The Art of Teaching

The Art of Teaching
Rain forest Collaboration

 "Art has the role in education of helping children become like themselves instead of more like everyone else."

I have been blessed for many years to teach art in many schools as a professional teaching artist. For my friends...that means I teach art and only art because that is my profession. I have no formal education in teaching...but I have had tons of professional development throughout the years.  (A lot with the Kennedy Center for the Arts, through the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge.)  

That being said, (or I believe) teaching is a gift I was given. It is very easy for me to break things down into understandable steps and sequences.  Then present this to my students (any age) and help them apply and retain this information. is creative...and say....Yeeessss. But there is a way to give knowledge, then let go and watch and see how it is applied. Art is the best for this... I give my students a bit of information.  Then I sit back and see how they assimilated it, what their brain does with it, and what they decide to present to me and the world with this bit of knowledge.  

The cumulative mural above is one of my favorite projects this year. Dr. Autrey and her students at Belfair Elementary in Baton Rouge are my helpers in this fun project.  I teach curriculum connected art to reinforce what the students are learning. So Dr. Autrey and I meet and discuss the coming curriculum and we pick something.

Rain forest was picked in January.  I decided we would do a project for each layer of the rain forest. We begin with the rain-forest floor and I picked beetles.


Aren't these great!  Happy smiling face.  (My students are ages 3-5. This is a Montessori school)

To begin with I do a little presentation on rain forest beetles and we look at colors and patterns and habitat. Then the given instruction is directional drawing...draw a large oval, draw a line in the middle of your oval from top to bottom, add a small circle to the top, etc etc. We had previously discussed patterns, and the students were asked to create a pattern on the beetle. This is where I let go, I might make suggestion in the application area...are you drawing thoughtful lines? Did you color that entire shape? etc.  But, I let them use what information I gave them and see what they come up with.  Its pretty amazing!  I am always so impressed, amused and captivated with what little children can do.


So our collaborative, cumulative mural started on the rain-forest floor with beetles.

Then the students read VERDI a book about a snake in the rain-forest.  We did Verde snakes...the snakes have a pattern but the biggest and most trying skill was the cutting of our snake.  (Scissors are a big skill when you are little.)  

Next we moved to the emergent layer and did some toucans.  This was watercolor painting of the bill and tail, and then following directions and sequence for putting our toucan together (pre-cut shapes by me).  

Our last part of the mural were watercolor flowers.  We read the book THE REASON FOR A FLOWER.  The children had started a garden by this time and were planting seeds and such, so this kept the lesson current and still connected to our rain-forest. These flowers took way longer than I thought, but mainly because this class LOVES to paint and really take their time.  

Dr. Autrey helped with creating the tree and the class painted the tree leaves during class time.  These murals make for a very fun hall, plus with the informational signs other students can learn a bit about what Dr. Autrey's class is studying.

Below I have included another cumulative project with Dr. Autrey and one from Magnolia Woods Elementary.


The class was learning about the Earth.  They learned earth, water, gas, and then plants, mammals, etc.  I connected with lines shapes and patterns and different stories that showcased each project.

The students at Magnolia Woods read the Gigantic Sweet Potato (illustrated by me) and then we worked together to create this 3-dimensional art.  The Gigantic Sweet Potato is about working together.

Students work hardest for teachers they like and respect. When I am asked, “How do I get students to like and respect me?” my immediate response is, “ Like and respect them first.”
— Dr. Debbie Silver in Education Week Teacher

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse inside a couple of the classrooms I visit.  You can contact me through my website with any questions about visits or lesson plans.  

Painting is my passion, but teaching is a gift given to me. 

Have a great day!