7th Grade – Joseph Cornell’s Memory Boxes

7th Grade – Joseph Cornell’s Memory Boxes

Description of the Unit – Students will observe and discuss Joseph Cornell’s memory boxes, and, gathering their own personal objects, found objects and other materials, students will thoughtfully create their own memory boxes.

One of Joseph Cornell's found object assemblages, also known as memory boxes, titled Celestial Navigation and made in 1956.
Joseph Cornell – Untitled (Celestial Navigation) – 1956-58 © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation
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2nd Grade: Henri Matisse & Rex Ray: Cut-outs & Collage

2nd Grade: Henri Matisse & Rex Ray: Cut-outs & Collage

Description of the Unit – Students will explore the famous cut-outs that Henri Matisse innovated in the 1940’s, as well as Rex Ray’s inventive contemporary collages. Throughout their exploration students will note the use of color, line, shape, texture and positive and negative space in the creation of a dynamic yet balanced composition.

2nd grade student example of Matisse-Ray "style" Cut-out Collage with painted paper, books, magazines and other diverse stationary.
2nd grade student example of a Matisse-Ray “style” Cut-out Collage
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5th Grade – Dot Painting inspired by Australian Aborigines

5th Grade – Dot Painting inspired by Australian Aborigines

Description of the Unit – Students will observe and discuss examples of aboriginal dot painting, from very early examples to the art produced by the culture in present day. Students will use what they learned about color, pattern and symbol in their observations to create their own dot paintings, expressing scenes from nature. 

5th grade student dot painting of a shark.
5th grade student dot painting
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8th Grade – Wayang Kulit Puppets

8th Grade – Wayang Kulit Puppets

Description of the Unit – Students explore the fascinating shadow puppet art form from Indonesia known as Wayang Kulit. Students then create their own shadow puppets, taking particular care to carve patterns on the puppets’ costumes using negative space.

A photographic example of Wayang Kulit, the fascinating shadow puppet theater of Indonesia
Wayang Kulit, the fascinating shadow puppet theater of Indonesia
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3rd Grade – Mexican Amate Paintings

3rd Grade – Mexican Amate Paintings

Description of the Unit – Students will explore the fascinating Mexican folk art known as Amate bark painting. Using their observations of the art form, students will crumple brown kraft paper (a part of this project they love) to give it a bark-like texture, and paint their own painting onto it in the same bold and bright colors as used by Mexican artisans of Amate.

A Mexican artisan working on an Amate painting, depicting traditional subjects, such as birds and flowers, in vibrant colors on Amate bark paper.
Amate: Mexican Bark Painting
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6th Grade – Arabic Geometric ‘Tiles’

6th Grade – Arabic Geometric ‘Tiles’

Description of the Unit – Students will explore the centuries-old geometric patterns found in Islamic architecture. Students will use mathematical techniques as instructed in Eric Bourg’s marvelous book, Islamic Geometric Patterns, to re-create a variety of the patterns they have explored through their observations.

Examples of 6th grade students' Arabic geometric "tiles" made by using mathematical steps as given in Eric Bourg's book "Islamic Geometric Patterns"
Examples of my 6th grade students’ Islamic geometric ’tiles’ elaborated from steps given in Eric Bourg’s book Islamic Geometric Patterns.
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4th Grade – The Mola of Panama

4th Grade – The Mola of Panama

Description of the Unit – The Mola, a traditional cloth worn by the Kuna (from the tiny San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama), are quite brightly colored, in contrasting patterns of various shapes, and in the center depicting what is typically an animal, plant or person of special interest to the Kuna. Students will explore the tradition of Molas, noting the use of contrasting colors, abstract patterns as well as noting the contrasting organic shapes of the main subject to the mostly geometric shapes of the background patterns. Students will use their understanding of these elements to create their own interpretation of the Mola in colored construction paper.

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8th Grade Photography Unit, Lesson 4: ISO and Nighttime Photography

8th Grade Photography Unit, Lesson 4: ISO and Nighttime Photography

Description of the Unit – Students will explore the ISO function on their digital cameras so as to understand how it affects exposure, practicing using it and all previously learned functions to take sharp, interesting nighttime photos.

Activity statement – ISO completes the basic triad of camera functions necessary to understand and manipulate your camera in order to get the shot you want. Our objectives are the following:

  • Understand what ISO means
  • Understand what the corresponding ISO would be for various light circumstances
  • Practice using different ISO’s and examining the results
  • Take at least one clear night image

What is ISO? With analog cameras, ISO represented the film’s sensitivity to light, which was rated via a number, such as 400. The more sensitive the film to light, the higher it’s rating, or number; in photography it was also referred to as the film being “faster”. Film with low ISO was typically used in bright, daytime settings, and so of course the higher ISO’s were used if it was overcast, night, or a darker indoor scene. There was always a compromise, however, as the higher the sensitivity, the grainier the film—meaning the image would actually look grainy and lack sharpness. Additionally, with analog cameras, whatever film sensitivity you were using you would be stuck with until the roll of film was all used.

With digital cameras, one can adjust the ISO at any time. However, if one is not actually using film, why is there still ISO? Well, to the best of my knowledge, when digital cameras first came out manufacturers co-opted ISO to reflect the sensor’s performance level under given light circumstances, so as to give photographers the same options as one once had on analog cameras, when adjusting the aperture and shutter speed just weren’t enough. As with analog cameras, higher ISO’s also produce more noise, however camera technology has been decreasing this outcome over the years.

So, on a digital camera, if your setting is in low light, your preferred aperture and shutter speed might not allow enough light to reach the sensor, and therefore you would need to opt for a higher ISO.  

Now that students have had a few weeks to learn about and practice using shutter speed and aperture, I invite them to use them, along with ISO adjustments, to take sharp nighttime images. The images may also involve the use of motion of some kind to blur light. Students should consider either using a tripod, or setting their cameras on a steady surface to reduce the possibility of blur due to handholding the camera.

I love shooting at night, so I give students examples of my own photos and talk to them about the settings I used, the experience I had while shooting each image and what I learned with each.

The Eiffel Tower lit up at night, in Paris, France, by Anita Sagastegui
Paris at Night, ©Anita Sagastegui Photography
A street corner at night in Dublin, Ireland, with the headlights of a double-decker bus in motion, by Anita Sagastegui
Double-decker in Dublin, Ireland, ©Anita Sagastegui Photography
Snowy winter scene, with the lights from homes reflecting on he water's edge, in Bass Lake, California, by Anita Sagastegui
Bass Lake, California, ©Anita Sagastegui Photography

As always, in class we go on a photo walk to continue to play with our camera’s settings. The nighttime photos will be the assigned homework.

A student showing curious children her images while out on our class photo walk
A student showing curious children her images while out on our class photo walk

Goals – Students should…

Understand:

  • What ISO is
  • How ISO affects exposure

Know:

  • When a high ISO would be used vs. a low one

Be able to:

  • Adjust the ISO setting on their cameras
  • Take an image at night that is sharp

Resources and materials –

  • A digital camera with manual settings
  • A memory card with enough space for the day’s photo excursion
  • Fully charged battery
  • Examples of photos highlighting the day’s lesson (shutter speed manipulation in this case)
  • Optional: a tripod for sharper nighttime images

Students were assigned the nighttime photography over winter break, so were fortunate enough to take images celebrating the holidays and new year’s eve.

8th grade student's night photography: trees lit up for Christmas reflected in a lake
8th grade student’s night photography
8th grade student's night photography: a shopping center festooned with a Christmas tree and presents
8th grade student’s night photography
8th grade student's night photography: fireworks
8th grade student’s night photography
8th grade student's night photography; city skyscrapers
8th grade student’s night photography
8th grade student's night photography: city skyscrapers and a pedestrian bridge on which a couple is walking
8th grade student’s night photography