Saturday, February 22, 2014

African Americans in History!

February is the shortest month of the year but filled with rich history, celebration, and fun.  Our month began with a story titled Ellington Was Not a Street by African American writer and poet Ntosake Shange.  In the story, Shange recalls childhood memories of distinguished African Americans that frequented her home on various occasions.  She remembers visits by actor Paul Roberson, jazz musicians Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington, and even notable singing groups and an African dignitary.  Prior to its reading, Kindergartners discussed what we thought the title of the book meant.  We talked about word origins and how many streets were named after  famous people.  My own sister Kenda's name originated from "Kendall" street in Detroit.  (She's pretty famous-she wrote an African American cookbook that is distributed all throughout the state of Michigan.)  We also talked about several other accomplishments of African Americans and how the month was purposefully set aside to celebrate them.  We even discussed what an "LP" record (depicted on the cover of the book) was. 

Hunter's milk jug and our glass jar vases
photo from the Cammie Henry Research Center, LA
February is also a month of love and passion.  Art From Her Heart:  Folk Artist Clementine Hunter by Kathy Whitehead  told  a story of an African American  woman who pursued her own heart's passion-Art. We learned that as a child Clementine (pronounced "Clementeen") felt that she was not good at school and dropped out to work in the cotton fields.   She was the granddaughter of slaves and remained living on her childhood plantation called Melrose in Natchitoches,  LA throughout her whole life.   In later years,  Clementine had a job working inside the "big house" as a cook and housekeeper, servicing the visitors at Melrose Plantation, which is now an artist's colony.  One day she asked if she could have the leftover paints left by one of it's patrons and her art career was born.  She was over 50 years old by then.  Clementine painted on whatever she could find-lamp shades, cardboard, and even milk jugs.  She continued to paint pictures depicting  everyday life on the plantation for the rest of her life.  We read and discussed how Hunter is considered a "Primitive" artist because she, unlike Picasso and Warhol, did not have formal training in art.  She is also considered a "Memory Artist" because she painted from memory.  Her recollections of plantation life included pecan pickings,  baptisms, funerals, weddings, and everyday life occurrences like wash days.  We also learned that even though one of Hunter's benefactors was able to arrange a showing of her collection of paintings in a major museum,   Hunter was not able to attend the exhibit during museum hours due to segregation.  (She was, however, sneaked in after museum hours and marveled at her work that she originally sold for 25 cents adorning the walls in gold gilded frames.)  Further research revealed that Clementine Hunter painted just about every day from age 50+ to a few weeks before her death at age 101.   She also received two honorary doctorate degrees-one of which from the university that refused her admittance to her exhibit.  "Flat Stanley"  (see previous blog) and I had the pleasure of seeing some of Clementine Hunter's work in the Ogden Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana this past December.

Grandma Prisbrey's "Bottle House Village" in CA
 Tressa Grandma Prisbrey
On another day, Kindergartners compared Clementine Hunter's work to that of Tressa "Grandma Prisbrey."    Prisbrey was also a woman who began her art career later in life and  created  a home for herself and her family using finds from a junk yard.  Prisbrey, once homeless,  is most famous for her "bottle house village" made from recyclables like glass, tile, and souvenirs from her travels.  Although Grandma Prisbrey, like Clementine Hunter,  is considered a  "primitive" artist, her style can also be considered as "Art Brut."  Kindergartners made hilarious predictions of what "brut" meant then settled for art that is "wild"... "primitive"… and "untrained" and the artists are considered  "a little crazy."  We were so crazy about Prisbrey's work that we are in the process of creating some "art brut" mosaic tiles of our own.   Kindergartners also painted glass jar "vases" for their parents for Valentine's Day in homage to Clementine Hunter!

Mr. Guyton in front of "Dotty Wotty" House
 We brought our discussion of   recyclables and trash to create art home with our investigation of African American artist, Tyree Guyton.  We learned that young Guyton, encouraged by a loving grandfather,  loved creating art from finds throughout his neighborhood and that his passion continued to adulthood.  He is most famous for his amazingly creative and thought- provoking  "Heidelberg Project" in Detroit, MI.  Guyton aspires to beautify his neighborhood and bring awareness and attention to urban blight at the same time.  He continues to  share his gift and vision for neighborhood revitalization throughout the world!  Kindergartners were eager to express their  own experiences with the "Heidelberg Project" and shared their favorite memories.  We agreed, however,  that the "Dotty Wotty House,"  by virtue of  name alone, was definitely our  favorite!   We hope to visit the exhibit as a class sometime in the spring.

Another African American History celebration took place at our trip to the Wild Swan Theatre's production of "Under the African Sky."  Kindergartners experienced several African tales about the mischevious "Anansi the Spider"; a creation story and cautionary tale of "Why the Sun is in the Sky" and  another trickster tale involving an animal 'tug of war."  We also learned some traditional African dance movement and names of various African percussion instruments.  A big thank you to Sean and Lily's Dad for chaperoning.

Other Kindergarten Happenings!

Kindergartners continued to celebrate Valentine's Day during "Shan Science" last week.  Kindergartners talked about the importance and various functions of the parts of the human heart.  They listened to both their resting and active heart rates and compared and documented their findings.  Kindergartners also performed an experiment using water and tennis balls to demonstrate how blood is pumped out of the heart and throughout the body.  

Zoey demonstrated her leadership skills and facilitated our "Sharing Day" discussion for classmates!  Sharing Day takes place most Friday afternoons.

Happy Birthday, Spenser!

"Andy's (Warhol's) Cans" Count totals 88 canned goods!  We have almost reached   our goal of 100.  We are presently using our cans for our "Weights and Measures" Math unit.   We are reading labels and classifying by size, weight, content, and brand.  Afterward, we will donate our can collection to a local food bank.

Painting  by Lillian

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Be Mine!

"February" by Linda G. Paulsen
(from Valentine's Day:  Stories and Poems edited by Caroline Feller Bauer)

February's dreary;
It rains for days
at a time.

The wind blows,
 Then it snows;

The streets


We long 
for Spring, 
and sun.

 I say

For Valentine's Day;

Or the month
would be
 empty of fun. 

Valentine's BINGO!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Touring Cities!

Marcel's city scape
Our Theme unit of "Cities" began with a reading of a classic- The Snowy Day by  Ezra Jack Keats.  Keats was a master at telling stories about the everyday ordinary occurrences of inner city life through the eyes of a child.  Kindergartners pointed out the "continuous line" pattern etched out by the dragged stick,  predicted the outcome of the pocketed snowball, and  observed the skillful use of the "collage" technique Keats used to create his beautiful illustrations.  We later created  our own collage pictures using scrap booking paper and odds and ends.   Our "snow filled" reading was very appropriate for our first day back considering all of the cold snow days that occurred that delayed our return from Winter Break.  We also discussed what it would be like to live in New York City, recalled some of artist  Andy Warhol's experiences there, as well as our own experiences, and even received a "Flat Stanley"  from the Big Apple from Marcel's aunt!  She showed "Stanley" waiting for the subway, contemplating riding a rental bike, and taking a walk past NYU-so many possibilities for modes of transportation!
Speaking of Flat Stanley,  in the chapter book written by Jeff Brown, a little boy named Stanley was accidentally flattened by a bulletin board (but don't worry, he's OK)  and can now travel in his 2D state throughout the mail system and have fabulous adventures.  Kindergartners sent their flattened friends out before the break and are now reaping a harvest of responses!  Our first Stanley, however, did not come from a Kindergartner but our buddy Owen in Joanna's class.  Owen sent us his "Stanley" perched on the Prime Meridian all the way from Great Britain!   Our next Stanley came from Aditi's cousins deep in the heart of Lubbock, Texas!  This Stanley  had a very special encounter with Santa at Texas Tech University!  Our fourth Stanley arrived from Elise's Grandma and Grandpa in Arkansas complete with pictures standing in front of Elise's daddy's childhood home, grade school, and local ice-cream parlor that he frequented!  How cool is that!  Stanley number five had an unusual twist.  It also came from New York but to  Elise when she was just a toddler.  Young Elise showed it a good time by taking it to Michigan's hot spots- the U of M Stadium and clock tower and  to Millennium Park in Detroit and other places.  It was fun to know that the Stanley project has been around for a while and is still a lot of fun!
Stanley even had a chance to travel with me to New Orleans, Louisiana to visit my mom's alma mater Xavier University.  We were able to visit where my mom had classes, ate lunch, and attended chapel and saw original dormitories (now study labs and a help center) as well as campus additions and renovations since Hurricane Katrina.  Stanley, my daughter, and I even found Mom in the 1943 Xavier yearbook and her 1945 Graduation composite! 

Kindergartners are using our Stanley's acquired information during our "Global Experiences" (social studies) activities to locate cities and states on maps, plot distances,  and note our class' traveling trends.

Kindergartners read and studied about several  architects (real and fictional) then accepted several design challenges of their own.  We began with a book titled The Curious Garden by Peter Brown about a boy who revitalizes a city by being caretaker to foliage at an abandoned rail station.  We also put pencil to graph paper and designed  bug lodging after reading Roberto, The Insect Architect by  Nina Laden.  We also learned about some of the works of Architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry in Young Frank, Architect by Frank Viva.  In this story (right), an old architect learns that one can always learn something new from a young person, and vice versa!

Our design challenges also included sketching ideas and creating structures using random materials found throughout  our classroom, assembling three dimensional structures out of paper, and working with partners to  create sound towers out of cups during Math class.
We also practiced   measuring by inches and centimeters using rulers during both Math and Science classes.

On another day, Kindergartners were visited by Architect Mark, Max's dad.  He explained the role of the architect and explained the evolution of "blue" prints to "black" prints better known now as "plans."   Mark was even able to show us the plans to our very own gorgeous school building and classroom space.  He also taught us the symbols used to depict walls, windows, brickwork, fireplaces and landscapes on a set of residential plans.  We will be revisiting some of our previous architectural sketches to add our new knowledge.



Thursday, February 13, 2014

February & March at a Glance!

Just outside of the south SK entrance

February/March Dates at a Glance

This month's theme:  "Cities"

February 2/5       Ice Skating at the Cube during  P.E. 12:30 
February 12th     Trip to Wild Swan Theatre's "Under the African Sky"- 10 A.M
February 14th     Kindergarten Class Valentine Exchange  in the A.M.
                             SK K-6th Grade Pre-Break outing to Buhr Park for Ice Skating
February 17-21   No School Mid-Winter Break!
February 24th     School resumes!
February 26th     Kailey the Dental Hygienist visits 10:30 A.M. 
February 28th     Trip to the Hands on Museum 11:30-2 P.M.
March 1st (Sat.)  Eudaimonia Fundraising Event
March 3rd            No School!
March 4th-7th  Parent/Teacher Conferences (revised dates)
March 27th         Wild Swan Theatre trip-"Once Upon A Time"  10 A.M.