|me at the NYSATA conference TASK party!|
"Say Yes to the Mess" consisted of a PowerPoint presentation, that was pretty much just images and bullet points, a handout with some more details, and the rest was, well, just me, doing my thing. So I did a dry-run of the presentation to my husband, and he promptly fell asleep. Needless to say, I was worried. Turns out, however, my worry was unnecessary. I had many attendees tell me how much they learned from the workshop, and that it was the best one they attended all weekend. They hung on every word I said! Hurray!! So here are my bullet points and some associated details -
The premise (my rationale for the workshop):
We have a responsibility as art educators to engage our students in messy, hands-on activities on a regular basis. In today's world, in particular, where kids type on a keyboard or portable device rather than writing by hand, where so much of what kids do is using electronic media, they have less opportunities for engaging in tactile, kinesthetic experience. And this is what we were trained to do. We need to give our students regular opportunities to squeeze wet clay or papier-mache between their fingers, to hold brushes dripping with creamy thick paint, to cut, to glue, to make messes, and to clean them up.
No Complaints/No Excuses:
There are so many possible excuses for not using messy materials - inadequate (or no) proper facilities, no proper storage, shared workspaces, not enough money for materials, crazy schedules, no time to clean up properly, and on... and on.... But I come back to this: being an art teacher is what you were hired to do. If you are not engaging your students in hands-on activities on a regular basis, you are not doing what you were hired to do. Use your creativity to find a way to solve the problems of schedules, supplies, and workspaces. It can be done. Make this quote from Maya Angelou an integral part of your program: "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain." (Look closely at bulletin board pictures from my former classroom, and you'll see the #1 rule posted is NO WHINING. I take this very seriously! A positive attitude goes a long way!)
- Positive attitude, as I've mentioned above.
- Art room 'choreography' - how you plan and schedule your curriculum for optimization of storage and ease of cleanup.
- Advocate for yourself and your program in the design of the school schedule
- Organize and improve cleaning procedures
- Training/enabling the kids - instead of doing all the cleanup yourself, train the students to take ownership over caring for the room and materials.
- Make effective use of prep time
We discussed painting, papier-mache, plaster bandage, oil pastel, and collage procedures to help with cleanup. I'll share a few of my favorite tips here.
- Paint distribution tricks - Use limited colors instead of everything at once - warm colors one day, cool the next, for example. Or a different color at each table and have the kids rotate tables to use a different color. Or, prepare a large variety of colors of paint and place in a central location. Students get one color at a time, and return it for a new color. Put paints in plastic lidded 'solo' cups on trays and stack trays to use another time.
- Best painting trick ever: the frame. Draw a frame (or have students draw a frame) of about 1/2" inside the edge of the paper. All painting is done inside the frame. This way, you will have clean paper edges for carrying, you can lay them on the floor for drying if you don't have a drying rack, the tables will stay cleaner since no painting is done at the edges, and the paper won't curl as much as when it is painting to the edge! Plus, when you hang them up to display, the artwork has built in picture frames!
- The Ugly Sponge and the Three W's - clean paintbrushes mean clean water and clean paint colors. We use a designated set of old sponges for wiping paintbrushes after finishing with a color, and before washing. This way, less paint goes into the water when the brush is washed. Then, the brush is wiped again after washing and before dipping in a new color. Any leftover paint and water is left on the sponge instead of in the new color! Hence, the three W's are Wipe, Wash, Wipe. While I don't have a photo to share here, let me tell you, this works!!
- Baby Wipes/ Baby Oil! Did you know oil pastels come off hands and tables with baby wipes, or a paper towel dipped in baby oil? This can save on traffic jams at the sink at cleanup time!
- The Ziploc bag: Use individual zipper bags for unglued collage materials, and weaving projects. The kids don't lose parts of their work, and it makes everything so much easier!
- Try marbling with shaving cream, and use the shaving cream to clean the tables afterward.
- 'Paint' by drawing with pastel chalks on wet bogus paper.
- Add papier-mache goo to a bag of shredded paper from the office shredder to make a strong clay. Want to see pictures of this stuff and what we've done with it? Click here to see one of many posts using this amazing substance!
- Jackson Pollock paintings? Plan ahead for mess management! It's worth it! I've blogged about this project more than once; you can see one of the posts by clicking here.