Ellie Hutchinson at Baldi

This morning, after grabbing a much needed Starbucks cappuccino, I met Carla Bednar of ArtsRising to visit CCA Baldi Middle School. Teaching Artist Ellie Hutchinson, of Al Bustan Seeds of Culture, would be in the classroom today doing a writing lesson with her students, so we though this would be the perfect time to visit and see how things were going in Pat’s classroom.

As Shannah has written from past visits, students at Baldi have been busy working on Self-Portrait Projects and learning about different poetry techniques to describe who they are. Today, Ellie decided to change things up a bit and get the kids to visualize a story, talking about how details of a story that stand out to each student are very telling about what they value and how they see, both similarly and differently. “I’m going to read you a tale,” Ellie told the class, “and I want you to listen carefully. When I am finished you will have 10 minutes to draw a picture of what you remember most about the story, or what details stuck out the most in your head.”

The story Ellie chose to share was a spin on The Three Little Pigs, where in the end the third little pig out smarts the big bad wolf and serves him up for supper instead! The students sat silent, intently listening to the tale, only erupting in laughter at the very end when they realized how clever that third little pig really was!

After their 10 minutes, Ellie collected the drawings and the class had a discussion about the different scenes that each student chose to depict. Many drew the brick house with the wolf outside and of course the pig. However, some chose  very specific moments in the story, or used scale to create focal points or express the role each character played. In some, the wolf was very tall and dominant, overshadowing the clever pig. In others the wolf’s expression and movements captured his fright and anger at being out witted time after time. A few chose to focus on how smart the pig was, drawing a moment where the pig climbed a huge apple tree and threw an apple to distract the wolf while quickly scurrying home.

In the end, the students began to understand why they chose certain moments to draw or certain feelings and expressions of the characters. “How you visualize words, situations, stories and moments can tell a lot about who you are and how you see,” Ellie told the class. “Think about this as you work on your self-portrait projects when you have to think about that fact that how you think and see makes you who you are and determines how you express yourself.”


March 15 @ Esperanza

Class began this week with a POD or “problem of the day.”

This is how each class begins at Esperanza. The POD helps students settle into the classroom and get focused on their work. Today’s POD was “What is the focal point in this image? What compositional choices has the photographer made that help lead our eye towards the focal point?” Ms. Christensen displayed an image on each of the students’ computers. Ms. Matczak reminded students that the focal point is the main thing that the artist wants the viewer to see. She suggested that students close their eyes for a few seconds, look at the photograph and ask themselves “What is the first thing that I see?”

Students answered that the first thing that they saw was a man sitting on a couch. Ms. Christensen asked, “What has the artist done to help bring our eye to the man?” Students answer that there is not a lot of clutter around the man.

She continues to ask questions about the photograph including: what is the entry point of the photograph, and is there anything in that entry point that brings the viewers eye back to the focal point? She also asked if the artist has followed the rule of thirds and then draws over the photograph to show that YES, they did and how they did it.

Next, Ms. Christensen gave a demo on changing the “color cast” in a photograph. A color cast is defined: as the tint of a particular color which effects the whole photograph.

She demonstrated how to go open the image, make adjustments and then color balance and change the color within their photograph. She also showed them how to rotate the canvas and use the transformer box to fine tune the composition.  After this, students were instructed on how to set up folders to save their work and tells them they will need 5 final images from photographs they have taken at home, and 5 from images they have taken at school. In the end, they will choose their best 2 images to be put into a final folder.

Students began to work on taking, downloading, and adjusting their photographs.

Manny is working on a self-portrait taken in school where he is opening a door to a classroom. He is adjusting the color balance and paying attention to the skin tones within his photograph.

Manny showed Ms. Matczak the photographs he took at home, telling her that one is of him helping his sister with her homework. He also showed her a photograph of himself making popcorn and helping his mom out in the kitchen. After looking at the images,  Ms. Matczak helped Manny download his photographs onto his computer.

Jose is also working on a photograph he took in school. He told me that in his photograph, one person is trying to reach another person but is unable to. He said it is a “love type of thing.” His photo depicts a couple holding hands and walking away from the camera down a long hallway. He told me he had the photographer lay on the ground to take the photo so that they would include the entire bodies of the couple and also the reflection on the floor. He was working on adjusting the color so the highlights look brighter.

As students continued to modify and adjust their images Ms. Christensen reminded them that it is important to take time to examine the composition of their photographs. Really think about whether the photo works, or if it needs to be adjusted a bit more to expresses everything they intended.