I spent the last two mornings at the Mississippi Museum of Art with Davis Magnet School fourth graders. On the first day, it was overcast and threatened (then, delivered) rain. Today it was cold, but very sunny. Two very different photography challenges. Each group, ranging from three students to six students, went out with an adult leader to captures images for a field guide. The categories ranged from flowers to sculpture to textures to non-plant living things. Students took as few as six photographs and as many as 68. We were working with 12 cameras owned by the museum and two of mine.
I had a fairly elaborate backup system set up to transfer images from the cameras’ memory cards to my Epson photo viewer and my laptop. During the times when students did not have cameras, they worked on sketching. Each had a clipboard with some blank journal pages and a pencil. We also had plenty of field guides and other reference books available for onsite research.
Here are some of the shots that jumped out at me on first glance. I don’t know which ones the students will select next week because it will depend on what makes sense for their field guides. I thought you would like a preview.
I went out on a nature journaling expedition with Davis Magnet School fourth graders yesterday. Several kids in each class noticed this. One sketched it. Another called me over. We wondered what on earth it was.
We were in the Mississippi Museum of Art‘s Art Garden, gathering information for our series of Davis Field Guides to the Art Garden. The students had clipboards, “instant book” journals (see my post), and pencils.
Next week, the fourth graders will be back in the garden with clipboards, journals, pencils, cameras, and a set of published field guides for reference (we’re using Kaufman field guides to birds, insects, butterflies, and an Alabama and Mississippi Gardener’s Guide co-authored by Felder Rushing).
After Wednesday’s session, I went over to Eudora Welty Library and checked out two visual field guides to mushrooms, which I sent to Davis this morning with one of my neighbors who teaches there. So, I know what is in the two photographs above, but I am counting on the fourth graders to find out for themselves.
In addition to journaling with me in the garden, the fourth graders had a guided tour of the Mississippi Story with Elizabeth Williams, curator of education, and a drawing lesson with Carol Cox Peaster, the art garden coordinator. Specifically, Williams talked with students about Bill Dunlap’s Flat Out Dog Trot and Carol Cole’s Jackson, MS as examples of landscapes and cityscapes.
Here are some of Williams’s comments: “It was interesting to see how the students who had been outside and had already used their journal, got out their sketchbooks and began writing everything they saw in the works of art. They were very perceptive and each group noticed very different things about each of the painting. Lastly, we took a look at the four Walter Anderson’s on the walls and tried to develop a pool of words that could be used to describe Anderson’s style. Some students interpreted his word as “bright” “energetic” and “creative”, while others noticed some of the cooler colors he used that might be interpreted as sad or gloomy. All of the students noted that the work was not very realistic.”
Here is Peaster teaching the drawing class.
Thank you, Beth West, Davis’ IB Coordinator, and Kacy Hellings, Davis’ Librarian, and Julian Rankin, the museum’s public relations coordinator for taking photographs. You can see Rankin’s Facebook album of images here.
Thank you, fourth grade teachers, Jalesha Cross and Jordan Gunther, for guiding students; and two parents who came along as chaperones. We are grateful for the help.
My second school-based project this month involves teaching third graders to use digital photography to illustrate math stories. I began by reading Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature in each class, and then I talked about my process — from idea to publication. I showed them early (and awful) drafts, described my breakthrough on layout, my complete re-write, and the photography.
As noted in my previous post, I am working with Beth West, IB Coordinator at Davis Magnet School, to develop a lesson plan for a presentation we are giving at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference in Philadelphia in April. Two books that have helped us a lot was we’ve developed our unit are Math is Language Too: Talking and Writing in the Mathematics Classroom and New Visions for Linking Literature and Mathematics by David J. Whitin and Phyllis Whitin.
The Davis third graders will work in groups to make photo-illustrated books about patterns or measurement. Our primary model texts are: Growing Patterns and For Good Measure by Ken Robbins.
We will ask our students to write regularly in their math journals about the project. Beth and I are very interested in seeing how the students make sense of the pattern and measurement concepts and the book-making process. I will write regular updates here to let you know how the process is going.
I mentioned last week that I’m working with the Mississippi Museum of Art and Davis Magnet School to develop a lesson plan that will get students engaged in science, writing, photography, and art. I’ve been working with Elizabeth Williams, curator of education at the museum; Jalisha Cross and Jordan Gunther, the two fourth grader teachers at Davis; and Beth West, the IB Coordinator at Davis.Photographs of planning meetings are never very exciting, but we did good work that day. We made books, practiced nature journaling, set up dates for further contact sessions with students. These include times when I will guide the students in photographing the museum’s garden and when Ginger Williams Cook, the museum’s master teaching artist, will guide two sessions on creating watercolors from sketches in their nature journals.
During the final week before the break, I visited both fourth grade classes to introduce the lesson and to talk about my book, Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator.
I blogged about my school visits in the San Francisco area, but once I moved on to the NSTA conference, I stopped posting updates. There were a few reasons for this: First, I moved into The Palace Hotel and they charged for internet in the rooms (I still don’t understand why budget hotels provide free internet and breakfast and so-called luxury hotels charge through the nose for both). Second, I was working from breakfast to supper and falling asleep after a few clicks of my Kindle.
Boyds Mills Press rented a corner booth in the conference exhibit hall and my editor, Andy Boyles (pictured above helping M. make a Fibonacci Folding Book), and I were responsible for greeting conferees. Andy arranged display copies of all of BMP’s science titles around the walls of the booth. We set up a table in the front of the booth with display copies of Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator and Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. I put out my two mini-quilts (here and here), some private eye loupes, a pinecone, a nautilus shell, a sample Fibonacci Folding Book, and a stack of my postcards. I’ve gone to two other national conferences, the 2009 American Library Association meeting in Chicago and the 2010 International Reading Association convention (also in Chicago). In those cases, I was one of many BMP authors and illustrators who signed books. I was scheduled for an hour on each day. This time, I was signing all day every day. We left the booth only for three presentations (two featured information about 2011 Outstanding Science Trade Books) and a lunch meeting. I met lots of interesting people — some who teach science to kids, others who teach teachers how to teach science to kids, and people who work with organizations that promote science education.
We sold all the copies of Growing Patterns that BMP shipped and could have sold at least a dozen more. It helped that many teachers had seen the feature article about the 2011 Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 in Science & Children, NSTA’s magazine for elementary school teachers. Andy and I had a great time having lunch with current, former, and future members of the Outstanding Science Trade Book selection committee, including Suzanne Flynn, J. Carrie Launius, Betty Crocker, Steve Rich, Karen Ostlund, Kristin Rearden, and Juliana Texley. We also met Lauren Jonas and Emily Brady, who are on staff at NSTA and help coordinate the NSTA Recommends program and the OSTB list. We learned about the process and met some great people. Most of them seem to be on their second or third career. They started in classrooms teaching kids and then went into either administration or into teaching teachers at the college or post-graduate level.
They had stories about using trade books in classrooms. Juliana told me about the time she took flowers on an airplane so she could use them in a presentation about my book. They didn’t like the dry environment and shriveled beyond use. She had to hit a grocery store for replacements. One plant she bought was a peace lily (featured in the book to illustrate 1). When it was time to go home, she put it in her suitcase. “I threw some clothes away and made room for it,” she said. “It’s still doing fine.”
Right after lunch, I participated in a session featuring the 2011 NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books led by some of the teachers at the luncheon. Other authors with winning books who participated were: Debbie S. Miller, who wrote Survival at 40 Below, and Seymour Simon, who wrote Global Warming.
The final session Andy and I attended was led by Seymour Simon and centered on the changes in children’s book publishing being driven by electronic devices. Simon and his wife, Liz Nealon, who has worked in many creative capacities over the years including with Sesame Street, talked about the growing numbers of children and families who have access to electronic reading devices such as Kindles, iPads, Nooks, iPhones, etc. Simon demonstrated how he has begun publishing some of his out-of-print titles in electronic format. His talk was very inspiring and I left there thinking about how I could get some e-publishing going.
I mentioned it to Richard when I got home and he’s spent a good amount of time this week building an iPhone app for Wolfsnail. How cool is that?!
Stewart has a bunch of other Perfect Pairs on her website in the teachers’ resource section.
Please let me know if you have come up with interesting ways of using Wolfsnail or Growing Patterns in your classroom.
As a teaching artist, I am excited about the new school year. I am scheduling traditional author visits, but I am also scheduling a few longer residencies. Tuesday, I will join other Jackson-area artists and arts organizations in meeting with elementary school faculty and principals committed to integrating the arts into everyday academic instruction. This group is the Ask for More Arts Collaborative, a program of Parents for Public Schools of Jackson. I will offer my services through the AFMA JumpstART program.
In collaboration with teachers and a librarian friend, I have designed two projects that combine writing and photography. They are: The Fibonacci Folding Book Project and [Your School] on the Map. Regular blog readers will have followed the development of these projects. Julie Owen, librarian at St. Therese Catholic School, helped develop the Fibonacci Folding Book Project. It is a companion to Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature.
Second grade teachers at Davis Magnet School, most notably Beth West, helped develop Davis on the Map, or [Your School] on the Map. You may click on the “Davis on the Map” category to the right to read about this project. Both of these projects feature the study of the work of a master artist, the opportunity for students to create original artwork, and an exploration of the program’s theme (Community: A Sense of Place.) Each meets curriculum objectives in the visual arts and several academic areas.
Today I attended a book party for the St. Therese Catholic School fourth, fifth, and sixth graders who made Fibonacci Folding Books. Click here to read about the pilot project we did earlier this spring with St. Therese third graders.
Librarian Julie Owen stacked all the books on her display steps. The impact upon entering the library was impressive.
In addition to listening to the authors read their work, we enjoyed fresh fruit on skewers, speared in Fibonacci patterns. (This was Julie’s idea and it was the perfect finale for a fabulous project.)