Art presents itself in so many different forms and can incorporate many different media. This became a challenge and opportunity for Canyon Creek Middle School 6th grade art teacher, Alice Yang, once schools closed and distance learning began.
“During our first week of distance learning in mid-April, students hadn’t gotten their art kits from me yet, so I had to come up with a project using household items,” Yang explained. “We started our unit by looking at some artists who use cardboard and paper as their medium. I uploaded a video that shows several ways of connecting cardboard, some that do not use glue. The assignment was very open-ended, to create a sculpture using cardboard or paper which they could paint or decorate as they wished.”
Projects submitted by students included a cuckoo clock, a Polaroid camera, shoes, and a boat. One project, created by Morgan Musser, stood out with its intricate detail and the spiraling form which gave it a sense of movement and realism.
“Morgan worked about six hours a day for this week-long assignment,” said Yang. “When we shared the projects during our weekly Zoom meeting, the other students were blown away. Some felt a bit down that theirs weren’t at the same level, so we stopped and talked about the danger of comparison and how everyone is good at something.”
“I was inspired by pictures of Chinese Dragons I viewed on the internet,” explained Musser. “I used tinfoil to make a form for the body, which I later learned from my art teacher is called armature.”
Musser further explained her process, that began by cutting out each individual scale from thin cardboard, empty waffle boxes, and hot glued them to the form. She used a thicker cardboard, from a shipping box, for the back spines, which also provided a different element of color. Then she cut different shapes for the face and pieced them together in a kind of puzzle and secured the pieces in place with hot glue. “My favorite element of this piece is the dragon’s face,” she said. “I was nervous about the final result, but it turned out better than I expected.”
Distance learning overall has been a challenge for Yang and all WSD art teachers. “Not having access to materials is the biggest roadblock,” she said. “I was able to put together an art kit for my 30 sixth-grade students containing a drawing kit, oil pastels, watercolor set, a sketchbook, glue stick, and an assortment of papers. They received these during their second week of remote classes.”
Art instruction is a feedback-driven process, Yang explained, saying it can be difficult for students to work in isolation without input from the teacher and peers. Access to the internet is also a driving factor in students’ ability to complete work. Most of the projects involve viewing videos in Google Classroom, and though all students have iPads, some don’t have the capability of using it for online work.
“I appreciate the time and effort students are putting in and am impressed with the work that is coming back,” Yang said, “However, I’m so ready to return to school!”