Tags: art, astronomy, electromagnetic spectrum, environment, games, history, light and color, math, music, peabody essex museum, poetry, reading, writing
Once a month, I lead Story Trails, a program for families on Sunday afternoons that’s targeted for kids ages 5-8 with their accompanying adults. We look closely at an artwork in one of the exhibits, read an associated story, and then head for a studio space (or other safe art-making zone) and create something inspired by the artwork, the story’s theme, the illustration style, or the associated science/history/literature component. (Remember how my middle name is ‘interdisciplinary?’) Along with whatever their creation is, participants (including adults, because grown ups get to play too) take home a set of other recommended books, interesting web links, and an activity to try at home. Sometimes we also have special guest speakers, generally local authors and illustrators, with the occasional bee-keeper or lobster fisherman.
It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of work, and it’s one of my favorite programs, so I thought I would share the books and art activities that I loved most from this year.
January: The Spiral Connection
Book: Blockhead, the Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese
Exhibition Connection: Ripple Effect, the Art of H2O
Art Making: Wall hangings with Fibonacci prints – we used flowers (both silk and cut flowers will do, flatter ones like sunflowers and daisies are better), pinecones, and seashells with fabric paint on plain white bandanas (available at most craft stores), to make printed patterns that feature examples of the Fibonacci sequence in nature, and then added extra decorations with fabric markers, and hung the bandanas on dowels to create easy-to-hang fabric art for your wall.
January Story Trails handout-small
February: Read the Stars
Book: How the Stars Fell into the Sky by Jerrie Oughton (retelling of a Navajo Coyote story, which is traditionally only told in the winter months)
Exhibition Connection: Shapeshifting: Transformations in Native American Art
Art Making: Constellation Light Boxes – We talked about creation stories and specifically constellation stories, and then used awls and sharpened dowels to punch holes in shoe boxes to create our own (or recreate known) constellation patterns. We then added a hole in whatever side of the box was opposite the constellation pattern to either a) hold up to our eye and then up to the light to see the stars ‘shine’ or b) put a bright flashlight into and project the star pattern into a darkened room.
February Story Trails handout
March: Cloud Factory and Guest Appearance by Illustrator Katy Bratun
Book: Sector 7 by David Weisner
Exhibition Connection: the concept of storyboarding in art, as exemplified by a series of paintings of a battle in the Maritime Art collection
Art Making: Katy Bratun led a story-boarding workshop in which kids drew a series of 4-8 panels of a story on the theme of taking a journey, and bound them into a simple book using card stock and yarn. This was a great literacy-skills support program and kids were very, very excited to share their stories with a real author/illustrator.
March Story Trails handout
Book: Weslandia by Paul Fleischman
Exhibition Connection: Earth Day, and an incredibly cool bit of textile art on view in Perfect Imbalance: Exploring Chinese Aesthetics that featured pumpkins, ears of corn, and tomatoes as exotic fruits
Art Making: Butterfly Seed Mats — We used burlap, white glue, and butterfly seed mix to create biodegradable bits of art that you could plant in a corner of your garden and grow wildflowers to attract butterflies. Simple but incredibly effective. This book happened to be requested in the previous year’s visitor survey, and happily was already on my list for potential programming.
April Story Trails handout copy
May: Sing a Song for Mothers and Family!
Book: Anna Hibiscus’ Song by Atinuke
Exhibition Connection: Mother’s Day, and inspired by both the African Art collection and PEM’s ceramics collection
Art Making: Good Cheer Jars – We mod-podged tissue paper and other bits of recycled paper onto glass jars to create good cheer jars. A good cheer jar can work any of several ways: a) a semi-voluntary fine paid when one is in a bad mood, the proceeds from which are then used to do something cheery for the family like a trip out for ice cream, b) a collection of slips of paper on which you write things that make you happy and pull one out to read when you need cheering up, c) a mandatory fine for using the household’s forbidden words like ‘I’m bored.’
May Story Trails handout copy
June: Beneath the Deep Blue Sea
Book: The Serpent Came to Gloucester by M.T. Anderson
Exhibition Connection: Local history and the Maritime Art collection
Art Making: Sea-Monster Sand Paintings — Using pre-cut mattes, construction paper, white liquid glue, sand, pebbles, and small sea shells and bits of sea glass, we created maritime-inspired natural collages. Some of them got very, very intricate, particularly those who decided to make mosaics of sea glass. This was one of my personal favorite art activities, and many of the adults who were at the program participated with gusto.
June Story Trails handout
July: What a Bright Idea!
Book: The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton
Exhibition Connection: Contemporary art in the Japanese Art collection
Art Making: Day-Glo (and Glow-in-the-Dark) Paintings — Using black construction paper, day-glo poster paint, and some very cool glow-in-the-dark paint, we created scenes that looked awesome in general and even better under the light of our interactive black light box. We also had samples of varying materials that kids could test to see whether or not they would react with the black light and start to glow, including beads, assorted fabrics, gelatinous substances (in safe containers), and assorted paper products. This was one of the year’s most popular programs.
July Story Trails handout copy
August: What Does the Clay Say?
Book: Dave the Potter, Artist, Poet, Slave by Bryan Collier and Laban Carrick Hill
Exhibition Connection: Ceramics in the American Art collection
Art Making: Experimenting with Clay – Though the idea was to start with pinch pots and some coil-building, clay programs always take on a life of their own. Some people made pots, others branched out into sculpture and beyond. Everyone had a fabulous time, including some adults who had missed the story and had no kids, but wanted to come work with clay anyway.
August Story Trails handout copy
September: Hats Off To You!
Book: Miss Hunnicutt’s Hat by Jeff Brumbeau
Exhibition Connection: Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones
Art Making: Decorate a hatbox – We used 12″ cake boxes from ULine, which fold into very decent sized hatboxes and are easy to decorate with colored pencil, stickers, collaged recycled material, and crayon.
Sept Story Trails handout copy
October: Canine Crusader
Book: Dex – The Heart of a Hero by Caralyn Buehner (alternate title Superdog)
Exhibition Connection: Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones and the Caps, Capes, and Characters weekend festival (organized by me)
Art Making: Superhero capes with interchangeable emblems – We used SmartFab and craft foam with adhesive velcro dots to create capes (I cut each cape to length to suit children individually), and discussed designing emblems that suited their personalities for their superhero alter egos. The velcro made it possible to rearrange or replace emblems later.
Oct Story Trails handout copy
November: Oh What a Knight!
Book: The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie dePaola and The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke
Exhibition Connection: The Invention of Glory: Alfonso V and the Pastrana Tapestries and the Weaving Tales of Glory weekend festival (also organized by me)
Art Making: Tournament pennants — More SmartFab and back to fabric paint — we created jousting pennants inspired by the fabulous examples in the Pastrana Tapestries and the illustrations in both books.
Nov Story Trails handout copy
December: A Patient Brush
Book: Twenty Heartbeats by Dennis Haseley
Exhibition Connection: Perfect Imbalance: Exploring Chinese Aesthetics
Art Making: Chinese brush painting – We used rice paper (available at ACMoore or less expensively from Dick Blick), Chinese calligraphy brushes, and red and black watercolor paint, with examples from ‘how to’ books on traditional brush painting style.
Dec Story Trails handout copy
Tags: art, massachusetts, peabody essex museum, poetry, reading, recycling, writing
As a librarian’s daughter, an avid reader, and an English major, I am always attracted to wordy art projects, and I often find artworks made out of recycled print absolutely beautiful while simultaneously wincing over the fact that one must deface books to create them. After all, books are meant to be read, and what are they when they are no longer readable?
For some artworks like the roses above, one could easily substitute with magazine pages or old maps (about which I feel decidedly less squeamish), and for others newspaper will also work.
However, I have finally lit upon a type of altered book artwork that bothers me less than others, because while it still alters the original intent, the book still gets ‘read’ in a new fashion.
Found Poetry in Altered Book Pages
As with the roses, this is an activity that can be done using other forms of the printed word (newspapers, magazines) and can also be done without altering the original text at all (words captured and written down in a new form from museum object labels, etc.) However, it combines both poetry and the visual arts in a way that is perfect for the programming that we do at PEM for the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. (Guess what’s going in this year’s program?)
How does Illustrated Found Poetry work?
- Pick a piece of text with a decent amount of wording to it.
- Read through it for the sounds of the words and not necessarily the narrative or the original author’s intent.
- Find a theme to the words that inspires you. Use as many or as few as you like: cherry pick a word here, a phrase there, etc.
- The one limit to working on the original sheet is that you cannot rearrange the words to your own liking–the poem flows in the same direction as the original text did.
- Pencil boxes around the words you want.
- Pencil in any illustrations (doodles, sketches, details) that help to give your new poem mood, shape, or further depth.
- Use marker to darken the boxes around your poem and color in the details of your illustration. You may want to use highlighter within the boxes for your poem to help pick it out of the illustration, depending on how much color there already is in your drawing.
- Use black marker to cross out any words left that are not part of your poem or are already obscured by your illustration.
The plan is to have a bunch of genres of books available from which to select pages: sci-fi, mystery, classics, memoirs, maybe even some more technical books. Hopefully this will show people that poetry can be found absolutely anywhere. The 2013 festival will be held May 3-5 in numerous venues around Salem–I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!
Tags: art, massachusetts, photography, poetry, writing
Happy National Poetry Month, all! April is always one of my favorite months, not only because it rescues New England from the bitter drear that is March, but because there are suddenly people talking about poetry all over. Here’s a collection of some of my classic links and a few new fun opportunities:
30 Poets, 30 Days Blogger and author Gregory K. features a new poem a day by well-known poets on his kids’ literature blog, Gotta Book! Always a fascinating read.
Famous Poets in 140 Characters The New York Times asks 4 poets to write poems that would fit in a tweet.
Your Ode to the Big Blue run by the Smithsonian in connection with their Ocean Hall. Submit an ocean-inspired poem at the link or on their facebook page. Selected poems will be posted on the Smithsonian blog at the end of the month.
Poem a Day Challenge run by Robert Brewer, a poet and blogger for Writer’s Digest. Fun, challenging, eyebrow-raising, and entertaining, he’s posting a poem writing prompt every day this month.
Upcoming Poetry Events
Massachusetts Poetry Festival, May 13-14
Poetry Events by State at Poets.org
A Bit of Inspiration
See the world from upside-downish! Check out these beautiful photographs of puddle reflections by photographer Ingrid Nelson.
- in Just-
- spring when the world is mud-
- luscious the little
- lame balloonman
- whistles far and wee
- and eddieandbill come
- running from marbles and
- piracies and it’s
- when the world is puddle-wonderful
- the queer
- old balloonman whistles
- far and wee
- and bettyandisbel come dancing
- from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
- balloonMan whistles
- e.e. cummings
Tags: current_events, geography, grammar, media, reading, sport, writing
Every now and then I run across a link that is just too cool to wait for an appropriately themed post, and today is one of those days.
Today I discovered The Learning Network, a blog on education hosted by The New York Times. This extremely active blog uses content from NYT as the basis for lesson plans, quizzes, activities, and other materials directed at both teachers and students across all academic disciplines. You can investigate their archives based on subject matter (grammar, social sciences, math, etc.) or by type of activity (word of the day, ’6Q’s about the news,’ poetry pairings, etc.), or search the blog for a specific topic, article, or event.
One of the currently featured posts is “Twelve Ways to Learn Vocabulary with The New York Times,” full of neat trivia regarding the main NYT website itself (did you know that double clicking any word in an article will bring up dictionary definitions of that word?), lesson suggestions on content based analysis (even for the sports pages!), and opportunities for student writing.
This blog and some other cool resources I’ve encountered will soon be showing up on the re-organized resource pages here at Brain Popcorn, so stay tuned!
Tags: games, grammar, multicultural, poetry, spanish, writing
Didn’t get enough word fun on International Literacy Day? Then get ready for September 24, which is National Punctuation Day. I kid you not.
According to the official site for National Punctuation Day, this particularly exacting holiday is the brainchild of comma fiend Jeff Rubin, and is now in its seventh year of celebration. Last year’s festivities were punctuated (ha!) by a baking contest, and this year they are soliciting punctuation-themed haiku, so go check it out if you’re feeling em dash deprived. Don’t miss the photo gallery of punctuation mistakes–a sadly bountiful crop of terrible pluralization, but some other entertaining gaffes as well.
But why would you want to do that? Grammar isn’t fun!
Yes it is.
I will grant you, I don’t know if playing Punctuation Pasta with macaroni commas and quotation marks would have gotten me all excited about punctuation as a student, but looking at it now reminds me of the totally fabulous found-object illustration style of My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks, which is a great way to teach grammar and figures of speech. And I can totally imagine expanding the idea of punctuation pasta to punctuation pizza (period pepperoni, anyone?) and beyond (hence the baking contest last year, I surmise).
Punctuation is also incredibly useful in the world of solving rebus puzzles–take half the words out and replace them with pictures, and all of a sudden that apostrophe seems a lot more necessary to decoding the sentence. ReadWriteThink has a rebus poetry writing lesson, but there are dozens more out there, and lots of cool historic examples, too. The family of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow played with rebuses, and here’s one from Historic New England to test your mental mettle.
Feeling good about your visual verbal skills? Try the BrainBats over at BrainBashers (Lots and lots of fun brainteasers over there, by the way, including some fun logic puzzles). Or go for a more traditional grammar game experience with the Comma IQ test from the folks behind Eats, Shoots & Leaves. You might even copy edit to your heart’s content in both Spanish and English through Maggie’s Earth Adventures, offered through Scholastic’s Teachers site.
Had enough words? We’re back to impossible objects and scratch holograms in the next post.
Tags: history, libraries, twitter, web2.0, writing
Last summer I wrote about how the Massachusetts Historical Society was using Twitter to re-broadcast the daily ‘tweets’ of John Quincy Adams. (A project which is ongoing, by the way, and still fun to find out the daily activities of this long ago Bostonian and former US President.) And in that post, I asked “What other historical figures would you love to see as a Twitterer or in some other modern guise?” (I’d love to hear the brain-poppings of Thomas Jefferson, JRR Tolkien, or Thomas Edison, to name just a few. “Dang! Have now invented 64th way not to build lightbulb. Must purchase more filament tomorrow.”) The folks at the Paul Revere House have taken up the challenge and tweet regularly as the Midnight Rider himself at @PaulRevere1734. And for the ironic, sad, amusing, and historically inaccurate, check out Historical Tweets: @johannesG: Finally finished invention. Disappointed to learn that no one can read. (Johnnes Gutenberg, inventor of the Gutenberg Press)
However, it now turns out that future generations will be able to find out what was on the mind of folks around the world and up and down the spectrum of celebrity — from the online and backstage shenanigans of rock stars and actors to the mundane details of what you and I thought about the recent spate of natural and manmade disasters. Late last week, The Washington Post reported that the Library of Congress is going to be archiving all of Twitter’s public tweets, on a six-month lag (to separate ‘history’ from ‘current events.’) Though some people are naturally skeptical (and uninterested in what Al from Boise had for lunch when he visited San Francisco on a business trip), others point out that hearing people’s off-the-cuff responses, finding out what interests them at a particular time, or evidence of casual correspondence between public figures is a historical goldmine.
Also mentioned in the article is also the benefit to populist history: taking the archives and sifting through the hashtags, etc, future historians could in fact get a real picture* of societal values and interests in an increasingly fractured “information age.” I once heard historian and author David McCullough speak, and was incredibly struck by his statement that though we live in an age which is ‘information rich,’ future historians could easily find it ‘information poor,’ especially if and when digital records are lost. Who writes letters by hand? Who keeps a steady handwritten journal? he asked. What possible tools will the future students of the past have to understand an age where newspapers begin to disappear and half our life is lived by email? Though it does not solve the digital-record-dilemma, perhaps the Library of Congress Twitter archive is one way to answer his–and history’s–concerns.
*And by “real,” the article and I would both like to point out, we mean “the sections of society which are aware of and interested in a communication medium like Twitter.” All historical sources have their context and limitations, after all!
Tags: art, light and color, magnets, multicultural, poetry, recycling, writing
If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.
Ms. Dickinson was clearly a Brain Popcorn-style poet. (She also reputedly said “The brain is wider than the sky,” a sentiment I quite enjoy.) And so I am happy to say…
There are a lot of very cool things going on in the world for National Poetry Month, and here are a smattering of particularly interesting and/or interdisciplinary approaches:
One Day Poem Pavilion – a very neat project, brought to deserving attention by Paul Orselli over on Exhibitricks. This particular intersection of art and science writes a poem with sunlight and cardboard which changes as the day progresses. Be sure to check out the time lapse video.
You Too Can Haiku — ARTSEDGE does it again! A nice satisfying lesson plan incorporating writing, visual art, and multicultural discussion.
Michelangelo Complains in Rhyme about the Sistine Chapel — Highly amusing, even if one probably loses something in the translation. (And it holds particular shine for me, as I’m going to Italy at the end of next week!) This would be a really fun poem to tie in to a discussion/activity on ekphrasis. If you’re looking for further ideas, I recommend this lesson plan over at ReadWriteThink.
MYO Magnetic Poetry Activity Plan (downloadable pdf) This is the list of materials and directions for a Make Your Own Magnetic Poetry activity that I’ve done several times at The Discovery Museums, and which will also be one of the April drop-ins at the Art & Nature Center here at PEM. It’s entertaining, and though pre-cutting words can be time consuming, it’s very rewarding to watch people sift through the words and exclaim over the ones they find. Small kids through teenagers and adults have fun with this one!
Finally, I would like to applaud this particular random act of poetry in a grocery store. That kind of news just makes my day.
Tags: art, astronomy, china, geography, history, holiday, multicultural, music, reading, theater, writing
Welcome in Lunar New Year with the spirit of friendship (as represented by the flower arrangement above) and with an arrangement of my own suggestions for cool resources and activities.
History and Culture
A brief but interesting collection of information on the New Year as celebrated in China, from the University of Victoria
A nice resizeable map of China, with or without more detailed information, from National Geographic
Asia-Art.Net, a collection of really beautiful examples from several cultures, organized by medium or by culture.
Why is it Lunar New Year? Observing the Moon, from Science NetLinks
Arts and Crafts
The Smithsonian strikes again! (I love these guys as much as I love National Geographic!) The Sackler and Freer Museums are home to the Smithsonian’s Asian collections, and they have both Chinese centric and Across Asia teacher resources as part of their larger set of Online Guides.
Theater and Music
Two fabulous resources from the Kennedy Center’s Artsedge:
The Sounds of China Pod Page, with music to listen to and connected information and activities.
Also from the Kennedy Center, Chinese Calligraphy and Ink Painting
And finally, from Read-Write-Think, which is run by the National Council of Teachers of English, a very cool Fairy Tale Autobiographies lesson plan, which uses Chinese tales but could be adapted for pretty much any culture.
Not enough? Then come celebrate with the Peabody Essex Museum, on Saturday February 27! (Chances are very good you’ll find me making paper lanterns in East India Marine Hall…)
Tags: optical illusions, reading, writing
Is it just too long until National Poetry Month for you? It certainly is for me–which is why it’s awesome that November is Family Literacy Month.
The central idea behind Family Literacy Month is that parents and other adult role models are keystones to their children’s habits of, attitudes toward, and grasp of reading. If you’re looking for some fun ways to incorporate literacy activities into your day, here are a few places to get started:
For ages 3-5: 31 Days of Reading (though personally I think older kids would enjoy some of these too!)
For all ages:
The Massachusetts Libraries’ page on Family Literacy Month, with a link to events occurring at local libraries and information on the Boston Children’s Museum event later this month.
The National Center for Family Literacy; they’ve got an interesting collection of research and resources for educators on working with parents and children.
Even more research and resources from the Massachusetts Family Literacy Consortium.
And because I cannot include links to all that dry information without some other fun places to start playing with words:
Wordle: creating pictures with words (ala the image above in this post)
Word Games by Merriam Webster Online
The Stroop Effect, at Neuroscience for Kids: trick your brain–how easy is it to read a color when the word says something else?
Tags: archaeology, art, diy, history, video/animation, writing
This does not, I suppose, technically qualify as archaeology.
However, in the theme of really-cool-bygone-stuff, I bring you: The Animated Bayeux Tapestry.
This is no substitute for getting to see the real thing–the sheer immensity of this tapestry just does not convey on a video clip. However, it’s a cunning piece of animation, and the foley artist involved clearly had a lot of fun with everything from the feasting noises to the horses to the ‘guuuuh’ and ‘gack’ sounds of battle. And if you’re looking for a way to liven up the story of 1066 and the Norman Conquest, this is a fun way to go about it.
Have I whetted your appetite for tapestries, Normans, or movie-making?
Britain’s Museum of Reading has a great site about the Bayeux Tapestry, including an activities page which made me grin. [Specifically the directions on how to make your own Norman soldier's helmet. (Halloween, anyone?)]
If it’s the sounds that really caught your fancy, check out Paul Orselli’s great recent blog post: Exhibit Designer’s Toolkit: Creating the Sounds of Gore and Squidge
And if you’re intrigued by the illustration style of the medieval tapestry, try your hand at the Historic Tale Construction Cit (presumably pronounced ‘kit’ as all ‘c’s are hard). Write and illustrate your own story using figures, settings, and beasts from the Bayeux Tapestry–careful, this is a hoot and dangerously addictive to those of us who grew up loving computer programs like Storybook Weaver. The image interface is pretty sound, too–you can resize and flip the image elements, as well as type captions, with the option to create several frames, save them, email them, and submit to a visitor-created gallery.