The Glueless Forest


Children have completed their 3-d design unit and have created a variety of structures and figures.  To earn the privilege of using glue and tape, kids first had to show they could build things using different attachment strategies.  Even after glue and tape were given to them, students continued to build small creatures and plants using their newly learned attachment strategies.  I decided to put all of their creations together in a display that we call “The Glueless Forest.”  The results are impressive and speak for themselves.


What’s it all about?

What’s it all about? img_0968

Kicking, catching, throwing and running the bases

after scoring a run it’s a thrill to see the smiles on their faces.

Stopping the ball, passing the ball and scoring a goal is what they do

and playing goalie and defense positions is what they do too.

Playing activities like fruit basket, switch, steal the chicken and 4 corners just to name a few,

and then there is free time to take the equipment out and just do what they want to do.

And next as we begin basketball we will most certainly be hitting the rim.

If you haven’t guess it yet, of course you will find all this happening in the JCDS gym!


Mrs. Sugerman

Rhythm Words!

What started as a new way of practicing rhythm turned into a unique way to put together a piece of music! Using words and syllables like “POW” and “ChuggaChugga,” students have been gaining a stronger understanding of rhythm and note value.  We then took our new rhythm words and used them to practice reading short, one measure phrases.  Later we began layering the phrases on top of one another and came up with some great sounds. Check out our 4th graders demonstrating below!


The Day of Ahmed’s Secret

img_0280     gal3_005Last week we read one of my favorite picture books, The Day Of Ahmed’s Secret by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland. From pre-K to fourth grade, we were inspired by the intricate watercolor and timeless story. After the book I showed the kids some arabic calligraphy. They were especially fond of the elephant. The kids drew their names as proudly as Ahmed does at the end of the book.  Here’s some of their work:


img_0273  img_0274ahmedimg_0281img_0285img_0289img_0291img_0290




One unseasonably warm day in early October I started our fourth grade art class with a vote.  They had been learning about the election and consensus, and I told them we could go outside, but only if everyone agreed.  After some impassioned speeches, we got everyone on board. I talked to the kids briefly about framing and how beauty can be found anywhere if you get the right frame of reference.


We brought out actual empty frames so students could work on their composition.  I encouraged them to zoom in and out to find the best image.


Some kids found more creative uses for their picture frame.  With the addition of a simple binder clip, a lesson on composition morphed into an installation art workshop.


Welcome To Art

Welcome to the Art blog!  I’m so happy to share the amazing work that children have been doing this year as they grow into budding young artists.  The art curriculum I am following will hopefully lead to both quality work and informative processes that are the hallmarks of effective art education.  To begin, let me introduce you to the 8 Studio Habits of Mind.  img_20160930_154715465

A team of Harvard University researchers and educators set out to analyze and synthesize a list of habits that successful artists develop.  The result was the 8 Studio Habits of Mind.  In no particular order, they found that successful artists: Observe, Envision, Persist, Develop Craft, Explore, Reflect, Collaborate and Present.  Over the year, instead of having units developed around famous artists, or art work, or materials and techniques, students will be asked to exemplify these traits of real artists throughout the year.  This provides some structure and unity to choice-based art.

But what is choice-based art?  It looks like this:


Instead of being handed a template and having all students work on the same project, students are given free reign to explore the available materials that they feel best suited to accomplish their goals.  Although I rarely give whole-class instruction in art, there is a still a role for the teacher in choice-based art.  Every day, in addition to children’s free choice, there is a teacher-led option where students can join me in a small scaffolded group project.

A big feature of choice-based art is empowering children to take ownership over both the process and the space.  Everything written in dotted lines, from signage to labels, is an invitation for children to “connect the dots” (i.e. take down my boring, adult sign and make your own.)  There are two large spaces dedicated to showing students work.  One is an “Inspiration Station:”img_20160930_154737418img_20160930_154743349

This is an informal, student-curated space where children are free to put up or take down anything they make (as long as there is a free magnet).  Students can only use this space for a month and work will be regularly cycled through.  This is right above a small library of books on artists, techniques, and beautifully illustrated children’s books.  The aim is to allow students who are overwhelmed with a choice-based curriculum to find inspiration on their own without being spoon fed.

img_20160930_154243883The other display area is the “Featured Artists Boards”  which is by invite only.  Students are asked to display their work on the Featured Artists Board only if I think that they exemplified the Habit of Mind that we are focusing on for that week.  Here a few examples:

img_20160930_154220785_hdr  The artist who made the figure above was learning about making life size paper puppets in Jewish Studies. While tape was not yet a material we were using in class, he experimented with many different types of paper until he stumbled upon the pad of tracing paper in the inspiration station.  He found it was pliable enough to be shaped but resistant enough to hold the shape.  Without using any tape, he formed the figure above, beaming as he showed it to me.  I reminded him how limitations spark creativity, and that if he had just used tape he would have never made the discovery.  The next class, another student was impressed with his work and tried to make his own figure.  This time, the students used tissue paper, but still developed craft to make it without using any tape.

img_20160930_154215912 One student, exploring pastels, tried to use a wet tissue to blend colors.  When she accidentally ripped her paper she was not discouraged but tried again, using her hard won knowledge to create a successful composition.

img_20160930_154233052 Another student, inspired by an example I had shown the class, was trying to portray 3-d depth using 2-d lines.  You can see a clear progression from the first draft (far left) to the third (far right) as the student persisted in exploring and experimenting in order to work towards mastering a difficult technique.  If I had merely taught him how to do it, the lesson would not be as lasting or meaningful.  Portraying all three drafts on the board is also showcasing the fact that artists must be brave, make mistakes, and then learn from them.

img_20160930_154236020   Lastly, there was a student who was only interested in solving a maze book in the inspiration station.  He asked if he could “just do mazes” and I told him, “yes, of course, but for every five mazes you solve you have to make on original one.”  He said he couldn’t and he didn’t know how, and then ten minutes later showed me the maze above.

img_20160930_154511782For younger students, choice-based art looks slightly different, and Kindergarten and Pre-K students do more scaffolded projects that are usually based on books we read at the beginning of the class.  One project, based on What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada, was to make a crown.  Here again, although many kids used and followed my template for a crown (i.e. yellow paper, spikey crown), others challenged themselves in novel ways.  The student’s crown on the right was the result of two weeks of focused, determined work, and did much to advance the student’s growth in fine motor control, grit, and execution.img_20160930_154442717img_20160930_154253906

Students are asked to reflect daily on their work and how it exemplified the studio habit of mind we are focusing on. They ultimately are accountable to themselves both in the classroom and beyond.  To this end, the one project that was completely teacher led and everyone had to complete is shown below.  Each student was asked to decorate a balloon and write a goal they had for art this year.  As a project, I’m glad that students took it seriously and produced beautiful work; as a visual metaphor, I can think of nothing more appropriate than having the students own self-created goals keeping them aloft, inspiring them to push to greater and greater heights of artistry.

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Stay tuned for an update about how students “Developed Craft” during September and October.  Thanks for reading!

Mr. Mirsky.

Welcome to Gardening!

All the grades have been working hard this month to start “putting the garden to bed” and helping out with some school-wide projects. We have started utilizing the compost barrels and learning all about decomposers, worms, beetles and other helpful critters. Pre-K and Kindergarten are going to be responsible for the beautiful Butterfly Garden, coming this spring. All other grades also have their own garden bed, where they are excited to plant some of their favorite vegetables. Fourth and fifth grade has been doing an excellent job being in charge of collecting the compost during lunch and helping to remind some of the younger students what kinds of food can be composted. First grade is exploring decomposing apples and second and third grades are exploring worms! jacob-g2

The whole school has been working hard on our big garden project for the year…planting wheat! The students are busy clearing a plot of land for the wheat seeds, which will be planted this fall and (hopefully) bloom this upcoming spring. If all goes well, we will harvest our wheat by hand, process it and turn it into flour to use for making our Challah bread. Wheat is a staple ingredient in many foods of Israel and one of the 7 species, so this allows for wonderful integrated learning experiences with Judaic Studies.