My student body is the largest in our district. Out of 8 elementary schools, our population soars above 500 students, with more than half receiving free/reduced lunches. Many come from broken homes, parents working 3 jobs, and just sad stories that no child should have to go through. Because they struggle so much at home, they come to school and find comfort and love in our classrooms. They come through my doors once a week for 50 minutes, so I try to make that time as productive as possible for them.
I once had a student tell me they don't have crayons at home.
I immediately thought back to my childhood, when I had a large 64-pack of crayons, a variety of colored pencils, and a full art kit with paints, pastels, sidewalk chalk, etc. I couldn't fathom a childhood without art and creativity. That's when I knew I had a purpose at this school. I want to show children that there is solitude and success through creativity in the arts, and I want to be able to provide those opportunities for excellence in my classroom every week for 50 minutes.
My students need rubber fish replicas to use for printmaking. Printmaking is a valuable skill learned in the art room. It focuses on two areas: one is making multiples of something, and the other is letting go of the idea of perfection in art. Many students in my classroom focus on things being "perfect," and get upset when their artwork turns out to be imperfect in their eyes. They will quickly get discouraged, and that can damage a student's desire to perform any tasks in the art room.
Much like life, art is never perfect.
Students learn this during printmaking, because no matter how hard you may try, it is nearly impossible to make a perfect print of our rubber fish molds. They learn that it is okay, making mistakes is part of learning, and that sometimes things just aren't meant to be perfect. Perfect is boring!
In addition, my students learn about life under the sea during this unit. I split my class into groups, where one group will work on the actual printmaking, and the other group will do a reading and coloring activity in the meantime. Our reading focuses on science and history. We talk about the history of Gyotaku fish printing, and how nowadays, we can take a "selfie" to show what we caught on our fishing trip, but that back before cameras and cell phones, Japanese fishermen actually had to rub ink on a live fish and print it on paper before throwing it back (poor fish!). We also talk about the body parts on a fish and where to find them. Students identify the different names for each type of fin, the gills, the lateral line, the bladder, heart, liver, all the way down to the scales on a fish.
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