They are all around us, but we hadn't really stopped to look at them with curiosity and creativity.
As we looked carefully at the cedars in our school yard, we saw their beauty -- and wanted to make some art.
We looked at the colours of the Celeste Aleck's illustrations and the colours of a cedar tree, and chose to use soft blue, grey, browns and greens.
First we tried painting the paper to make the browns look like bark, and the blues and greys look like winter clouds. We all agreed that everything just looked like a puddle.
We looked at the cedar we had collected to use for printing - and there was our solution. We would paint with cedar branches. A combination of blue and grey and brown.
When we looked at the cedar beaches we saw that they were slightly different shades of green. Since everyone likes choice, we mixed colours to make light green, yellow green, and dark green, as well as what we called, medium green.
Each artist chose a cedar branch and a shade of green.
We found that we really had to work the paint into the branch with the brayer. We had to make sure the that paint got into all the hidden crevices and corners.
Time to make the print. The artist chose how the painted branch would fit onto their cedar painted background. We put a clean paper on top to keep everything from moving, and then rolled with the brayer on the paper.
The kids were delighted with the reveal!
And the forest ...
Books to extend - deepen the learning/experience
We Live Here written by Brenda Boreham and Terri Mack illustrated by Bill Helin
A beautifully illustrated book that highlights the cedar and important animals in the Pacific Northwest. It supports the new BC Aboriginal Learning Standards in Science and Social Studies.
The Trees Grin Beside Me
written by Michelle Macdonald
illustrated by Leah Davis
A child's curious, questioning mind leads her on an inspiring journey in nature. By comparing herself to the majestic trees around her, the young girl begins to learn more about herself and discover the unexpected teachings that trees have to offer. (product description)
The 6 Core Competencies are at the heart of the redesigned BC curriculum.
They are designed to underpin and arch over all learning K - 12.
The Six Cedar Trees is a book built on the Core Competencies.
The Six Cedar Trees
by: Margot Landahl and Celestine Aleck
publisher: Strong Nations Publishing, 2017
summary: Eagle perches himself in a grove of cedar trees high above a school playground. He explores the characteristics of 6 different Pacific Northwest animals and connects them with strengths we grow in ourselves (the core competencies).
The Six Cedar Trees is a wonderful way to introduce and reinforce the core competencies. It provides a vehicle to bring the core competencies into the life of the classroom - to "Notice It, Name It, Nurture It".
On our first day with The Six Cedar Trees, we went to our school forest and read about the eagle flying high in the sky, coming to rest in a grove of cedar trees, and looking down on a school playground.
We were inspired to get to know some of our local cedar trees.
We introduced ourselves to cedars by feeling (and creating with) bark texture.
We lay on the ground at the base of a cedar tree and looked waaaaay up.
We wrapped our arms around an old growth beauty to give it a hug (and see which was bigger, us or the tree - we were identical).
As we continue to learn about cedar trees, we continued reading the next section of The Six Cedar Trees. We read about Wolf; Wolf is a great communicator.
Over a week, we incorporated Wolf's communicator traits into our classroom language. We were intentional in sharing our ideas, listening respectfully, and taking care of the pack - all like Wolf.
Just before we we did our Communication Core Competency self assessment (last thing on a Friday afternoon - I knew I was flirting with insanity), I put up a Wolf poster
and asked the kids to remind me how Wolf was a good communicator. And they told me. They got it! On a Friday afternoon! Cue the happy dance.
Back to the self assessment... We are all working towards being great communicator like Wolf. Some of us are a little bit good, some of us are pretty good and some of us are very good. Where ever we are, we can all keep practicing and getting better at sharing ideas and listening respectfully.
The kids coloured the wolf that corresponded with their self assessment.
When I looked through them after school, I saw that some of the kids who find it difficult to share their thoughts and ideas, self assessed as "pretty good" rather than "very good". Some children acknowledged that their listening skills could use some practice. Pretty impressive for 5 year olds.
Click below to download self assessments for all 6 core competencies - and a cover page and explanation page for parents/families.
Visuals are so important to early learners.
Click to download a set of posters to go with each animal and core competency.
Print them on 11 x 17" paper. I backed mine with red construction paper to make them really pop.
If like me, you have kids who like to colour (it is very calming), here are some colouring sheets.
All of the Coast Salish animal images are from the School District 79 (Cowichan) website. While the images belong to the artists that created them, (Stuart Pagaduan and Maynard Johnny) they are available for educational use.
Animals of the Salish Sea offers Coast Salish teaching about local animals beside some kid-friendly animal facts - with amazing art work. There is also a set of flash cards.
Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox-- In this introduction to the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals, young children explain why they identify with different creatures such as a deer, beaver or moose. Delightful illustrations show the children wearing masks representing their chosen animal, while the few lines of text on each page work as a series of simple poems throughout the book. (from GoodReads)
Have you used other books/resources to support the core competencies and self assessment - I would love to hear about them.
We learned that Kandinsky had an unusual condition that caused him to hear sounds when he saw different colours. When he grew up, h tried to be a lawyer like his family wanted - but that did not make his heart happy. He tried to paint like other famous painters, but that did not make his heart happy either. When he painted, playing with colours and shapes, then his heart was happy.
After investigating snail shells (and learning about snails) and looking at how Kandinsky's played with colours in his painting Farbstudie, the kids used water colour paint pucks to paint Kandinsky circles.
Like Kandinsky, they were thoughtful about colour choices and placement.
The finished snail shells were a work of art in their own right. I almost did not want to put them onto snail bodies.
But the kids did.
I drew snail bodies for the kids - they wanted to focus on the colour and painting rather than the shape of their snail body.
The snail bodies ranged the colour of the rainbow - and rainbow coloured. (Don't you love the artist's concentration and thought about her work.)
The kids attached the snail to the shell.
And they looked amazing.
We find Kandinsky inspiring. Click on the photo to see our other Kandinsky inspired projects.
We read The Crayon Box that Talked when we talk about being peaceful, being kind, and appreciating that we all have unique talents and abilities. It is a wonderful story about the importance of diversity.
Many American schools read it as part of Martin Luther King Jr Day activities.
Whenever it is read, it is a fun book with a good lesson.
The Crayon Box That Talked written by Shane DeRolf illustrated by Michael Letzig published by Random House Books for Young Readers (1997)
summary A girl buys a box of crayons and takes them home. When she opens up the box, she sees that they crayons are unkind to each other - even though they really don't know why they say mean things.
The girl shows the crayons how all are important and necessary by drawing a picture using all of them. By the end of the story, the crayons appreciate the contributions that each make.
My favourite page in the book is when all the crayons are happily dancing across the page, working and creating together.
Isn't that what we want for our classrooms - everyone working together, appreciating each other.
We create "dancing crayons" to put up in our classroom, reminding us how all of us are needed for the picture to be complete.
The kids choose what colour crayon they want to create, and then use a tracer to create a crayon shape.
Using a tracer is a great fine motor skills work out for little hands. The "helper hand" needs to put firm pressure on the tracer so that it does not move, and the printing hand needs to move the pencil right around the perimeter of the tracer. Lots of concentration required.
More fine motor work with cutting out the crayon.
Time to decorate the crayons. We noticed that in the book, the crayons were only decorated withe their own colours. Purple was decorated only with purple. Green with green. You get the drift. But they had all sorts of different decorations.
We endeavoured to decorate the crayons the same way. No pictures as a result of making sure that all reports of using the wrong colour for decorations were false - and providing glue and googly eyes.
After the decorated crayons were glued onto legal sized paper, it was time to add the dancing arms and legs.
Some looked like the arms and legs from the book,
others had their own style.
Whatever their style, our dancing crayons are a reminder that we are better -- and we have more fun -- when everyone is included and appreciated for what they bring to our community.
Fall trees are just so beautiful. The kindergarten kids looked at the trees as artists, and saw the colours of the leaves and the lines of the branches.
As artists, we knew we wanted to paint those trees - highlighting both the lines of the branches and the colours of the changing leaves.
We looked at the colours of some of the leaves on the trees in our school grounds. We discovered that we needed a variety of colours of paint for the leaves. We discovered that there was not just one colour of leaves on many trees - there were lots of colours of leaves on the same tree.
Each child decided what colours they wanted on the leaves on their tree
and how and where those colours should be on the paper.
Sponges work wonderfully to mix the colours and create texture.
We cut out the fall foliage, and turned out attention to the trunk and branches.
While we were outside, we looked at tree bark, and noticed the colours we saw.
The children used sponges (texture again) to paint bark, and then I used a paper cutter to cut thick trunk sized pieces,
medium and small branch size pieces.
The kids chose a trunk, the right number of medium branches for their tree, and then added small branches.
The Dot by Peter Reynold is a wonderful book to read. And reread. And be inspired by.
It reminds us of some very important principles: • everyone has a mark to leave on the world • effort should be celebrated • art is inclusive • encouragement is contagious
summary Vashti thinks that she can't draw. Her art teacher gently asks her to make a dot on her paper, and sign it. Next class, Vashti sees her dot, framed, above her teacher's desk. It inspires her to make better dots, bigger dots, coloured dots, un-dots, and to see herself as an artist.
My favourite of Vashti's dots is her "undot".
We looked at the "undot" together and talked about how Vashti did not paint a dot. We decided to make undots too.
Negative space is a hard concept for kindergarten kids.
I figured that they might need a little help.
Mactac to to the rescue.
I cut out a bunch of Mactac dots and stuck them on half an 8 1/2 by 11" paper (heavier bond than photocopy paper - in a perfect (and budget free) world, I would use watercolour paper).
The kids chose a paper with a dot - and headed to the paints.
We used puck style tempera paints. I have them set up on the tables by colour, and the kids move themselves and their papers to the colours that they want to use.
I love observing how children operate as artists.
Some are very controlled and precise.
Some artists are random and spontaneous.
Some artists have a definite plan in mind.
Some artists have a plan, and constantly adapt it.
After the paint was dry, we peeled off the mactac circle, leaving an unpainted undot on the paper.
The artists signed their work, and we framed them in swirly gold.
Each piece of art, reminding us that everyone has something to contribute - everyone has a mark to make.
Make your mark - you never know where it will take you.