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Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. ~Twyla Tharp

Saturday, May 3, 2014

I can't believe it's May

Where did this school year go?  There are 39 (actual, including weekends and such) days left until the last day of the school year.  I haven't posted since the dreaded third quarter...the quarter that never was.  Between the snow days, regular days off and 2 hour delays/early releases because of weather it feels that nothing got accomplished.  The weeks between January and 4th quarter are usually the longest in all Teacherdom, but this year I think that time fell into a (polar) vortex.

Fourth quarter at my school is an interesting time for teachers in the Exploratory hallway.  Because we don't have many class offerings for our students, we generally have students this quarter that we have taught earlier in the year in some classes, classes of some kids we haven't seen yet, and a mix of the two in other classes.  We also have less time due to End-Of-Grade testing, which this year is happening later than ever-the last 2 weeks of the semester!  I always try to find fun and interesting things to do this quarter because I am getting bored to keep the kids excited and interested and to provide a little bit of relief from all of the intense test prep.

I decided to break out the paper making stuff this week.  I have 3 of these molds from Arnold Grummer that I have collected over the years.  They sit in my closet for years at a time until I work up the nerve to use them again.  I forget how much fun it is but truth be told, the students need to be more of the responsible, patient type.  You know I teach middle school, right?  Other supplies that I have collected to make the process easier are 3 blenders-2 from yard sales and one that I have had for years that won't even crush ice. Occasionally people will pop their heads in my room and give me the side-eye when the blenders are running.  Like I would make frozen-frosty-fruity drinks in my class.  During the school day.  With kids in the room.  Sheesh.  I have restaurant bus tubs, cookies sheets and fluffy old towels.  And irons.  Irons are very important because with just 45 minute classes and no where to dry the paper we need to be able to get the paper as close to dry as possible.  In fact, after I finish this post, I am going to head out to scout a few yard sales to see if I can find at least 2 more old but in working condition irons.  I might also head to Sam's club to purchase the Rowenta that I have been wanting and donate my cheapy iron to the cause.  Anything for my students, I say.

I start out the project by showing them a video of Arnold Grummer himself making paper.  Then, I pass around some homemade paper that a friend and retired CTE teacher got for me in Thailand when she went to visit her missionary son and his wife a few years back.  I encourage them to feel the texture of the paper and smell it and take it all in.  Then I show them another video, about how they make handmade paper from elephant poo.  In Thailand.  You can guess what happens next, right?  "MizzSmiff! You made us touch that!"  "Can I wash my hands?" "Ewwwwwwwwwww!"  Muwahahahaha.  What can I say?  It's been a long year.  The art teacher is evil. 

The next day, I go through the process with them and we make one piece of paper.  I let them get into their groups and I stress the safety issues with this project.  I worry about the hot irons, the sharp blades in the blenders, and the water on the floor.  They give me that preteen "OH MY GOSH!" look when I tell them to be careful of the irons and the cords and the slick floor, but I really do worry.  I don't want any of them getting hurt. I threaten them within an inch of their lives so that by the end of class they know that I am dead serious about their behavior and safety.  The next day, I just remind them of the steps and let them go.  Yesterday was the first day that they got to it.  My seventh graders did pretty well but I had to watch them like a hawk.  My sixth graders.  Oh! my wonderful sixth graders.  I really didn't even need to be in the room with them.  They were a well oiled machine.  I am so proud of them.  Sigh.  I'm a proud mama art teacher.  I'm going to try to take some video next week of them working and if I do and it is coherent, I'll post it here.  My 8th graders...well, one of my classes isn't doing this project and THEY KNOW WHY and my other class, which is wonderful, will get started on Monday because we are a day behind because of High School Cheerleading tryouts.  Priorities, people. 

Here are some pictures of the process:
Tearing up the paper before it goes in the blender

Blending the paper pulp

Preparing the frame

Dropping the frame in the water

Pouring the pulp

Leveling the frame. Clean as you go!

This is so much fun!

Working as a team

Getting the water out of the pulp is the most time consuming part


More sponging!

Using a brayer to press out the water

ShamWOWs are very absorbent

Ironing the paper to get it dry

More ironing



By the end of class, one or two kids had a dry, finished piece of paper.  This is going to be a lengthy project, especially since I PROMISED them that they all would have at least 2 pieces of paper.   We are going to use one piece of paper to make a cover for a book-a summer journal for them to fill up with pictures, thoughts and ideas over summer break and one for them just to have.

Here're a couple of finished pieces:
Patricia called this piece "Unicorn Barf".  I think that is because of the glitter. 

Hayden was so excited about his paper that he asked to go show his mom, who teaches 8th grade science.


Do you save any special projects that you save for the end of the year?  How do you deal with your own anxiety over safety issues in your classroom?  I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Until next time...