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Avonworth Primary Center Artist Residency Project

In the Summer of 2016, I was asked to be a part of Studio A which was an endeavor organized by Avonworth School District. At Studio A, in-school educators, teaching artists and practitioners of design-based thinking, came together to learn how to incorporate the arts and design into curriculum topics for K-12 learners.

I decided to challenge myself and hang out in the Primary grade level brainstorming group. Even though I have been a teaching artist for almost 2 decades, I had never worked with the wee ones before.

Then, I met Maureen, a veteran primary school teacher who was beginning a new chapter in her teaching career as a Maker Space teacher.  Maureen and I were creative brainstorming partners instantly. By the end of the 3 days, we had basically planned an awesome artist residency project for 1st graders!

First graders! The joy!

Working with Avonworth Primary Center was a dream come true.

My first grade friends at Avonworth Primary Center were studying bats & spiders. Using a premise from project-based learning where, students show what they know using projects that are led by the students, we presented the students with materials and asked them to show us what a bat or spider looked like, and how it moved.

Students came up with wonderfully creative bats & spiders by the end of our first week. Many of the students incorporated other facts they knew about bats and spiders including what they ate, and the environment they live in.

One of our goals was to incorporate technology into the project that would be used to create artwork that could be displayed in the school. Since digitally drawn tessellations are a part of my studio and teaching artist practice this seemed like a good fit. After a lesson in how to use the tessellation drawing app iOrnament to the best of it’s applications, students were asked to draw three things using the iPad app: a bat AND a spider, a BIG spider with a little person (based on a Louise Bourgeois sculpture), and a spider with it’s web. Students chose their favorite to use in the final artwork.

The final artwork form we chose was a surface pattern design of all the bat and spider designs that was printed on curtains! I designed a simple bat and spider background design to try and tie all of the creative and varied designs from the students. For our last day, we had an Open House at the school to show off all of the work that the first graders had made in my class, and in their regular classrooms.

I recently heard an update from Maureen. She said, “Ms. Coppings completed a bat/spider unit with 60 of our first grade students this past October, 2016.  It was an incredible experience for the students, teachers and parents.

Ms. Coppings introduced students to sketching, drawing, patterns, tessellations, yarn structures and fabric construction.  Students ending this experience by hosting a family night where they proudly displayed their created works.

This learning experience was one that is still talked about with our students.  The learning continues with the skills that Ms. Coppings presented to our students and staff.”

So sweet! I am so glad the students are enjoying seeing the wonderful creations that their learning and efforts made possible!

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