Summertime = Time for Creativity!

I grew to love painting “for fun” instead of “for homework” during my time in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, all my paintings were too large to bring back on the plane — although I seriously considered the idea (Imagine an already overloaded traveller begging the flight attendant to please let this ginormous framed canvas to be her “carry-on”… yeah, I didn’t think that would go over so well either!). I ended up selling about 8 pieces before moving back.

That was a year ago.

Let’s be honest: The whole process of reverse culture shock (becoming acclimated to one’s native country again) takes a lot longer than anyone wants to admit. I think my process took about 8 months, and in some ways, is still happening even today.

That said, I’m finally beginning to feel like my artistic self again. Here’s several pieces of creative evidence:

I saw this idea online somewhere and knew I had to try it. I bought an already-painted-on canvas at a thrift store and used masking tape to craft letters on top of the painting. I chose my favorite quote from La casa en Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (an amazing Cuban-American author), and fit the whole quote on the canvas. Then I painted over the tape, let it dry, and peeled all the tape off. Wa-laah! I might go back and add more to it, but this is what it looks like for now.

I also saw this idea online somewhere… probably or something. While I’m not Martha Stewart, I was able to figure out this recipe. All I did was mix up a white cake mix, separate it into three mixing bowls, add different color to each bowl, and bake each layer separately. I didn’t have enough circle cake pans, so I turned to pie tins as well. Each layer cooled for about 15 minutes before I iced them all into one cake. Easy peasy.

This is my current work-in-progress. It is acrylic paints and a collage of paper, leaves, bark, film negatives, and beads. It’s not quite finished yet, so stay tuned for a finished version.

 I continued the collage up the side of the canvas. All about the little details.

Here’s a close up of the lower collage:

This tree collage took a lot longer than I thought it would, but little by little, it made its way toward completion. My favorite is the gold paper running through the whole tree — both branches and roots. I was reflecting on a particular verse in Romans that reminds us that we (the tree) are not all that there is to us — that the roots (Jesus) are what really anchor us throughout life. To me, Jesus is the gold that shines throughout the entire tree, causing the leaves to grow.

I’m definitely enjoying my creative summer… can you tell? : )


Looking Ahead

Before school was out for the summer, I went to visit my classroom for next year. I was wowed by how RED this room is. They say red boosts energy levels, so that could be a positive or negative, depending on this next group of children : ).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The previous teacher still had her posters and supplies in the room, so at this point, it is difficult to imagine what my future classroom might look like… but it’s fun to start dreaming : ).

White Water Rafting (Wisconsin Style)

I was recently invited on a rafting day trip and impulsively decided to go. Throughout the experience, I had so many flashbacks to traveling throughout Costa Rica — obviously the landscape didn’t match, but being in the middle of an adventure without knowing many details beforehand (or even during, ha!) brought back terrifying fond memories of what it’s like to live in the moment of first-time experiences. A good reminder, for sure.

After 5 hours of driving north, here are the sleep-deprived, brave souls. All nine of them.

Most of the rafting adventure looked like the image above. We slowly paddled down the Wolf River and drank in the nature sounds and sights.

Then there was a slight drizzle that felt really good in the hot afternoon sun… So I actually said (yes, out loud) something like, “It would be great to get more rain like that.”

So right after I took the photo of these gorgeous pines, it started drizzling… then raining… then pouring. Oops. Guess I got what I wished for.

So really all the photos I took were before this rain storm blinded our path (and made my sunscreen run in my eyes). Above, I am with Heather, a sweet girl I met at the Vineyard church I have been attending.

Right after the rain started was our first rapids, so we were squinting in the downpour and wind, trying to keep the raft afloat (and right side up), and praying we wouldn’t fall out. (Maybe the others weren’t praying about their survival, but I certainly was as we approached the falls, lol. I mean, all you could see was that everyone in front of you had suddenly gone over the edge…)

Then the rain stopped long enough right at the end of the 5 hour “adult lazy river” for me to capture this photo of the toughest falls for extremely brave souls — Don’t worry, Mom, I wasn’t that brave. : )

And a video for your viewing pleasure. This group was heavily drinking as we paddled past them before the first falls, and they had strapped all their rafts together. Here are the hilarious (and most definitely painful) results of inhibited common sense.

Creating Art with God

This might be a far-out-there idea… but I came to this idea several years ago as I was painting while babysitting two baseball-obsessed boys. They were playing 1-on-1 baseball (a bit humorous to watch) while I was situated on the edge of the lawn with my watercolor painting on the ground.

Seemingly without warning, a raincloud blew in and promptly began pouring on us. The boys were unfazed in their heated competition, but I panicked and picked up my painting to run for rain cover — Only for the back of the painting to be smacked with a foul ball, splattering paint all down the front of my favorite shirt.

As I took the painting indoors, I thought for sure it was ruined… I left it to dry, feeling discouraged. A few hours later, I came back to check on it, and I was pleasantly surprised that the raindrops and the huge baseball splatter actually added to what I was trying to accomplish. It was as if God had intervened while I was painting and showed me what He had in mind for that project.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of that painting to show you…

But I do have photos of my latest ”art with God” endeavor = a.k.a. gardening. All I did was dig up perennials from my mom’s garden (with her permission, of course :)) and then arrange the plants in my garden. I think God should get way more credit than I should for a beautiful garden because He’s done the rest!

(Note: To get a closer look at an image, click on it.)

Teaching About Change

Change happens everywhere around us, so why not open the discussion about change with students?

Brainstorm a list of things that change, like this:

My personal favorite on the above list is ”puberty.” You can tell we did this as a graduate class and most of us are upper elementary and middle school teachers, ha!

After the initial brainstorm, guide students into ”truths” about change. Then create a concept map, like this:

Once the class has developed their own ”truths” (with strong teacher guidance, : )), the concept map can be added to throughout the school year. For example, you might write ”history” under the ”is linked to time” concept. Or you might write ”relationships” under the ”can be positive or negative” concept.


End-of-the-School-Year Madness

I’m going to zoom you through the last week of school so then maybe you’ll understand why I’ve been on a 2 week retreat from anything school-related (including blogging about school! : )).

On your marks…. Ready… Go!

My 5th graders and I took a trip to Springfield to sight see and to conclude our Abraham Lincoln studies, so the next day, we made scrapbooks (chaos pictured above : )). 

Here they are posed with a young Abe Lincoln at the museum. They thought the wax figures were creepy but yet they were so fascinated that it was hard to leave.

We went inside the new capitol building as well. Here’s a photo I captured of the outside, and a student added his thoughts on the printed photo with his Sharpie marker. (To see closer, click on the image above.)

The 6th graders and I went to Six Flags as a reward for following through with their behavior contracts. Somehow I was signed up as a chaperone for an all-boys group (my 6th grade boys plus 2 more from another class). Here we are after our third time on their favorite water ride. These boys sure talked a lot of smack on the bus ride to the theme park, but once we were in front of the X-Flight (the latest amazing rollercoaster), their inner chickens surfaced and they refused to even get in line to wait while I rode the coaster. Bummer. Maybe next time : ). 

Then the 6th graders graduated from elementary school. I was strict about dress code: boys had to wear ties and girls had to wear skirts or dresses. My class was the finest looking 6th grade class this year. Of course, I may be just a bit biased : ).

(Note: To look at the pictures in a larger view, click on the image.)

During the 6th grade graduation, my 5th graders were industriously helping serve cupcakes to the many 6th grade family and friends that attended the celebration. Here’s the aftermath:

Valeria and Tamara not willing to show off their blue mouths…

Oscar and Marcelo begging for a third cupcake…

Ariana’s natural hospitality shining through…

And as Marcelo phrased it: ”Miss Siscoe, I think I just died by cupcake.” (a.k.a. too many cupcakes)

Then I concluded this field-trip-loving lifestyle by packing up yet another classroom… nothing like teaching at 4 different schools in 5 years (hopefully I’ll stay put in this next school for a while : )).

27 boxes of teaching tricks. Impressive considering last year I was only able to bring back 100 pounds of anything from Costa Rica (in other words, I hardly brought any teaching items back to the U.S. lol… seriously, how did I accumulate so much in just one year??!)

And the classroom ready for the next teacher to move in…

Whew! There you have it. The end-of-the-year madness marathon.