Arts Integration

Teaching Artist Residency at Casey Elementary

Sarah Stage Presentation
My work with students at Casey Elementary School in Jackson began with a presentation called “Mysterious Patterns,” in the library for all 4th graders. I was back later in the day to do the same presentation for all 5th graders. Based on my book of the same name, the talk centers on fractals in nature. And, on geometric fractals.
Sierpinski Triangle
Fractal shapes are shapes in which the whole shape is made up of different sized copies of the same shape. Here I am talking with students about how to find a pattern in the number of triangles that show up in each size in a geometric fractal called the Sierpinski Triangle.
Menger Sponge and Square
I showed students this other geometric fractal, a Menger sponge, and we discussed how to find the number of squares at each level. I set it aside and said we would continue to talk about it when I returned for my work in their classrooms.
ideas for infinity
One of the questions I got as I wrapped up my presentation was “what’s next?” We discussed my work-in-progress (on infinity). Students stopped as they left the room to give me ideas about what photographs I might take to illustrate a book on infinity.
more ideas
more ideas
As she left, one student whispered into my ear the number 512. I didn’t understand. I thought she was making a suggestion about the infinity book. It turns out she had done the calculation in her head about how many squares would be in the next level of my quilted Menger Sponge. She asked if she was right. I had to admit that I hadn’t done the calculation myself. I went home and did the calculation — using pencil and paper — and discovered she was right.
open doors
I marched myself back there the next day with a book for her and for her class. I can’t wait to get back to Casey for my full days of work in the math classes for 4th and 5th grades. We will be making fractal pop-ups and using them to demonstrate facility with formulas for calculating perimeter, area, and volume. I love my work!

Thank you to John Howell, Casey’s Arts Integration Specialist, for taking the photographs in this post.

Children’s Book Festival

I presented recently at the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi.

heather & sarah
Here I am signing a book for my friend and science writer Heather Montgomery.

My friend Julie Owen and I presented a session called Finding Fractals, Making Fractals to a full room.

in the session
Two attendees checking out the Educator’s Guide that Boyds Mills Press developed to go with Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature.

step 1
step 2
step 3
listening to fractal stories
A librarian telling me a story about a fractal song.
S&J with samples
Julie and I are holding Fractal Pop-Up Books made by fifth grade students at St. Luke’s Episcopal School in Baton Rouge. Read about that work here.
I posted the instruction sheet for making Fractal Pop-up Books in your library or classroom on my website here.

I appreciate the help we had from Mary Schmidt, my intern. She took photographs, helped participants, and edited photographs.

Girls Prep Public Charter Visit

Last month, I visited Girls Prep Public Charter School in the Bronx, New York, to work with second grade students for a unit on writing nonfiction books. While I was there, I also spent an hour with the fourth grade writing club. With second grade, I worked with the students for three days. I was testing some ideas for a presentation I am slated to give at the International Reading Association annual conference in New Orleans in May.

Girls Prep WS group

The first day, I presented my “Love a Critter? Make a Book” session to all three classes in one big group. It was Read Across America Day so some of the girls and teachers were dressed as characters in books.

jess in background
The reason I chose Girls Prep is that my sister, Jessica Crosby-Pitchamootoo (pictured in the center dressed as the tree in Chicka Chicka Boom Boom), works there as a reading specialist. Jessica will join me and Dr. Amy Broemmel, a professor of education at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, to present “Reading and Writing Science Books? Paths to Creating Authentic Informational Texts.”
teacher gp small group
In the second and third days at Girls Prep, I led each class in a mini-lesson and then the girls did some guided practice. On the first day, my topic was “Taking information from research and writing in my own words to suit my purpose,” and the second day, it was “Making a plan for my writing, keeping my purpose in mind.”
lady bug girl
sarah w stu
During the mini-lesson on planning, I showed the students how I make a book dummy when I am deciding the order of things in my books. I led them in making an instant book.
girl writing
The feedback from the second grade writing unit has been good. One teacher said she believes the girls really understand author’s purpose in a much deeper way. One student told her teacher: “This is the most fun I’ve had while learning!” That’s exactly what writing should be. Fun, while learning!
I’ll post photographs of my session with the fourth grade writing club next.

Visit to The Dalton School

Last week, I visited first graders at The Dalton School in New York City. I began by speaking to all 5 classes (or houses, as they call them) in a kind of foyer that the school uses for such presentations. I knew the first graders were familiar with Growing Patterns from discussions with Dalton staff, but I brought them new material by starting with Wolfsnail.

presenting wolfsnail

I can’t say enough “thank you’s” to Melissa Haile-Mariam, librarian, and Karen Bass, communications/technology adviser, for their help in coordinating the visit, taking photographs, guiding me through the school, and making an amazing video about my visit.

Your browser does not support the video tag.

sarah showing snail

Dalton audience

more audience

groupThe most amazing part for me was visiting House 34, where I found Fibonacci Folding Books on display!

in the hallway outside house 34


Fib Book

I have more images of student books, and I’ll be adding them to my collection of student art on my main website. Thank you, Dalton!

I Read Mysterious Patterns to My Faithful Critique Group

Sarah Reads MP at Davis
On Wednesday, I took the F&G copy of Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature to Davis Magnet so I could read it to my faithful critiquers, now all in the fifth grade. We discussed the timeline of the books — from the first idea in June 2011 through the sending to the print house in October 2013. We all can’t wait for the publication in April!! When these young people were in the third grade, I facilitated a unit on writing and illustrating math stories. Read more here. Thank you, Mary Schmidt, for taking the photograph. Mary is a senior at Millsaps College who will be working with me this Spring.

The Cypher Event

I’ve written several times about The Cypher, an innovative fundraiser conceived by Roderick Red. Tomorrow night at 7 p.m., The Cypher: Mississippi Edition will debut at New Dreamz Jackson, 426 W. Capitol St., Jackson, 39203. Sponsored by Hope Credit Union and The Pigott family of Jackson, this hip-hop video performance by six of Mississippi’s finest young artists raises money for Parents for Public Schools of Jackson, specifically for its Ask for More Arts Initiative.


Please come if you live close enough. The suggested donation at the door is $10. This is hip-hop music that is family friendly, and celebrates the voices of the young people who are our neighbors.

Rod had a dream, and he convinced Jessica Simien and me to help pull it off. Along the way, we had help from Carolyn Jolivette, executive director of PPSJ;  Brad Franklin, an artist aka Mr. Franklin; Margaret and Brad Pigott, patrons of the arts, education, and the intersection between the two; and Bill Bynum and Richard Campbell, CEO and CFO at HOPE.

I appreciated the opportunity to meet and work with the artists: Dolla Black, IG, J Skyy, Hollywood Luck, Slimm Pusha, Trey Parker (not pictured above), and DJ TLewis. You can see my previous blog posts here.


Action from The Cypher

This is my final installment of photographs from The Cypher’s video shoot. Richard and Rod (Red Squared Productions) spent some time last night on post production. Everybody’s learning new things.


Dolla spitting
Dolla Black

Slimm spitting
Slimm Pusha

The Audience
An Audience

The Cypher Video Shoot-0019
Jordan lays the tape.


TLewis scratching.

Jessica Simien recording the PSA for Parents for Public Schools of Jackson.

Jordan cameraman
Jordan shooting.

mercedes shooting

Mercedes Lott.


The Cypher group, including from left: Dolla Black, IG, J. Skyy, Hollywood Luck, Slimm Pusha, Kamikaze, and TLewis.

Rod picked up my camera while I was working. He took these last few.

Sarah with Pusha

Sarah running lines with Slimm Pusha.

Sarah with cue cards
Shooting PSA with J. Skyy. Sarah holding cue cards.

Faces from The Cypher

Here are some of the people involved in The Cypher project, a first-time-ever-in Mississippi project featuring Hip-Hop artists raising awareness and money for increasing the arts in public schools. See my previous post for information on organizers and partners.

Jordan Red

Roderick Red Jr
Roderick Red Jr.

Jessica Simien
Jessica Simien

Mercedes Lott

Jared Moering
J. Skyy

Brandon Howard
Dolla Black

Donnie Sanders


Slimm Pusha
Slimm Pusha


My First Hip-Hop Video Shoot

For more than a year now, I’ve been working with Roderick S. Red Jr. on a number of different projects. Some have been for Hope Credit Union (see post here). Others have been for The Clarion-Ledger’s Voices blog project. The latest, which is called The Cypher: The Mississippi Edition is the biggest, hardest, and in lots of ways, the most satisfying. First of all, it’s Rod’s baby. He had the idea, he gathered partners ( and me), he convinced stakeholders (Parents for Public Schools of Jackson, Kamikaze), he raised money, and he’s pulling it off — with style. On Saturday, I helped shoot the video.

rod with jib
Rod is adjusting the jib.
Explaining the concept.
consulting with the crew
Giving notes to his brother Jordan, the most experienced among the crew.
checking the shot
Checking the shot.
checking mercedes shot
Checking the straight-on camera, operated by Mercedes.
notes to Dolla Black
Giving notes to Dolla Black.
Rod directing J Skyy
Giving notes to J.Skyy.
still shot
Getting the still shot, after “It’s a wrap.”
rod and slimm
Showing images to Slimm Pusha.

Storytelling in Photography, Video, and Social Media

I joined Roderick Red and Jessica Simien on Friday for a presentation at Murrah High School for Mrs. Lynne Schneider’s newspaper/video production class. Rod, owner of Red Squared Productions, and I talked about our recent work together on the Friends of Hope Video project, and Jessica Simien and Rod talked about their collaborations for, an entertainment and lifestyle blog.

Rod at newspaper class
All three of us have ties to Murrah High School. Rod and Jessica graduated five and six years ago. My three sons are students at Murrah. Rod was head of the photography department for the Murrah Hoofbeat, and was one of Mrs. Schneider’s students.
Jessica teaching social
Sarah explaining thirds
I know many of these students because I help with the Murrah Debate and Quiz Bowl teams, and they’ve been classmates of my boys for years. Here I was explaining how photographers use the “Rule of Thirds” to compose stronger images.
We divided the class into two groups and did two hands-on sessions: Rod facilitated the video session and I the still photography.
student photo

It always helps me as an artist when I teach. The students always ask great questions, which help me drill down into why I am doing what I am doing and make me consider how I could be more effective.