Monday, April 3, 2017

Maasai Project and Sabore's Well


Three years ago, when our current 8th grade class was in the 5th grade, I did a Maasai-based art project with them.  We learned a little about the Maasai culture and created these beautiful and colorful works of art.

I posted a picture of a few of the projects on my Facebook page and later that day a teacher friend of mine responded that it was such a coincidence as in a few weeks a Maasai warrior and tribal elder by the name of Sabore Ole Oyie was going to be visiting her school to talk to the students.  She wanted to know if I would be interested in connecting with him to have him come to talk to the students at SFC.  I jumped at the opportunity and a few weeks later Sabore was at SFC visiting the 5th grade class to talk to them about his culture and a project that he was working on that was near and dear to his heart (more on that in a bit).

Sabore did not come alone.  He came to the school with a woman by the name of Therese Hjelm.  They both work together to raise funds and awareness for a project known as "Sabore's Well."  When Therese came into my classroom and saw the students Maasai project, she fell in love with them and asked if they could take them back to Kenya and use them as artworks in the hallways of the new school they would be building in Sabore's village.  With the excitement and approval of the kids, we gave them their projects and soon they were on a jet plane to Kenya.

Presenting Sabore with an artwork of his very own! 
Sabore showing the students how the warriors can jump.

Since this time, I have stayed in contact with both Therese and Sabore.

Sabore (middle), Therese (right)


Together, Sabore and Therese, have created an organization that brings wells to the Maasai villages in Kenya.  Without wells, women and girls have to walk miles each day to fetch water to bring back to their villages.  It is an arduous task, that can be dangerous with the amount of wild life on their journey.  It also prevents girls from going to school as they don't have time to attend if they spend the majority of their day fetching water.  Sabore and Therese have begun to change this.  They are raising awareness and money to drill wells in these villages as a way to empower the women of the Maasai.  Coinciding with this, they are also in works to create a school in Sabore's village.  Their work is nothing short of remarkable.

When the drill first hit water!!!

Women in Sabore's village collecting water from the well for the first time!

As I began to put together the lesson for the 5th grade class, I went to the Sabore's Well website to look at the current updates on their project.  When the home page loaded,  my heart leapt into my throat.  There on the front page was an artists rendering of the new school that they are going to build in Sabore's village and on the walls in the front of the classroom was the artists rendering of the 5th grade (current 8th grade) class' artworks.  It was amazing to see. See here: Half-way around the world in a small village in Kenya, the students artwork will be hanging.  I could not wait to share this with my students.


In preparation for presenting students with my slideshow on the Maasai, I wanted to find some experts for them to read and I stumbled upon the book, "A Long Walk to Water."  I ordered it and read it in a day (it's a very short book).  I immediately called Mrs. Behrens (5B homeroom teacher) and told her about my discovery and if there was anyway we could collaborate and bring a whole unit to the 5th grade class.  If anyone knows Mrs. Behrens, you will know two things:  She immediately said yes.  And by the next day she had a whole entire unit planned and ready to go for the 5th graders.  She has some amazing things planned for the 5th grade class in the weeks ahead.  I have no doubt that the 5th graders are going to learn so much about the world and themselves in the weeks to come.

Last week, after my presentation on the Maasai, the students had a million questions and we wrote them down on the board.  I told them that I would forward these questions on to Sabore and he would answer them for us (as he told me ahead of time that he would).  Today, while in class with the 5th graders, my phone buzzed and the screen lit up with a picture of Sabore with the message:  "Jambo!"  (meaning hello).  I could not believe the timing.  I told them that I was in class with my 5th grade students and he said, "Let them ask questions to me now."  The students could not believe it!  Here we were half-way around the world conversing by phone through voice/text messaages with a Maasai warrior and elder!!!  The students were soooo excited!  Sabore was kind enough to stay available to do the same thing when the other 5th grade class arrived in my room 20 minutes later.

Sabore and Therese are planning to visit SFC next November when Sabore is back in the United States.  I  have promised the 5th graders that even though they will be in 6th grade by then that I would include them in the discussion with Sabore next year.

I will continue to update you on our journey, as I am sure Mrs. Behrens will do as well.  I encourage all of you to read more about Sabore and Therese and their organization by visiting their website:

If you would like to donate to their amazing organization, you can do so here:

Monday, March 27, 2017

Project Updates: Week of March 27th

4th Grade:

Students are beginning work on s spring themed project that involves drawing a large flower pot with flowers, in pencil and then in sharpie, and then "painting" bleeding tissue paper on top of their drawings.  When they paint on the tissue paper with glue, the moisture of the glue turns the tissue paper almost into watercolor and the color then spreads onto the paper.  We are in the beginning stages of this project.  Here is a glance:

7th Graders:

Students are beginning a project titled, "If Picasso Drew A...."  They must draw a cartoon-inspired character as if Picasso drew it.  The goal is for the viewer to know two things, who their character is and that it was drawn like Picasso.  We studied the style of Picasso when it comes to his style of portraiture.  They are using some of these characteristics to transform their characters.  Sneak peek:

8th Graders:

Favela project is almost complete.  A few students have a few finishing touches to add to their favela piece but here is the almost completed and installed Brazilian Favela.  If you would like a closer look at all of the details, you will find this installation in the Elementary School hallway in the small hallway heading outside by the 5th grade classrooms.  The favelas were made completely out of recycled and found materials.  I just sent these pictures to the artist that we were working with, Mr. Eric Cremers (see past posts for more information about him and his art work) and we are anxiously awaiting his response.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Happy First Day of Spring! 5th Grade Flower Vases

The halls will soon be adorned with these beautiful works of art.  5th graders worked hard to create beautiful patterned backgrounds, shaded flower pots, and flowers made out of both paper and model magic clay (which were then painted).  The results are simply beautiful.

Happy First Day of Spring!!!!

8th Grade Felt Project

We are leaving the felt project as a surprise.  Pictures to follow when we are all done.  But here is a sneak preview of art room shenanigans.

This is what happens when 8th grade boys find the box full of felt.  Little Babushkas came to class today.  I love my job!  These kids make me laugh all of the time.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Grids, Grids, Grids

6th graders are beginning work this week on learning how to use a grid in art.  Once the grids are completed, students will be recreating and enlarging a self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh....the catch....they will be drawing with the picture upside down!!!

Drawing with the image upside down, intuitively sounds like it would be harder, but it actually makes it easier to draw.  It forces the mind to not look at the objects as what they are (eyes, mouth, nose, etc...) but forces the mind to look at the lines and proportions of the picture.  Often when we draw a picture of something as we see it, our minds (from habit) tries to draw what we assume to be there... what an eye looks like vs. what we ACTUALLY see on the page.  Drawing upside down, stops the mind from making these assumptions and makes the drawings more accurate.

This project will take us many weeks to complete.  It is a time-consuming project but the results are always stunning.  As a teacher it is exciting to see the progress of students who at the beginning of the project say, "I can't draw that" and then later stare in amazement at what they have created at the end of the project.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Murals for Installation Artwork

6th graders (early finishers) are helping create the backdrop to the 8th grade favela installation project.  These murals will hang behind the favela installation that will hang in the hallway near the 5th grade classrooms.  The installation will begin in the next 2-3 weeks. 

Here is the work in-progress:

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Few Completed 8th Grade Favelas.....sneak peak...

I can not wait until all of the 8th graders are complete so we can being the installation process to create one huge Brazilian favela.  The details and creativity the students are putting into their artworks exceed all of my expectations!!!!!  Students are taking materials, as Mr. Cremers suggested, and transforming them.  They are paying attention to such intricate details that can only be appreciated by seeing them in person.  It should take us a few more weeks to completed these. 

Story Quilts

6th graders were introduced to the use of quilt making to tell stories.  We looked at the artworks (and a video clip) of Faith Ringold, an artist who uses the art of quilt-making to tell stories about her childhood.  Most people recognize the work of Faith Ringold from her book Tar Beach, which was based on one of her story quilts.

We also looked at the use of quilts in American history.  How quilts were used not only to tell stories but also their historical importance and use on the underground railroad.  We looked at how symbols were used within a quilt to give "clues" or "ques" while hanging on a fence or a laundry line to those on the underground railroad of where to travel next or where the next safe house was located.  

For our project, students were asked to think of a moment in their life that was significant to them.  A memory that they would hold on to for the majority of their life.  They were instructed to take this moment and represent it in an image.  Using water-soluble pastels, students drew this on their fabric and use water and paintbrushes to create a watercolor effect on their cloth.  These were then mounted onto a blue felt background and fabric swatches as well as swatches that that they created were added along the border much like the work of Faith Ringold.  Here are some of projects being created: