Zentangling at Whole Schools

Julie and I introduced Zentangling to the participants in our workshop at the Mississippi Whole Schools Summer Institute. We adapted it to the Fibonacci sequence and gave the teachers “kits” to complete at their own pace during the three days of sessions. It was a big hit. You can see from the these photos that they did all kinds of creative stuff with it.





putting it all together

display zentangles

zentangle display2

putting it all together2

group zentangle

group zentangling2

group zentangling3

group zentangling4

group zentangling5

This group of teachers left their finished Fibonacci zentangle in the hotel.

Mississippi Whole Schools Summer Institute

I taught this week at the Mississippi Whole Schools Summer Institute. Julie Owen and I teamed up to teach the Fibonacci Folding Book Project. I taught three other afternoon sessions and Julie taught her fabulous “Knit it, Solve it,” for the first time. You can see photos of our work on Julie’s flickr album here or here on my blog.

ct student takes photos

ct student2 takes photos

ct student3 taking photos


measuring and folding Fibonacci accordian books

writing Fib poem

teachers working on poems

illustrating book

illustrating book2

teaching showing MAC director Malcolm White

illustrating book3

example 1

example 1b

example 2

example 2b

My Fibonnaci Zentangle

My friend Stephenie turned me on to Zentangles. I saw the potential for combining the Fibonacci grid that I use in Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers and Nature and zentangling. I just need to add the spiral.

Fibonacci Zentangle

Richard and the boys are giving me no end of ribbing about the fact that I spend time on the internet researching new “tangles,” which look to them like plain doodling. The final straw was my insistence that I had “messed up” and went to get the white out.

Proposals, proposals, and more proposals

‘Tis the season to be writing proposals. I’ve participated and presented at enough national conferences to have gotten a taste for it. It seems that one national conference a year is about what I can manage while I still have three boys at home. Having done the American Library Association annual conference in 2009, the International Reading Association conference in 2010, and the National Science Teachers Association convention in 2011, I’ve decided to shoot for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference in 2012. The deadline is at the beginning of next month.

Thusfar, I’ve checked whether my editor is interested. Yes, he is. Whether the publisher will sponsor the trip is still an open question, but his interest is enough for me to write the proposal. (Boyds Mills Press has been great about supporting my marketing efforts at national conventions.) I checked with three math teachers (starting with the math coach at my sons’ middle school, going next to the Algebra I teacher at the same school, and, finally, pairing up with a second grade teacher at my sons’ old elementary school).

The NCTM website has the information for submitting proposals here. The conference title is: Technology and Mathematics: Get Connected! I haven’t finished writing my proposal yet, but I plan to build it around using digital photography in elementary classrooms to teach math concepts. I am very excited to be working again with Beth West, a second grade teacher at Davis Magnet Elementary School. We’ve done Davis on the Map together twice and her students were early readers of (and helpful commenters on) Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature.

Great Idea for Summer Reading: One Jackson, Many Readers

Read here about a great partnership between Lemuria bookstore, the United Way, and Jackson Public Schools. I’m ready to help. I hope you will, too.

Chicago Trip

Today I travel to Chicago for a half dozen fun events. First up, a workshop and signings at the International Reading Association Annual Convention. My editor, Andy Boyles, and my friend, Julie, a school librarian, will help me present a workshop titled “Seeing is Believing: Photography in Nonfiction,” which we designed to share strategies for using photography to teach reading and writing. My blog followers will recognize some of the activities we’ve done to prepare for this workshop. I will sign copies of Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature on Monday from 2 p.m. to 2:40 p.m. and on Tuesday from 11 a.m. until noon. In addition, we’ll share a meal with the good folks at the Highlights Foundation, including Kent Brown. I am looking forward to meeting Mary Alice Moore, our new lead editor at Boyds Mills Press.

On Wednesday, I’ll go a little further north to Evanston, my old stomping grounds from age 0-7 and college days at Northwestern. There, I’m doing a family event at the Evanston Public Library at 7 p.m. Wednesday, a school visit at Martin Luther King Jr. Laboratory Magnet School, a talk at Northwestern’s Office of Fellowships, a dinner with Residential College Board members and faculty advisers, and a fireside at the Communications Residential College.

I’ll also spend some time with friends who have known me since I was born, my godparents and the circle of friends that surrounded my parents when they were young parents. And, I’m having a dinner/slumber party with my college roommate, who lives in the greater Chicago area. I will do my best to report from the road, but I expect to be wildly busy. You may have to make do with pictures until I return.

Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival

David Wiesner

I spent Wednesday through Friday at the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. David Wiesner, author of classics such as Flotsam, The Three Pigs, and Tuesday, was this year’s medallion recipient. In his talk, he chronicled his artistic development and influences. Some he mentioned were: Charles Knight (the artist who conceived what dinosaurs looked like), Breugel (felt like you could travel into his pictures), Dali (“weird and strange was good in my book”), and MC Escher (breaking boundaries and going from one reality to another). The biggest treat in Wiesner’s presentation was a preview of his newest book, Art and Max, which will be released in October. It looks like a winner. Two engaging characters; dialogue is the only text; clever look at different art media (paint, pastel, water color, line, etc.); and fabulous art. See a video about the project here.

Here I am presenting my workshop “Finding Math in Your Own Backyard.” It is always a pleasure to be at the book festival. I saw lots of familiar faces. Many of the librarians told me how kids are reading Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. I heard stories of 5th graders finding it on the shelves and making 100 percent for the first time on an AR quiz for a nonfiction book; grandsons who want it read over and over; a young girl library patron who took pictures of a snail she found and brought it to the library for a positive wolfsnail id. I am so grateful to the librarians who have embraced my books and are helping to get them into the hands of kids.

Cindy, a school librarian

Interest in Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature was strong. During my session, I showed the Growing Patterns book trailer. Many in my session were learning about Fibonacci numbers for the first time or, if not, learning about their connection to nature for the first time. There are always a few exceptions.

Michelle Shelton, librarian

Michelle Shelton, a graduate student in USM’s School of Library and Information Science, told me that her library in McAllen, Texas, is building a new building with a children’s department based on the Fibonacci sequence and its connection to nature. The town is turning an old Wal-Mart into a public library. Whenever I talk to graduates of art school, designers, or architects, they are all aware of Fibonacci numbers. One of my presentations later this month will be in the Evanston (Ill.) Public Library, where they have a fountain in the library with Fibonacci-influenced design.

Hester Bass

Another great thing about this year’s CBF was that I shared a hotel room with two of my writer friends, Hester Bass and Irene Latham. Here is Hester during her session, “I think I can: A librarian’s guide to writing for children.” Hester, the author most recently of  The Secret World of Walter Anderson, shared ten things librarians can do to make the dream of writing for children a reality. From Number One, “Discard the misconceptions,” to Number Ten, “Don’t Quit. Submit,” she packed at least 100 useful tips into an entertaining presentation that left us all inspired. This has been a popular workshop for Hester since she wrote a paper on the topic and had it accepted at the 2009 American Library Association Conference.

Irene Latham

Here’s Irene signing a copy of Leaving Gee’s Bend. Though Irene did not present at this conference, her book was very popular. I sat next to her at the signing table at the bookstore and I heard many people come back to tell her they had stayed up late the night before finishing the book. Many also came back to get another copy. Since we spent so much time together over the last few days, Hester, Irene, and I are cooking up a possible collaborative project. Stay tuned.
Other great speakers I was able to hear were: Richard Peck, Sharon Draper, and Maureen Johnson.

Sarah with Virginia Butler, writer and friend

Chuck Galey, illustrator, and Hester Bass, author

MAC Artist Training

I spent the day with about 70 Mississippi artists, convened for professional development by the Mississippi Arts Commission.

We had ceramicists, playwrights, storytellers, painters, dancers, musicians, and more. In the morning, we heard from Dianne de Las Casas, a storyteller from Louisiana. de Las Casas explained ways artists can use technology to manage marketing and other business-related tasks. She is an active user of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Ning. She maintains a calendar online, sends press releases via, and manages billing online.

After lunch, we had an interactive lesson taught by Sonya Robinson, a musician and arts integration teacher, from New Orleans. Robinson led us through a multi-stage dance/movement lesson. It served many purposes: ice-breaker, team-building exercise, introduction to some of the skills involved in dance, and an example of how to create space in teaching for discovery and inquiry (and not just linear instruction).

I learned some things today that I will use in my teaching, presenting, and marketing. As one of the other artists said today, it also served as a great time of fellowship for those of us who spend a lot of work time isolated in studios or offices. I appreciate the organizing efforts of Diane Williams, Kim Whitt, Shirley Smith, Larry Morrisey, and Susan Dobbs, all of the Mississippi Arts Commission.

Teaching Photography

PPS Professional Development-0445I spent the day Tuesday teaching teachers how to use photography to document their work integrating arts into the curriculum. At the invitation of the Ask for More Arts Collaborative, I led two groups of elementary school teachers through several hours of work on creating and capturing high quality images of arts integration. Parents for Public Schools is the convening partner in the AFMA collaborative. Last year, I was a partnering artist, working with second graders at Davis Magnet School on a project called Davis on the Map.

I divided the workshop into two sections: How do we create the image we want to communicate? and How do we capture that image? Roughly, these translated into the big picture and the practical considerations. We discussed how to create engaging lessons, inviting spaces, and trusting communities. I told them the biggest, hardest part of the job had to happen before they ever picked up a camera.

PPS Professional Development-0450I was warned that teachers don’t like to sit still for long lectures any more than kids  do so I created two hands-on activities. In the first, each group of teachers considered a batch of images from a single school project or event. They had to choose six images from the dozen or so they had to “tell the story” of the project or event. Next, they had to choose two images for a newsletter they would send to parents or a communication with funders. Finally, they had to choose one image for the newspaper and they had to write a cutline.

PPS Professional Development-0459During the second half of the workshop, the teachers made frames from single sheets of cardstock. Others at their tables photographed the frame-making exercise. Several volunteers handed me their cameras’ memory cards and we conducted a group critique of the images they’d captured. The biggest challenge, as it often is in indoor settings, was light. We were in the fabulous grand hall at the Mississippi Museum of Art, but we were in the side without windows. This was good for watching the slideshow and viewing images on screen, but not for capturing.

PPS Professional Development-0458We learned a lot and had a good time. I wished for more time to address the questions the teachers had about specific cameras and settings.I learned that some teachers are already using photography in collaborative art projects with their students: self-portraits and bookmaking and in communicating with parents through blogs and newsletters.

I told the teachers that it was near-about impossible to take good images and teach the class. (You can be the judge of these images.) Please send images if you took some during the session that you’d like to share with everyone. I know you have some good ones.