Posts Tagged ‘science’


Book Arts Making a Difference School Wide

March 7, 2023

Gardiner High School

Periodically I have learning opportunities that are so pleasurable! I am grateful that I have more flexibility in my schedule at this point in my life to consider options. Last fall I participated in a Book Arts class that took place at a beautiful location, a stones throw from Mussel Ridge Channel, in the mid-coast called 26 Split Rock Cove located in S. Thomaston. 26 Split Rock Cove is owned by artist and poet Sandy Weisman who moved to Maine in 2010 after working at Massachusetts College of Art as the director of museum education.

It was fun to take the class alongside retired Bangor High School art teacher Kal Elmore. It was like a mini-Haystack workshop with a variety of people (artists, educators, and creatives) attending. A pleasant surprise was meeting Gardiner Area High School (GAHS) science teacher Sharon Gallant.

This wasn’t the first book making class that Sharon had taken. In fact, in the summer of 2021 she had taken a week-long bookmaking summer class at the University of Southern Maine. At the conclusion of the class Sharon was so excited that she wrote a grant to Oak Grove for funds to support a school wide book making project. Her goal for the 2021-22 school year was simple but enormous – transition the school/subjects/teachers and students from paper and pencil to creating books. Sharon provided book art training to staff. We all know the value of professional development for teachers and when a staff come together to learn, community is created and expanded upon. In this case Sharon noticed that the staff confidence grew, classrooms opened to possibilities for projects, and conversation was stimulated among staff implementing projects as curriculum options were considered.

“Participants discussed ways they might use the book art samples in their classes in the varying content areas in the upcoming year. Participants were informed of the grant and the opportunities for supplies to be checked out from the library, prep of supplies by students doing community service, and support from us. In November (2021) and in March (2022), 21 staff members across all content areas participated in learning book art creation techniques.”

You might be asking WHAT? and wondering WHY! This is an example of one teacher getting excited about something learned, trying it in her classroom and understanding the potential of student learning all because of making books!

Librarian Debra Butterfield has been incredibly supportive and added so much to the project. A room off of the library was set up to store the materials and provides access for students to check out the materials, the same as library books. The school has a community service component as part of high school graduation. Debra worked with three trained student volunteers and as other students saw volunteers using professional cutting machines and a variety of tools provided by the grant, other students offered to volunteer. The student volunteers have grown to twenty who are not involved in sports or other clubs. The preparation of materials before, during, and after school has connected them to GAHS in a meaningful way. One student stated, “ I love preparing book art materials because I see in classes how much teachers and students appreciate that the supplies are prepped for them.” Volunteers have learned the importance of quality control, deadlines, and school service.

After I met Sharon at the Book Arts workshop we arranged a day for me to visit GAHS. I spent time with students in the social studies class with teacher Susan LeClair. Students were totally engaged in creating accordion books on The Great Depression and New Deal. The approach was structured but flexible, the materials plentiful, the atmosphere was supportive, relaxed and creative. The classroom was set up similarly to a ‘workshop model’. Students are introduced to history material, art materials and techniques at different intervals in the book making process. They work independently understanding their goals using a rubric based on a total of 100 points.

  • Causes of the Great Depression – 50 points
  • New Deal Programs – 50 points
  • Illustration – 25 points
  • Organization – 25 points

Susan is a veteran teacher having seen many changes during her teaching career. She shared that students had become passive, going through the motions of learning, memorizing for the test and to obtain a good grade. Many immediately forgetting material as soon as information was spit out for the paper and pencil test. Making books provided the opportunity for students to demonstrate learning in an engaging way. Understanding and retention of the material was evident as they created the story using illustrations. Not to mention students were proud of their creations.

As the school year, 2021-22 continued the ideas morphed and grew. Sharon’s description of what followed, thanks to the enthusiasm of teachers and the grant funding:

We have supported a range of projects this year with our support with instruction in classes. Following is a sample of some of the projects implemented this year that replace traditional paper and pencil assessment. A biology teacher created nature journals with compartments for collecting samples. A foreign language teacher had year four students create illustrated children’s literature books and then hosted a student lead reading to other foreign language levels. Social studies teachers have created a variety of projects as they have learned about the founding of our country, abolitionists, immigration, and world cultures. English teachers are currently having students create illustrated poetry selections for National Poetry Month, a showcase for learning from a variety of texts read this school year, and another focused on the exploration of fairy tales. Our library is physically in the center of our school with an English/social studies wing on one side and a science/math wing on the other. Historically students have rarely shared about their assessments for learning from one side of the building to another. Book art, however, has changed the culture. It has been a connecting force with students talking with each other across classes and disciplines. Through these projects, we have had a focus on developing templates as rough drafts and this repeated experience has fostered a habit of mind focused on quality, planning, and revision that we see transferring to research, the writing process, and scientific inquiry. This has been an unexpected benefit of the grant. Students have been more present in their learning and deepened their own personal expectations for quality. One student stated, “Thank you so much for letting me make a book to show what I know. I don’t test well, and I’ve never felt the teacher knows what I know.”

Beyond projects in the classrooms, we have offered opportunities for students and staff to come together for after school sessions to learn advanced book art making techniques with holiday card making in December and Valentine card making in February. The sessions were intended from 2:00 to 3:30, but because students and staff were in the flow of creating together, the events lasted closer to 5:00 pm. Several students reflected on how amazing it was to be a learner along with their teachers. These experiences, which created amazing positive school energy, showed students the role that book art can play beyond the classroom for personal pleasure and engagement.

Due to such a positive response from students, we quickly realized that students needed a venue to showcase their impressive book art. We approached the art teacher, who has an annual K-12 art show, to feature book art as an added feature to expand the show to an art extravaganza. We have invited all students who have made a book to participate in the show. One student, who struggles academically, exclaimed in shock and delight, “You seriously want to show my book. No one has ever asked to have my work displayed!” This reaction alone exemplifies our belief that students need an alternative form of assessment. Book art fills that space.

No doubt about it, the excitement and impact that one person has made, the collaborative spirit and flexibility of staff and the support from administration has all come together to make a huge difference in teaching and learning at GAHS. Evaluating the program helped determine the next steps for Year 2. And, funding helped again. Sharon’s words describe it best:

During our tremendous success with book art as an alternative form of assessment, we quickly realized that there was still work to be done. We have a large population of students without access to materials at home, a space at school to complete book art projects, and the need for additional after school enrichment experiences.

The first year of Turn the Page funding allowed us to introduce a new form of assessment and purchase materials for multiple classes to simultaneously work on these projects. While several class periods are devoted to time in class for these projects, to ensure the quality of work required to complete a book, students are asking to work on the books at home. With the additional funding, we created supply kits, issued through the school library catalog, with all necessary materials for students to bring home to further work on their books. Not only does this assist students who need more time, but it also makes it easier for those who are economically challenged to have access to all materials not available at home. Through all of the amazing success of year one, we did note the disparity between students who had home access to additional embellishment and those who struggled with the basics. These kits eliminate any barrier for success.

Book art has truly made a significant shift in our attempt to establish learning environments and experiences that feature collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum, and shared instruction. It also addresses various forms of inequity and empowers young adults to thrive at school.

GAHS’s commitment to responding to and making needed changes are exemplary. What an outstanding example filled with possibilities. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to meet Sharon and visit the school to see the project in action! Are they proud of their accomplishments? You betcha; again in Sharon’s words:

We are very proud and grateful for what this grant has allowed us to do for professional development, student engagement, and expanded community connections. We have presented to the Plymouth State art class, at Viles for a pre-service teacher training , and a Saturday Maine Association of School Libraries conference session scheduled. Students have told us that they want to create with their hands, do meaningful projects, and have deep engagement with their learning.

Susan LeClair, Social Studies teacher – Sharon Gallant, Science teacher


Gulf of Maine and ECOARTS

May 9, 2020

The Bigelow Project

Gulf of Maine ECOARTS (GMEA) is an arts/science educational nonprofit focussing on changes in biodiversity in the Gulf of Maine due to human impact. The central focus of GMEA’s initial project – THE BIGELOW PROJECT – is the two year building of a collaborative sculpture installation of an ecosystem that will be hung and displayed in 2021/22 at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay. The sculpture, all made with 90% recycled/purposed materials, will be created by over 130 students – middle grades through college levels, and a team of 7 professional Maine artists. The project is designed as a work of art in itself – evolving from an original idea in one person’s brain into a collaborative working and planning community of about 200 students, teachers, artists, scientists, and advisors.

On Wednesday, April 29th, Gulf of Maine ECOARTS launched a special year-long online program. Each Wednesday we will POST an interview with some of the teachers, artists and scientists that are part of the Bigelow Project community.  The posts can be found on Gulf of Maine ECOARTS Facebook page, Instagram, our Youtube channel (other films there too) and soon – on the website.
The project has come a long way in a year and a half, and although the Coronavirus pandemic interruption of the Outreach branch of the project has shaken things up a bit, we’re making various readjustments and moving forward. The installation at Bigelow Lab is still slated for 2021, marine animals continue to be designed and built by the artists, the students will pick up where they left off in the fall, some of art and science teachers continue work this spring on a special project involving sculpture and science regarding threatened and endangered bird species in the Gulf of Maine.
You can follow this work on the projects FACEBOOK,, Instagram, and please help spread the word through social media platforms and tell your friends and colleagues.

Careers in Art Series

June 30, 2019

Science, Nature and Drawing

The final workshop in the Careers in Art Series for Kids, Science, Nature & Drawing will be led by Paula Curtis-Everett at The Folk Art Studio at Fiber and Vine, 402 Main Street in Norway on Wednesday, August 14th. This workshop series aims to open pathways for kids to consider the visual arts and making as a worthwhile activity and even imagine a dream that becomes a career one day. 

Workshop Description: Exploring nature with pencil and paper is fun. Imagine finding an apple with a hole in it: Who lives in there and why? How did they get there? Or imagine finding tracks in the snow. Who made the tracks and where were they going? Draw a picture of what you have seen, then try to figure out the story. Today we will look at nature’s story, draw a sketch of what we see, and figure out what is happening. Bring your curiosity, imagination, and wonder. All other supplies will be provided.

Paula Curtis-Everett, Maine Master Naturalist, has always had a love for drawing and a curiosity for what she sees. She loves researching the “why” and “what” of what she finds in nature. Paula is a retired registered nurse who worked as a school nurse as well as a geriatric nurse.

The Western Maine Art Group, The Folk Art Studio, and Fiber & Vine have partnered to bring this workshop series to the Oxford Hills. Through a generous grant from The Norway Savings Bank, Oxford Credit Union, the Rotary Club and an anonymous donor, this final workshop will be offered at a reduced rate of $15. Workshops are currently presented for two age groups: 10 am – noon for children ages 6 – 8 and 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm for children ages 9 and up.  For this workshop, please register by August 7th. Space is limited. Materials and snacks are included. For information and registration, contact


Vinalhaven 2nd and 3rd Graders

October 30, 2017


LEAPS of IMAGINATION is an in-school art program for students in underserved communities. Our team of eight mentor artists interweaves art, literacy, science and mapping to create month-long projects with environmental sustainability and social justice as overarching themes.

Recognizing that art is a vehicle for teaching thinking, our projects support class curricula and empower children to participate in local and global issues. We work with children in their classrooms for two hours each morning twice each week. Envisioning programs that cut across disciplines, artists dovetail literature, environmental exploration, and artwork with student interests.

LEAPS of IMAGINATION’s MISSION is to ignite the imagination and inspire new ways of thinking so that young people can realize that their ideas have purpose and that they have the courage to act on them.

LEAPS of IMAGINATION was a Maine Arts Commission Arts Learning grant recipient this year.


Marshwood Middle School

September 25, 2017

MALI Teacher leader and Teaching Artist Leader collaboration

It’s been a lot of fun planning, and an idea that began as a seed back in snowy February, but Marshwood Middle School Grade Seven and Eight Chorus is embarking on a new curriculum to compose an original work that will be premiered at their June concert with guidance and instruction from two MALI teachers.
Thanks to Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teacher Leader, Kris Bisson and Teaching Artist Leader, Brian Evans-Jones. Below is the description of this fabulous work!  

Bridging Adolescent Learners – A River Runs Through Us: Composing our Story is a year-long chorus composition unit that will be explored by the Grade Seven and Eight Choruses throughout the 2017-2018 school year. Through weekly classwork, a field experience, and working with a guest poet-in-residence, students will create their own original lyrics, melodies, harmonies, and accompaniment for an original piece to be performed in their June concert.

An important aspect of this project will be the S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) inter-disciplinary explorations students will make throughout the project. Also critical to an authentic learning experience will be the integration of our work with poet, writer, and MALI Artist-TeacherBrian Evans-Jones, a local resident of South Berwick, who will lead the students as Artist-in-Residence in finding their writing, speaking, and singing voice.

An early piece of our project is to bring the entire chorus (seventy students) and Mr. Evans-Jones on a field trip to the bridge on Vine Street in South Berwick, the Great Works Bridge, at Leigh’s Mill Pond and the Great Works River. This trip will take place on SEPTEMBER 19 from 8:15 – 9:50 a.m. Here the students will be able to have a direct experience with the river as well as with the condemned bridge structure in order to create more meaningful and informed writing for their musical composition.

Coincidentally, the existing bridge, closed in 2007 due to deterioration beyond the state of Maine’s repair, is being removed in 2018 and a grassroots effort to construct a footbridge is already successfully raising funds to support the effort through their group, The Great Works Bridge Brigade. The Chorus students will have the opportunity to discuss their work with them and take action to make a difference financially, musically, and ethically in their local community.

Goals of this project include science, mathematic and technological integration; collaborative learning, creative thinking, listening skills, reflective writing, problem solving; exploratory composing techniques, music theory, form and analysis; various recording platforms, and online manuscript technologies.

Students will keep worksheets, reflective journal sheets and videos, and e-journals in Google Classroom to record thoughts, reflections, and developing lyric and melodic ideas.

The opportunity to have an artist-in-residence is a wonderful enhancement to the curriculum being explored. Having an expert help students with their learning is always a beneficial experience for all. Last year was the first time Choral Director and MALI Teacher Leader, Kris Bisson, and her students composed in the choral ensemble and the experience was amazing:

“Through composition in the chorus classroom, students are able to explore their own individual and collective ideas that help them express themselves personally as well as musically. Students elevated and increased their musical knowledge through the composition process and it was such an engaging and advanced learning experience for all. I am very excited to have the students reflect on their sense of place in their community, the history of our rivers and towns, the importance of keeping a bridge to connect our community, and have the opportunity first-hand to directly influence change around them.  At our Spring Concert, June 5, we will be sharing an informance, or interactive performance, where the students will have the opportunity to share their learning and conduct audience participation at our premiere performance.”

A very special recognition of appreciation is extended to the Marshwood Education Foundation for supporting this project.

Updates throughout the year can be found on our website:

Creativity and Common Core

March 21, 2014

Professional Development Workshop for Maine Teachers – April 1


Lesley University’s Creative Arts in Learning Division proposes to offer a professional development workshop for teachers in your district focusing on creatively implementing the Common Core State Standards. The 2-hour workshop will introduce teachers to strategies for designing curriculum and pedagogy that utilize creative processes across the disciplines to implement Common Core State Standards.  Just one example is preparing students to “actively seek the wide, deep, and thoughtful engagement with high-quality literary and informational texts [drawn from all of the arts] that builds knowledge, enlarges experience, and broadens worldviews.”[i]   The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education points out that it is important to select “informational texts and multimedia resources to create coherent curriculum units that link science, social studies [and] the arts.” [ii]   This workshop is offered at no cost to the district.

Design of the Program

The district-wide professional development workshop will be offered for teachers across disciplines and grade levels.  The workshop will focus on creative strategies to support teachers in integrating creative movement, drama, music, poetry, storytelling, and visual arts into teaching and learning activities.  At the conclusion of the workshop, teachers will have the opportunity to imagine creative project-based learning activities that meet Common Core State Standards in their classrooms.

The Creativity and Common Core workshop is designed to address best practices in education that Cambridge’s Superintendent Young identified in his district’s 2011 Innovation Agenda.  These include “engaging students in project-based and experiential learning, interdisciplinary curriculum and instruction … and providing professional support for teachers to provide effective differentiated instruction.”

Workshop Leader

Martha McKenna is University Professor and Director of the Creativity Commons at Lesley University. A senior administrator of the University for 27 years, Dr. McKenna founded the Creativity Commons in 2011 to support innovation in teaching and learning.  The Creativity Commons is committed to active learning, scholarly research, critical inquiry, and diverse forms of artistic practice through the development of close mentoring relationships with students, faculty, and practitioners in the field.

[i] Introduction: Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.  Common Core State Standards Initiative: Preparing America’s Students for College and Career. 2012.  p. 3.

[ii] Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Resources for Implementing The Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks

in 2012-2013.


The Science of Learning

April 26, 2012

How much is too much?

Practice makes perfect or does it help to really learn something. For a short period I gave end of unit “tests” to see if students had learned the concepts and skills related to the artwork. This was often very separate from assessing their art work.

In an article written by Annie Murphy-Paul she discusses the idea of practicing and how much it takes to really learn something, overlearn it, learning beyond mastery. Scientists are studying how the brain performs when learning something new and the continuous process of learning. I wonder how this information relates to teaching and learning in the classroom setting considering most arts educators see students for relatively short time each week. And how much impact the student who works individually “practicing”?! You can read the entire article by clicking here.

Thank you to friend and colleague Anne Kofler for sharing this article.


Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge

February 27, 2012

February 3, 2012 Science

In a special issue, Colin Norman, News Editor of Science, reports on the entries for the 2011 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.

Metabolomic Eye, Bryan W. Jones (Photography - 1st Place)

The challenge has taken place for the past 9 years and is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and The purpose is to “promote cutting-edge efforts to visualize scientific data, principles, and ideas—skills that are critical for communication among scientists and between scientists and the general public, especially students.”

Imagine, creating images for communication? Sound familiar? This is taken from

Chapter 132 Maine Learning Results: Parameters for Essential Instruction- Visual Arts B3 Making Meaning, Pre-K-2: Students create art works that communicate ideas and feelings and demonstrate skill in the use of meida, tools, and techniques.

This year there were 212 entries from 33 countries. The finalists were selected and posted and visitors were asked to select their favorite. The “People’s Choice” was selected by the 3200 votes that came in. The winners are posted on an online slide show at or at You can read the entire article at

The National Science Foundation encourages entries and the competition opens May 31, 2012. You can find information on their website (2nd link above).

Thank you to my colleague, Peter Bernard, at the Maine Department of Education, for sharing the link to this information.


Fruit Street School Artists

February 5, 2012

Bangor third graders create like the Masters

I must admit that I have always had high expectations of my students and most often they live up to those expectations. A project I recently did with my third grade classes at Fruit Street School has blown my socks off. They far exceeded anything that I thought would be capable of this age group. Not just one class of students but all four of my third grade classes and not just a few students in each room but all students. I give credit of the idea to a fifth grade class from Bangor Christian School which explored this creative lesson last year.

We began by viewing various artworks by numerous Master artists. I collected at least 3 or 4, 8 by 10 reproductions of around 35 artists and we viewed and discussed the styles and techniques of the diverse work comparing similarities and differences. Students were then paired into groups. The partners were asked to select their top 3 or 4 pieces of art work that they would like to paint. For three sessions the students created 18 by 24 size paintings fashioned after their selected reproduction. They worked on the same painting, first they drew the work to scale and then matched the colors and textures that the artist used. Their teamwork was amazing. The third graders were excited to experiment mixing the tempera paints to match the artists colors as well as mimicking the textures the artists portrayed which were a great learning experiences. Students dabbled, smoothed, dotted, and blended using various size paint brushes and swabs.

The excitement the students exhibited was contagious, exclaiming they felt like real artists. The pride they felt contributed to the atmosphere. They were always on task with quiet conversation about what they were doing. They were eager to listen to directions on how to make the “right” colors or the “right” proportions or textures to make their work look like the actual artists work. The works the students created are PHENOMENAL. Their enthusiasm, exhilaration, and pleasure were contagious. They could hardly wait to come back to the art room and I could barely wait until they did. Right now the 25 paintings are hanging in the school’s lobby next to the artists’ reproductions.

In the next steps the students will be researching their artist and their work from books that were purchased through an art fundraiser held last year. The few artist books not available in our library were loaned to us from other school libraries, the Bangor Public Library as well as University libraries. The students will work on their biographies for about three weeks and then will present an artist share and exhibition where one of the two team members will dress like the artist and the other student will become the artwork and they will converse with each other giving the viewer knowledge of both.

To add animation an oval will be cut out of the painting large enough for the student to put his or her face through. The students face will be painted with face paint to become part of the painting. We will collaborate wtih students from Bangor High School art club and University of Maine art students to help with the face painting. Anticipation is building for this event which will take place on the afternoon of Thursday, February 16th where the third grade artists will present their artist share and exhibition to other students at the school and to their parents.

The learning accomplishments are many in this project that supports the importance of the wide platform of art beginning with discussion of various artworks, decision making, and cooperative working. Besides the process of creating and the production of a visual piece of art, mathmatical skills were practiced by reproducing an 8 by 10 image to an 18 by 24 image. The science of color mixing was a constant triumph the students experienced as well as the capability to create various textures with paint. Researching information on the artist and the art work will expand the students’ knowledge of biographical research which is part of their third grade curriculum. The students will need to accurately record information and transcribe it to an interesting oral presentation. Their ability to converse with another student will strengthen their communication skills. I am extremely proud of my third grade students whose capabilities went beyond proficiency.

Thank you to Wendy Libby, Fruit Street, Bangor art teacher, for sharing this post including the pictures of the student artwork.


Art/Science Connection

January 2, 2012

New Year cleaning up time

During the past few days while on vacation I have been slowly boxing up my holiday “stuff” and putting it away in the attic for another year. I enjoy packing it up almost as much as I like to unpack it in early December. The difference is that not all of it goes back where it came from. I find that the packing leads to rearranging items in my home and make several piles; yard sale, town thrift shop, dump, give-away, and save for my children. I easily get side-tracked and end up sewing, reading, creating, and putting items up on the wall. At the end of each day I go to bed exhausted and wonder where the day went.

My clean-up mode continued today on my computer. Those of you that know me well are aware of my LOVE for “stickies” on my Mac. Yup, I went through and deleted a bunch of them and organized them by color and size. I spent some time on the meartsed blog and made some deletions as well. I found 24 drafts for blog posts. During the next few days I will publish some of the drafts. This is one…

I have published a couple of posts on “doodling”. One was a TED talk by Sunni Brown who leads the Doodle Revolution – a growing effort to debunk the myth that doodling is a distraction. Sunni’s wrtten a book called GameStorming: A Playbook for Rule-breakers, Innovators and Changemakers.

A second post called Doodling in Math Class which talks about mathemusicians. It is not only fun but a great view at how some people learn best through music and math. There is a video at this blog post where you’ll see Vi Hart eating candy buttons like a recreational mathemusician.  If you missed it when it was originally posted on January 6, 2011 I suggest you check it out now. And, of course go to her site where you can learn so many ideas.

The last post on doodling that is archived is a story about Robert Redford and his doodling experience. The post is from July 11, 2010.

So, here is one more on the topic of doodling. It is from an August 26, 2011 blog entry in, Teaching Now, written by Liana Heitin. Research has been done that suggests that drawing helps students understand science concepts, and should be used to complement writing, reading, and talking in science education. The post is called Don’t Forget to Show Your Doodles. I hope you have a chance to read the post. It has many points that you might want to share with colleagues.

I am certainly glad I had the chance to complete this blog post!

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