The Power of Art & The Art of Asia: Part 3

I apologize for my absence – these past few months have been full of professional development opportunities I cannot wait to share with you!  But, for now, let’s finish up with the final installment of the Power of Art series.


This is part three of a three part series on my Power of Art implementation plan and Asian art unit.  If you would like to start from the beginning, please read this first:



This post will focus on: Expanding Current Lessons and Adding Enriching Activities


The first time I taught Asian art, I used a lesson plan for bamboo painting with foam brushes from a fellow university art education classmate, Jessica Berkeley.  I absolutely love the way she demonstrated the “dab and pull” technique that made painting bamboo look so easy!  Once students grasped that concept, she explained how to make leaves with the side of the foam brush.  I still use the lesson she shared (Thank you, Jessica!) as an introductory activity before using the bamboo pen / brush combo tools I discussed in my last post.  Now, the students can use those painting techniques with authentic tools and materials – and make comparisons between the brushes.  Both tools will produce a similar result – it’s the technique that’s the focus, so if you do not have bamboo brushes, don’t fret.

I had also been teaching origami in 6th grade, but at a different point in the year.  It made sense to bring the two lessons together for a more in-depth study of Asian Art.  I found a pin on Pinterest for pop-bottle bottom blossom painting that fit right in, too!  You may remember that activity from the first part of this series.  But, I still wanted more!


Before being granted entry to the Renaissance Club at the Lab School of Washington, D.C., we were charged with remembering a password.  The word was “cochineal.”  I remember the word vividly to this day because of the way in which it was presented.  Our tour guide to 15th century Europe was Noel Bicknell.  Noel bent down on one knee, grabbed his chin, and said “catch-chin-kneel.”  We were all expected to not only repeat the word, but also to demonstrate it (mimicking his movements.)  As we entered, we noticed the environment of the room was undoubtedly set to suit the time period.   A hefty solid wood table was strewn with wool in various stages of the felting process, a pot was boiling liquid on the stove, an unfamiliar smell permeated the air, heavy red drapes framed the windows and fell to the floor, and we were invited to sit at the surrounding benches.  I immediately picked up on the sensory-driven environment of the room.  I easily identified which of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences were being activated.

Noel went on to discuss how students delve into the study of the club’s theme.  Each student plays a character role and becomes part of the historical context.  Next, Noel demonstrated how to separate the wool, passed around felted pieces, and then showed us student examples of apothecary hats (hand-measured, cut, and stitched).  Impressive!  But, we noticed the student hats were red and all of the wool / felting materials were white.  Noel brought out a mortar and pestle with tiny dead bugs inside.

Do you want to take a guess at what those bugs were called?

COCHINEAL!  You got it!

What we were smelling was a solution of crushed up cochineal and water, the making of a red dye for the felt.  This natural dye’s name is Carmine Red.  It is used in food coloring and cosmetics.  Noel went on to describe the characteristics and habits of the bugs, their native geographic location and habitat, and how the economy surged when these little bugs became a hot commodity for Europe’s wealthy.  The entire experience made me recall that password.



This image is from ABC News

You may remember a story about coffee giant, Starbucks, using bugs in their pink drinks.

Now that you know what cochineal is, how do you feel about Starbucks using it as a beverage coloring?

So, I applied the vocabulary memory technique, “password,” to our Asian Art unit.  I developed a password for the term sakura.  (Sakura means “cherry blossom” in Japanese.)  I pointed to my sock, then made a hoot owl noise, and followed with my best monster impression – holding my claws way up in the air and shouting “rah!” (sock-oo-rah)  Bonus points were offered if students remembered the password the following week.  I forgot about it – they reminded me!  That alone provided confirmation that the password was highly effective!  But, that’s not all!  They also went on using it for the rest of our Asian Art study!

To further explore, we learned about the growth cycle of a cherry blossom tree with the help of the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s website.

And, I read the story of Sadako Sasaki concurrent to my origami lesson – making the connection between history, non-fiction text, and art of this culture.


The Power of Art workshop was pivotal in the development of enriching activities for this unit.  I continue to have ideas for future implementation in this and other units.

What do you think?  Should I add a little Kabuki Theatre, Shadow Puppetry, Haiku, Chinese Pottery, or Koinobori kites next year?



Printmaking has always been one of my favorite art processes.  It’s not easy to accomplish in a classroom, though.  You need the tools necessary to perform the process.  Over the course of 5 years and with a little funding assistance (Thank you Robert Rauschenberg Foundation), I have built up a stash of printmaking supplies.  I have also experimented with medium at various grade levels.

One material that was not so successful: Cardboard.  4th grade students tried to make cut-away designs using the open ends of scissors, then peel away the top layer of corrugated cardboard so you could see the inner layer in certain areas.  I didn’t want to provide them with x-acto knives or something similar, but the scissors turned out to be just as dangerous!  NEVER AGAIN!


Since then, I’ve had 6th grade students participate in a collograph workshop whereby they create 3 masters out of: paper, tape, and glue.  They use the same symbol (heart, star, letter, etc.) to discover how the raised surface created by the three mediums can result in different looking prints.  This is a successful lesson that I use year after year.


8th grade students really get into much more detailed work.  I start them off with a foam master featuring their name.  Then we break out the flexicut or EZ-carve material.  I prefer students work with this material over the standard linoleum due to the frequency of accidents.  We have 30 classroom linocutters, 6 plexiglass inkbeds, 6 soft rubber brayers, and 6 barens (one for each table).


<I am embarrassed to say I do not have any photos to insert here.  I thought I did.  I’ll have to take new ones.  Stay tuned.>

This year, I am excited to announce a collaboration with California University of Pennsylvania’s Printmaking Outreach Program (or P.O.P.)!  Dr. R. Scott Lloyd, the printmaking professor at CALU and I worked together to bring intaglio printmaking into my classroom.  Without a print making press, absorbent papers, and etching scribes, intaglio is impossible to perform in a classroom.  The P.O.P. program provided these things and more!  All I needed was to cut and bevel the acrylic sheets for individual student use.  Thanks to the assistance of the woodshop teacher, we got them finished just in time!

   100_2479   100_2505   100_2508   100_2523

I wasn’t sure how the students would respond to the project, but they had a blast!  Of course they all wanted to run the press and they took turns, patiently.  It was a great experience for my students and I would do it again!  I’d like to thank Dr. Lloyd for selecting my school to participate.  I can’t wait to see the show!