May Your Holidays Be Warm and Bright

Happy Holidays from the Synergy Art Studio (work by Maggie O, Maggie M, Zoe, and Sahra)

One Minute in the Art Studio with the Star Room

If you don’t see the video (perhaps you are on a mobile device), click the link to the blog. I’ve been sharing short videos of art in action but am not sure everyone is able to view them. I notice the video doesn’t show up in my email.

Our kindergarteners are really into art class! Recently they have been learning how to make sculpture with cardboard and wire. Lots of energy and inspiration here!

Technology in the Art Room

Lila teaches Melisse how to add photos of her sculpture to her digital portfolio “Seesaw”
Dylan draws in an app called “Procreate”

Technology has an important place in the art room. It is used by contemporary artists either as a resource, a tool, or the art itself. The studio now has 10 iPad Pros to work with! Students are being introduced to searching for images using Safari and drawing in a program specifically designed for the iPad Pro.

Classes are also being introduced to digital portfolios. As they finish projects they can be photographed and documented in an app called Seesaw. It is easy to use and a fun way to collect their best work while taking home the original. If you are a parent, I will be posting links to Seesaw on ParentSquare so you can log into your child’s folder and see what they are doing in art class!

I am exploring other apps for stop motion, photography, and drawing. There is more to come and it is going to be really fun!

Share looks up images of Rudolph in a Safari image search
Maggie is exploring different types of “brushes” in Procreate

A Snapshot of 1st Grade Studio Art

Here is a little snippet from art class today. First grade has recently been introduced to paper and cardboard sculpture, using iPads for drawing, and wire sculpture. Everyone is doing their own thing. The children who are confident with the iPads are teaching their classmates new drawing tricks. They are so focused, engaged, inspired and happy! I love the creativity here and watching them work.


The Flipped Classroom

I’m experimenting with creating a “Flipped Classroom” approach for middle school. This means I will create instructional videos and post them to Haiku for the children to watch when they have time. To do this, I created a YouTube channel. Please check it out! My first video is about Watercolor Techniques. I was nervous and made some mistakes, but I live by the “Progress not perfection” motto.

Here is the YouTube Channel:

A Window into the TAB Art Room

Here is a little snippet from art class today. Yesterday I introduced making sculpture with cardboard to the sun room. Today I showed 3rd grade how to make sculptures with paper. Some of the 3rd graders chose to work on sculpture today, others were working on different projects. Check out how focused they are! This is what creativity looks like at Synergy!!!

What is a W.O.W.?

W.O.W. stands for Wonderful, Original, Work of Art.

The concept of the W.O.W. art project was created by 6-8th grade teacher Barbara Berry-Palm, of Maine Junior High. At the time, her 8th graders were struggling to produce work and the W.O.W. was created as a guideline for them. She shared her idea with other TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behavior) teachers and it stuck. Although I share the concept of the W.O.W. with all the Synergy students, it is most appropriately applied with middle school. This semester the 6th-8th grade children are expected to produce two W.O.W. pieces.

What is a W.O.W. piece? 

*Something the child has thought about

*Something the student spent several art periods working on (more than 2 or 3)

*Something the student has fixed or improved or perfected

*Something that looks ready to hang at school

*Something the student is proud of and shows their time and effort

*Something that took time

*Something that may have caused some frustration to create

*Something the student has shown to others and asked for their feedback

*Something framed with construction paper, a border, or a stand (3-D)

*Something that has substance, that the student can write about in an artist’s statement

*Something that came from the heart

*Something the student found satisfaction and interest in creating

*Something that might be repeated in a new way

*Something where space has been used well

*Something that other artists have noticed and asked the student about

*Something that has happened through experimentation

*Something the student has practiced for a long while (drawing, clay, printing, etc.)

What is NOT a W.O.W. piece?

*A quick experiment

*Playing with art materials (fun and important, but not a W.O.W. yet)

*Splatter painting (with nothing else)

*A collage without a focus

*A collage that isn’t glued down well

*A construction that looks sloppy or falls apart easily

*Something with smudges, rips, and torn parts (looks uncared for)

*Something that has too much empty space

*Something that has not been discussed with other artists (feedback)

*A traced drawing

*A magazine picture or photo copy glued to a page

I gave Synergy’s students a simplified version of what I stated above. I think it sums up the concept well:


Painting (K-8)

Star Room Sharing
That first stroke of the brush!
8th Grade Focus!
Tempera Cake Fun!

All the classes (with the exception of 4/5 who are making backdrops for their January play) are working on painting. The middle school watched a short video called “I Need Color” about actor Jim Carrey, who is also a painter. The children are learning to set up and clean up the paints on their own. The poster below lists they steps they follow. When cleaning up, they follow the steps backwards. Some skills and materials used for painting in the art studio are:

*Tempera cakes

*Watercolor pans

*Liquid tempera

*Liquid watercolor

*Wax resist




*Brush choice

*Set up/Clean up

Logan Making Orange
Painting is Extra Fun When Shared With a Friend
The Possibilities of Liquid Tempera

Art in Middle School

Collage and painting
Painting and sculpture
Collage and drawing

The middle school has had a great start to art this year! They have been working on drawing, collage, and now painting projects. A couple weeks ago I opened a Haiku account. I have been posting text references, videos, and photos of some of the things covered in class. The children can look there if they need a refresher. They are also expected to have two completed W.O.W.’s (Wonderful. Original. Work of Art) by the end of the year. If your child is in middle school, please remind them to check my art page.


New Work by the Star Room

Drawing by Viviana


Tempera Cake Painting by Audrey
Watercolor Painting by Pearl
Oil Pastel and Watercolor Painting by Jahan

After sitting down with the Sun and Rainbow Rooms to go through portfolios, I did the same with the Star Room. The children looked through the art they saved and picked out two finished pieces that they were proud of. I hung one piece by each student next to the Star Room. A few of the artworks are featured here. These pieces are focused on drawing, collage, and painting.

It was fascinating watching them choose their best work. If it were up to me, I would have chosen very differently. This takes me back to my blog post a few weeks ago about about talking to your child about their art. They were not thinking about adult aesthetics.  The children were choosing based on their growth as an artist, how much they enjoyed using the materials, a color they mixed, or success in drawing something new. One of the perks about this way of teaching is that the children can identify their own work on the wall and explain why and how they made it and what it means. Each work is unique coming from the heart and mind of the artist.

Tempera Cake Painting by Dashiell


Mixed Media by Eva


Paper Bag Puppet by Logan


Pencil and Oil Pastel Drawing by Koty

Collage (K-8)

Foam Shape Collage
Foam Shapes and Glitter Glue

All the classes have been introduced to collage! Most classes watched a short video about photo collage artist Amber Fletschock from Minnesota.It’s a great little video about how she finds her images, composes her works, and gets inspiration from nature. Some skills and materials used to collage in the art studio are:

*Starting with a “base”

*Tearing paper

*Cutting paper

*Using regular scissors

*Using scalloped scissors

*Using white Elmer’s glue

*Using glitter glue

*Using glue sticks

*Tissue paper layers with watered down glue

*Looking at shapes and texture

*Using paper crimpers

*Creating photo collage

*Making paper bag puppets

*Using stickers

*Using hole punches

*Using patterned paper, magazines, old books, maps, and foam shapes

*Using Exacto knives

All of the above were covered in K-8 classes to varying degrees of complexity and speed. Students learned that artists create mixed media pieces, combining various kinds of collage with drawing materials to make original works of art.

Collaborative Project; Cut Stencil Collage
Collaborative Project; Cut Out Figures


New Work by the Rainbow Room

Pen, Ink and Straw Blowing by Beck
Collage by Viena
Bat Puppet by Max I.

After sitting down with the Sun Room to go through portfolios last week, I did the same with the Rainbow Room. It was a good time to check in on what the children are working on and if they are leaving some of their W.O.W. (Wonderful, Original, Works of Art) pieces at school. I hung one piece by each student in the downstairs hallway. A few of the projects are featured here! These pieces are focused on drawing and collage.

Hearts by Tabitha
Snake Puppet by Max K.
Drawing by Camille

New Work by the Sun Room

It was so nice to have a helper for my Sun Room classes last Tuesday. It gave me a chance to sit down with each of the children and do a quick walk through their portfolio. Some had taken home most of their work and the portfolio was empty or almost empty, others had saved every piece of paper they drew on this year. I asked each artist to pick a work they feel is a W.O.W. (Wonderful, Original, Work of Art) so I could hang it up. Here is a selection of some of the chosen pieces. To see more, check out the bulletin board at the bottom of the back stairs. The work showcased includes drawing and collage media.

“Flying Pizzas” by Ivo (scratch art)
Tissue Collage by Kayla


“Banana Boy” by Brody
“Cyborg Frog Puppet” by Jasper


Photo Collage by India
Colored Pencil Drawing by Sophia

Drawing (K-8)

Drawing with Pen and Ink

I always like to start the school year with drawing. I think of drawing as the foundation of all art, no matter what the medium. It is important to draw. Lessons this year started with:

*all the ways to use a #2 pencil to draw

*colored pencils


*oil pastels

*drawing from life (I have some plastic animals for the children to draw)

*drawing from images (I have some “how to draw” books and books filled with images)

*markers (Crayola and Sharpie)


*texture plates



*pen and ink

*charcoal and chalk pastel


*scratch art (manufactured paper and homemade)

*oil pastel transfers


*using clipboards

*using magnifying lenses

All of the above were covered in K-8 classes to varying degrees of complexity and speed. Students learned that artists create from what they see, what they feel, what they imagine, and what they remember. As materials were introduced, the children chose their subject matter and materials. They are producing a huge variety of projects!

Drawing with Pastel


Talking to Your Child About Their Art

The artwork coming home is going to look different this year. For the younger students, it may be scribbles for a while! Many students are first experimenting with different art making materials. The depth of the work will increase over time. As they discover new techniques, students will no longer be afraid to take risks. Student creativity will evolve as they go through the learning process.

What can you do?

  • Be open to student art that looks different than what you are used to.
  • Ask the artist (student) questions like:
  1. What is this artwork about?
  2. Where did you get this idea?
  3. What inspired you?
  4. How did you make this?
  5. Why is this important to you?
  6. What was your favorite part of making this?

“Arts and music education programs are mandatory in countries that rank consistently among the highest for math and science test scores, like Japan, Hungary, and the Netherlands.” (Lessons from PISA for the United States, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education”, OECD Publishing, 2011)

What Happens in the Synergy Art Studio?

What Happens in the Synergy Art Studio?

I see all the students in 50-minute class periods. Kindergarten through grade three is twice a week, and fourth through eighth grade is once a week.

The minutes below are a rough estimation of how class time is spent:

3 Minutes       Students arrive to class and get settled

7 Minutes       Mini Lesson (Introduce a center, technique, studio habit, artist, style, process, etc)

30 Minutes    Art making, small group instruction, assessment, collaboration, conferencing
with teacher

5 Minutes       Clean Up

5 Minutes       Reflect, share, critique

Students create their own projects. For those who are stuck, I remind them that artists create art from what they see, what they remember, what they feel, and what they imagine. I am also working on a list of big ideas for the artists who are really blocked.

Max sharing his pigeon drawing!
Pigeons visiting the art room, charcoal on paper, by Max I.

Potential Centers:




Recycled Materials Sculpture


Print Making

Fiber Arts

Puppet Making

Book Making


Jewelry Making

Digital Art

Mask Making

And More…

Being that this is my first year introducing TAB, I don’t expect to open all the centers above. As students become more comfortable with the process and show success in taking out and returning materials in a neat and timely manner, more materials will become available. I am told it takes a couple years to achieve the ideal flow, engagement, and production of art. Knowing the Synergy students, they will probably be a little faster than average (in my humble opinion)!

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” (Albert Einstein)


The Eight Studio Habits of Mind

Over a decade ago, researchers Lois Hetland, Ellen Winner, Shirley Veenema and Kimberly M. Sheridan with Harvard’s “Project Zero” (an organization focused on studying and improving arts education) identified The Studio Habits of Mind. The research breaks down artistic practice into eight studio habits. By introducing the habits into the art room, students become more mindful about their practice.

I will be introducing the habits to the Synergy artists one at a time throughout the year. Middle school students will be using a rubric of the studio habits to reflect on their strengths as artists and look for ways to improve their practice.

1. Develop Craft

Improving your art skills through practice. Learning more about your art idea. Seeing connections between your art and the work of others. Learning to organize and care for your art materials, tools, and art making space.

*I can practice new art skills and techniques

*I can improve my existing skills and techniques

*I can experiment with new art materials

2. Engage and Persist

Focus on your work and stick with it, even when it gets hard.

*I can create art from sketch to final piece

*I can turn mistakes into new beginnings

*I can focus my attention on my artwork

*I can use my time in art productively

3. Envision

Picture ideas in your head plan the next steps in your mind as you work. Ask yourself: what will my art be about? What materials will I use? How big will it be? How long will it take?

*I can plan the next steps of my project

*I can generate ideas through sketches

*I can design and imagine what I hope to make.

4. Express

Learning to create works that convey an idea, feeling, or personal meaning. Your expression changes with your choice of: Ideas, Media, and Techniques.

*I can create art that tells a story

*I can create art that shows a mood

*I can explain why I made my art.

5. Observe

Taking time to notice details in your environment through sight, touch, taste, sound and smell.

*I can observe objects closely and draw what I see.

*I can identify shapes in objects and draw them

*I can draw from imagination. I can do this because I observe objects closely for details

*I can learn from other artist by looking closely at their art.

*I can look closely at the world around me.

6. Reflect

Looking back on the work you have done (may include talking and writing).

Ask yourself: What’s working and why? What’s not working? Why not? What can I add? What can I change? How can I challenge myself further?

*I can learn to talk about my art

*I can think about new things I discovered…

*I can look back and make changes and additions to my work

7. Stretch and Explore

Trying things that might be difficult and discovering new ideas and ways of working.

*I can use mistakes as an opportunity to learn.

*I can experiment with new materials and ideas.

*I can try new things.

8. Understand Art World

Learning about art history, see how contemporary artists make art, understand the roles of artists, galleries and museums.

*I can learn from other artists by looking closely at their art.

*I can interact as an artist with other artists.

*I can observe art from other cultures.

*I can create art inspired by other culture’s art.

“Here’s to the [creative] ones who see things differently. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” (Steve Jobs)

Official “Project Zero” website:

Buy a copy of “Studio Thinking 2”:

What is TAB?

Greetings and welcome to the 2017-2018 school year!

As a career educator, I am always pushing myself to learn more about the craft of teaching. Over the years I found myself wanting to give my students a more authentic and meaningful art experience, one that would not only build student creativity and confidence, but also help them build thinking skills that could be used in their future, regardless of if they go into an art career or not.

Drawing with the Rainbow Room

A year ago I discovered TAB in a presentation at the California Art Educators Conference. “Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) is a style of choice-based art education that focuses on the students, their interests, and their ideas. Students are viewed as authentic artists, and groups of materials are made available and introduced to the students one by one.” (Douglas & Jaquith, “Engaging Learners Through Artmaking”, 2009.) I immediately started reading every book and article I could on the pedagogy and experimented with implementing aspects of TAB in some of my classes. Over the summer I had the privilege of attending a week of TAB training at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. The authors of the TAB books as well as other experienced educators taught the class. It was by far the best teacher training I have ever attended. I came home filled with inspiration and ideas, ready to implement TAB at Synergy School.

Waiting for the T with my TAB classmates!

As a TAB art teacher my work is to guide students as they explore their artistic thoughts and abilities. They will work and grow at their own pace. I will introduce the students to art materials and techniques, as well as other artists in history. With TAB I will encourage them to look inward to give their artwork personal meaning and purpose. Students will be encouraged to challenge themselves by trying new things, and facing “mistakes” as learning opportunities. I will help them develop skills and abilities for the future.

Students Will:

*Express and explore their original thought and ideas

*Value and respect the thoughts and ideas of their peers

*Collaborate with peers

*Work independently

*Learn responsibility and time management

*Solve problems and ask questions

*Learn to research, plan, execute, and modify their art and ideas

*Experiment, invent, create, and learn through the use of art and art materials

*Learn from mistakes rather than fear them

*Overcome challenges

*Reflect on their work and learning process

*Grow as learners and thinkers

*Make choices about their artwork

*Think creativity

*Contribute to their school community

*Nurture their identity and voice

*Create and invent with a purpose

*Be acknowledged as artists

*And more…

Students Will Not:

*Create meaningless reproductions or copies of famous artworks

*Have their “neatness” or “craftsmanship” valued over their ideas

*Create things that have little or no meaning/purpose to them as artists and individuals

*Create nearly identical works as their peers

*Doubt their creative abilities

*Grow up to hate art

*Have a “free for all” or “just do whatever they want”

Drawing with the Sun Room

The Three Pillars of TAB:

  1. The student is the artist
  2. The art room is the child’s studio
  3. What do artist’s do?

TAB is a nationally recognized, choice-based (studio/learning) centers approach to teaching art. Choice-based teaching and learning delivers in-depth curriculum in the context of student-centered work. This art teaching concept allows curriculum to be presented in-depth within the context of work chosen by student artists. Given broad responsibilities and high standards, children are able to organize their reality into authentic images.

Children’s art is not adult art; therefore the aesthetic value that is placed upon children’s art should be focused on the learning that takes place. The authenticity is in the creative problem solving and intrinsic motivation that takes place within a choice-based model.

The stages of artistic development follow the same sequence for every student, yet they do not happen at the same age for everyone. TAB naturally differentiates learning, because students can learn and explore at their own pace.

I have a lot more to say of the subject of TAB and art education at Synergy, so I’m going to break up my thoughts into multiple blog posts. I hope you find this as helpful, interesting and inspiring as I do!

“Creative people invent, imagine, problem-solve, create, and communicate in fresh, new ways. Every business requires creative thinkers in the form of scientists, engineers, medical researchers, technology innovators, business entrepreneurs, artists, performers, writers and illustrators, designers, inventors, educators and parents. Those with the ability to “think outside the box” will lead the future and make special things happen.” (Crayola 2017)

For the Official TAB website, check out:

George shares his newest creation!

Middle School Curriculum Night

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to the 2017-2018 school year! I’m so happy to be here and teaching art to all the wonderful Synergy kids. Tonight I will be doing a 2 minute or less presentation about the art program at our middle school curriculum night. Because it is so short I have opted not to project my PowerPoint presentation. I’m posting my slide show here so you can see what I have worked on. Some exciting changes are happening to the program. I will be posting more information as I catch my breath with the always hectic start of school.  Please ask me questions! I love to talk about art education!  Click here:


Art to See This Summer

Happy Last Day of the 2016-2017 School Year!

Abstraction by Jemma

I always remind the children that if you go on a trip, make sure you check out any art museums where you go. Also, bring a sketchbook and camera. Whether you are visiting Paris, France or a local park, there are inspiring visuals everywhere.

Here are some wonderful exhibits to see right here in the Bay Area this summer:

SFMOMA, San Francisco

Edvard Munch – June 24 – October 9


DeYoung, San Francisco

Stuart Davis – April 1 – August 6


Legion of Honor, San Francisco

Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade – June 24 – September 24


Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

Flower Power – June 23 – October 1


Oakland Museum, Oakland

Roy De Forest – April 29 – August 20

Dorothea Lang – May 13 – August 13


Other museums:

MOAD, San Francisco

BAMPFA, Berkeley

Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford

San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose

Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento