Alaska Days 1 & 2

I’m realizing it is very hard to blog while traveling. So I will do this the best I can!

We got in yesterday late afternoon. And though I love being somewhere new, I gotta say, Anchorage is probably not gonna make it on my “must visit again” list. It is quite possible that I am missing something, but I am honestly not blown away. That’s not to say that I’m not enjoying myself, because I definitely am. Just overall- anchorage feels a bit underwhelming.

Day 1:

  • Landed around 2pm
  • Hotel stay at The Aviator in Anchorage- I highly suggest you avoid this place at all costs!!!
  • Walked around a local weekend market right around the corner from the hotel with my pal Jes
  • Drank a beer from local brewery called 49th state and met a friendly local named Sunshine
  • Found a cute bar/restaurant called Tequila 61 and had a fancy yummy cocktail
  • Met our guide from Ruby Range- Adam Moore
  • Dinner at hotel- despite the accommodations lodging the fish and chips was pretty good
  • Passed out and slept like a rock with my face mask and ear plugs on

I began writing rhyming poems on the trip… Here is my first poem written about Sunshine:

Shining in his orange vest
Smiling larger than all the rest.
He's not shy, he'll come right up to you
You'll be confused, not sure what to do.
Engage in a little awkward conversation
Stay or leave? A contemplation.
Just as you decide to go
He stops because he wants you to know...
his number!

Day 2:

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • Went to Wells Fargo Alaskan Cultural Museum and met with Robyn and Megan of the Alaska Art Education Association
  • We got to actually touch historical artifacts!!!!
  • Drove to Alaskan Native Heritage Center and learned about the 5 different cultures of Alaska’s Native people and the different clans within them.
  • Viewed and explored different traditional dwellings of Alaska Native Peoples
  • Bought some souvenirs (Earings)
  • Went to the Alaskan Native Medical Center for their gift shop. It was very small and made me anxious so I did not really look around
  • Walked around downtown Anchorage some more. Still not impressed, but found a cute Oyster/Champagne bar called the Bubbly Mermaid and had both of those things.
  • Went to dinner at the Crow’s nest which had an amazing view but was overrated for food. Very expensive for food trying to act fancy. Would not suggest eating there. Go for a drink at most.
  • Went back to Tequila 61 for after dinner drinks.
  • Played floor is Lava with towels at The Aviator since the floor and carpet was so dang gross

Crystal Bridges Day 4

Today was a big story writing and story telling day. Not much in the way of pictures to go along with the stories so I will just throw some fun ones in at the end.

This post is just gonna be my 3 minute Art Education Advocacy story…

Allow me a moment to frame it. I teach in a district where we are referred to as “prep teachers”…by colleagues, by students, and sometimes (though not usually in mine) by administration. Even our union slips into that language. So all those folks would be my audience. And as you probably guessed, the core of my story is that I am not a prep teacher. And away we go!!

What’s in a name? 
What is my label?

I am an art educator. I teach my students about the visual arts and how to apply what they are learning in other classes. I teach divergent thinking in my art room and how to be creative problem solvers. I have created an art room where my students can learn about themselves, explore their ideas, and experiment with different mediums, themes and content. I am preparing them to be creative thinkers and innovators and to understand the visual culture they live in. But please don’t be mistaken by that. I am not a prep teacher. I am an art teacher. 

A teachers prep time is their time to prepare lessons, grade, organize, have a meeting or do whatever they need to do to be ready for their students. Art teachers have a preparation period also where we do such things- preparing paint, cutting paper, hanging art, assessing work, cleaning paint brushes, researching artists, and so much more (like this list could go on for a while y’all!). To me and many in my profession it feels like a misrepresentation to refer to art class as a prep class. It has the potential for misunderstandings. Knowing that students are sent to me under that false label and to hear a student refer to it as such or to call me a prep teacher can be soul crushing. I feel devalued and unimportant in the role of their education. “But Miss, it’s just my prep class- it doesn’t matter. I want to be a basketball player.” Teaching art is my passion and has always been. I want my colleagues and my students to see, feel, and hear that passion and understand what my label truly is.

You know how labels can share the fabric compositions and care instructions on the back? Well I’d like to share with y’all the fabric of my art room and the care I put into it to create a constructive, creative, and safe learning space.

My room is unapologetically colorful. It’s a space organized and dictated by colors that  create systems to help students understand the art room culture.With an art library bursting at the seems, my room invites students to learn through literacy if that is their strength. We sing songs about art and learn kinesthetically through dancing.  It’s a welcoming space filled with smiling students who are learning about our world through art and drawing conclusions on their relationship with that world, and how to build relationships with one another through collaboration. On a painting day, students can smell the tempera paint and are excited to experiment with mixing colors and explore color theory. My room is a place for all students to succeed in  ways that work best for them while making connections to their learning and to discover themselves.

So, what I’d like to do is switch the perspective…to shift the dialogue. To help folks understand what I do and what happens in the art room… That I am not a prep teacher, I am an art educator. As a community we can make this change. We can flip the label.

There ya have it folks. I even volunteered to be one of the people to read it to the whole group. It was nerve wracking, but I was so proud of what I accomplished and I had to share.

Now some fun pictures…

End of the Year! Me, oh my! The time sure did fly!

So, I did not post on this nearly as much as I intended to this year because everything just got so super busy. As I sit here at my desk, while all my regularly scheduled classes are on field trips, I silently agree with myself that now is a great time for a little reflection, with more to come later.

It’s been a rough but productive year. The district had some issues with the substitute teacher service they shelled money out for, and many teachers were called upon repeatedly for coverage. All across the district this was happening. Some teachers got it worse than others. Some principals would cancel entire classes or specials periods to have teachers cover. Naturally this was frustrating and exhausting for many, especially when there is still so much that is expected to get done by us, but that time to get it done is taken away. So that had a lot of people on edge, including myself. Anytime my room phone would ring, I cringed.

I stayed late many days to get caught up. And by the time I got home, I was pooped. Yet still, I had to summon up the energy to organize and plan meetings for the Philadelphia Art Teacher Alliance. It’s a labor of love, though. I love what I do, and I love being able to connect with other people who love art education as well- teachers or advocates.

I look forward to spending my third year in the same school and second year in the same room next school year. My rapport with students will have grown, and I will be more equipped to meet their needs artistically and expressively…more holistically all around too, really. Being in the same room, will allow me more time to focus on refining my lessons, and weeding out the not so great ones. I also hope for better camaraderie with my colleagues in the school building. I LOVE my basement room, but feel a little left out at times… I know… boo hoo, call the wambulance. But seriously, I want to connect with them more, and connect my art lessons to what they are doing in their classrooms more.

Consider this my summer to do list:

-blog/reflect on each lesson.

-write new lessons

-plan field trips

-plan locations for PATA meetings

-reach out to local artists to come into my classroom

-write DonorsChoose project for adaptive art materials and for printmaking supplies


-visual verbal journal everyday

-refine student self-assessment sheet- one for all to use…or maybe k-2 and 3-8

– think of more stuff to do







Collaboration is Key

On May 10th, I lead our 1/2 day teacher Professional Development, with support from the Philadelphia Collaborative Teacher Center. The plan was to create an activity for our staff to participate in directed towards improving school collaboration and culture, improving team building and strengthening community.

At first I struggled to come up with an idea. Whatever we decided to do, I wanted to be sure staff were collaborating, that they engaged in an arts based activity, and that they could be proud with the end results. Eventually, as I was walking in our quite bare stairwell, I had the thought of mural painting. But how could I create this for the staff to be successful?! Simple- geometric masking tape murals!

The 5'x5' area taped off and taped with paint and supplies in the box.

The 5’x5′ area taped off and taped with paint and supplies in the box.


I began by showing a super brief Power Point, showing examples of what masking tape murals look like, discussed how they should divide up their time, and ways in which they could create the geometric shapes. The presentation lasted at most 15 minutes. I wanted teachers to get painting as soon as possible. On each floor I taped off a 5’x5′ area in the stairwells. Staff worked together with all who worked on their floor level. I prepared and provided a tarp and plastic to protect the ground, masking tape (just the basic stuff here- not painters tape), paint, paintbrushes, mixing spoons, paper towels, a yard stick (in case they wanted to get technical), mixing cups, and buckets of water. Once they got to their painting station, they dove in.


It was so exciting to see all the staff’s creativity on display as they began to plan their designs.

Each floor’s design was so unique, and everyone seemed to work together smoothly to create a finished mural in under 2 hours!! 2 hours!!


I still have some touching up to do where the tape took a little of the wall with it, but that’ll be no biggie.

At the end of the day, after painting, I had teachers respond to at least 2 of 4 prompts I had posted. Here are some of my favorite takeaways:


The post it note post session prompts

Enjoyed about the PD:
“Everyone came together as one. Everyone’s idea and vision was respected.”
“Using creativity and we got to paint on the walls without fear.”
“Great way to collaborate.”
“The painting and a chance to be creative.”


How did you come together as a team?:
“Building off others’ ideas”
“We each expressed which design we liked best, which turned out to all be a radial style.”
“Randomly! We all pitched in. It was fun!”
“Some people created the design, others painted, and some procured support and music.”
How can collaboration strengthen or build professional relationships?
“We had to listen to each others opinions and feedback and take turns.”
“Allow others to shine in their place of strength”
“Collaboration is the key to completion of a project.”
“Finding common ground can help bond.”
“Collaboration builds communication.”

“Letting each other know their ideas are valuable by building a complete idea together.”

How can the PD inspire your work or teachings…?

“Find more ways to collaborate in my classroom.”

“Bringing fun back to learning without pressing to meet expectation.”

“Get another perspective from others.”

“Teach students to recognize opinions and differences. Be willing to work with others.”

“Thinking outside of the box.”

“Teach kids to collaborate and respect each other!”

“Putting together a fun activity to involve students.”

“Teamwork. Unity. Friendship.”
Lastly, a lasting effect the murals have had is the teachers actually using them to teach with!!! In the past week, I have seen at least two teachers using them. And that’s enough for me to call it a lasting success of collaboration, cross curricular connection, and school beautification! I overheard one of our Autistic Support classroom teachers having her students identify letters hidden in the first floor mural, and our 4th grade teacher had her students identifying all the polygons, tetrahedron, etc. She took the project even further and is having her students work collaboratively to create their own mini geometric tape designs!! Way to go Mrs. Austin!!! I love it! I can’t wait to see the final pieces!!



pARTners are making it happen!


Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with my pARTners* from Methacton High School. Mrs. Ferenchak & Ms. McCauely are the cosponsors of their NAHS and have worked with their students to help provide some supplies for the Nebinger art room. I am very grateful for their contribution! They plan to continue fundraising, which of course, I am continually grateful and super ecstatic for.

It was so nice to meet with the students and learn a little about them, all while enjoying my favorite bagel in the whole world at Panera Bread. I wish the seniors much luck in college!!

Sidenote- After we parted ways, I went to the Container Store…because it was right there…It was my first time. Oh. My. Gawd. I was in color coded organization heaven! Anyone who knows me well, knows I love to organize my art room. This place will break my wallet for sure. So many ways to organize!!

*pARTners is a pilot program started with the PAEA (Pennsylvania Art Education Association) and PATA (Philadelphia Art Teachers Alliance). This amazing program was developed by Robin Brewer to help support teachers in settings where they have little to know budget (such as the SDP). In this pilot program, teachers with a National Art Honors Society in the suburbs were paired with a teacher from the School District of Philadelphia who is also active in PATA.

Audubon to …Castle! James and James!

I audubon-cover.pngam so excited about this project. 4th graders were introduced to James Audubon and we have begun to read the picture about him written by Melissa Sweet. After choosing a photo of a bird they liked, they began to sketch the bird in their sketchbooks, and were introduced how to draw the birds beginning by looking for the shapes that make up the bird. To assist with that, students were given dry erase markers to trace the shapes on the laminated photograph. I think all their sketches are fantastic, especially so for kids who are drawing from observation for the first time ever! They were very apprehensive about their drawings, and I think a lot of their self esteem is low regarding their ability in art. But I truly believe they are doing awesome. And I told them that… but they were still hesitant to believe, and then I reminded them, that I would never lie about their art. I will always tell them what could be improved upon and how to do that. Those bird drawings are simply gorgeous to me. I hope they start to see that too. File_005

File_004 (1)File_003 (2)File_000 (3)File_002 (1)File_001 (1)

Next week we will use are drawings to cut out layers of bird shapes on card board to assemble a bird sculpture a la Jame Castle. I can’t wait to see how they turn out!

So many exciting things!

A lot is going on at Nebinger in the art world!


We had a fantastic field trip to the PMA…My middle school studio art students…

22827266361_3e726ae64b_o students-at-the-museum_22193205874_o students-at-the-museum_22193206784_o students-at-the-museum_22193211354_o students-at-the-museum_22194802483_o students-at-the-museum_22194802803_o students-at-the-museum_22194803943_o students-at-the-museum_22397577827_o

I really like this photo 🙂


Lots of observational drawing and discussion on art

students-at-the-museum_22423768809_o students-at-the-museum_22627944990_o students-at-the-museum_22627959010_o students-at-the-museum_22789950976_o students-at-the-museum_22802433222_o students-at-the-museum_22815938155_o

Here is a list poem the students collaborated on with our guide, Rebecca:

Three Musicians – How are there 4 People?
cold soulless eyes
a music book
a mask
3 people
different shapes
a band
it looks like they love music
a desk
hat and glasses
all different colors
stained glass
in the hallway
forest green
I see the light while they’re playing
Tiki guy
a bright smile

This group of students will have work on display at the PMA in January, as they are part of the Delphi Art Partners.

In addition to that, I went to Fresh Artists today and was pleased to see one of our students art on permanent display in their outdoor space. 🙂 The art to the right is Nebinger work! 🙂


Roy’s work, pictured above is also on display at the Comcast Building on Market Street. His classmate Robert also has a piece in that show! These kids get better art cred than me!

Art projects I would consider doing….

Other teachers, mostly in the Philadelphia area, are in these meetings and stuff that I go to. These are some of their projects. Some of the projects are also from district art shows and what not. I snap photos with my phone and sometimes it stays on my phone for I don’t know how long. Then sometimes I move them to my computer and there they stay for I don’t know how long. Maybe if I move some of those images to my blog I will comitt them to more of my memory and actually do them. I do also have my lesson matrix in front of me too… so I could jot a few of them down. That would be clever of me. 😉IMG_8207

I have been saving toilet paper rolls for a very long time now. I’m thinking 2nd grade. Toilet paper totem ainmals? Something like that??


I have a handout to go with this somewhere. Oh gosh, I hope I can find it… This one, if I recall, used the textures/patterns of different animals. But there was somekind of connection to the identity of the student… Gotta find that handout. I’d totally do this one with my 6th graders.

I remember the teacher said she used the crayola water color pencils on black paper with this. I have some of those, and they don’t work well as watercolor pencils, so totally gonna use them for this project. Thinking 7th grade. They love candy…so do I.


Cardboard birds! These were soooo cute! And cardboard is so easy to get at any school. Right??!! Right! 4th grade?


This was at the PAEA conference a few years ago… I have tons of paper bags, and need to do some puppet making with the wee ones, so yeah. This. I’ll do something with this…I will do this with kindergarten and 1st grade. Maybe animals for one and people for the other? OR fantasy animals for one and just forest animals for the other….

Now I know I had way more images. But I have no idea where I squirreled them away!! Ugh. I should have dealt with them immediately.

Where does the time go??

I had such great aspirations of writing a blog post every other day, but it’s just not happening right now… I am glad I moved my blog off of Tumblr. I hope WordPress proves to be better. At least now it will be easier to move it to blogspot/blogger (whatever it’s called now) if this doesn’t work out. I want to buy my domain, but I will wait to see if I like this host or not…Don’t know if that matters. Oh well.

Anyway, I wanted to write more and reflect on the lessons I did and write about the lessons I want to do, but frankly, there is just no time to do that. I am really gonna have to shove my ideas together last minute like I always do. And somehow, like always, everything comes together and works out. So with this post I will share some photos of a few projects we did this year. Let me go ahead and upload them, and maybe I will talk about whether or not I liked the project and if we will do it again. 🙂

5th grade name mandala- marker

5th grade name mandala- marker

1st grade Pop Art, Jasper Johns inspired Name Design- crayon resist

1st grade Pop Art, Jasper Johns inspired Name Design- crayon resist

2nd grade, black glue line flower still lif- crayon resist

2nd grade, black glue line flower still lif- crayon resist

Kindergarten, paper roller coaster sculptures

Kindergarten, paper roller coaster sculptures

Kindergarten, Eric Carle inspired painted paper and cut paper collage- tempera paint

Kindergarten, Eric Carle inspired painted paper and cut paper collage- tempera paint

Kindergarten, Van Gogh inspired sunflowers- Oil pastel with water color

Kindergarten, Van Gogh inspired sunflowers- Oil pastel with water color

1st grade symmetrical masks inspired by Tribal African Masks- cut paper

1st grade symmetrical masks inspired by Tribal African Masks- cut paper

1st grade Modigliani portraits- oil pastel

1st grade Modigliani portraits- oil pastel

6th grade- surreal 1pt perspective bedrooms- color pencil

6th grade- surreal 1pt perspective bedrooms- color pencil

7th grade- Op art color wheel- color pencil

7th grade- Op art color wheel- color pencil

7th grade-

7th grade- “All about me”- water color

Flowers traced on plexi with sharpie painted with acrylic....(student teacher taught lesson)

Flowers traced on plexi with sharpie painted with acrylic….(student teacher taught lesson)


8th grade, Matisse inspired- cut paper

4th grade- Stacked name design- markers

4th grade- Stacked name design- markers

4th grade- op art inspired hand design- color pencil

4th grade- op art inspired hand design- color pencil

kindergarten- circles and loops- crayons

kindergarten- circles and loops- crayons

Kindergarten- Robert Frost poem inspired image...Cut/torn/painted paper

Kindergarten- Robert Frost poem inspired image…Cut/torn/painted paper

Kindergarten- gyotaku printing and bubble wrap printing- tempera paint

Kindergarten- gyotaku printing and bubble wrap printing- tempera paint

1st grade- glue line pumpkin drawing- chalk

1st grade- glue line pumpkin drawing- chalk

kindergarten- Mondrian inspired- crayon

kindergarten- Mondrian inspired- crayon

3rd grade- Kandinsky inspired composition- tempera paint

3rd grade- Kandinsky inspired composition- tempera paint

4th grade- Adaptive art lesson for Autistic Support student

4th grade- Adaptive art lesson for Autistic Support student

Okay… so I am realizing I have way more images of the kindergarten work. Let me explain. One of the kindergarten classes got to take art twice. Lucky them! We have art on rotation at my school. Quarterly that is- every quarter I get a new group, and sometimes it just works out that a class will get to repeat a special. So not only did kindergarten get to repeat art but they also tend to move through the projects super duper fast, hence lots of kinder art up above. I realize a goal of mine is to get them to be a little more thoughtful, but also to try and expose the other grades to more art without harming the process of their working habits and flow. There was some sculptural work done this year too. My student teacher did it, but I realize I did not take photos with my personal camera. They are on artsonia. BUT, that too is a goal of mine- to get more 3-dimensional work in each class and grade level. I was very apprehensive this year due to space limitations (storage), resources, not knowing the students and their abilities, and room climate, but this year will be different. Not everyone will be working in clay, and those who get clay won’t even be working in “real” clay, but still they will be exposed to the basics. So yeah. Good to have goals….let’s hope I can realize them. So dang ambitious. Ugh. Gives me anxiety.

Alright now. Looking at these projects… right off the bat- not doing the Kandinsky one again, unless I find a better version of it. I just don’t get enough of the students’ voice in it. Maybe we could do a mini version of it to learn about him and the elements of art, but I refuse to spend the time we did on those pieces to get such mechanical reproductions. I want to see more expressive work coming from my little darlins. On that note, as hypocritical as it sounds, I will keep my Mondrian, simply because it is an easy and fail safe project to do with the younger ones especially when teaching the primary colors. There are lots of other ways to do the Mondrian lesson though, and I may explore those options…

The “All about me Lesson” I borrowed from a friend. I loved the idea of it for the past two years, but I think I am done with it now. I may adapt it to something new… maybe. I’m not sure yet. I last used it to teach 8 different watercolor techniques to my 8th graders. Might try something with that, do away with the analogous color scheme, because frankly, they are still just grasping what the elements are and how to use the color wheel (last year was their very first year having art). So, yeah, baby steps.

I will still do Op art, maybe not the same ones, but the kids love those lessons. I know I need to scaffold the instructions better for all learners though. More goals. lol.

I’m keeping everything else. A few edits here and there of course as any good teacher would do. 🙂 I look forward to adding a lot more lessons and stressing myself out to the nth degree with all the extra work I will be giving myself. But I am sure the students will make some awesome stuff. Check in with me in a few months and see how I feel about it then. haha.

Art of Education online conference and swag

 Last week I attended an online art ed conference hosted by The Art of Education. I registered early for $89 bucks, so I got that sweet swag you see above, as well as some digital swag including handouts and some discounts at some decent retailers like Blick art and a great discount to Arts and Activity magazine which I will be taking advantage of!

I truly enjoyed the convenience of doing a PD and conference from home at my computer, and I also enjoyed the format in which they chose to present the information. Doing short TED-like talks was a great way to deliver a lot of info in a little time, and we all have the ‘afterpass‘ to revisit the information AND the presenters put up additional information as well! Sooooo, if we need more, we can get more. Great!

I will say one thing I would have like to had beforehand would have been some of their handouts. I’m the type of gal who likes to follow along with the handouts when someone references them, so I felt a little wobbly at times- but really it was not that big of a deal due to the speed of the presentations. I probably would have been wobbly regardless. Ha! Drink your coffee woman and keep up! 😉

Well as far as the swag goes, I am most excited about the stuff Blick Art gave us. They also did a lesson on it during the conference. Basically it is this lesson on the golden ratio, incorporating math (geometry) real hardcore like. It can be taken down a few notches for the youngsters, but I like the idea of using this for my older kiddos. It uses Roylco tissue circles (which I will be buying out of pocket due to no budget), gridded paper, and glue sticks. I am excited to give it a whirl, especially with my handicap in mathematics… this should be interesting… haha.

Anyway, I am glad I gave the AOE conference a shot this summer. Can’t wait for the winter one! And then the next summer one, and then the next winter one! … Gues I always have PAEA and NAEA conferences to hold me over too. 😉