Mask Day

Our fifth graders are starting their mask unit, just in time for Halloween. We kicked off the project with ‘Mask Day’: the kids tried on my entire international mask collection, plus an assortment of  student-made masks.

I placed masks on all the tables and the kids rotated through. To keep the students even more engaged, I asked them to guess which materials were used to make the various masks. It turns out the hardest to identify were 1) the bark cloth on the Peruvian jaguar mask and 2) the coconuts on the round Indonesian masks.


We are now building our own plaster masks.  You can see last year’s mask-making process and final results in this post, this post and this post. Kids look forward to this project for years – it is messy but so totally worth it. Stay tuned for updates!

Kindergarten Birthday Cake

We all know kindergarteners love birthday parties. Cake, presents, decorations – what’s not to love? So it was no surprise that this  birthday cake art project was super-popular with the kinders.

Day 1:

Kindergartens started by viewing my birthday cake powerpoint  (note: if art class is before lunch your students will say they are hungry!). We discussed the lines and shapes we saw on the cakes, and in the frosting and decorations.

Cake drawing emphasizes lines and shapes.

Kinders drew the cakes with crayon. I emphasized that they didn’t have to color the large areas with crayon because we would paint the cakes next week. However, they should use crayon to color in the small areas such as candles, flames, balloons, numbers, etc.

Day 2:

We added cut paper birthday gifts with glue stick, then painted with regular and metallic pan watercolors.

Kindergarteners painted their crayon drawings with regular and metallic pan watercolors. Allow two 40-minute sessions.

Completed birthday cakes:

This would be a great end-of-the-year lesson to celebrate all the ‘summer’ birthdays that occur when school is out of session. This could also be a nice project for a Wayne Thiebaud lesson.

How about adding a book to the project? When I was little, Dr. Seuss’ Happy Birthday to You! was one of my favorite books and I still remember reading it on my 6th birthday (I also remember Baskin-Robbins clown cones plopping all over the back yard at the birthday party, but that is another story).

I’d love your suggestions on a book to read along with this project.

Do you have a special birthday-themed book for primary students?


Best. Conference. Ever.

What makes a good conference? Great workshops and networking, of course. Hold it in a drop dead AMAZING setting like San Diego’s New Children’s Museum (NCM) and you have a home run hit! San Diego Art Education Association held its first annual Visual Arts Educators Conference this month at the museum. After introductions by energetic new SDAEA president Ron Jessee and a keynote address, Tomoko Kuta, NCM’s Director of Education & Exhibitions, took us on a tour.

The New Children’s Museum is one of the only children’s museum in the United States dedicated to commissioning artists to create site-specific works for a youth audience.

Staff held a kiddie yoga class under this Layer sculpture the day we visited.

Jason Rogene’s sculpture/light fixture made of styrofoam packaging.

Jason Rogenes’ Megalitransponder includes kiddie climbing wall topped with cardboard installation.

I got to attend three workshops, all tied in to NCM’s current exhibition, TRASH. They were held in the museum’s art education studios.

  • ’30-minute’ collograph printmaking with the museum’s art educator, Maxi Moraga
  • sculpture/drawing project based on the art of Peter Opheim by fellow San Diego elementary art teacher and blogger Don Masse of Zamorano Arts Academy
  • cardboard climbing squares group sculpture based on Charles and Ray Eames’ House of Cards, again by Maxi Moraga

Maxi Moraga leads collograph workshop.

Collograph print. No press required!

Sculpt/draw with Don Masse. I really admired this project when I first read it on his blog. So thrilled to try it out myself!!

Starting point for the house of cards sculpture. We collaged/painted our pieces, then assembled. This would be a great whole class or whole grade project.

As if all this wasn’t enough, we had a fabulous lunch from Urbane Cafe, gift bags with goodies from Blick and Artists and Craftsmen and a raffle with prizes donated by Blick, A&C and area education and arts organizations.  I won tickets to the City Ballet! Thanks also to local arts advocacy group art pulse.

A lot of foks in SDAEA, SD County Office of Education and NCM put together this amazing event. Thanks so much for a perfect day.

Like I said:


 UPDATE: San Diego County art educators: check out our new SDCAEA Facebook page!

Embossed Foil Name Art

Sixth grade just finished their sparkling foil name art projects.


  • cardboard
  • yarn
  • scissors
  • white glue (such as Elmer’s)
  • foil (I love Pre cut foil sheets >)
  • Sharpies or other permanent marker, black and colored
  • spray glue
  • small squares of felt
  • q-tips
  • pencil/erasers
Students began by writing their names in pencil on cardboard. They traced their names in glue, then yarn.

Students write their names in glue and yarn.

Next they added decorative glue/yarn lines. I sprayed the plates with spray glue and slapped on a piece of pre-cut foil.

Students carefully polished the foil with felt squares. This helps the foil adhere to the cardboard and smooths the foil. A q-tip is good for polishing tight areas. Finally, they got to the best part: coloring in with jewel-tone colored Sharpies. Black sharpie looks good too! Remind students to avoid coloring the raised yarn lines.





This project was inspired by this post at Fine Lines and this post at We Heart Art.

Chalk Pastels: To Spray or Not to Spray?

I love the look of chalk pastels on black paper. Here are our  chalk pastel planets from this post on Art Projects for Kids. Gorgeous colors, but so messy. I sprayed them with hair spray.

Chalk pastel planets before fixative

Chalk pastel planets after fixative spray

Yep! They are significantly dulled down. Hair spray is cheap, fixes the pastel and doesn’t smell like a toxic chemical. But…I wish I could maintain those bright colors. I know some teachers skip the spray and store the art between sheets of paper. Any suggestions?

Do you spray your students’ pastel artworks?

Can you recommend a good fixative for chalk pastel?

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