Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ways to Create: Making Art Journals

I've been working with elementary-aged kids for over five and a half years now, and one of my favorite parts of my job is being able to do creative projects with them. I have seen kids bloom through art projects and I love to connect with them on that creative level! I don't believe in micromanaging their art to get a specific outcome - so most of my projects are based on giving them a fun new way to create and then getting out of their way. I thought I'd start sharing some of those projects here with you. Many of them are messy, none of the products from these projects will look alike, and all of them will get kids creating in whatever way is right for them!

Art journaling is something I have loved for a while now, and so this summer I decided to give art journaling with kids a shot. I know I love journaling in books that I have made myself, and I wanted to give the kiddos at work that same opportunity. So, we spent some time this week learning how to create tape-bound journals - and as always when doing art projects with kids, their creativity blew me away. They created pages thick with a huge amount of tabs, pockets, fold outs, and envelopes (for their Top Secret writing)...
And their journals were just awesome.
This is actually a pretty simple project to do, and the kids loved it, so I thought I would share how we made them here.

First, I talked with the kids about journals and what sorts of things they thought would be fun to include in their journals. When they wanted to make specific things, like envelopes and tabs, we brainstormed together different ways to make the features they wanted (folding pages in half and taping them to make envelopes, taping three edges of a scrap of paper onto a page to make a pocket, folding tape over the edge of a page to make a tab, etc.). Then, they made all of their individual pages. A page consisted of one piece of paper, folded in half, and cut in size they wanted their journal. We kept the supplies simple, and just used paper, scissors, and craft tape.

We all met back together when they were finished, and I showed them how to use tape to bind their journals. Its important for this step that they line their pages up pretty precisely, as shown
below. Some kids who struggled with this step found that working with a partner really helped - one person would hold the pages so that they lined up exactly, and the other partner would tape them together.
After the first two pages were taped together, they flipped them so that the strip of tape was folded in half. Then they continued adding pages like this until their journal was as thick as they liked.

Once all their pages were bound together, we used a thicker piece of tape folded over the entire edge to reinforce the binding.
The journals could be done here, but we decided to add cardstock covers to ours to make them slightly more sturdy. They folded the cardstock in half, cut it to fit the size of their journal, and then used a gluestick to attach it to the front and back of their journal. Since the fold of the cardstock is over the tape binding, this also prevents the tape from peeling off with wear, and makes the binding stronger.

The best part about this project is how much the kids absolutely love their journals! We store them at camp and pull them out when we get back from field trips or when we have some down time in our day, and the can't get enough of writing and drawing in them. And at the end of the summer, the kids will have a beautiful record of  all their adventures and the fun they had. What could be better than that?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Our Mini Rooftop Garden

My husband and I both grew up tending gardens and eating their produce all summer long. I remember so clearly how it felt to head outside with a book, stuffing the pockets of my jean shorts with spinach on my way past the garden. I would climb up onto a comfortable tree limb in my backyard and spend the afternoon reading and snacking on the fresh-picked leaves. Later, at dusk, my mother would send me out to water, and I loved the feeling of dust-dry dirt against my feet as I held our green garden hose.

My husband has similar fond memories of growing up tending a garden, and we've wanted a garden of our own for a long time now. We moved into the apartment we live in now a couple of months ago, and we LOVE it here. The only downside is that we don't have a backyard - something we both desperately wanted.

We decided to ask our landlord if we could have the use of a small deck that's at the back of the house (we live in an beautiful built home that's been split into apartments). He had no problem with that, and so we started a small rooftop garden a couple of months ago. It's tiny - really a just a few tomato plants, some lettuce, basil, and some herbs - but we are so fond of it.

We've already eaten several meals seasoned by the herbs, and one wonderful salad of baby greens, but I'm most excited for the tomatoes. We have a few different varieties that we got from our local seed bank, and I can't wait to try them. There's something hugely satisfying to me in growing my own food - even if it's just a tiny amount. It's nice to finally get my hands dirty and realize that just because I can't have a garden like the one I remember growing up doesn't mean I can't have a garden at all. Container gardening like this is totally new to me; if you have any tips, let me know!

my sister officiating our wedding ceremony - you can just make out the
pots behind our legs (photo by our wonderful friend, Juliet).
Oh, and if the green pots look familiar, it's because they were also featured in our wedding. Our wonderful friend Jenny painted them for us, and we used them to hold the posts of our chuppah. At our old house, they just sat stacked in a closet. We're happy now to finally put them to some good use!
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