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Summer Recap

Hello there, it’s been a while! Usually this back-to-school blog post is some sort of art-room tour where I talk about all the shiny, brand-spanking new things going on in the art room. And I’m always like “yayyyyy back to school!” But I can’t really do that this time for a few reasons. First, there isn’t much that is shiny, and brand-spanking new in my classroom right now. By now (my 6th year teaching) I pretty much have a good system in place and it only needs small tweaks and adjustments rather than huge over hauls. Also, I am planning a wedding right now so most of my creative energy went into that over the summer rather than tons of classroom things. And, my school got renovated over the summer and my classroom is currently filthy and not in any sort of state in which pictures should be taken.

So, while I am of course excited to be back, this blog post is going to be more of a summer recap. I had a great summer that was filled with a lot of relaxing (thankfully) but it also (unfortunately) lacked any international traveling. That being said, hopefully next summer will have the international trip of a lifetime.

Anyways, in lieu of international traveling, I was able to attend some professional development this summer at the Woodruff Arts Center. Their annual educator conference is one of the biggest and best in the South East and encompasses high-quality workshops for visual, music, and performing arts. I have been to many conferences over the years and this one is definitely one of the best!

I really appreciated how hands-on the workshops were. I feel like I learned so much and I was very inspired. One of my favorites was learning how to do Shibori or Indigo dye. The process is fascinating! The dye is made out of fermented plants and variations can be found in many cultures all over the world. There are so many academic connections like history (farming and agriculture) and math (geometry/shape/symmetry) not to mention it is an insanely cool process.

I also learned all about printmaking and cardboard automata

There were two excellent exhibits at the High Museum of Art which I got to see. One is the artwork of illustrator Ashley Bryan. I just love his use of  bright colors in his paintings and paper collages.

The other exhibit was prints by Andy Warhol. So cool!

A few weeks after the conference I taught summer camp at Johns Creek Arts Center. This was my 11th year doing clay camp!


We did lots of cool projects this summer. One was a succulent pot inspired by Mrs. Knight’s Smartest Artists.


Teacher Sample 

Another neat project was these chameleon dudes inspired by Cassie Stephen’s Blog.

These cutie pocket animals were also a hit:

Dangly Bird

Teacher Sample

And one of my absolute favorites was the slab house which I wish I had more pictures of:

Here is my sample:

Aside from teaching art at summer camp, I got to make a lot of art too.


And how can I forget the very best part of my summer — getting a puppy!! His name is Rory and he is absolutely delightful. Here he is on a hike:


I am so excited to see all my students in a few days. I have some really fun and exciting projects planned for this year!


See ya soon, kiddos!

❤ Ms. K


Hello Northwood!



Leaving Mimosa at the end of last school year was bittersweet. I was excited to be offered the opportunity to be at a school for five days a week but I will definitely miss the kids I have grown to know and love over the past four years. It is hard to say good-bye to students you are watching grow up before your very eyes. Students you have created relationships with and care deeply about. Ultimately, I am thankful for the experience and will always remember my Mimosa artists. ❤

After a heartfelt end of the school year, this summer was full of adventure, more endings, and new beginnings. I traveled  to Ireland and Portland, Maine. I taught clay camp at a local art center for the 10th summer. I finally finished writing my thesis and completed my graduate degree from Georgia State University (YAY!!!!!!!!). All in all, it was an incredibly fulfilling and exciting summer! I feel reinvigorated and inspired for this school year.

Now I am at a school called Northwood Elementary and I am absolutely thrilled. I have an art classroom that is a dream come true – fully stocked with everything I could ever need. This space is so full of good energy and I can’t wait to meet the kiddos that will learn and grow within these walls.

So, without further ado – check out my new classroom!


I have two doors to my room, this one will be used for entering. This is the view from my desk. You might spy a lovely Doc Cam which I am just itching to use. Currently on my desk are piles of papers that need to be copied or laminated – I am very excited about a Mystery Drawing activity from Mrs. Knight’s Smartest Artists which will go in my sub folder. (If you haven’t visited her Teachers Pay Teachers store you ought to hurry over — it is chock full of amazing resources and currently having a  sale!)


Here is the view looking towards my desk corner. All of my tchotchke magnets are on the filing cabinet. My kindergarten self-portrait and a second grade seascape hang on the wall. I like to display these to encourage students to pursue art as a lifelong appreciation. Students often ask, “How did you get so good at art!?” to which I always point to my own childhood artwork and tell them to keep practicing.

The shelf holds books, files, and handouts. On the bulletin board there is a poster of my daily schedule, an Artwork Checklist poster, and the rules. Above the bulletin board are the words “Try Your Best.” I find myself constantly telling my students to try their best so I finally made a visual for the wall. I think it is one of the most important expectations of the art room and studio experience.


Next is the whiteboard, projector, and chalkboard. I have a large, beautiful rug that adds some pops of color to the room.


Here is the example board with standards listed by grade. (Don’t you just love the fabric and borders that the previous art teacher left for me? I adore it! Thanks Gina)


This is the door students will use to exit the art room. The crayons and cute little signs were purchased from the Target dollar section this summer. They had some super sweet teacher goodies!


The wall next to the doors has plenty of storage space. Artwork and supplies will be stored here.


The entrance door and huge sink in the back corner:


Another wall of supplies and storage:


I am incredibly thankful for this enormous, beautiful, bright space but in every art room I have had the pleasure of setting up (this is #4!) there always seems to be just-quite-not-enough space. That is certainly true here for the giant drying rack which is currently awkwardly residing in front of shelves:


The door next to it leads to a little courtyard with a garden and a pond; it’s so stinkin’ cute! I can’t wait to take kids out here to draw and get some fresh air.


The wall with the windows has even more shelves with some pretty neat-o things.


I found a whole bunch of awesome materials/resources that I can’t wait to use with my new students. First of all, a class set of color wheels:


These are going to be soooooo handy for mixing colors and choosing color schemes! Speaking of color, check out these little color paddles. They will be another great resource to talk about color mixing.


I also came across packs of batik paper, shrinky-dinks, scratch paper, and cyanotype paper (the one in the envelope). I have never done any of these with kids so if you know of a good activity or lesson you would be willing to share I would truly appreciate it!


Perhaps the most exciting treasure I found in this room of magical abundance is the class set of 3D glasses! They make everything look really colorful and bright with swirly-trippy-magical awesomeness. I keep putting them on to look at artwork and the sky and down the hall and pretty much everything. I am pretty stoked to use these with the kids.



Woah, Dude!

I am attempting to keep my centers activities very organized this year. I don’t know about you but I feel like these items tend to get destroyed pretty efficiently by the end of the year so I am really trying to stress the importance of treating all art room materials with respect. I’ll let you know how that turns out lol. Do you have any tips or tricks on avoiding the destruction of materials?

And that brings us back around to the front of the room. BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. Not only have I been #blessed with all of this shelving,  there is an entire closet full of cupboards and shelves and EVEN MORE art supplies. 


Oh yeah, AND four throwing wheels! I am going to have to watch a YouTube or two to refresh my wheel throwing skills before I attempt to teach it. I might try to get a guest artist in here to demonstrate one day or maybe even break these babies out for Art Club (more on that soon).

Next to this supply room is the kiln room which also comes fully-stocked with all the glaze my heart could ever desire and a beautiful, clean, not-sketchy kiln!


It will require hulk-strength to turn so that the control panel can be accessed. Or Tinkerbell-like nimbleness to squeeze on over to the other side. . . . 

So, there you have it! My new art room where you can find me five days a week 🙂 

Next week it will be filled with budding young artists ready to learn!

I think the word that best describes the feeling that has been building up for the past few weeks is gratitude. I am so incredibly thankful that the stars have aligned and I have this dream job. I am deeply appreciative to all of the people who helped me on my journey to get to this place in my life and I am so excited to see what comes next.


photo cred: Instagram (@mal_wingostarrjewelry)

Here’s to another back-to-school flurry of excitement and energy. Here’s to bittersweet endings and exhilarating new beginnings. Here’s to trying your best all day, every day. Here’s to the new backpacks filled with bright and happy school supplies on the backs of bright and happy eager students. I can’t wait to meet you, welcome to art!

❤ ❤ ❤

–Ms. K.



Ode to the Doc Cam



This post is an ode to my document camera. I love this thing so much and have become quite dependant on it to deliver instruction. Anyone who knew me in college knows that I have always been somewhat anti-technology. I had a flip phone way longer than it was socially acceptable to do so. When I first started teaching 4 years ago doc cams were still a technological novelty, one that I refused to participate in and pretty much despised. I thought that having students watch the demo on a screen instead of looking at my hands directly took away the personal aspect of the class. Eventually (as you will learn in the following poem) I finally caved in and learned how to use and eventually adore my document camera. I am so thankful that I have access to such a great resource and was struck with the inspiration to rhyme about it. Please enjoy the following, it is to the tune of Fresh Prince of Bel Air*

Now this is the story all about how
My art teachin’ ways got flipped all around
and I’d like to take a minute, with some poetry slam
I’ll tell you how I fell in love with my doc cam.

In Mimosa Elementary my career was born and raised,
In the art room is where I spent most of my days
Chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool
Doin close-up demos for all the kids in school 

When a couple of kids who had some yucky germs
sat too close to me and made me squirm
I got one little cold and then went bananas
I knew it was time to use the document camera

I begged and pleaded with my METI every day
and she checked out a cam to me and sent me on my way
Set-up was easy and so quick that it
was simple
and I knew that this is the way to kick it

First class, yo this is a great start
No coughing, sneezing, or too-near farts
Is this what techy people are livin like? 
Hmmm this might be alright

But wait the best part
the kids could all see all of that

This is the best type of tech for this cool Kat
I know they get it, right now and right here
All of their confusion, pushing and squinting disappeared

When the end of my demo finally came near
I pressed “freeze” and the picture still remained there
If anything I could say this feature was neat
And I thought, hey it’s awesome and pretty sweet

I now use the doc cam about seven or eight
times a day for each class that I teach
its great
and to my old ways

I say “Yo homes, smell ya later” 
and I look at my art kingdom, I am finally in an era
of perfection with my document camera

*I was recently asked if I like Will Smith by a 5th grader. I not only expressed my absolute adoration for the actor/rapper/father/positivity inspirationist but then proceeded to explain the show Fresh Prince of Bel Air to the entire class. When they confessed that they had never seen it we stopped everything and all enjoyed the opening credits together. They were for the most part impressed that I knew every single word. At least – I think the looks on their faces said they were impressed. It might have just been pure disbelief at how weird their art teacher is.


NAEA 2016 in Chicago

Getting back into the swing of things today has been rough! (#thestruggleisreal right after a conference!) I had a blast in Chicago at this year’s NAEA conference!


This was not my first time in Chicago nor was it my first national conference but it sure was a unique and fun experience!


I was so inspired by many of the sessions I attended especially the Curriculum Slam.

I got to spend a few hours in the Chicago Art Institute museum which was a truly amazing experience. I always feel so starstruck seeing artwork in real life. I didn’t take many pictures because I was so busy experiencing the museum!


The city of Chicago is also filled with artwork in the form of fantastic murals and public sculptures!


I loved seeing my dear friends Melinda, Rosie, and Noelle and rooming with them yet again, we always have a great time 🙂


There was a cosplay convention at the conference center while we were there which just goes to show how art teachers affect creativity!


What a fab experience! I can’t wait for next year’s conference in NYC!

IMG_20160318_154722  ❤ Ms. K



Authentic Curriculum in Art Education: Progressivism, and Constructivism and Caring Culture in the 21st Century Art Classroom

The following post is a research paper I wrote for one of my classes which primarily focused on curriculum philosophy and theory. I wanted to share it here because I think it can invoke some interesting ideas about today’s (art) education curriculum. It is super academic but if you choose to read it, please enjoy and I would love to hear your thoughts! 


The heart and soul of teaching has all but disappeared and hangs on by a thread kept alive only by those passionate enough to go beyond the standards and provide a truly authentic education that encompasses academic as well as social skills. Mali (2012) argues that “if teachers were allowed the freedom to teach the best way they know how, they could design lesson plans and activities that would encourage in their students a passionate pursuit of knowledge or even just simple curiosity” (p.107-108). Schools teach students a prescribed, explicit curriculum that support core subjects, goals, and objectives to propel students forward through a system of habitual teaching and learning. (Eisner, 2001). Kohn (2004) claims that “the hidden curriculum, if you will – is that test scores are a useful and appropriate marker for school quality” (p. 11). What about skills that travel beyond the walls of the classroom and can help students succeed in life and become quality people?

Even in the art classroom, there is an on-going and systematic restructuring of curriculum, protocols, and art learning. The ‘powers that be’ in education are trying to force the art classroom to look like general education classrooms with data, assessments, accountability measures and endless hoops to jump through to prove that art is meaningful and important. Because of this tangled web of red tape, many “art activities in schools do not actually support creative self-expression and that they are not effective in teaching students about methods of artmaking outside of school contexts” (Gude, 2013, p. 85). One purpose of art making in school is to allow students to think and learn ‘outside of the box’ in order to grow as people. Its time that educational policy-makers stop trying to fit such an expressive and subjective subject into a mold meant for objective, academic-driven subject matter and consider providing an authentic education.

The only way to provide a truly authentic education for students in the art classroom is to combine aspects of progressivism, constructivism, and caring culture to create a curriculum which recognizes the student as an individual learner and human being. This curriculum focuses not on test scores and quantitative achievement that fits into neat little bar graphs but instead looks at the learner holistically and creates an environment in which a student is nurtured and transformed from a decent small person to an extraordinary grown person. This lofty notion of what (art) education should be is not as idealistic as one might think. In fact, for over a century educators have been arguing for authentic instruction.

One true proponent of real world learning is Maxine Greene who supports engagement and dialogue through which students are able to build relationships and create a community. Greene supports her notion of a humanist ideal by encouraging students to “care, to wonder, to become” (Ayers & Miller, 1998, p. 135). A new literacy is needed in which there is a connection between education and the common world. The American public expects a process-product system in which students exist passively in an educational setting which is rarely illuminated by a new idea (Greene, 2009). Today we live in a world moving forward and our students deserve an education in which they are active participants in meaningful learning.

According to Linda Darling-Hammond, there are several key features of environments which promote and support meaningful learning. Darling-Hammond acknowledges emphasis on authentic performance, opportunities for collaborative learning, and structures for caring, democratic learning, and connections to community as key features. (Hammond, 2009). Another important feature is active, in-depth learning. This type of learning strives to foster genuine understanding through hands-on activities in which students do work and projects with higher-order thinking and inquiry. Darling-Hammond (2009) asserts that true learning through deep-understanding has the following features: “it requires the use of higher-order cognitive functions, taking students beyond recall . . . and reproduction . . . and production of arguments, ideas, and performances” (p.56). Through this type of learning, students are invited to be engaged in activities that they feel they actually have a reason to participate in.

This ideology of meaningful learning and active participation correlates closely to Dewey’s Progressivism. Eisner (2001) cites Dewey as caring about “the human being as a growing organism whose major developmental task is to come to terms, through adaptation or transformation, with the environment in which he or she lives” (p. 67). Dewey’s ideas of intelligence and growth require the student to experience culture and life through active hands-on learning. By providing “educational situations through which the child becomes increasingly able to deal with ever more complex and demanding problems” (Eisner, 2001, p. 68) a teacher can provide a truly authentic education.

Progressivism not only emphasizes real-world learning but a democracy in which education is student-centered and students share concerns, interest, and participation in creating an educational experience. Even at the dawning of the 20th century, Dewey knew that originality, expression, invention, and individuality were important (Dewey, 2009). Experiences in the classroom must be more than passive memorizing, but unfortunately, more often than not, “acquiring takes the place of inquiring” (p.4). Modern schools still stick to this antiquated way of teaching and learning – evidence of which can be seen through the high emphasis placed on testing and summative assessment – but it is possible to foster a democratic and individualized instruction in the form of constructivism.

Contemporary constructivism places “emphasis on the active social participation of the learner with the environment” (Milbrandt et al. 2004, p. 20). When students are in control of their own learning, they become active, creative, and social. By providing social interactions of active learning, a teacher opens up avenues for students to connect meaning and learning to the real world. Connections allow students to be invested in their learning and education. In the constructivist art classroom specifically, students participate in art activities that include purpose and meaning to produce artwork that is investigative and encompasses critical thinking skills. (Milbrandt et al. 2004).

Salvador Dali’s (1948) claim that “if you understand your painting beforehand you might as well not paint it” (p. 15) rings true for art education as well. In order for students to truly inquire and create meaning, the process of learning and exploration must be the focus of a progressive and constructivist curriculum. If students already know the answer or the product, what is the point of engaging in a process? Product over process is a real problem in art education, especially when art educators are constantly re-affirming and advocating for the quality and very existence of their program. A great project that focuses on a process has no product to show. Without a product, it can be difficult to ‘sell’ the art program to stake holders like administrators and the community.

Because of this paradox of teaching process vs. product, the art curriculum has been structured to be more academic. However, teaching art vocabulary and pre-determined projects with step-by-step production recipes does a disservice to students and is not authentic art making. (Gude, 2013). It is easy to spot this kind of teaching because product is emphasized over process and all of the products ultimately end up as cookie-cutter carbon copies of the teacher’s meticulous example. “Quality art generates new knowledge” (Gude, 2013, p.88) and emphasizes a process which includes rigor in that each student is experiencing something individualized and true to their own creative process and experiences.

There is a current shift from the prescriptive natured Discipline Based Art Education (DBAE) towards a progressive-constructivist hybrid in art education today in the form of choice-based art also known as Teaching Artistic Behaviors (TAB). For the past few decades, DBAE has reigned as the “overly academic, Eurocentric, and disconnected” (Milbrandt & Anderson, 2005, p. 8) way of delivering art curriculum. Though DBAE presents important artistic concepts such as art criticism, art history, aesthetics, and art production, the main criticism of this type of education has been that it does not allow for enough creativity and meaningful self-expression. (Milbrandt & Anderson, 2005). Enter TAB, the creative hero that is turning the traditional art classroom (sometimes literally) upside down.

Choice based art classrooms function as working studios in which students guide their own learning through creative tasks and challenges. TAB aims to teach 21st century skills and prepare students for the future. TAB involves reflection, deep learning, and above all stresses the importance of authentic learning. (Teaching for Artistic Behavior, 2015). This open-endedness starkly contrasts with the DBAE method of teaching art because the student becomes masterful by participating in creative self-expression rather than structured teacher led lessons.

Outside of the art classroom, this type of learning is known more commonly as experiential learning. Experiential learning is based on Dewey’s ideas of progressivism specifically in learning through experience and doing. Experiential learning is a “holistic integrated perspective on learning that combines experience, perception, cognition, and behavior” (Kolb, 2015, p. 31). These features are parallel to Milbrandt and Anderson’s (2005) definition of authentic instruction in which “students participate in the construction of knowledge through disciplined inquiry and connect that knowledge to the world beyond school in order to deepen learning” (p. 25). This connects to the idea that meaningful learning involves continued practice on complex work that builds skills to achieve accomplishment. When students participate in work like this they become flexible, active learners. (Darling-Hammond, 2009).

Paolo Freire (1970) also touched upon the notion of authentic education when he claimed that “education either functions as an instrument . . . to bring about conformity to it, or it becomes ‘the practice of freedom’ the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world” (p. 34). Freire is referring to the same thing that the constructivists and progressivists support: student-guided learning in order to make meaningful connections. Making connections through progressivist and constructivist ideals is only one part of an authentic education. The whole student needs to be considered and that includes academics as well as social and emotional well-being. Through a progressive and constructive academic curriculum, students can learn how to be great artistic thinkers. But that is not enough.

The current explicit academic curriculum has gaping deficiencies that emphasize recall, skills, and test scores. This creates a culture in which students are not engaged and struggle with “lessons they find neither relevant nor engaging” (Kohn, 2004, p. 155). In a 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Education, a study found that in 2012, 2.6 million 16-24 year olds had not earned a high school diploma.  (Stark & Noel, 2015). There are many reasons why students leave school but one important thing that can get them to stay: a culture of caring. If a student feels support for their emotional and social well-being as well as their academic success, they are more likely to stay in school and graduate. This is possible through a strong community of students and teachers working harmoniously in the classroom. (Canter & Hale, 1998).

In a time when students are considered to be numbers on a spreadsheet and the hidden aim of education – the implicit curriculum – is to score well on the test or achieve high grades, it is more important than ever to create a culture of caring in the classroom. By organizing curriculum around themes of care, student’s cultural literacy will be expanded, connections will be made to content learning, to each other, and to the world (Noddings, 1995).

Caring culture starts with continuity. There must be continuity of purpose, place, people, and curriculum in order to take on a new significance of caring culture in schools (Noddings, 2009). Noddings (2009) goes on to reimagine a curriculum that is organized around themes of care for self, others, animals and plants, the environment, things, and ideas. Through a caring culture curriculum, “the school must do more by way of education than mere job preparation” (Noddings, 2009, p. 119).

Besides continuity, caring can be cultivated in the classroom through character education. Often referred to as social emotional learning or SEL, this type of education gives students the tools and skills to handle real world problems through conflict resolution, empathy, kindness, responsibility, and group well-being (Scelfo, 2015). Variables like social competence actually have an impact on a student’s achievement in school and in real life. Research shows that social emotional connections can help students maintain positive relationships, achieve goals, be responsible, and succeed academically (Durlak et al. 2011).

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (2015) have identified five SEL competencies for students: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making (Social and Emotional Learning Core Competencies, 2015). These competencies are important in promoting positive social behavior as well as academic success in students and in teaching human values to students which will foster ethical and responsible behavior and ultimately reduce risk behaviors and improve overall well-being (Berkowitz & Bier, 2015).

By providing character education and a culture of caring, educators can cultivate a classroom environment where the art room transforms from just another class to a true experience that will help students become good people. After all, according to Nel Noddings, the main aim of education is for students to be “competent, caring, loving and loveable people” (as cited in Kohn, 2004, p. 2). Combined with this, a thoughtfully curated experience in the art classroom encompasses constructivist and progressive aspects and incorporating rigorous projects which challenge students to use critical thinking skills. This will ultimately strengthen student’s overall education and provide an authentic experience in the art room and in life.



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Teacher’s Collage Press.
Canter, Andrea and Hale, Leslie F. ” School Dropout Prevention: Information and Strategies for
Educators.” Demand Media, 1998. Web. 24 November
Character Education Partnership. (2005). What Works in Character Education: A Research
Driven Guide for Educators
 (1st ed.). University of Missouri, St. Louis: Berkowitz, Marvin
W., Bier, Melinda C.
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1992. Print.
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Work.” Classic Edition Sources Education. Ed. Craig Kridel. New York:McGraw-Hill,
2009. 54-58. Print.
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New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. 1-5. Print.
Durlak, Joseph A., Dymnicki, Allison B., Taylor, Rebecca D., Weissberg, Roger P., Schellinger,
Kriston B. (January/February 2011). The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and
Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions. Child
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. New York, NY: Pearson.
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Publishing Group.
Greene, Maxine. “Liberal Education and the Newcomer.” Classic Edition Sources Education.
Ed. Craig Kridel. New York:McGraw-Hill, 2009. 32-35. Print.
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Journal of the National Art Education Association, 66
(1), 83-100.
Kohn, Alfie. (2004). What Does it Mean to be Well Educated?:And More Essays on Standards,
Grading, and Other Follies
. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
Kolb, David A. Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development.
2nd Edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc, 2015.
Mali, Taylor. What Teachers Make. New York, NY: The Berkeley Publishing Group, 2012. Print.
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McGraw Hill, 2005. Print.
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Learn: A Constructivist Approach to Shared Responsibility. Art Education, 57(5), 19-24
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An Update and a Tour

Ok so remember when I shared the news that i would be at 3 schools this year? Well I am pleased to say that I earned a day back at my home school due to some logistical discrepancies. I am beyond thrilled about this!! So now that I am only travelling to one other school I wanted to share a little bit about it like how I did last year. Since I was switched over there several weeks into the school year I really had to hit the ground running. I had zero time to organize, plan, prep, or set up. I basically walked in and started the show. I can honestly say that I am really glad that I am seasoned enough to be able to handle that kind of change – had that occurred my first or second year I would have been flipping out! Luckily, the itinerants who had been there before me left the room in excellent condition. It is an old band/orchestra room which I currently share with the music itinerant and some O.T. people so it is a little odd and quirky but I am definitely making it work. Here is the view when you first walk in:


Directly on the left when you walk in is a piano and a weird slanted shelf that I have adapted into my sample/essential questions display. (It is in need to updating!)


Directly to the right is the supply/sink/instrument storage/Occupational Therapy room:


To be honest this room is super weird and I am completely convinced it is haunted. Also can we talk about this giant swing contraption in the middle? On second thought. . . perhaps it is better left unsaid. The supply shelf makes me want to faint because everything is everywhere but eventually I will try and get around to organizing it. There are glaze bottles from the prehistoric age (I swear) that are slowly decomposing in there.

004 005

Next is the giant whiteboard and instrument shelf:


Then there is a little storage closet which is blocking the only window in the room. Whoever designed this was clearly not a fan of daylight.


Please excuse the precarious marker box tower. Trust me, when I first opened it this thing was much worse and not even remotely organized. Being an itinerant is a constant work in progress. Since I am only at this school one day a week, I do what I can when I can.


Speaking of organizing, I was beyond ecstatic when my 3rd graders helped me sort and stack papers by color, shape, and size last week in these shelves. The white shelves on top house their sketchbooks and works in progress. The box of drums belongs to the music itinerant and I am tempted to paint them every time! (Don’t worry I won’t :-P)


This front table is where I put the supplies we will be using that day. It is really nice to have a place to do this it makes for easy pass out and easy clean up! Last week they installed a big bright beautiful projector which shines with the light from a thousand suns and all the colors of the wind. I am so thankful for this because the set-up I had before with a portable projector was janky at best.


My desk is in the corner with the rules and schedule:


Now this big room has awfully big, white, empty walls that I did not have time to decorate with posters and cutesy teachery things. So instead I decided that the student’s artwork will decorate the room. I am hoping that by the end of the year it will be a glorious gallery showcasing all of the student’s hard work.


The back wall has 2 bulletin boards. One was already decorated when I arrived and I liked the colors and the project and the kids are so proud so I left it up. The other one is what I did on the first day I was with the students to get to know them (more info on that here)

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So there you have it. The space where I spend my Wednesdays.


I will say that while being a travelling art teacher definitely has its negative aspects, there are plenty of positive aspects as well. It is really interesting to see how different schools do things – each one has a different flavor and style. It is also great to be able to work with other art teachers! I have been so fortunate to get to work with some absolutely amazing and inspiring art teachers all of whom have taught me a trick or two. Getting to collaborate with another art teacher is something I am thankful for, not everyone gets that sort of opportunity especially in the art ed world! It is also kind of cool to break up the week, it makes the weekend arrive a whole lot quicker.

I hope that you enjoyed this tour. Until next time,

❤ Ms. K



News of a Change



OK Socrates that is definitely easier said than done. Tomorrow begins a new chapter of teaching in which I am at 3 elementary schools. I began this year thinking that I would be at one school – at my home school – and due to low enrollment numbers I am being sent to other schools 2 days a week.

To say that I am broken-hearted about this is an understatement. I have committed to things this year under the assumption that I would not be at other schools (leadership and night classes for my master’s degree are just a couple of examples). But it’s not even myself that I feel sorry for as I am quite adaptable and can handle a change like this despite the fact that it comes 4 weeks into the school year. 

No — my heart is broken for my students who have settled into the school year and have the expectation that they will have Art With Ms K. With days missing from my schedule I will now have combined classes and lose some classes and no matter what any teacher tells you, it is more difficult to build relationships when you have every chair in the room filled to capacity.

I realize that as a government institution schools fall under an umbrella of bureaucracy. There are hoops to jump through and initiatives to adhere to. But how can students and teachers just be numbers on a spreadsheet? Shouldn’t there be more to it than that? Shouldn’t the actual people be taken into account? I keep telling myself not to take this personally but that is really difficult when this job/passion/career is so personal to me and the relationships I have built with my students are incredibly personal. I put my heart and soul into this.

So. . . the only thing I can do about this massive change now is embrace it and that is exactly what I plan to do. I know that in the end this challenge will ultimately make me a stronger educator so I am welcoming the possibilities that come along with this new leg of the journey. I will put my heart and soul into all of my schools.

I am writing this post because with everything going on, I am going to be on a hiatus from blogging for a while. With 3 schools and other responsibilities to balance, blogging has to go on the back burner for a bit. I will sometimes post if I have something really great to share but I really need to focus on my responsibilities IRL.

However — you can still keep up with my adventures in and outside of the classroom through twitter (@artwithmsk) and I am always available via email (

Here’s to the challenge of change and all of the delightful or tumultuous character-building experiences that come with it.


So long for now and please don’t eat the artwork!

❤ Ms. K




Year Four, Week One

Looking back on my very first post from my first year it strikes me how much my classroom has changed and how much I have grown as well. For the first time, there is a true ease to this whole teaching thing and I could not be more delighted about it! Pre-planning this year for the first time did not feel like a whirlwind of frenzied energy, rushing to get everything ready, rather it was like a leisurely stroll down a path that ended up at a relaxed first day of school.

This is a bit surprising because I have many more responsibilities this year than I did that first year including continuing my MAED program at Georgia State University and serving as grade chair for specials on the leadership team. But even with these added responsibilities behind the scenes, things in the classroom are just as exciting as ever!

I kicked off the year as usual with a tour of the classroom and a discussion about rules. I used to believe that this sort of thing was “boring” and sent a message to students that they would not ever have any fun in art. Then I wondered why my inconsistent classroom management never got me anywhere. (Imagine that!) What children (and humans in general) really crave is systems and structure and it is still possible to build rapport when talking about these essential parts of classroom life. I still strive to make it entertaining by throwing a few jokes in there that usually makes a loud wooshing sound as they soar above my student’s heads. . .

After the rules and tour and questions/comments/concerns, we do a small activity that serves as an excellent formative assessment — I get to see who can cut on the lines, who can write their name, and who can be creative — all in about 10 minutes! This information is invaluable because it allows me to see who will need some extra help in the weeks to come and who can be a model for classmates. This project is also good because it lets me get away with not decorating a bulletin board and having the kids do it.

Last year, students made a fish to go along with our school’s chosen storybook. This year they are making stars to go along with this quote:

We are stars of excellence, determined to shine!


This quote really hits home  because my Title-1 school with mostly Spanish-speaking immigrant students and students of color does not always get the reputation it deserves. In fact, when I got the job here I was told to “watch out” and more often than not when I tell people which school I work at they react with a “bless your heart” type of look or comment. For too long, my school has maintained a negative reputation. I believe part of this is because we are kind of an island in a sea of affluence and wealth that surrounds us and continues to draw lines to keep our students and community segregated. I have been thinking a lot about this especially since listening to this episode of This American Life. If you haven’t heard this yet, I encourage you to give it a listen and hope it will spark the same passion for equality in education as it does in me!

In truth, our kids are just like any other kids with the same wants and needs and goals and dreams — sometimes they just have a little more in their way on their journey to get there. So it is up to us as teachers to help them and inspire them to shine and that is just what I intend to do this year as I have done for the past 3 years. I am thrilled that I get to spend all 5 days of the school week at one school, at my home. It is truly going to be a great year to shine!

❤ Ms. K


More Art BY Ms K

posted a while back about some of my own artwork. I think it is important for art teachers to continue to create their own work outside of the classroom so that we stay connected with the artistic process. However that is easier said than done considering all of the hoops we have to jump through and behind the scenes work that needs to be done just to even teach a lesson. But I became an art teacher so that I could be a (non-starving) artist and pass my passion on to new generations of creative thinkers. Finding time to make art is tough but necessary for the sake of providing the best art education experience.

That being said, I was thrilled when I signed up for a drawing and painting class. I signed up for this class because I am actually back at Georgia State University to earn a master’s degree. It is an amazing but rigorous program and I could not be more excited to reconnect with some of my professors from my undergrad. I am now finished with my first semester and wanted to share some of the artwork that I created.

The first day I met with my professor, we had a long talk about life, the universe, and everything. I showed him some of my pen ink mandalas and he said “You should work with gouache.” I was kind of terrified at this point because I was not making artwork with a whole lotta color in it and the only paint I had ever really used was acrylic. Gouache is a different beast!

I went to the best art store in the world Binders and bought all the supplies I would need. I got home and started to play with this new medium and ended up tearing the paper into shreds. I was so frustrated and lost and could not figure out how I could possibly be successful with this type of art making. Then I was given some excellent advice by my ever patient S.O. He asked me, “what do you do when your students get frustrated and give up?” I replied, “I tell them to try their best and practice. Nobody is perfect at something the first time they try it.” By the time I finished that sentence he was giving me a look that basically said DUH!

So I watched some YouTube videos of people using gouache and I practiced and practiced and now I am so proud of this new body of work I have created. The following pieces will end up being part of my thesis and are taking me down an artistic path that I am very excited to follow. Enjoy!



I really wanted to start off with a self-portrait and was inspired by the notion of stepping into another realm. I guess in a way I stepped through another realm of creativity with this medium. Here is a close up of the nebula texture:




The next piece I made was a mandala. My professor told me to stick with what I know while I still try to get the hang of it. At this point I discovered the wonders of masking fluid which is like painter’s tape but its a liquid. You can draw it on, paint on top, and when you peel it off you are left with a crisp, glorious white line to contrast with color and texture.




This and the following painting were created in response to a personal and family situation. I truly believe in the powers of positive thinking and this quote really resonated with me. “Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds, you can grow flowers, or you can grow weeds.”


HOUSEHEADS (for when you dream of home)

we are all connected

This is a commission/artist trade with Mal Wingostarr a friend and amazing jewelry artist. The three hands represent her family and the chosen quote is by Neil Degrasse Tyson. It says: “We are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically, to the universe atomically.”

so it goes

This one is inspired by the book Slaughter House Five. It is such a beautiful book and this imagery is some of the best from the story. The ideas of time travel and the ephemeral nature of life are what I intended to capture with this painting.


This painting is a nod to the idea that the universe is within us all. Here is a close-up of the sun mandala:



sky and earth

Why is this one round, you might ask. I hated the background so I botched it and cut the part I liked into a circle!





I wanted to play with the juxtaposition of imagery of things that are small and big. This painting is a neuron with a nod to rings in a tree or markings of a fingerprint or a delta stream system from above. The lunar phases surround it. Close up:

lunauron detail

secret and sacred

This is the sister piece to the one above. It is an abstracted double helix with sacred geometry shapes that represent the geometric tree of life and geometric infinity. The pattern of “letters” is a made up language that I like to play around with as a motif. The letters are made up but based on actual alphabets such as Hebrew, Sumerian, Elvish, Russian, and English. It represents the microscopic language that resides inside of everything on earth that writes the story of how it exists and what it is made of.

I like the idea that as literate people, we cannot look at a word without automatically reading it. It is impossible to look back to before you could read and you saw letters as funny squiggly shapes. Recently a student asked me “who made the alphabet anyway?!” which is a very good question with a very complicated answer. Alphabets are visually beautiful and the evolution of sounds and letters millenia of human consciousness is truly fascinating.

Close up:

secret and sacred detail


In keeping with the microscopic theme, this is an abstracted cell. I used the alphabet pattern again and made sure to include mitochondria: the powerhouse of the cell. This is inspired by scientific illustrations which I absolutely love. That was my favorite part of science textbooks when I was in school! While not exactly scientifically accurate, this piece is at least a nod to the friendship of science and art.

Close up:

cellchadelic detail


I have always loved stories that deal with the origins of the universe and Terry Pratchett’s concept of A’tuin is awesome. The earth exists on a giant turtle’s back floating through space on top of which are 4 elephants holding the disc that is the world. I collect turtles so I definitely wanted to create a painting that features one of my favorite animals.

mandala for summer

There are only a few weeks left of school. The weather is warm and the sun is shining. This mandala is a nod to popsicles and pooltime. To walks in the woods and picnics in the grass. I am a true summer soul.


You may have noticed that I like using the symbol of a Hamsa in my work. This symbol is important to me because it represents my culture of Judaism. The hamsa reminds me of when I went to Israel and how amazing that journey was. The all-all-seeing eye represents protection to together it is protection or guardianship of home, heart, and soul.

I wanted to further explore themes of science and I recently listened to an interesting podcast about colors and had a few conversations with different people (randomly) about rainbows. The colors of this and the next few paintings are also nostalgic. There is something about the black/nebula and the rainbow combined together that reminds me of being a little kid.

peaks and valleys

This painting invokes a few different ideas like layers of sediment and dirt in the earth or layers of skin or earth and water. Really it is just an in-between piece that is heavy on the design side. I wanted to make something that would involve a lot of patterns and just be kind of fun to get really into. I drew it with pencil, traced over it with masking fluid, painted on top of that, and then went into all of the little negative spaces with a pen. It was super involved but very meditative.

Close up:

peaks and valleys detail

crystal and chameleon

This one is about light and things that catch light or emit light or change in the light. In a deeper sense, it is also about how much I have changed as an artist as I am becoming more and more familiar with gouache.

Close up:

crystal and chameleon detail


The latest member of the batch is a bit surreal and about subconscious and conscious dreams. I feel like I finally nailed the nebula texture! Close up:

Dreamer Detail

If you are interested in commissioning an original painting, please contact me — I love creating works through collaborative inspiration! I plan to sell prints of these soon as well. I will be continuing to create work for personal enjoyment and later this summer for another drawing and painting class. I hope YOU are inspired to create as well! So stay tuned for more art by ms k. 🙂

*** All images are the intellectual property of Mollie Katzin and may not be reproduced, republished, distributed, transmitted, displayed, broadcast or otherwise exploited in any manner without the express prior written permission of the artist ***

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Peace Day


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Around this time last year I was well into my second year of teaching and trying to hold on to the momentum I gained in my first year. Most people will tell you that the first year of teaching is the toughest year ever but my experience has proven my toughest year to be my second. I think it was the combination of a really challenging batch of kids and me agreeing to take on everything I possibly could (ESOL endorsement, Critical Friends Training, and Math Club to name a few.)

Any teacher can tell you that it is right around October when the “Honey Moon Period” ends and behaviors begin to show. Last October the Honey Moon Period ended and in came a tremendous amount of craziness. I was overwhelmed in every sense of the word and I could feel that other teachers at my school were too. I saw that my school had a problem and I wanted to fix it. I felt that many students (especially those with behavior problems) were not being supported enough emotionally.

Now here at Mimosa we have 2 counselors who do a terrific amount of work and I cannot imagine two people who offer any more support anywhere else. But in the classrooms I noticed that time that used to be spent on Morning Meetings and collaborative or team building experiences was now being spent frantically cramming Common Core Curriculum into student’s brains before the CRCT.

This frenzy of academia and lack of community goes against everything I stand for as an educator and more specifically — an art educator. I believe that the purpose of education is to create decent human beings who can be successful in the world. How can we expect our students to be good adults if we are not taking the time to teach them how to make the community a better place and how to appreciate the human experience here on Earth? School should not be all about grades and data and standards — there is so much more to it just as there is so much more to life.

So during a run one sunny autumn afternoon last year I conceptualized the idea for Peace Day. It was to be a day where traditional classroom learning was put on hold and the focus shifted to community, collaboration, and emotional needs. With the help of the school counselors, we planned (and planned and planned and planned and planned and. . . .) our event. We had our initial run in February and it was a whirlwind and a success.

Fast forward to this school year and we did it again! This time we didn’t start from scratch (which really helped!) and we had a dedicated team of teachers who joined our committee. Together we executed another amazing event.

From the  packet given to the teachers:

The purpose of this day is to promote character growth and development through team building activities and community service projects. Today is a day where Mimosa staff and students can come together and experience something great. The success of this day depends on the dynamic of your group and it all starts with you. What are you looking to get out of this day and how can you encourage your group to make the most of it? This is a chance to bond, learn, and grow together in an incredibly unique and meaningful learning experience!

So how does it work?

Well, Mimosa students and staff are split up into 6 houses (kinda like in Harry Potter.) On Peace Day, 2 adults and about 20 kids from each house split into groups and travelled around the school to participate in team building and community learning activities. Each group included students ranging from pre-K all the way to 5th grade. It was a great bonding experience and a great chance for the older kids to be leaders and role models for the younger ones.

The activities were designed to engage students in a meaningful and impactful way through working together to help the community. The activities included:

  • Creating care packages (with supplies brought in by students and donated by Target) to help homeless people (benefiting United Way and the Regional Commission on Homelessness.)
  • Creating artwork (also benefiting United Way)
  • Making a Peace Ring
  • Writing thank-you letters to service men and women (benefiting Bert’s Big Thank You at Q100)
  • Buddy Reading with a book buddy
  • Creating a Banner for your house
  • Team Building / Icebreaker activities
  • Exploring career paths with an Ipad QR code scavenger hunt
  • Nature Scavenger Hunt / School Beautification and Clean Up
  • Planting around the school (flowers and supplies donated by Home Depot)

Each group followed a schedule which included recess and lunch. The groups travelled to different classrooms which were set up with the materials and supplies needed to complete an activity.

Care Packages:

The care packages were simply Ziploc bags filled with toiletry items such as toothbrushes and soap. Most of the items were brought in by students during the weeks leading up to Peace Day.

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Creating Artwork for Formerly Homeless People

United Way works with many local organizations to place formerly homeless people in housing. However once these individuals have a home it is often empty and lonely. The goal of this activity was to create artwork to brighten up someone’s home.

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Making a Peace Ring

The base of the Peace Rings are hula hoops. Students wrote peaceful messages or reflected about Peace Day and added their flag to the ring. They were then hung in the cafeteria on display.

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A Big Thank You 

The letters will be sent to local radio show Q100. Their goal is to send a “thank you” to every service man or woman in the armed forces for thanksgiving.


Book Buddies

This activity was a huge hit! The team in the media center graciously lent us books about peace and kindness for students to read to one another.

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House Banner

Each house is a word in another language that stands for a character trait we wish our students to have (for example I am in Heshima which means “respect.” Other houses are Arlighet, Chen Xin, Ubuntu, Wajibu, and Tookindel.) Each House created a banner where the students decorated peace signs and wrote what their house trait means and how they show it.



Team Building

These activities were super fun and silly and great icebreakers. Students had to work as a team to pass a hula hoop around in a circle and line up from shortest to tallest without talking.


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Career Scavenger Hunt

Students learned all about careers and contemplated their own career path with a QR code scavenger hunt. They scanned the QR codes and explored different fields. They talked about jobs and careers with their groups.

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Nature Scavenger Hunt and School Clean Up

Groups went outside and cleaned up trash around the school campus. They also participated in a nature scavenger hunt and talked about what it means to respect nature and the environment.



We were fortunate enough to receive a generous donation of planting seeds and supplies from Home Depot. Students made the front of the school beautiful and learned they had a “green thumb” in this activity.

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Overall, Peace Day was amazing. I heard so many examples of students becoming shining stars and leading their group – students who normally fade into the background or are prone to misbehavior. It was so wonderful to see the school come together and participate in something bigger than ourselves, making an impact on the community and the world. My hope is that this idea takes off and ultimately Peace Day is a nationwide or even worldwide event that all students and schools can participate in. I truly believe that this day is something special and meaningful and will provide students with an empathy and sensitivity to each other and the world.