Inspiring children’s rooms

Published by Lori Pickert on September 20, 2008 at 09:07 PM


Inspiring children’s spaces, via mopu42. Featured room by Delson or Sherman Architects, New York.

Alice's field bag and pencil case

Published by Lori Pickert on April 19, 2008 at 09:23 PM


Check out Alice’s wonderful field bag and pencil case! More pictures on flickr!

And in case you missed it, the original project:

Make a field bag from recycled clothing

Project-based learning: A teacher’s perspective

Published by Lori Pickert on April 16, 2008 at 05:43 PM

My good friend Emily, who used to teach K-3rd at my tiny private school, left a great comment on my post Observational drawing: Where do we go from here?. It was so great, I’m going to reproduce it here in its entirety so more people can see it.

I know this comment is after-the-fact for this conversation, but I am a "late reader" and so I'm only seeing this for the first time.

As soon as I read your post, Lori, I knew I *had* to write a comment because I still think about all the wonderful things that happened during our instrument project. Learning the instrument families --- no! Becoming *experts* on instrument families, learning how sounds travels, making the ears, the "Keyboard Controversy," all of it was amazing. It's all become a magical memory for me. One that keeps me motivated to keep trying projects in a public school setting even if it is hard and sometimes frustrating. One that reminds me all that children are capable of --- so much more than I sometimes give them credit for. One that encourages me to challenge kids. One that makes me mourn the loss of that class, and the simple fact that my own son will not ever get to experience that moment with those circumstances. (Although I hope to recreate it for him at home.)

Thank you for giving me another moment to relive that year!

I also wanted to share another story related to the "keyboard controversy." As estea pointed out, the piano is a string instrument, and, of course, we knew that as well, but the PROCESS they took to learn that fact was much more worthwhile for them since they had to discover it on their own. They learned so much more than how to classify a piano. They learned that everything written in books isn't necessarily true, as you mentioned. They learned how to debate. They learned how to make hypotheses and conclusions. (In the end, they decided that a piano was, indeed, a string instrument, BUT an electronic keyboard was a percussion instrument since it doesn't have strings.)

The story I was thinking of happened about that same time. A child in the class became very interested in the Loch Ness Monster. He asked me if it was real, and, of course, I answered, "I don't know. Why don't you try to find out?" So, he did! He checked out books on the subject, interviewed his classmates to see what they thought, and we probably looked online for information too. And then all of sudden, one day, his interest was gone. *Poof!* No more discussions, no questions, nothing. When I asked him about it, he replied, "Oh, I asked my dad what he thought, and he said it wasn't real. So now I know." And just like that, he lost so many valuable learning opportunities.

And now I've rambled for long enough. Thank you again, Lori, for writing about this!

Emily, thank you so much for taking the time to share this.

Sharing our work

Published by Lori Pickert on March 27, 2008 at 08:46 PM



The marvelous Estea of Robot•Jumping•Rope shared these observational drawings her children did with the Camp Creek Art Lessons Flickr group. Fantastic!

Visiting the museum with children

Published by Lori Pickert on March 8, 2008 at 04:05 PM


This week I took my homeschool art class to the museum to draw.

We walked around and looked at some of the exhibits, then we headed for a part of the museum with a few large bronze sculptures that the children could touch.


We sat down and drew.


First: contour drawings. Choose a spot. This is your perspective. Draw your contour.


Contour drawing helps us slow down, pay attention to the way things really look, and gets our hand used to drawing what our eye sees.


When we had produced a contour drawing we were happy with, we moved on to doing an observational drawing.


The sculptures were very large. Some children drew the whole sculpture,

mu-j-sculpt.jpg mu-j-obs.jpg

but most concentrated on a particular part. It's best to start with your favorite detail and then, if you have time, you can sketch in the things around it.




My tips for visiting the museum with children:

Take your time.

Choose one spot to concentrate on and branch out from there if you have time. (Just like drawing!)

The experience is more important than how much of the museum you see. (Process over product!)

Be clear about the rules (no touching walls or artwork, etc.) — discuss them before you go, and take time before you start browsing to discuss them again.

Talk about what you see together! Model asking good questions, and model looking for answers. Wonder aloud. Read signs. Ask questions of the museum staff.

Prepare before the visit. Talk about what you might see. Wonder aloud together. You don't need to tell them everything — you can talk about it afterward, comparing their expectations to what really happened.

Bring a notebook and pencil, even if you aren't there to draw, for note-taking. Get your child in the habit of drawing and making notes about important things he or she sees — to share later with another parent or family member, perhaps. (Or your dog — dogs love art.) Even pre-readers can make notes that they will be able to refer to and "read back" later.

Pick up free brochures, exhibit cards, etc., at the desk for your child to add to her notebook later at home.

Talking about the visit beforehand, taking your time, taking notes, reliving it later at home — all of these things add up to a more fully realized, more meaningful experience that they will remember for a long time. Reflecting on the experience deepens their understanding and exponentially increases their learning.


My tips for drawing at the museum:

Pack light. Small bag with notebooks, pencils, enclosed pencil sharpeners, white erasers.

Choose your drawing spots carefully, to be out of the way yet not against a wall, with a good view of what the children want to draw.

If children will be sitting on the floor, make sure they can see their subject clearly from there.

Often the large, touchable sculptures are either in the entry, near the entry, or off in an alcove. Go to the front desk and ask if there are any large sculptures or other exhibits that can be touched.

Concentrate on plain pencil and paper. Later, after a good deal of drawing practice, consider adding colored pencils. (Color tends to distract when children are initially building their skills.)

Take photographs of what your child is drawing, from their perspective.

If you have been following along with these art lessons, try a contour drawing first. It can settle a child into working quietly and purposefully, and their observational drawings will reflect this preliminary attention to outlines.

Go back! As I've said before, there is beauty in repetition. If you make the museum a familiar place, it will be easier for your child to settle and enjoy drawing there rather than chomping at the bit to see more. Take your time and walk around for awhile before sitting to draw (and there will always be new exhibits, even if you've visited before). Don't be afraid to do the same thing over and over — it's how we grow.

Related stuff:

Art lesson: Observational Drawing

Benefits of observational drawing

Observational drawing with the young and/or reluctant: tips

Sharing our work: Observational drawings

Observational drawing: Where do we go from here

Art lesson: Blind-contour drawing

Art lesson: Contour drawing

Displaying children's art

Published by Lori Pickert on February 29, 2008 at 11:11 PM


My friend Jo asked me if I had anything to contribute to this delightful post at the Cookie Nesting blog on kids' art displays. I didn't manage to send her anything because I've been a little swamped.

(Also, when anyone asks me for something, instead of rifling through my photos and immediately sending something in, I tend to think "oh, that won't do .. I need to take new photos" and "I'll wait until the light is brighter" and etc. and etc.)

So, up above is my favorite way we displayed children's art at the T.P.S. — in a hanging room divider of plexiglass frames. These are two pieces of plexi sandwiched together with two pieces of art in the middle — so you can see something different on each side. We drilled holes in the corners and used circle clips to attach them together and make a huge display, but you could easily have the plexi cut smaller (they will cut it for you at the hardware store) and hang them singly or maybe three in a row vertically. A smaller version would look beautiful hanging in a window.

And here are some of my favorite kid art displays from my peeps:

Estea's houses on the windowsill, rickrack art line, and wire book/art display shelf.

Geninne's son Daniel's window art

Kajsa's beautiful kid art line in the kitchen

Eren's drying rack gallery display

And, technically this isn't kids' art, but what a great display idea:

Hannah's little brother's stop sign as magnet board (awesome!) (totally stealing this for the boys' rooms!)

Let me know if you have something cool to share!


Benefits of observational drawing

Published by Lori Pickert on February 13, 2008 at 01:33 PM


Besides the obvious benefit of learning how to draw, what are some other benefits of observational drawing with children?

• Slowing down, taking our time

• Learning to really see

• Noticing details

• Realizing improvement comes with practice

This is why a sketchbook is essential! Keep sketches together!

• Becoming comfortable with mistakes

• Becoming confident in attempting something new


Tomorrow I'm going to talk a little bit about working with mixed age groups. We have always taught classes with children ranging in age over several years; if you are teaching siblings you are probably doing the same thing. How do you address everyone's needs and make sure no one gets bored? It's not as hard as you think.

See Art Lesson: Observational Drawing