Surprising aftermath of NBCT status.

I knew it was a hard thing to do.  I mean, I went through the process, wrote all the papers, did the video-taping, took the three-hour sit down test where they took my fingerprints to make sure that I was who I really said I was...

But I was still surprised when I was invited to a school board meeting to be presented with a proclamation from the school board in January.  It was a really nice presentation - the superintendent even read sections from our original job applications way back when we were originally hired by the district!  It was really cute, actually.  Mr. Leban and my mom also came to clap and smile when I went up to stand in front of everyone.

Then I received an invitation (see above) to a special ceremony from DuPage County regional board of education office.  Wow.  Even more surprised.  Unfortunately, I was unable to go (among other things, we had art club that day!), but Mrs. Steahly was able to go.  She also was granted National Board Certification this year, for math.  In fact, the other teachers from our district that earned their NBCT status were math teachers too!  They joked that I could be an honorary math teacher.

Then on Saturday I received this in the mail at my house!  It's from State Representative Sandra Pihos and the Illinois House of Representatives congratulating me on becoming a NBCT.  Wow!

So, I know it was a big deal.  But I didn't realize how much of a big deal it was.  Yayy me!


Last Day Scramble

Today is the last day of the term for 6th & 7th grade classes.  It's always a bit of a scramble, trying to turn in missing assignments, finish projects, clean out drawers, catch up absent students, write notes to those that are still absent, and entertain the early finishers that have "nothing to do."

Oh yeah, and all of this gets done while trying to plan for the new groups walking through the door on Monday!  Phew!  It's busy!

In seventh grade, we're especially "scrambled" because we lost two days of class due to the heavy snow.  I told them to finish their portraits as much as they could, and if they DID finish, they could paint their clay cupcakes.  I love the cupcake project, so it breaks my heart a little to have to send them home sans paint.  But there's not much I can do.  Students are free to take paint home to finish off their tiny sculptures for themselves if they like.  I've also found that two layers of watercolor work quite well as a clay finish.  Here are some examples of pieces I painted with watercolor:

There were several students who DID manage to complete their clay cupcake and have it photographed.  Here's a preview:

Wow!  I hope that you are as impressed as I am by these awesome ideas!


Pet Portraits

Please excuse my poor cell phone photos, but these drawings were too cute to wait for Artsonia to upload!  Seventh grade students just completed a sketchbook drawing assignment where they had to draw a portrait of their pet, or, the pet that they wish that they had.  Our focus was all about visual texture: to try to show the viewer what their pet feels like.  These are just some of the particularly awesome examples I was grading tonight!  I love when I get a whole batch of really great drawings turned in!


To The Post Office!

I stopped by the post office today on my way home, and mailed our "Doodle for Google" contest entries!  I also uploaded photos of the entries on our Artsonia gallery.  They're not officially up as of right now, but by tomorrow the gallery should be available for viewing.  Wish us luck!


Graffiti Creator

I had a ton of fun yesterday messing around with the Graffiti Creator website.  I'm going to try to make a sign for outside the art room.  I know a few seventh grade boys have been having a lot of fun drawing in a graffiti style, so this website seems like it'd be right up a middle school student's alley!


Crochet Coral Reef Wins a Grant!

Hooray!  Do you remember when I told you about our crochet coral reef project?  Well, Mrs. Bensfield wrote and won a grant to pay for the intellectual rights (a $200 value) for our project.  We just found out yesterday, and are very excited!

The grant comes from the National Girls Collaborative Project, an organization that works to support programs that create "gender equity in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)."  (Hmm... perhaps I should let them know that our project is not so much a "STEM" project as it is a "STEAM" project... the A is for ARTS!)

We still have our project up at DonorsChoose.org if you'd like to help support us with supplies.  We're more than halfway there with $$$ donations right now, and only have about $140 left to go! Here's how our reef looked as of last week:

Pretty cool, huh?  Just yesterday I was working on a really neat piece of red-violet "brainy" coral - I'm really excited to add it to the reef along with a sweet starfish made by Mrs. Bensfield.  We also meet today after school, so I'll probably have even more to add!  I'll try to remember to twitpic a photo or two to keep you all updated!

Thank you for supporting the arts!


Student Artist Interview

I've decided to try something new on the art blog, which is: interviews with students!  My first interview is with Ella, an 8th grader who makes and sells her own handcrafted items, and just opened her own Etsy shop!  My questions below are in bold:

1. What is it that you make?  What items are you favorite?
I make plush cube animals, headbands, dresses, and jewelry (most are made of recycled material).  My favorite item is my guitar string and pick headband.

2. How long have you been doing this?

I have been sewing since I was in 1st grade, and making jewelry, headbands, and dresses for two years. However, I recently put up some of my items on Etsy.

3. Do you get help from anyone?  Who?

I have had a lot of help from my family and friends.  They give me a lot of encouragement and inspiration to continue making things!

4. What made you want to start doing this?

I mostly wanted to start making and selling things because I really liked to make things that have never been made before and I really like to see people wear things that I made.

5. What are your plans for the future?

I'm not positive of what I want to do in the future, but I know it will be something with art.  I someday want to be in the Renegade Art Fair and even have my own shop.

6. Advice for any other students interested in doing the same thing?

My advice for other students doing the same thing would be to never underestimate yourself and set goals for yourself even if they may seem unlikely.  Another piece of advice would be to never give your work away to your friends.

So, I asked Ella about that last "don't give anything away to your friends" comment... she clarified by saying that once she gives away something to one friend, all of her friends will start asking for free stuff.  That made sense.

I hope you enjoyed our first student artist interview!  I hope to have more interviews with students in the future.  If you have any suggestions for interviewees, please let me know!



I feel very lucky to have so many parents supporting Sandburg Art on our Artsonia gallery.  I love being able to store digital portfolios of students' artwork via the web, and it's so cool to see a student's work evolve over time!

Artsonia has a lot of really great functions.  One of those is the ability to send out newsletters via email to parents.  Last weekend, I sent out my first electronic newsletter via Artsonia.  If you are not signed up as the parent of a student, you would not have received one, so here's what was contained within:

Art Rocks 2010-2011!
from Mrs. Jennifer C. Leban, Sandburg Art Teacher
ARTSONIA - Thank you for your support in using and sharing Artsonia with your families this year!  With funds raised from Artsonia this year, the Sandburg art room was able to purchase an iPEVO usb document camera!

Sandburg Art Blog - Did you know that I have an art blog that I regularly post to?  On the blog, you can find photos of student work, information on general activities here at Sandburg, art opportunities outside of class (or school), contests, or even current art-related events!  Be sure to check the blog regularly.  You can also subscribe to or follow the Sandburg Art Blog directly from the site: http://msmillersartblog.blogspot.com/  Or, follow me on twitter for tiny updates: @msmillerleban

Evening with the Arts 2011 - This time around, our year-end all-school arts event (most commonly known as "Evening with the Arts") will be coinciding with our "Sandburg at 60" birthday celebration!  Sandburg Middle School is 60 years old, and there will be a special evening birthday party, complete with special performances by our choir, orchestra, and bands, along with an all-school art exhibition!  I've been saving one piece of artwork from each student (per term when I have them in class) for display at the event!

There is also a community art project in the works for that night where everyone who attends can be a part of the artwork!  Refreshments will be served, and a fun time is sure to be had by all.  The "Sandburg at 60" event date, originally set for April 18th, is currently being rescheduled - likely for some time in May.  Keep your eyes and ears open for further details!
Just for 6th Grade
Sixth grade art is currently nearing the end of it's fourth term this year.  Time is flying by!  In sixth grade art, students learn all about the color wheel and color theory.  Ask your sixth grader to name three pairs of complementary colors (and the trick to remembering them)!

We also learn drawing techniques, such as how value and shading work when drawing to make something look 3-dimensional (such as a sphere).  We practice drawing textures, patterns, and how to properly apply cross-hatching and stippling to a drawing using ink to create shadows.

Sixth grade art also completes a clay project, which varies.  Some classes make clay shakers inspired by Native American traditions, while others re-create Japanese "sampuru" food sculptures (sample fake food).  These projects may vary due to time constraints.
Just for 7th Grade
Seventh grade art is also nearing the end of it's fourth term this year!  In seventh grade art, students learn all about the elements of art and design, which are: line, shape, form, space, color, value, and texture.  We even take a pencil-and-paper test to demonstrate our knowledge.

Seventh grade art has a sculpture component and a painting component.  Our sculpture component (for most classes) is to make a clay cupcake sculpture that doubles as a mini container!  We are inspired by cake decorating shows on TV and specialty cupcake shops popping up around us.  While making cupcakes from clay, we learn hand-building clay construction techniques of slab, pinch, and coil.

Our seventh grade painting project is a self-portrait done in a monochromatic color scheme.  The students have a photo taken using the digital camera.  This photo is then altered into a four-level grayscale image using Adobe Photoshop software.  Our image is enlarged and painted using a four-level tints or shades color scheme, chosen by the student.  Not only do students learn how to mix paint values, we also discuss how color choice can effect the mood or emotion of an artwork.
Just for 8th Grade
Eighth grade art is a nine-week elective class, and we are currently right in the middle of our third quarter this year!  Because art is an elective course this year, we have a special sculpture concentration.

Our first unit of study is clay sculpture.  We read all about the artist Robert Indiana and his iconic "Love" sculpture and image.  Then, we create clay blocks emblazoned with our own one-word message.  Clay construction techniques are complemented with discussion and artistic decision-making regarding the choice of colors and fonts to best communicate the artist's message.

During the quarter, students will also participate in a pottery wheel experience.  A special guest artist from Ceramics Supply Chicago comes in to show us proper wheel technique.  Then, students take turns trying out the wheel - hopefully (but not always), the experience ends up with a finished piece!

Our second unit of study is all about plaster.  Inspired by the work of George Segal, eighth grade students will create plaster casts of their hand(s) and decorate the finished products according to a pre-determined theme that students map out beforehand.  What starts out as plaster often ends up as a mixed-media extravaganza, using all sorts of recycled and repurposed materials!  Therefore, we often end up discovering a lot about adhesive options and non-traditional art-making construction methods...

Our final area of study for the quarter is paper sculpture.  Eighth grade classes make a huge (but fun) mess when we marble sheets of paper using shaving cream and food coloring!  These sheets of marbled paper are cut and pasted into a star-shaped lantern, suitable for hanging.  If time permits, we also explore options for designing paper toys via PaperCritters.

The only downside to Artsonia newsletters is that I can only send them to ALL registered 6th, 7th, or 8th grade parents... and not to just the parents of current art students.  Artsonia is really good about upgrading and improving functionality, so hopefully soon they might develop a fix for this.  In the meantime, I'm going to keep my newsletter mailings to a minimum so as to not clog up your inboxes!

So far, this is the only newsletter I've sent out this year.  I do anticipate sending out one more as our "Sandburg @ 60" event date is solidified and draws nearer.
Thank you for supporting the arts!


Summer Art Opportunities

I receive a lot of mail from places that offer summer art camps or classes for students.  I thought I'd take a moment to share some of these with all of you, so that if you are interested you will have plenty of time to sign up!

Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp - I've written about this camp before.  Several students from our school have been awarded scholarships for both music and visual arts for this camp in West Michigan.  I've heard many good things about this program, and students seem to really enjoy themselves. They have a variety of sessions, divided mostly into groups for grades 7-8, 5-6, and 9-12.  More info.

Shell Lake Arts Center - What really interested me in the advertisement for this grade 6-12 camp in Wisconsin wasn't just the pottery, drawing, and painting classes so much as the FILM MAKING CLASS!  How fun would that be?!  The description says: "This week long, intensive course is designed to help you build a story or experiment with themes, learn the basic techniques of digital filmmaking (including: camera, lights, and sound) as well as discovering the magic behind persistence of vision.  The course will conclude with a screening of all finished projects." More info.

Western Illinois University Art for Gifted & Talented Students - Two sessions are being offered: one for grades 4-6, and one for grades 6-8.  You get to stay on campus for the session.  The classes offered are: drawing and painting, airbrush, computer art, and three-dimensional expression.  I was really interested to see that they offer airbrush, since that's something students wouldn't typically experience in most schools. More info.

Maybe staying at a camp isn't really your style.  In that case, don't forget to also check out our great local art offerings and classes (found on the links page) as well for fun summer art opportunities!


Advice from 6th Grade Artists

In 6th grade art, we are working on our "Where the Wild Things Are"-inspired textural monsters.  We just began working with pen and ink on our final pencil sketches Wednesday.  I asked 6th grade art students to make a list of tips for creating a good drawing.  Here's what we came up with:
  • Show textures and patterns.  In this project, we're specifically studying the use of cross-hatching and stippling to show value and 3-dimensional forms.
  • Weird is good.  It's important to be creative and to try to come up with ideas unlike other classmates.
  • The monster is the main thing.  So it should be large, filling up the space.  This applies to any "main thing" in your artwork.
  • Include lots of background stuff, like the climate or habitat.  Drawings are always better when you include an interesting background.
  • Draw neatly.  Use your best effort when you draw.
  • Be patient.  This is kind of like "draw neatly," because rushing your work will usually cause it to be sloppy.  Good artwork often takes time!

Hope you enjoy our works-in-progress!  Keep in mind our helpful tips when you're making your own art!


Google Art Project

For many "art" people, this is already old news, but for Sandburg Art students, this is a truly awesome new art website to check out!

Have you checked out the Google Art Project yet?  You can tour art galleries at museums around the globe using Google's street-view technology to virtually walk around the room.  You can also choose specific artworks (such as Van Gogh's Starry Night) to zoom in and out of, catching every little detail!  I was shocked at how much you can actually see - right down to the cracks in the paint!

I've also started a "collection" in Google Art Project.  You can visit my collection, simply entitled "Stuff I Like."  As I grow more comfortable with the site, I can begin to build collections tied to projects we complete in class, but for now, it's fun to save things that look interesting to come back and look at later.

For more info on Google Art Project, check out the visitor's guide, with a neat behind-the-scenes video!


Pottery Class!

Elmhurst, IL is a pretty cool town because they support the arts, and offer a lot of art classes that you can take outside of school.  I have a list of lots of different places that you can go to take classes or buy art supplies on my LINKS page here.

One set of classes that's pretty awesome is Teri Litavsky's pottery classes.  They're at 101 N. Addison on the second floor (Suite 205) in Elmhurst.  She's getting geared up for Spring classes right now, actually.  In this class, you will learn hand-building techniques to make some unique pieces that will be glazed after firing.  They're on Friday evenings from 4:00 to 5:30.  The cost is $90 for the class, but includes all tools, clay, glaze, and firings.  You can even sign up for private group lessons if you have a group of 3 or more!

If you're interested, I have some sign up forms here at school.  Otherwise, you can download and print out your own form here.  Alternatively, you can email Teri Litavsky herself for more info.


We love to read!

8th Grade students recently completed a sketchbook assignment where they had to draw a scene from a favorite book.  This, of course, assumes that you love to read - and we do!

I wanted to share with you some (but just some) of my favorite drawings:

This drawing is by Rey.  It's a drawing entitled "Wang Lung's farm" from a book called "Good Earth."

This drawing is by  Lauren.  I believe it's a character from "The Clique" book series.

This drawing is by Jisha. Unfortunately, she didn't write the book title.  It makes me want to read whatever book it is, though!

The above drawing is by Kierstin.  She said this is a scene form the book, "I am Number Four" by Pitticus Lore.

This drawing is by Abbey.  Again, she didn't write down what the book was, but it looks cool - like a "Lord of the Rings" type of tale?

Scene from "The Hunger Games" drawn by Annie.

My drawing (not pictured) was of "The Hobbit."  What's your favorite book?
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