September 18, 2016
I am so grateful for this opportunity to share my Kapteyn experience with you.
The Kapteyn award is special; it comes with a “pedigree” of affection and a heartfelt intention to commemorate and carry forward the memory of a beloved teacher, mentor and friend. To be honored with an award and a gift like this happens—if you’re lucky—once in a lifetime.
At this time last year, when I received the Kapetyn award, I didn’t anticipate how much of an adventure it would be just to come to a decision on how to apply it—how to use this gift to truly honor Jamie. Molly’s inspiring story, about how she and her siblings received letters from Jamie while on his fly fishing trip, came back to me so often over the course of this past year as I’ve wondered: What is my “fly fishing”? What is the thing that enriches me, keeps me inspired, and keeps me teaching with fresh enthusiasm and renewed focus?
I’ve always loved libraries. And I can’t say that I was a particularly eager reader. Though I loved books, growing up, I read them sparingly. So, it wasn’t the prospect of reading itself that drew me to the library; but, rather, the sense that each book contained an experience—some kind of learnable, transferable knowledge. A new and (ideally) utterly unfamiliar perspective that I could engage with.
But as I’ve moved into different stages of life, I’ve found exploring the aisles of the library has become something different. Instead of embodying possibilities, open doors, uncharted territories, the books I encountered started to somehow speak to paths I didn’t choose, or skills I hadn’t made time to learn.
That same feeling hovered over me in the early stages of mapping out how best to apply my Kapetyn award. My goal was to identify a direction—an experience—that would honor Jamie, as well as the past prize winners, the other qualified teachers who have applied for the prize, and the core mission of the prize itself. I needed to develop some sort of grand, master plan that would be worthy of the purpose behind the prize.
I went back and forth, between having a solid understanding of what my wishes were and being less certain as to whether my choices were just a part of an image I felt I should be upholding. I wanted to be the type of person who could plan a trip to Patagonia and not be held back by worries about being away from my children for too long—or about being with them on such a long flight. I wanted to be able to report back on doing something inspiring, out of the ordinary or strikingly creative. And, as a result, I found myself back in the library.
I checked out all the travel books that the Lee, Pittsfield and Great Barrington libraries had to offer, as well as many how-to books on assorted creative skills and disciplines. I even dug into business strategy, as entrepreneurial visions danced in my head.
And, through my various efforts to come up with the best possible way to use this gift, I found that I was enjoying something I hadn’t really felt able to access in some time: possibility. I read about countries I rarely thought about and discovered public spaces I’d never heard about. I learned where almost every national park is and found out which state parks are the most impressive. I learned about the best ways to travel with young kids—and the best ways to avoid traveling with young kids. I researched local, national and global cultural institutions.
Without even choosing a direction toward my initial goal, I realized that I was already experiencing the most valuable reward the Kapetyn prize could give me: I was feeling—once again, after so long—like anything was possible, and that I really could—still, and always—experience so much more of what this life and this world have to offer.
And so, in the midst of this journey that became its own destination—and after much more self-analysis than necessary—I decided to put this award toward doing the things that truly filled my cup. And, as it turns out, they weren’t the most striking or out-of-the-ordinary choices; but once I let go of trying to nail the perfect, grand, master plan, I was content with my decisions—and so grateful for the possibilities they represented.
For the first time in my life, I now own a bike and ride alongside my sons. I have enjoyed the peace and calm of our town lake while paddling (or often merely floating) in my first kayak. In the past year, my family and I have been to more art museums, concerts, plays and cultural events than we ever have before. I stepped out of my comfort zone and opened myself up to the unfamiliar, knowing that, no matter what, these new experiences would provide the kinds of stimulation and challenges that drive and revitalize my teaching practice.
I took drum lessons, performance and writing workshops, and encaustic painting classes. I went to photography workshops and teaching seminars. I spent so many weekends visiting friends and family with my camera, staging and creating images that are now part of my own personal, curated James C. Kapteyn collection. I took trips with my family to break up the (not so cold) winter. I spent a week in Maine with my entire family, making memories that I will cherish forever. I upgraded my professional photography gear. I took time to plan my time here at work, to shrink those less mindful stretches and clear more space for meaningful moments.
With the luxury of time and the re-ignited sense of possibility granted by this award, I learned more this year about how to challenge myself productively and inspire myself meaningfully, than any other of my years as a teacher. And for that, I am grateful beyond words.
I have been truly blessed to receive this prize. Thank you for letting me share with you what it has meant to me. I am deeply honored to be a member of this collection of inspired and inspirational people.
Thank you, Jamie; and thank you all.
Though I don't have photographs of all of my adventures, here are some to highlight many of the great opportunities from the year.
Read my article "Gratitude Cards" here: http://www.schoolartsdigital.com/i/472129/28
and view additional pieces here:
This project aims to help students consider the lifeline of the objects they use.
The assignment can take many forms; pictured above are students working on a mural illustrating the average quantity of objects that one person uses in a year. The students created a large heap representing a landfill and stenciled their objects within. The class had a good time calculating the objects they use and deciding which objects to include in their landfills.
This project is a nice break from the design-heavy object making and gives students a chance to do some 2-D work. It is also a good segue into the discussion of recycling and upcycling. Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value. The project potential using upcycling is limitless.
One of my sisters is also an art teacher and has made it her goal to expose her students to as much life and culture
outside of their small town as possible. Expanding the student’s global community is an important part of our current culture with the workforce changing from local to international before our eyes. I cringe when I hear some of my students talk about traveling to the bordering state as if it was the experience of a lifetime. In the rural town I teach in, students often don’t have the means to take family trips far off places. They are lucky if they make the 2.5 hour drive to New York City once, in their high school career. While I can’t fund raise enough to allow each family in my school the opportunity to travel, I can do my best to expose the students to foreign culture and give them a taste of what life is like in other parts of the world. The project is simple. So many of us already do 2 point perspective projects. This one encourages the students to learn about a different place and the culture they would experience there, and apply this knowledge to create a restaurant design.
This is one of those projects that really incorporates a lot of design thinking. Students have to learn about the country, decide where their restaurant will be located and make a lot of key decisions from there. Many of the students struggle initially with the idea that a 5 star restaurant might not be the best choice for a developing country.
Project Essential Questions
How can we get students excited about the culture that exists in other parts of the world?
How can educators connect drawing with key math vocabulary words?
Students will know and be able to. . .
• Understand math concepts and vocabulary associated with perspective drawing.
• Interesting facts about a country that they knew little about prior to the assignment.
• Conceptualize facts about a country in order to design a restaurant inspired by the country of study.
• Practice shading techniques using a light source and cross-hatching.
• Be exposed to the basics of landscape architecture.
• Study the architect Frank Gehry and discuss his work.
Here's the lesson:
Getting kids to think.
The simple act of thinking is the main ingredient in beginning a successful design. In education, it is the one aspect of our teaching that we have little control over. Teachers can see when a student isn’t drawing. We can observe that they aren’t paying attention (or we can assume), but it is very difficult to judge whether a student is truly thinking and brainstorming ideas or just riding out the clock. Often times, students aren’t trying to be sneaky or manipulative, they just
can’t persuade their brains to move around a problem. Mind mapping provides a way to visually interpret and illustrate
one's ideas. This benefits the students in showing them how to circumvent brain blocks and it certainly helps us teachers
understand how a student got to a certain point in their thinking and how they can move beyond that point.
I used Mind Mapping as an introduction to the Health and Well-being unit of my Foundations of Design Class. Students were simply asked to consider the word "health" and branch out with ideas, visuals, and connections. The class discussed the benefits of organizing thoughts in a visual way and I used the age-old exercise of asking the kids to think of a donkey. When asked what they thought of, all students described an image of a donkey flashing in their heads. From there, we discussed how as humans, organizing thoughts in a visual way goes along with our basic modes of recognition and perception. Humans are by nature, visual beings.
The drawings that followed our discussion range in depth and creativity. Some students focused on how NOT to be healthy while some focused on creating a "to do" list. I encouraged the students to not filter their thoughts in any way and merely recognize the connections and hierarchy.
How can you design a writing instrument while applying form and function effectively with emphasis on texture?
I do this project early on in the course as part of the review of the elements and principles of design. Students consider the texture of objects and how the psychology of touch plays an important role in the products that we interact with.
Their goal is to redesign a writing instrument that either possesses additional function and/or places heavy emphasis on texture.
The spectrum of completed assignments have ranged from mood pens to writing grips for people with limited hand dexterity.
Note about Materials: I have always used Model Magic for this assignment, but next time around will try something different. They Model Magic cracks very easily and the students rely on the "foamy" feel to act as the design solution. Any suggestions?
To review the elements and principles of design, the students set out to create a set of shelves for three different age groups emphasizing Line in their designs. They sketch their ideas for a 16 year-old student, a middle-aged couple, and an 80 year-old, living alone. The students are encouraged to consider how the form and function changes for each age group and how lines might have a different role for each. This project is typically the first real design project of the course and it is always interesting to see how the students deal with the parameters.
I have been teaching art and design at the middle and high school level since 2006 and learning about both for a lot longer.