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







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

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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!

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Art Partners Finale

We finished up our time with our resident artist Donna Backues recently. It was an amazing few months, where every Friday Donna would come in and work with my 6th-7th grade studio art students (a pull out class for extra art). For 90 minutes each session, students worked intensively with Donna to complete a collaborative Batik piece, which is now on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until the end of January. In March it will be on display with the Young Artists show at the School District of Philadelphia’s headquarters at 440 N. Broad St.

The experience of working with a resident artist was fantastic and I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to bring this to my students. I am certain they learned a lot from Donna, as did I, and they gained a tremendous amount of creative growth from the experience.

We completed our time with Donna with a final trip to the PMA to see our work on display and to enjoy some lovely cake! Thank you Donna for all your hard work, and thank you Philadelphia Museum of Art for the experience. We are quite proud of the Nebinger art work on display!

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…

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I really like this photo 🙂


Lots of observational drawing and discussion on art

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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!

6th Grade Identity Silhouettes

I did this lesson last year at my old school. I adore this lesson, and I think the students are really into it for the most part.

I borrowed the lesson from this art teacher.

In my introduction at my previous school we talked in length about Archimboldo and Cara Walker. I also had the students complete a Venn diagram comparing two of the artists silhouette styles. Then I had students make a list of 30 things that represented them. I had a large example of my own that showed my silhouette as well as my list next to it. While they were making their list and sketching their images of the 30 things, I was furiously tracing their silhouettes.

At my previous school, I did the project with 3rd-5th graders and they were fantastic. I of course had to edit what I showed of Walker’s work, but that’s no big deal. We took the time to talk out our ideas, and for them to sketch everything out.

This year at my new school I had a student teacher and she took on the project. She edited the lesson a little bit to speed it along, which I understand, but ultimately, I think some students work suffered from that. These kids have never had art before and their confidence and skill is lacking in what the can do. I know my student teacher did not feel the project was a success. I think she felt the students were not ready for this level of work, but I think they were and are. They just needed a little more guidance. The above images are 3 of those 6th graders, granted they are the more talented ones, but still- pretty darn good. Just looking at those I wouldn’t call the project a failure. The other silhouettes were half finished or poorly filled in space. In retrospect, I should have given her more feedback on how she delivered that lesson. My bad. It was my first student teacher. Lesson learned all around right? Don’t get me wrong, she was fantastic! She did some wonderful lessons with my students, and hopefully we stay in touch.


It’s been a media filled year for me. 3 times, with an additional 4th slight reference as “the art teacher at Nebinger” in a New York Times article. (I’ll post the other media clips separately.) The image from above went viral for about a day and a half in Philadelphia and landed me an online article with Philly Magazine. http://www.phillymag.com/news/2015/06/12/philly-public-schools-duct-tape-wiffle-ball/

Kind of a crazy awesome year how it all worked out, and I hope I can keep up the momentum next year and the years following. 

As for this summer, I’d like to focus on writing some blog posts. Maybe one every other day. Writing about the lessons I taught, reflecting on how the year went, and talking about where I want my art class to go. Maybe throw in some other hot topic relevant issues in art ed too. 🙂 It’s good to have summer goals! I’m also trying to learn some Spanish this summer. Studying at least 20 minutes a day. I’ll let y’all know how that goes.

Moore College of Art and Design Seminar- Portal to reaching students with special needs

These are my notes and photos from an amazing seminar- I’ll try to flush them out eventually, but I’ve already waited to long to post this so here it is:

PETER GEISSER– artist and teacher of the deaf

Makes stained glass. With Mika Seeger makes murals- mosaic and stone. 
“Where have we come from? who are we? where are we going?” Mural made with kids…
“Real”- one word to describe teaching with the deaf. 
Stop doing harm!! Do No Harm! Be cautious. Don’t let the kids hate art because of you. 
Academic humility… You don’t necessarily need the money to get you the knowledge to teach your students.
Language is the challenge in deafness. Art is not a magically key. 
Connection in ability to see and connect in brain…houses in perspective example…
Nature of the learner (high variability) – individuality  based
Visual noise- hearing the art… 
Beverly Holden Johns 
Children with behavior problems are like a mystery and we have to become detectives…
-remaining calm in a crisis
-send a message that we are not afraid of them and that we are accepting of them so that we are not taken advantage of 
-clear expectations and structure- let them know exactly what is expected of them… Don’t change them!!! If you do explain why and how
-do what you say you will do and follow your expectations… Stick through it, stick with them and don’t lose their trust.
– never take good behavior for granted- reinforce it (Always!)
-monitor and actually reinforce it- have a system.
Art gives us the opportunity to reinforce them- 
Check yoself!
Resources utilized:
None of us ever have all the answers. Duh. 
We are all life long learners…
Julian Dorff
We are all special needs! 🙂
Universal design for learning… 
  Multiple means of reprsentation
  Multiple means of expression
  Multiple means of engagement 
The art room is designed for this!
Start by listening and watching- it takes time, which is a problem. We need to slow down and do some research first. 
We can’t base instruction on labels first- it needs to be on the student- we need to know The student. 
First strategy know the student.
Second root instruction in the lives of the students. Buy in to their lives
Third strong images- story telling. Pictures. Relatable and recognizable.
The strategies aren’t really unique just good teaching and designing a curriculum to meet the needs of students UDL
Exemplar approaches phamplet… Making the art room an accessible place (liesle)
The Kennedy center- VSA international art program teacher resource guide
Documentary- including Samuel 
Low Expectations… From paraprofessionals… Etc. give them a list of what your expectations are for them… 
Panel Q&A
Peter-challenge- someone saying a child can’t draw
Julie- out of the box… Role play. Relevancy and content to the lesson with the play. 
Beverly- tools… 5 tops strategies…build on strengths, start everyday with what the child does well and build with momentum for success, build choice-empower and teach them that they are in control of their destiny, build relationships, and attribute success to their efforts- let them know they are doing well because they are trying.
(Lynne) bad school- bad kids… No one is saying that- breaks heart to hear it said- …
Julie- art Ed associations help us grow in this field… Reigned teachers help. Paras can be helpful.
Peter- the student can be the resources themself. Ask them! What can I do to make this work?? 
Beverly- resources- council for exceptional children and behavioral disorders… Brainstorming for the problems with colleagues… Being on list serves and discussing and sharing ideas. Legislative- communicate with state policy makers! How it is impacting children in the classroom. 
Advocating for children with special needs
Julie- a situation close to home made her realize that teachers need more support and students need advocating for
Peter- “you’re a real artist” … A personal story… He can do it…he can teach them. We can…
Beverly- “Sally can” was 10 yo when she first came to school. she kept being sent home from school until the ADA act said she had to be in school. 
Richard- I gave him the space to succeed with the risk of failing. He was uncomfortable with his art even though his first few pieces were quite successful and I completely encouraged him along the way. After further encouragement from his classroom teacher he eventually came around. One day he came to me and apologized for being rude or something like that( I should have wrote it down then). The next day he came into my room and said to me that he would like me to know that I can hang up any of his art work now. Any of the projects. From here on out. 
It should be noted, that at the beginning of the school year his teacher thought that the class (all the students) were not capable of some of the higher level assignments I had. She told me their level was more on par with kindergarten even though their age is 8th grade. So not knowing the kids at all, I kept the first assignment simple but had high expectations. They all met them exceedingly. Every class I have raised the bar and they continue to meet my goals, sometimes through struggle but nonetheless we get there. The teacher is impressed. She says their art looks like work you would frame. I think her expectations were raised.
Making the art room meaningful and accessible for all learners
Round table discussion
Meaningful vs accessible 
Projects vs. creative activity
Elizabeth Gude 
Ways of seeing- John Berger