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Japan 2018

This blog post is all about my trip to Japan. The week before, and the week of spring break I had the incredible opportunity to go to Japan with my husband. We spent 10  days exploring the most amazing country I have ever visited. My husband is from Japan so he was the best tour guide imaginable! We went to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Itami, and Fukuoka. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom which made the scenery completely magical.



Tokyo was like a city in a dream. There were tons of people everywhere and more restaurants and shops than you can imagine. It was sunset upon our arrival and we could just barely see Mt. Fuji’s silhouette behind the cityscape from our hotel window.


Our first day in Tokyo was busy! We started off by visiting Asakusa temple. The architecture was absolutely stunning. I was fascinated by the roof panels and strong pillars of ancient wood adorned with intricate carvings.



From the temple, we walked over to a residential part of the city where we took a block printing class. It was so cool to get to try my hand at this art-form. I enjoyed learning about the care that goes into each print – how the layers are built up and colors mix to form an image. The prints we made depict a Japanese folktale.


After our art class, we went to Ueno Park. It was quite crowded on such a lovely spring day. We rented paddle boats and enjoyed the beautiful lake surrounded by Sakura blossoms.


Our second morning in Tokyo was spent at the famous Tsukiji Fish Market. I really love a good international market and Tsukiji did not disappoint – we ate delicious sashimi and saw all kinds of fish and spices and produce being bought and sold.

After enjoying the bustling sensation of the market, we made our way over to the Imperial Palace Gardens. It was so peaceful and serene.


After enjoying a sunny walk around the Palace Gardens, we went down the street to the Museum of Modern Art Tokyo. The exhibits were great, I liked seeing the mixture of contemporary art forms alongside more classic artwork like folding screens and sculptures.

The next day we hopped on a Shinkaisen – or bullet train – to Kyoto. The train was fast, comfortable, and quiet. We got bento box lunches to enjoy on the ride.


Our first stop in Kyoto was a Buddhist Temple across the street from our Ryokan (traditional lodging). After lighting ceremonial incense and washing our hands in the cool fountain, we admired the beautiful carvings of Buddha inside.


After meandering around the temple, we made our way over to the train station to explore the magnificent building built around it. The JR Kyoto Isetan is one of the coolest buildings I have ever been in. It is filled with shops, restaurants, and hotels and represents modern architecture at it’s finest. Honestly, pictures cannot capture the expanse of this gargantuan space so you will just have to go visit for yourself one day and in the meantime enjoy my splendid sunset photo taken from the top.


The next morning, we woke up bright and early to beat the crowds of tourists to see Fushimi Inari Shrine. This was such a highlight of the trip for me. I had seen pictures of this unique and sacred place and knew that I just had to go. I have been on some spectacular international hikes through my travels – The Golan Heights in Israel, Cinque Terre in Italy, and Skellig Island in Ireland – but I must say that Fushimi Inari takes the cake. There was something other-worldly about walking through the thousands of vermilion arches up to the top of the mountain in the morning light.


It was awfully hot by the time we finished (and crowded too!) so we stopped for a rest at a lovely little cafe and enjoyed some green tea.


From Fushimi Inari we took a train to another part of Kyoto and walked a few miles up Teapot Hill to get to Kiyomizudera Temple. We passed plenty of ceramic shops on the way (hence the name of “Teapot Hill”!) It was probably the largest and busiest temple that we visited and the insides of the giant wooden structure permeated with the aroma of incense and the echo of the prayer bowl.

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We grabbed some delicious street food at Nishiki Market and by the time we got back to our Ryokan we realized that we had walked over 32,000 steps in about 10 hours. We were spent! So it was a great relief in the morning when we found ourselves with time on our hands to do a bus tour of the city. I absolutely LOVE bus tours and even though I could not understand any of what the tour guide said, I certainly enjoyed looking at Kyoto from a double decker bus.


From the bus, we hopped onto a train and headed to Osaka.


Tokyo had a very modern vibe to it, everyone was bustling about and very professional and business like. Kyoto’s vibe was more touristy and traditional. The vibe of Osaka was more on the fun and relaxed side. Everywhere we went felt like a party!

We started off with a riverboat tour of Dotonbori. This area of town was filled with shops and tons and tons and tons of restaurants with incredible street food like takoyaki, fresh crab, gyoza, and noodles. It was a delicious adventure!

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The next morning, we made our way over to Osaka Castle. The glorious structure has been rebuilt several times over the years (due to damage from natural distasters and wars) and now it is a museum showcasing historical artifacts from feudal Japan. It was fascinating to learn about the history and unification of all of the different factions long ago.


The view from the top was especially wonderful. You could see Osaka for miles and miles.


Back on the ground, manhole covers were decorated with the infamous Osaka Castle design. So cool!


From Osaka Castle we headed to and area of town called Shin-sekai. We walked right underneath the tower of Tsūtenkaku and explored the bustling streets.


The next morning we had some time to spare before heading to our next destination so we went to the Umeda Sky building.


This is one of the world’s top 20 buildings and it is easy to see why – not only is the design beautiful but we were again delighted to find a majestic skyline view at the top. This trip was full of good views.
From Osaka we headed to Itami. We only stayed for a night and spent most of our time there with friends so I don’t have many pictures to show you except the decorative manhole covers:

From Itami we caught a plane out to the city of Fukouka. My in-laws picked us up and we took an absolute beautiful drive along the coast. We ended up out in the region of Karatsu. We stopped at the beach for lunch and had a stunning view of an island shrine in the sea. The water was crystal clear and the sand was pristine. It was the cleanest and most peaceful beach I have ever been to.


I was delighted to see the ocean, I had expected our trip to be mostly cityscsapes and after a week of spectacular ones, it was nice to experience nature. From the beach we headed up to the top of Kagamiyama Observatory for another aerial view, this time of the mountains and towns of Karatsu.



Our last day in Japan was spent back in Fukuoka where we enjoyed shopping, exploring, and a sublimely delicious traditional style dinner. The night time streets of the city seemed to celebrate our experience in Japan and the twinkling lights of the city seemed to wave us goodbye.


From Fukuoka it was back to Tokyo and then back to Atlanta. It really was the trip of a lifetime and I still cannot believe that I got to experience everything that I did. Now that I have been back and telling people about the trip, I get asked a lot, “what was your favorite part?” That is a really hard question because everything was my favorite part but I can certainly pinpoint some aspects that really stand out to me.

For example, it would be impossible to write about a great trip to Japan without mentioning the food – of which we ate A LOT of! I especially liked the displays of sculptural fake food showcasing the restaurant’s offerings.


I had the best ramen EVER and the seafood was of course superb.


I also liked buying breakfast every day from the 7-11. There are convenient stores everywhere and although you wouldn’t dream of finding a tasty, fresh, or nutritious breakfast from one in America, in Japan they stock food items that are exactly that.


I enjoyed the cleanliness of Japan. There is no trash littering the streets, everyone takes great care to recycle.


I liked how organized everything is too – there are signs everywhere and places to line up to get on and off the train. It was easy to travel and walk around.


The cultural aspects were amazing to see. I love the architecture and sculptures, murals, and shrines are pretty much everywhere including some surprising places like alleyways off a busy city street.




I also liked all of the quirky and whimsical animals and graphics everywhere. It was such a visual treat to just look around.



By the way, did you know that it is the year of the dog? There are cute dogs everywhere in Japan!



I of course also loved the cherry blossom trees. I think that they are so beautiful because they are so revered by the humans around them. And why not – Japan is a beautiful place to be after all. I can’t wait to go back one day!


❤ Mrs. K




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Fluorescent Pandas

Art club created these cutie neon panda paintings.


Teacher Samples 

First students drew their composition with pencil. Then they painted over their lines with black paint.


Next, they painted their designs with fluorescent neon paint.

Check out the finished work!

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Ceramic ‘Ornaments’ & Valentines

Now that we are in the second semester of the year, I have a brand new batch of art club kids. Their first project was to create ceramic valentines. I did a similar project with last semester’s art club kids. They made ‘ornaments.’ I have that in quotations because I will not create religious artwork in a public school – there were several non-Christian kids in the class. Also my Jewish mom would have an absolute kanipshin fit if she thought I was having my students make religious-based artwork so I promise to y’all and to you Mom, that these are not specifically ornaments. 🙂

Anyhow, we began with a slab that students could pretty much decorate however they wanted. In the winter, most of them were created with the intention of being given as a gift so many of the kids made them personalized. For valentines day, they traces a heart template and then added details with texture or building little things on.

After all of the pieces went through the kiln, students colored on them with crayons and then painted with India Ink or watercolor to create a lovely resist effect.

They twisted colorful wires on to hang up.



Aren’t they super cute?!

Art club is currently working on panda paintings right now so be on the lookout for a blog post about those soon 🙂

❤ Mrs.  K

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Second Grade Sundials

A few weeks ago I read in my school’s weekly blast that second grade was learning about sundials and that they would be creating their own sundials. I was immediately inspired to collaborate with the grade 2 team to create a cross-curricular clay sundial. This project was easy-peasy. On day one, we talked about the science behind sundials. When I showed students the example, they asked why aren’t there numbers on it. During my research prepping for this, I discovered that to make a sundial that actually works, you have to go outside and measure the sun every hour. I explained to my second graders that since art is only 45 minutes long, we would be doing texture instead of numbers.

So on the first day, students got a slab of clay and a circle template. They cut out a circle and smoothed the edges. Then they used a bunch of different texture stamp thingies to create texture on their slab.


Before the discs went into the kiln, I poked a hole in the center with a straw. Here they are after being bisqued:


Students got to choose what color straw they wanted and I hot glued it into the center.


These were finished by coloring on the surface with crayons and then painting over the crayon with tempera paint. This created a neat resist effect.

It was so fun to collaborate and create something that encompasses science and art. I love doing these kinds of projects because they really strengthen overall learning.

Great job second graders!

❤ Mrs. K

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Squid Sculptures

One day I was playing around with some supplies. I drew with some Mr. Sketch Water Color markers and sprayed the paper to create a beautiful tie-dye effect. I folded and rolled the paper when it was dry and voila– a project was born. I realized the folded paper looked kinda like a squid and thought it would be a fun sculpture project. This was originally intended for 4th grade only (to be honest, it was probably way to easy for them) but since I had a 5th & 3rd grade class that were ahead of everyone else I decided to do it with them too. After trying this out with 3rd, 4th, and 5th, I think it would probably be best for 2nd/3rd. Despite the lack of challenge, most of the kids really enjoyed making these.

On the first day, we create the beautiful paper. Students were encouraged to chose a color scheme and use patterns of lines. After they finished their tie-dye paper, they created patters on a piece of construction paper.

The second day, we used a lot of office supplies. Students got a kick out of this but really they need to learn how to properly use a stapler. They cut the construction paper into strips and carefully stapled it to the bottom of the watercolor paper.

Then they rolled the paper into a cylinder and stapled it at the top and bottom. They folded two sides in like gift wrap to create the top of the squid’s head. There was a lot of peer support for this step. Seeing the kids collaborate to help their classmates be successful was pretty cool!

Two holes were punched and a string was tied on to hang it up. Then students could use googly eyes or sharpies to create eyes and a face.

These were a big hit – they all turned out super cute!

❤ Mrs. K

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Clay with K-3

Greetings from the art room! I wanted to share the ceramic artwork my kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders have been working on. All of the following projects are twists on lessons I have taught in the past so I won’t go into too much detail here, (except for 2nd grade’s turtles). Click the links below to see the step-by-step process for each project 🙂

Kindergarten Penguins

Last year when I did penguins with my kinders we used tempera paint and glitter to paint them. I had a lot of kids request to use more colors than just black, white, and orange so this year we painted them with watercolor. I love the multi-colored designs!

1st Grade Rainbow Fish

I think I have read the Rainbow Fish out loud to kids at least a thousand times. I know all of the words to the story without even looking at the pages – it is one of my absolute favorite childhood books. This year’s 1st graders were so inspired by the beautiful sparkly illustrations. They were super excited to use Sax Versa Temp Pearlescent Paint and Sax Versa Temp Metallic Paint to paint their creations. One group ended up needing 2 class periods to paint so when they finished on the second day, they created a pyramid “habitat” for their rainbow fish.

2nd Grade Turtles

I have been collecting turtles since I was a little kid. I brought my turtle collection into school to sit on my windowsill and the kids have been going bonkers over all of them. 2nd graders were so thrilled to make their very own ceramic turtles. We began with a pinch pot which we then added features to by doing scratch & attach.

They added all kinds of cutie details like hats, bows, soccer balls, and even baby turtles. The turtles were completed with Sax Versa Temp Fluorescent Paint.

3rd Grade Animal Faces

Last year’s batch of 3rd grade animal faces came out great. I decided that it would be helpful for students to use a template for their slab so I die-cut a bunch of circles that they could trace. This ended up being super helpful to manage the size of the final clay projects.

3rd graders could choose to use the neon or the shimmery colors to paint their animal faces.







Lions and tigers and bears OH MY:

Dragon, Monkey, Koala:


A uni-bear, a spider, and a squid:



The Titanic?!?!?!!!!!


For more clay projects, check out THIS POST with 4th & 5th grade’s clay projects 🙂

❤ Mrs. K


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Choice Based Clay with 4th and 5th Grade

Clay is my FAVORITE. I love how clay awakens senses that are not always activated in the art room – it feels interesting in your hands and smells like the earth or a river or a rainy day. Clay is so special because many of my students only get to use it once a year, in my classroom. In the past I have done clay projects where every student makes a version of the same object. This year, I wanted to challenge myself and my students to have more of a choice-based opportunity for exploring and creating with clay. I was apprehensive at first because so much can go wrong with clay as a material. It can dry out too quickly while you work with it or too slowly before it goes into the kiln. It can ‘explode’ inside of the kiln. It can break or shatter or bottom out. With so many ways that things could go wrong, I was determined to set up the unit with as much structure as possible to help things go right. And I must say — it was an incredible success! To be honest, I am astonished at how smooth, fun, and efficacious the entire process was. So — here is how I did it. . . .

On day one we talked about the rules for clay. No clapping your hands to make dust, no covering your hands with water to make mud, no stabbing the clay with the tools, no spaghetti-noodle stick out pieces (which would inevitable snap off and break) no giant solid chunky pieces (which would inevitably explode), absolutely NO throwing clay, etc.


The first day also had some clay challenges for students to complete. They had to create a pinch pot, a coil, a slab, and scratch and attach. If there was time after the rules and challenges, students could explore with clay on their own. If they ended up creating something on that first day they could keep it or save it. Most of the kids ended up “trashing” their clay but there were some who started or completed a mini project that first day.

On day two students sketched their idea for their project. They were required to label their sketch with what clay form would be used to build it. For example if a kid was making a tea cup, they had to label it “pinch pot” and “coil.” They did not use clay at all this day, I emphasized that it was important to have a detailed blue-print of how they would be constructing their project because since there were so many different ideas it would be impossible for me to sit with everyone and help them build. They had to be a little independent for this one!

On day three each student got a pre-cut chunk of clay. They could get more if they needed. Having the clay already measured out really seemed to help with size management. I kept all of the chinks of clay in a big plastic bin and sprayed them lightly with water. I would usually prepare the clay in the morning or even the day before so this was super helpful for keeping clay fresh.



Students had that entire third day to build their designs. Many of them quickly realized that their ideas were too ambitious. So – the backup plan for everyone was to make a pinchpot or a cupcake. I showed every class how to create a pinchpot/coil cupcake just in case students ended up needing an idea to fall back on. We talked about how it is ok if an art idea doesn’t work out the way you intended, all artists go through a trial and error process! I think that having a backup plan helped kids from getting too discouraged if their initial idea didn’t work out. And some kids even chose to do a cupcake as their first choice design!

Since this was so personalized, several popular themes emerged. Most of the creations seemed to fall into the following categories: food, pop culture, animals, and sports.


Lots of pizza:



Pop Culture


Nintendo/Video Games:

Star Wars:

Rubix Cubes:


Memes & Minions:

SpongeBob & The Flash:

Harry Potter:

Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse, & BayMax:




There were tons of great slab constructed projects:

And many creations that combined construction techniques:

My favorite thing about this process is that students were able to have a deeply personal connection with their work. The kids got to create something that expressed their interests, hobbies, and passions. Each and every project is as unique as the kid who made it. Navigating the logistics and organization of this project has inspired me to do more choice-based projects in the future. 🙂

❤ Mrs. K


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Fluorescent Stamped Robots

Hello! I started this project forever ago with my 2nd graders but between snow days and sick days, it has taken a looooong time to finish. Now that all the classes have completed their artwork I am so excited to share these amazing stamped robots with you! The first day we began by talking about robots. We talked about how robots are used in the world today and how they are used in fictional stories and movies. We talked about how robots are made up of geometric shapes. Then, we dipped and stamped.

I was running really low on black tempera paint so I decided to see how these would look with white paint on black paper. And I must say – I love ’em! Instead of using watercolors or tempera cakes, we used Sax Versa Temp Fluorescent colors.


I have been using this paint for everything lately – it looks good on black paper, white paper, and even clay! Students also found the glowy neon colors enchanting when they painted their robots.

To top this project off, each student did a little bit of creative writing about their robot. I am always so tickled by the zany things that kids come up with when they are writing.

Great job 2nd graders!

❤ Mrs. K

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The idea for this lesson comes from Deep Space Sparkle. 

Students began by mixing tints and shades of blue to create a gradient value scale. The next day, everyone could choose either small or big bubble wrap. Aqua paint was carefully applied to the bubbly side with a paintbrush.

Students were encouraged to work together to flip their bubble wrap onto their gradient paper to “print” bubbles. They gently pressed down and were absolutely amazed at their bubble prints!

The next week, we talked about how to show form in a drawing by creating shadows adn highlights. Students were challenged to create a sphere with a light source as well as a jelly dome shape.

After practicing with pencil, students used chalk pastels to create colorful jellies and bubbles.

The last day, everything was assembled. The colorful jellies were cut out. Scraps of tissue-paper tie die paper were used to create the tentacles. Students had the option of curling them or leaving them flat. Seaweed and kelp was added to the background with oil pastels to create a sense of depth.

This is definitely one of those projects that I will be doing year after year. The process was so much fun and the products are AWESOME! There are so many different techniques and a lot of vocabulary encompassed in this project — it was perfect for 5th grade!

What is in the middle of a jellyfish?





❤ Mrs. K

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Geometric Designs by Grade 3

The idea for this lesson comes from Mrs. Knight’s Smartest Artsists. Thanks, Hope! 


Teacher Sample 

Third graders created these super cool geometric design works of art and learned some new art-making techniques. We began by using bleeding tissue paper to make tie-dye paper. I have really been digging this technique lately!


The results are just so beautiful! Once the papers were dry, we used used dots and rulers to create line segments. Students connected their line segments to create geometric shapes. Kids learn about minerals in 3rd grade so trying to create a mineral-like design was a great science connection. The next class time, students colored in some of their geometric shapes (to make it look kind of 3D) and used a needle and thread to sew into their paper.

The sewing part was pretty difficult for most kids. The hardest part was figuring out how to tie a knot. I reminded the kids to try their best and just making one line with yarn is still an accomplishment. Ultimately, every student agreed that they felt very proud to learn a new skill.

Nice work 3rd graders!

❤ Mrs. K