Thanks to Facebook, I made a cool discovery about an initiative to take learning outdoors by celebrating national “Outdoor Classroom Day”. After some research and signing up through the link, I realized this site was a great resource for all teachers of all subjects!

Check it out at: https://outdoorclassroomday.com/

GETTING OUTSIDE…We have a fantastic outdoor trail space on our school grounds that our principal has been encouraging teachers to use, so this seemed like a great way to use our outside environment for a fun learning experience.

ADDING A LEARNING COMPONENT…My colleague and I put together a “Photo Scavenger Hunt” for our art classes. We brainstormed some curriculum based “challenges” such as photographing something soft and something rough, which reinforced one of the “Elements of Design”, texture. We encouraged photography skills through the use of light and shadows. Of course, we allowed for creativity by having students take an image from a “bug’s eye view” of the world.

TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION…Students were permitted to bring their cell phones to art class to take pictures. If a student didn’t have a phone, they could use their Chromebooks or one of the classroom iPads to take pictures. Students were encouraged to put together a slideshow, video or share their best photo with peers using “Google Classroom”. Another benefit to this lesson was having students navigate the various forms of technology and how to get their photos into their “Google Drive” account from their personal devices.

DISCOVERIES…It was really fun to see students partner up between classes and work together to try and get all of the pictures on the scavenger hunt. Unfortunately, there weren’t too many clouds out, so they were a little disappointed that they couldn’t find a “cloud that looked like an animal”. However, they did find a toad!

SUCCESS…The day turned out to be a lot of fun! It sure felt like summer, as it was 90 degrees out and a bit buggy, but the shade on the trail made it bearable for everyone. It was an excellent chance to break up the normal school day, as the year winds down. The students also had an opportunity to use their photography skills and tune into the natural beauty our school is surrounded with.

Paper Roller Coaster STEAM Challenge



My 6th grade students have embarked on their first official “STEAM” based studio project in the art room. The challenge? They need to construct a “paper roller coaster” that allows a marble to travel along the track in one continuous motion. The students are working in small groups on this collaborative sculpture and are treating the project as a business venture. It’s pretty exciting to see everything unfold!



We have started using Kidblog, https://kidblog.org, to practice writing in the art room and reinforce ELA goals. This site is a super-student friendly site to use with students that allows teachers to control the privacy of posts and encourage digital etiquette skills in a supervised setting. It provides a venue for students to take pictures and write about their art and works well with Google Drive, which our students use on a daily basis.

We kicked off the lesson by doing some roller coaster research and blogging in Kidblog. Students were to write an “informational blog post” on what they considered to be “the coolest roller coaster in the world” and incorporate specific facts about the selected roller coaster in their post. They personalized their blog by changing up the background and adding a personal “voice” to their writing by sharing why they selected that particular roller coaster. This writing assignment also provided an opportunity to teach digital literacy skills and remind students about copyright guidelines. Many students learned that they could not just “copy and paste” the text into their blog without crediting the source.


Students were placed in groups by randomly distributing colored squares of paper. After the students got passed their immediate disappointment that they weren’t choosing their groups, they realized they’d be working on something fun and it probably wouldn’t matter.

Students shared the features they liked from their roller coaster blogs (some even read and commented on their peers’ posts!) and this enabled students to develop a plan for their roller coasters. Students got right to work on developing a “blueprint” for their designs. Some even used online design programs for their plan!



Students were eager to start building once their design plans were complete. I gave a brief demonstration on scoring cardboard for neater folds, how to use a circular shape to create a funnel and how to make straight and curved tracks. Other than that, I reminded students they had templates and access to their Chromebooks for tips and techniques. I found the students were excited to just try manipulating the paper and cardboard and learning through trial and error. That was a “win” for me, as part of the STEAM approach to education is learning through discovery and experimentation.


My smART partner developed a “monetary system” for making students accountable for materials in her art room. The amount of waste that students create, whether it is paper, paint, or lately the “Fab Lab” materials, has been quite frustrating. I knew that I wanted my students to treat the Roller Coaster Challenge as a business, so I decided to give this “money exchange” a try.

I gave each group 10 “Mrs. Shemansky Art Bucks” to purchase materials and supplies that would help them build their coaster. The items “for sale” would definitely be a big help, but they weren’t necessary. Students also had access to “free supplies” such as poster board scraps of less popular colors (great way to get rid of brown poster board!), scrap paper and old worksheets since we have gone digital and large sheets of manilla paper that have been accumulating dust in our supply closet.

Students were encouraged to bring items that could be used from home such as paper towel tubes, paper plates, bowls and cups, as well as items such as duct tape to enhance their structure. This allowed students to “save” money if they brought things from home. It has been a lot of fun listening to the students debate what is worth purchasing and how some groups are determined to spend as little of their budget as possible. Students are also wasting less and willing to be creative with many “upcycled” items.


While I was very nervous to undertake this STEAM project, I knew I had to take a risk and give it a shot. So far, I think it’s been quite a hit! One exciting part of the project has been watching the students that thought it would never work find success. I have students that insisted it would be impossible to get a marble to complete a “paper loop” come back during their free periods, determined to make it work—and it did!

While my classroom is BURSTING at the seams with tracks, funnels and large coaster constructions and I am giving up my prep period to allow students to come to the art room to continue to work, the excitement of the students is contagious.  I am enjoying being an observer, rather than the leader. The students are truly engaged with one another and working collaboratively on a goal. It really is a win-win! However, the biggest reward so far is the radiating pride on their faces when their track works.

While we still have a few weeks of construction left, I am excited to share their progress so far. Keep checking back for updates and the final products. I am sure this will become a memorable experience in 6th grade art!



Malcolm D. writes what #art is and then shows off his imaginative “Dream House” painting to the world.

Youth Art Month is a month long celebration of why art is an important part of our students’ education. During Youth Art Month, our students are excited to share with the world what art means to them. My smART partner and I have been working hard at sharing all of the amazing things our students are doing in the art room with the rest of the world. Youth Art Month just gives us another excuse to kick our arts advocacy mission up a notch!

Last year during Youth Art Month, we launched our social media platform using Twitter and Instagram. We started “jtlart” as our tag and have built up quite a following by students, parents and professionals. It has been quite exciting and really helped us start this school year off with the ability to showcase what is happening in our classrooms. Do you want to learn more? Follow us “@jtlart”!


This year we decided to dedicate a space in our art room for students to share what “#artis” to them. We had large picture frames built (thank you to our super-handy and helpful Tech. Ed. Teacher, Mr. Steve Bybee!) and these frames were suspended from the wall so students have a special “photo-op” space. We created this special space just in time for Youth Art Month!

The students have been having a lot of fun

posing and sharing their ideas with the world!

In addition to our social media campaign, we are participating in a district-wide “Artist Trading Card” project. Students in all ten of our schools within the East Stroudsburg Area School District are designing small trading cards with their own artistic flair. These cards will be traded amongst the art teachers at our monthly department meeting and then re-distributed to students. Many of my middle school students are adding special positive messages to brighten the recipient’s day. I am eager to see their reactions when they receive cards from other student artists!

Abby K. works on her “Artist Trading Cards”.

What are you doing to celebrate Youth Art Month? I’d love to hear your ideas, as well as why you think art should be an important part of education. Let’s continue to keep art alive in our schools! Afterall, “#art is” a creative outlet, a time to explore and discover new possibilities, gain an appreciation for design and develop a unique lens for viewing the world around us. I hope you make some time to create something this weekend!

-Mrs. S


In a previous post, I introduced my latest STEAM endeavor,  “The Fab Lab”. Treating it as a seed that will grow throughout the school year, I was eager to share the development of this “makerspace” for students over the course of the school year in my blog. Here are some of my goals and observations (and a few reality checks) from our classroom experiences with the “Fab Lab” since December…

GOAL #1: ORGANIZATION…or controlling the chaos!

I rallied my students during the month of November to help sort and organize the enormous amount of legos that my smART partner and I accumulated last school year. After putting out an email request to teachers and staff, we were fortunate enough to have bins and boxes of old legos donated to the art room. However, this also meant that there were miscellaneous toys, matchbox cars, dinosaurs, shooting cannons, figurines and dinosaurs mixed in. While the kids loved finding all of the “retro” discards, I knew we needed a system to help guide the students towards constructing and learning through play. It’s amazing how side-tracked a 6th grader becomes when he or she finds an old toy from someone’s past!

We decided to organize the legos into categories. We separated legos into bricks and blocks, flat pieces, doors and windows, axles and wheels and bridge pieces. I provided several bins and ziploc bags to sort the legos that did not fit into those categories, which meant we had bags of lego figures, lego dinosaurs, etc. The kids and I did a pretty good job of getting through a couple of storage bins and I felt good about the system we had in place. I figured students could look for the designated bin to find specific pieces they needed based on the challenge. 


So, it’s been a couple of months of legos in the Fab Lab and the legos are no longer organized at all. They are all mixed together, but the kids don’t seem to mind. I learned to let go of my lofty goal of “organized bins” to help students find specific pieces and just let the students search for pieces amongst what is there. I think having all sorts of legos together in a bin allows for more creative exploration during their building challenges. The students are building and testing their creations through trial and error and I think that is furthering their exploration through play. I also find that they are willing to collaborate when they are forced to “share” a bin. Thus, I have now purchased classroom sets of bins with lids that house legos for each individual table. Students share. There is less bickering over legos and the groups that sit together are usually pretty good at sharing with one another.


Our initial goal of the Fab Lab was to offer students a chance to complete themed challenges using  different materials each month. Since our students still have traditional art projects to complete during instructional time, the Fab Lab serves as a space where students can go when they finish a project early. This means that some students who work at a fast pace get to spend a lot of time in the Fab Lab and others don’t. I wanted to make sure that students had an opportunity to work with the materials long enough to accomplish the building challenge, while also learning how to best use these materials based on what the goal was. I quickly learned that a month was not sufficient.


After reflection and conversation with students, I realized that one material per month was not going to be enough time for students to participate in the challenges. My smART partner and I concluded that the materials should stay out for an entire marking period before switching out to a new theme. The students were happy with this arrangement because they could spend more time building and collaborating towards their goals. PS. The legos have been out a bit longer due to interruptions to our schedule and the students wanting more time!

In addition, I learned that not every challenge could be started and completed in the short amount of time a student may be in the Fab Lab. A student would spend time building and testing a constructed piece, only to have to deconstruct it at the end of the period. I have now created a small storage space on a cart in my room where students can leave their “constructions in progress” so they can continue to work on them during their next time in the Fab Lab. By allowing students to store their pieces, I have also found students are able to truly test and revaluate their creations in a more constructive way.



Everyone knows a challenge is more fun when there is some healthy competition! My smART partner and I created a “Leaderboard” with different categories based on the number of challenges completed. Students track their completed challenges on a “Bingo-style” board. The teacher signs off on the challenge as the student demonstrates completion. It is the student’s responsibility to keep their “Challenge Card” as evidence of their status. Students get their names on the leaderboard once they have completed a certain number of challenges and then can move to a new level.


While the leaderboard is still up and running, the students take awhile to move between levels due to the ambitious nature of the challenges. I think that for our next rotation, we may have to reduce the number of challenges to be completed so students can advance a bit quicker. However, I do have one student who is diligently working her way through the challenges, even coming to the art room during my prep periods! She is up to challenge 10 out of 12!


Another important aspect of the Fab Lab is that students really are learning through play. It is so fun to watch students enjoy a break from studio time and just be kids! As they sort through the legos, get excited to test out one of their creations and conquer a challenge, I get to witness their enormous pride. I love watching students collaborate to reach a goal.  Students test their engineering skills through unconventional drops, running water, adding shoes and marbles to their creations to test its strength…the novelty hasn’t worn off. I like that the challenges have multiple solutions and there is not a “right or wrong way”. The seed has been planted in my students and their natural curiosity and self-discovery in the Fab Lab keeps the momentum going. 


As any good teacher knows, your first attempt at something isn’t always going to go as planned. It takes time and reflection to truly evaluate the success of a new initiative. I am still really excited about my Fab Lab and all of the exciting things we can do with this space. I am still taking as many professional development opportunities that I can to further my knowledge about STEAM and the makerspace movement. I continue to re-work the organization of the space, seek out new materials and challenges to do with students and get valuable feedback along the way. I look forward to helping my students grow through their creative experiences in the Fab Lab throughout the rest of the school year and into the future!

-Mrs. S



What do you get when you and your smART partner have the rare opportunity to collaborate compliments of a morning of testing? You come up with a fun Valentine’s, STEAM inspired, “brain break” for our 6th grade students!


The objective for students was to use 20 congruent triangles (note the opportunity to teach geometry vocabulary in the art room?) to create a heart. Being the “smART team” that Miss Chris and I make, I got right to drawing 10 (quadrilateral!) squares and drew one diagonal line across to create the 20 congruent triangles. She dashed off to the copy room to make copies on pink and purple paper to celebrate our “Valentine’s theme” while I cut 12 x 18 paper in half for a colorful background to work on. Within 20 minutes, we had our materials ready for students!

Once the students arrived, we passed out materials and had them get right to work. The first task was to cut out all of the triangles. This took a little time, but they seemed to enjoy chatting while cutting offered a well-deserved social break after a quiet morning of testing!

Next they started to assemble their heart. They were given minimal instruction, except for the challenge requirement of using all 20 triangles. This definitely proved to be a challenge for some!

Some students came up with a unique approach to making their heart! This was a great “teachable moment” about how there can be multiple solutions to the same problem…

After some time, we were able to get a winner! The first student to make their heart successfully, using all of their 20 pieces, won the prize- a Valentine’s treat. Here are this morning’s proud winners…

What a fun “brain break” for our 6th grade students after two hours of testing! They got to be social, stand up while working, chat with one another, collaborate on solving the problem and challenge their brain in a fun way.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

-Mrs. S


It’s a snow day for teachers and students and we are all excited to have a day off!  It looks we have finally gotten our good ‘ol fashioned snowfall this winter in northeast Pennsylvania. It’s time to finally break out the snow pants, boots and sleds. While I am not a snow lover, I can’t remember the last time we had a good snowfall here, so I can’t help but be a tad excited about a real snowstorm!

Well, sometimes being stuck inside on a snow day also means there are lots of us getting bored. Now, I know! Students have all of the video games and apps to keep them entertained for hours. Let’s not forget the ability to text our friends, binge watch Netflix and watch our favorite “You Tube Heroes”, but what about some good old fashioned creative fun?

My smART partner and I subscribe to the amazing art education resource, https://www.theartofed.com/, for fantastic ideas, resources and inspiring lessons. We came across the “Snow Day Challenge” on their website https://www.theartofed.com/2016/12/08/snow-day-challenge/ and have been itching to share it with our students. Unfortunately, this winter hasn’t cooperated much, but alas, we have a snow day to share the “snow day art challenge” with our students!


We are sharing this art challenge in our online Google Classrooms so students can access it from home. What a great idea! Give students bonus points for being creative at home! We have already prepped the students that the completed art challenge is due the following school day, whether is is their “art day” or not. This way it is fair to everyone and doesn’t become an assignment without a deadline. The best work will be selected from all of the submissions and then the winner will be announced on our school’s local morning news broadcast, “Good Morning JTL”.


Need some other ideas for how to bust the snow day boredom? Here are a couple of great resources I came across that might be worth checking out…

  1. This blog has an enormous amount of ideas, complete with links to directions, so you can do all types of fun activities with kids! http://thehappyhousewife.com/homeschool/101-things-to-do-on-a-snowy-day-with-kids/  P.S. I think the arts and crafts list looks especially fun!

     2. http://www.ibtimes.com/what-do-kids-snow-day-10-fun-         indoor-outdoor-activities-parents-try-1794866


There are some super fun STEAM challenges that you can do with stuff you gave lying around the house. Ever try balancing a book off of a table using only sheets of paper and tape? Can you use paper to build something that can support the weight of a tennis ball? What about using cardboard to create a miniature golf course? Don’t want the kids swinging clubs in the house? Just roll that ball through a cardboard obstacle course.


Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. How about having your kids make handmade Valentine’s for family members? Want to spread some kindness? Have the kids make Valentine’s to send to a local Veteran’s Hospital for the nationwide “Valentine’s for Vets” campaign. You could also make Valentine’s for a local senior home.

Of course, Pinterest has some great ideas, as well.

I realize not everyone gets to stay home with their kids, but I know I enjoy getting my kid off technology and instead creating, playing and making memories together.

Happy snow day, friends!

-Mrs. S


This month my 6th grade students are learning about the French artist, Henri Matisse. I love teaching my students about Matisse. Not only did he create such colorful paintings and paper cuts, he always kept art a part of his life. From childhood through the end of his life, Matisse was always adapting his art to what he could do, rather than struggling with what he could not do. What a fantastic message for my students to take away!

While the independent studio project my students will be completing will be a painting that is based on an imaginative “Dream House”, my smART partner and I thought it would be fun for students to try their hand at “paper cuts” first. Our students learned about Matisse’s paper cuts and how he “drew with his scissors”. We showed them many examples of his paper cuts and discussed how Matisse interpreted his ideas using shapes and colors that expressed a theme. His shapes give the impression of an animal, figure, place, etc. in an abstract way. There are no realistic details, yet the viewer can still see what the artwork is about.

Image autorisée à Rosamund Young Tate par Rosamund Young
Titre : Les Codomas
Description : de la série : Jazz (Série de 20 planches
Auteur : Matisse Henri (1869-1954)
Crédit photographique : (C) Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Philippe Migeat
Date : ~~July~~ 1946
Technique/Matière : découpé, gouache, papiers collés
Localisation : Paris, musée national d’Art moderne – Centre Georges Pompidou
© CNAC / Réunion des Musées Nationaux

In the artwork above, we discussed the simplified trapeze swings and the use of squares to indicate the spaces in the net that hangs below. The angle and placement of his paper cut outs indicate movement and the bright color create a whimsical quality that is reminiscent of a circus. The squiggly figures suggest the trapeze artists swinging from bar to bar. After viewing several examples of Matisse’s paper cut outs, the students were ready to try their hand at the “Paper Cut Out Challenge”.

Students were placed into groups and given a theme for the cut out collage. I used the online tool, Random Name Picker, https://www.classtools.net/random-name-picker/index.php to create a digital, interactive wheel that I could customize with topics of interest. I included topics such as animals, celebrations, fashion, video games, seasons, outer space and more. The kids had a great time crossing their fingers in hopes that the wheel would land on their favorite theme!

Once the students had their topic, it was time to get to work. Students were provided with a large piece of black paper, scissors, glue and assorted colored scrap paper. The instructions were simple: No drawing…only cutting! Everyone must participate and the final product must reflect the theme. The activity took two class periods. At the end of the second class, we voted on which paper cut-out was “the best” and that team won “Pride Points”, which can be redeemed in school for prizes and special privileges.

I was amazed at how well the students worked together and some of the impressive projects they created! I think it was a fun, collaborative activity for students. They learned to work together, the challenges of cutting without drawing first and practiced their design skills to reinforce many of the concepts we are learning about in art class.




It’s another exciting time in the art room at JTL. This past week, (December 5-9), kicked off the “International Hour of Code” through https://studio.code.org. My smART partner, Miss Chris and I, introduced this worldwide introduction to coding last year in the art room as an optional assignment for students in place of their monthly sketchbook check. However, after some reflection and discussion, we felt that having a basic introduction to coding is essential for today’s students. Thus, we decided that every student in art class will complete an “hour of code”. Plus, coding fits right into our STEAM initiative!


6th Grade starts the “Hour of Code” in Art Class.

Students logged into Code.org and linked their account with their school Google account. This way, their progress could be saved and students can continue to explore all of the exciting lessons on the website. One of the great aspects of code.org is that students can work at their own pace and choose from a variety of lessons that interest them. There are lessons that allow students to write lines of code using Minecraft, Flappy Bird, Disney, etc. Students are given step-by-step instructions on what their goal is. The student has a variety of commands to choose from to reach that goal. The student “drags and drops” the commands into the “workspace” and then hits “run” to see if their commands worked. It is really fun to hear their exclamations of “Yes!” and “I did it!” when it works!


The students collaborate and help each other out when they get “stuck” while they are learning to code.


Coding has become part of our everyday life. We use computers every day and computers are becoming a part of the greater world around us. I used this You Tube video, “Computer Science is Changing Everything”, to demonstrate to students the many facets of computer science. It is amazing to learn how computers and coding can be used in so many varied career fields. Coding goes way beyond the stereotypical “video-gaming” and “tech-world”. 


Today’s students have grown up with technology since birth. It starts with a streamed video on a phone or tablet while Mom and Dad do their household chores. As the child gets older, they learn that they can make the phone or tablet do things when they swipe and touch the screen. This evolves into the child playing games and apps. Soon the children are watching You Tube, playing video games and interacting on social media. It all happens so fast and it is hard to stop and think about “how” all of this works. That is why introducing students to coding is so important.

Our goal is to get students to understand that all of the technology they use is based on coding. Someone wrote the code to make an app work, to develop the game they are playing and to make their instagram account work. It all comes back to coding. It is a basic language. If they can start to understand the basics of coding, they might create the next app, website or invention that contributes something positive to the world.



Students have already been exploring many of the art apps out there such as Google Drawings, Pixton and Sketchio. By introducing students to another aspect of technology in the art room, I hope to inspire students to continue to keep their minds open to all of the different ways one can create. Perhaps a student isn’t incredibly interested in art or has a career in mind that art doesn’t quite “mesh” with, but by learning to code, they realize they can still problem-solve and develop unique approaches to a problem. That is what we do in art. We develop ideas. We test the idea. We reflect. We remain flexible. We work towards a goal. Coding in the art room just might lead students towards developing something really great in the future. Plus, it’s fun to learn something challenging through “play”.

Happy Coding!

-Mrs. S


Abbey finishes her “Hour of Code” on Chromebook!



   fullsizerender-1My 7 year old son attends a STEM workshop at our local library.  His challenge was to support a book using only paper. My challenge is implementing this concept into my art room.

It’s been a busy month in the art room and I look at how long it has been since my last post. YIKES! It is certainly NOT due to laziness. November has been filled with budget deadlines, professional development, parent/teacher conferences, end of marking period responsibilities such as grades and report cards and of course, we have been working hard on our art projects.

img_5049 image-1-1

On top of all of these normal “teacher things”, I have been diligently researching ways to implement a STEAM program into our art curriculum.

STEAM. Science. Technology. Engineering. ART. Math. Some prefer “STEM” and leaving out the “Art”, but naturally that doesn’t jive with my teaching philosophy. For the past two years, I have been exploring the concept of putting art into STEM.

To some, STEM/STEAM is just another one of the latest “buzzwords” in education. Some may compare it to “discipline based learning” where you align “specials” with a “core subject”. Some recognize that students need more science, math and technology to keep up with competition in other countries and be able to contribute to future society. Thus, STEM (or STEAM) has evolved into the education world.



Education Closet, http://educationcloset.com/steam/what-is-steam/, has an excellent description of STEAM, as well as many resources for teachers. Another great site with STEAM information can also be found at Edutopia, https://www.edutopia.org/stem-to-steam-resources.

Some of the resonating elements of STEM/STEAM to me focuses on exploration, experimentation and problem solving. These are all a natural fit to the arts. However, when developing a strong STEAM program, one must align lessons with the standards of science, technology and math.

I recently hosted a professional development day for my K-8 art department that discussed how to develop lessons that align with the STEM curriculum. Collaboration with other teachers would certainly help with this curricular component, however having common planning time is often a challenge. Fortunately, there are different levels of STEAM implementation and for myself, I intend to align a few lessons throughout the school year with science, technology and math standards.

2. PLAY.

One of the great things about STEAM is learning through “play”. The idea that I intend to focus on in the art room is that students can discover and create through play. What they develop might not look “pretty” or fit into a traditional “art project”, but students are testing, experimenting and creating through play. Creating opportunities to invoke a “creative spirit” is important.

img_5019 fullsizerender-2

The K-8 Art Teachers participated in “challenges” that align with ENGINEERING as part of a professional development on STEAM. The goal was to learn how to implement STEAM into the K-8 art room.


Most students do not want to fail. Adults don’t like to fail. However, accepting failure as part of the learning process allows for growth. In a STEAM environment, students are encouraged to take risks. Students will experiment and see what works and what does not. Perhaps the lego tower will fall over if it doesn’t have a strong base support. Maybe certain folds and creases to paper will support a tennis ball or book better than a tube system. How do you know  what will work until you try and fail? These “failures” really lead to success. Celebrate these moments!


Aligning my entire art curriculum to a STEAM driven program is overwhelming, so I am creating ways to implement elements into the art program that seem to be a natural fit. For example, as students work on studio projects, they all work at a different pace. To avoid students that have “nothing to do”, I am developing multiple “bonus projects”, “STEAM Challenges” and technology assignments that support my curriculum, as well as aligning with STEAM.

To start with, I am creating a “Makerspace”, which my smART partner and I have decided to refer to as our “Fab Lab”. This will be a space that has materials available to students, with “Challenge Cards”, for students to complete. The challenges are derived from engineering concepts and will use a variety of materials such as legos, K’Nex, cardboard, paper, etc. These materials will rotate on a monthly basis. As students complete a “challenge”, they will get a signature on their “Fab Lab Card”. The number of completed challenges will correspond to levels on a posted “Leaderboard”, which will be in our art hallway. As students complete their challenges, their names will go on the leaderboard. There will then be a monthly drawing from our top “Engineers”.


While many components will change as I learn through my students and get valuable feedback from their own experiences, I am excited to have some STEAM goals to work towards. I intend to document the progress of the “Fab Lab” and STEAM initiative in my blog posts throughout the school year.

I hope you continue to follow my art classes on this exciting journey!

-Mrs. S






On Wednesday, October 19, 2016, J.T. Lambert Intermediate School, recognized “Unity Day”. This is a designated day within our school that promotes collaborative activities and invites students to take a pledge to stand up to bullying. Our students and staff are encouraged to wear orange and participate in group activities throughout the morning. These activities include class door decorating, paper “pledge chains”, walking the track and our annual chalk mural.

Last year, the art department decided to develop a creative project that would allow students to work collaboratively while expressing the message of Unity Day. My smART partner and I brainstormed different ideas that would demonstrate to students how art can be used to make a difference, take a stance on the bully topic and get people thinking about their role in the problem. We decided that a large-scale chalk mural would be a fun, interactive way for students to share a message and also create a huge impression on those who saw it.

While students knew the meaning behind Unity Day and that it was a day to “take a pledge against bullying”, we wanted to get students thinking about how they could do that every day, not just on Unity Day. We needed to learn some statistics on the impacts of bullying to really make our message important to our students. I did some online research and found out that 1 in 4 students will experience bullying between kindergarten and twelfth grade. This was a number that stuck with me. My students sit at tables of 4. Often times students are put into groups of 4. Students can easily identify themselves amongst a group of 4 friends. Students would understand that this was a number that impacts them every day.

My smART partner and I came up with the mural theme based on this statistic. We would have the students work in groups of 4, to really help our statistic resonate. We were going to have students trace the outline of a student’s body and repeat that step 4 times. Our intent would be to create a visual “paper doll chain”. Students would then decorate 3 of the bodies and leave the fourth one blank. This “blank body” would symbolize the victim. We shared this theme with our students in art class in order to prepare them for Unity Day.



While many of the students were excited to get right to work on the chalk mural, other students took some “extra-support”. It was interesting observing which groups immediately decided amongst each other who would lie on the ground, who would trace and who would start decorating the bodies. Other groups stood around, complained about having to lie on the ground, etc. Fortunately, we had extra teachers assisting, so we were able to help the groups divide up the roles, provide some encouragement and direction as to where to work and give the students some ideas about patterns and designs to make the murals stand out. Some teachers even got into the chalk mural themselves! Here is our Physical Education teacher, Mr. McCracken, showing off his art skills…

The students rotated through the chalk mural project in groups, accompanied by their homeroom teachers. The homeroom teachers assisted by having the students already grouped into “fours”, so we could quickly explain the project and the statistical basis. We had a visual to show, as well, just in case students couldn’t envision our idea. Throughout the school day, we took our art classes outside to continue the mural project, as well as fix up some “bodies” that may have lacked color or didn’t look complete. We even added the written statistic, “1 in 4”, as well as words of kindness, to embellish the mural project.


It was a beautiful Fall day to spend outside with the students. The feedback we received from our administrators and other teachers in the building was very positive. The kids seemed to really “get” the message and we furthered the conversation in art class by showing a couple of great “You Tube” videos that talked about overcoming the experience of being bullied, as well as a powerful video on Cyberbullying. The students shared personal stories and talked about ways they can stand up when they see a peer being bullied.

The chalk mural serves as a visual reminder of the alarming statistic of “1 in 4”. Hopefully our students will be a little kinder to one another and keep in mind that they can be part of the solution. Finally, we extended our art curriculum outside of the classroom and demonstrated that art can be a powerful voice that can be used to create awareness and promote change.


Hopefully, my students will look back on this day and remember their art teacher for providing a memorable experience to empower them to be the change in this world and make it a more positive place. After all, we ALL can make a difference and help to promote unity in our school, community and this great, big world we live in.

-Mrs. S