Bannockburn Christian Academy - Austin Texas Private School

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What Catches Your Eye?

The Elements and Principles of Art are words that we use to describe and talk about art. Many of us are familiar with these terms, (like value, space, shape, balance) but may not know how they apply in the art room. As the school year progresses I have found that students are grasping a good understanding of most of these terms but not all. To that end I would like to discuss the term “emphasis”.

Emphasis refers to the place in an artwork where your eye first lands. It might be the swirling moon in van Gogh’s “Starry Night” or the setting sun in Joseph Mallord William Turner’s “Yacht Approaching the Coast”. The artist has purposefully moved your eyes to a specific area or areas.

Ask your young artist if they can find an example of emphasis in a painting, photograph or sculpture in your home and see the world through their eyes. 

Van Gogh's Starry Night - Engage Your Young Artist by Asking Them to Identify Emphasis In the Artwork that Surrounds Them

Van Gogh’s Starry Night – Engage Your Young Artist by Asking Them to Identify Emphasis In the Artwork that Surrounds Them

Rene Santoro, Art Director

Our Latest STEM/STEAM Activity

Many studies have found that current graduates are lacking the essential skills they need to problem solve. For this reason, there has been a large push to incorporate more “STEAM” activities in our classrooms. As many of you know, S.T.E.A.M stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math.

According to the article found in “Education Week” titled: STEM vs. STEAM do the arts really belong? They referenced a 2014 study published by the America Society for Engineering Education identifying several characteristics of quality STEM programs:

  1. The context is motivating, engaging, and real-world.
  2. Students integrate and apply meaningful and important mathematics and science content.
  3. Teaching methods are inquiry-based and student-centered.
  4. Students engage in solving engineering challenges using an engineering design process.
  5. Teamwork and communications are a major focus. Throughout the program, students have the freedom to think critically, creatively, and innovatively, as well as opportunities to fail and try again in safe environments.

However, there has now been a push to incorporate “art” into the acronym. (I am all for this!) In fact, just this past week my class completed our first STEAM activity of the year and it was a HUGE success. We have been studying the “temperate deciduous” forest and as a way to incorporate STEM/STEAM into my classroom, we dedicated the day Friday to creating a 3-D forest. My students planned the whole entire forest. I brought in the top of a very large box and my students collaborated about how they should make our forest and what they wanted to add to it. During our guided reading center rotations, instead of reading on Friday my groups looked closely at our forest books and created each area of our forest.

The first group created the “forest floor.” They mixed their perfect shades of green and decided that they needed to add a stream so that the forest animals had water to drink.

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After they finished the forest floor, we regrouped on the carpet. The forest floor “team” explained their thought process to the class and the class applauded their efforts. Then the second group was up. Their job was to paint and design the sky. They decided that it was a beautiful day and that their blue had to be lighter than the stream.

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Again, we regrouped and the “sky team” explained the work that they added to our forest. The next group’s job was to paint and create the trees. We used recycled toilet paper and paper towel rolls for this. The group looked through a few of our forest books and wanted to add “Oak, Maple, and Birch” trees to the forest.

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As we waited for the paint to dry, we read another forest book and the class decided that the forest was an autumn forest and that the leaves on the trees should be red, green, yellow, and orange. Each child created their own foliage by drawing, cutting, and painting it.

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Then each child came up to our forest box and showed me where to place their tree trunk. (I glued the trees in place using a hot glue gun.) The though process of each added tree was remarkable. My students said things like, “I think all the Birch trees should be together.”


“This tree needs to go right here because a forest is a place where trees grow close together.”


“The tree with the owl hole needs to go here so the owl can listen for her prey!”


“This oak tree will drop acorns for the squirrels to eat!”


My students worked SO nicely together during this process and were so very proud of their hard work. In fact, at the end of the day our principal came in and my class proudly explained our forest to her. She was more than impressed when they told her they made a “deciduous forest in the fall.” She asked them great questions and each child was able to answer and explain our collaborative thought process. In fact, at the end of the day, many students brought their parents back into the classroom to show their parents our forest.

By doing this STEAM activity, my class was able to use what they had been learning about forests in a tangible, authentic way. It was 100% made and planned by my students with very little help from me. They communicated beautifully throughout the whole process and took great pride in what they created as a class. One parent after school told me, “My daughter was so proud to point out each piece of the project telling me who made each item!” I love that it became more than just an “I made this” and rather a “WE” created this together!

Next week we will use modeling clay to create our own animals to live in our habitat!

Kristen Smith, Kindergarten

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