3 – 5 years during the 2012 – 13 school year. The story that you’ll find contained in these pages was written and presented by Lauren and Caroline for the Opal School Summer Symposium in June, 2013. They inspire us to wonder together: How does the world of imagination and storytelling support the world of science and reason? How might the languages of the arts support children to make sense of their relationship with one another and together negotiate meaning of the world around them? What if adults worked with children to bring their ideas to life? What might be possible for us all?”
“Creating Possible Worlds is an invitation to educators to be curious, self-aware, humble, and contemplative. The book illuminates both the inward thinking and the collegial conversations that guide Opal School educators as they join with children to explore questions that matter. It is both provocative and encouraging, as it asks educators to claim a strong role in constructing knowledge, neither shying away from nor overly asserting their right to active participation in investigation and learning alongside children.” Ann Pelo, author of The Goodness of Rain and The Language of Art

It is a beautiful documentation project – 70 pages filled with great photos that tells a delightful and powerful story.

It will be released the second week of April, and the ebook is very affordable at $11.99. 

Organizing for Drawing

Posted 17 Mar 2014 — by Jennifer
Category Uncategorized

Last week I had an opportunity to work with children involved in drawing a portrait of a friend sitting in a chair from different points of view, front, back and sides. Organizing the materials, and preparing myself, I reflected on my own drawing process (see previous 2 posts).


I taped the paper to the boards, instead of using a clipboard. I liked the stability this offered me, knowing the paper wouldn’t move around when I was making a careful line.

I offered different sizes of paper, and put out extra paper, so that a)children wouldn’t feel the pressure of only having one “chance,” and b) so that children could determine the size of paper that best fit their point of view

There were black markers, and hard and soft pencils, and erasers. Before we started, we tested the different drawing implements to notice different qualities. Pencil and erasers leave more room for error, black pens are very precise, and nice to draw with.




IMG_0568I removed the table and put cushions on the floor, one for each child, each a different perspective. In the center would be a chair (see 4 options in front of the table), and the model (an enthusiastic volunteer).


I asked the children to look silently at the model from their vantage point for a few minutes, and then to exchange observations. Remembering my own problem of deciding what to draw and when to start, I asked them to think about what they see, what they don’t see, and where they will start their drawing.


For my observation and documentation, I was looking for the starting points of their drawings, and the cognitive knots they would encounter (perspective, proportion, composition, etc).




Process of a Drawing

Posted 17 Mar 2014 — by Jennifer
Category Uncategorized


I love this space in my house, and there is a couch directly across where I can sit comfortably. photo-2





beginning.jpgI think: What part of this room will I draw? What will I include or exclude (the photo, above, reflects most of what I chose to include, but when I am sitting in front of the space, there is a whole lot more to consider)?  Where do I start the drawing? I begin with the chest, since it is central, and I think the objects on top will be fun to draw. I hesitate, and make a tentative mark. It curves to the right. 



big planter.jpgArrghh–the planter is too large. I consider restarting the drawing, but decide instead to see if I can work with it.





drawing done.jpg Further along in the drawing process, I am trying to make the straight lines of the door and wall (at right). I squint my eyes, to eliminate all of the extraneous stuff and focus on the negative space between the line I am drawing and the edge of the paper. I turn the page around so I am drawing top to bottom, not pushing the pen bottom to top. I am watching the space the line is making, not the line itself. 




I use the pen top and my thumb to measure the size of the top of the tall cabinet in relation to the dark wood chest. I still get it wrong, but oh well…





start painting.jpg

I begin to watercolor to the drawing, deciding not to outline the flowers on the wall in pen so they become part of the wall. I again start with the dark wood cabinet-excited by the wood grain. 






I stop here, fearful of overworking. Some big challenges:

The light was hard to capture, as it changed constantly. I had to stop and continue around the same time each day. All the walls are “white,” but not really…some light was warm, some was cool, it was hard to find the right value and tint. I noticed that putting in shadows really changes the drawing. Adding the dark darks-just small lines or areas–made spaces pop or recede. As I look, I see so many mistakes, but I learned from them. I can’t wait to start another!

A little background…

Posted 17 Mar 2014 — by Jennifer
Category Uncategorized

Inspired  to act by Austin Kleon’s blog, Think Process, Not Product, I am going to take the plunge and share the process of a recent drawing/watercolor, and how I have been connecting my personal process with my teaching. But first, a little background.

You should be aware that I really don’t draw. I’ve been told I am  ‘bad” at drawing, and I harbor a deep-seeded insecurity. I was inspired first by my husband, who picked up some Sharpies and a sketch book one day a few years ago and embarked on a journey he is still on. I was jealous of his intensity and focus, the way he loses himself in each page for hours at a time. I get that feeling, but never from drawing.

I started drawing during a snowy weekend at Wineberry Cabin the Shenandoah mountains. It was really cold, and there was over a foot of snow on the ground. Warm and cozy in the tiny cabin, I cracked open my new sketchbook and began drawing what was directly in front of me-the wood burning stove.







I made 2 more drawings that weekend:



There is something about drawing with Sharpies that is both intimidating and liberating– Sharpies are immediate and bold-you must make a decision and deal with the consequences…something about the permanence of the mark freed me, and I found I could take more risks. At the same time, I am forced to visibly deal with mistakes, not erase them, not try and get it “perfect.”

Another inspiration was a good friend, who did this crazy beautiful, yet technically incorrect, drawing of a kitchen. I love her drawing, the way her personality shines through–the quirkiness is what makes it interesting. I began to realize that maybe drawing isn’t about making something look exactly the way it is “supposed” to look, it is about making something look like who  I am, and howsee, and that’s my ultimate challenge.

By the third drawing (Sharpie and watercolor), I started to pay attention to what was going on in my head–I had a problem I was solving, I was trying to figure out how to distinguish the inside from the outside, and how to deal with the multiple lines and angles I was seeing from my point of view.

I think that figuring–what happens in that space in your brain when it’s clicking and firing away at a problem–I think that is the “art,” because your brain is stimulated in new ways-it is in uncharted territory without a formula or pre-determined solution.

Now on to the process…see next post…