Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Afterschool Art Takes the Cake!

One fun thing about my job is afterschool art. Students sign up to stay afterschool for one hour and participate in different activities. In September and October, the session was five weeks long. A whooping 24 first, second, and third graders signed up for Monday afternoons. It was a nice treat that only 8 fourth and fifth graders signed up for Wednesdays.

For this session, I decided to do an exploratory art theme. On the first day, I told the 4th and 5th graders we would be studying verbs. The confusion was beautiful.

Was this afterschool English class?

I asked them to list verbs for making art: draw, paint, collage, print, sculpt... I explained that each week we would be exploring a different verb from this list of five.

For drawing, we did mixed media work combining colored pencils, oil pastels, crayons, markers, and other drawing media.
For painting, we learned various watercolor techniques.
For collage, they made representational and non-objective work.
For printmaking, we made styrofoam prints and monoprints.

Eventually, it was the sculpting week. I couldn't decided what material to use. Third grade made cardboard sculptures. That would be one possibility. Fifth grade was already in the middle of a wire sculpture project during their class time. Clay would be impossible.

Suddenly, it came to me. My principal told the 4th and 5th graders we could have ice cream on the last day if their artwork was A-quality. (They'd been asking about grades for afterschool art, and ice cream seems like a good grade!) Given the situation with dairy, it seemed like a great alternative would be CAKE SCULPTING!

Family Fun and Ace of Cakes became great resources. I made two round cakes, one square cake, and 6 cupcakes. I also bought two cans of white icing, Skittles, M&M's, and Fruit by the Foot in various colors.

Once again, I used the "catch them off guard" motivation tactic. I don't know the official name, but I'm sure Julia taught it to us in Early Field. I told the class we all needed to sit at one table. I asked them what types of materials are used to make sculpture. Clay, stone, metal, wire, cardboard. They listed some main ones. We wouldn't be using any of those materials. We were using something new, and before we made our sculpture, we needed to research this kind of sculpture on the Internet. At this point in time, I played some Ace of Cakes videos from You should have seen their faces...a lot of confusion, for one. An American girl whispered under her breath "wait, we're using cake?" For other kids, it didn't click until I carried the cakes into the art room. Yes, we were using cake!

On Ace of Cakes, they talk about using standard round and square pans, then cutting and carving into the shapes. At this point in time, we looked at some cake designs from Family Fun. I printed out instructions that consisted of cutting cakes into different sections and reassembling with icing to create pencils, panda bears, and more. Before we decided on a design, we cast our collective vote in a web poll for the best cakes on the Family Fun website. There were some inspiring designs!

Someone offered a palm tree for our design. I liked the idea. It seemed mildly challenging, but doable. The square cake would make a great tree trunk. The round cakes could be cut into palm fronds. Lastly, the cupcakes would make cute little coconuts!

We began cutting. The kids were quite hesitant, but I reassured them we could always "glue" pieces back together with icing. I scored guidelines for the cuts onto the cakes and let different students hack away (using butter knifes)! We also trimmed the cupcakes to make them more spherical.

The next step was a base coat of icing! Still, the kids were a little too delicate. It was getting mighty close to 4:00, time to go home! I found the best method to expedite the process was to slop a huge glob of icing in a section and let the kids spread it around. Each student took turns icing the tree. For time's sake, we decided the sides didn't need icing.

We had a little extra cake from the round pans and decided to make some sand for the tree. Of course, all the small trimmings had already been consumed by the crew, but these were large chunks!

After the base coat, the decorations kicked into gear! It was an all-out mad house as they quickly covered the fronds with anything green, the trunk with brown and purple items, and the sand with yellow and orange. We decided to leave the chocolate cupcake au natural because of their brown color.

Thankfully, we didn't need blue or red items. Those candies made for extra snack!

Eventually, it was time to cut the cake! We barely had enough time to give each kid some cake and send them to the bus with their treat.

Between the nibbles of cake and candy during the sculpting, and the LARGE portions of cake they took on the bus, I'm pretty sure none of the kids wanted dinner that night!

The next morning, as one fifth grade class came to art, they said "did they really decorate a cake yesterday in afterschool art?" It was true, and a few stray bits of icing and cake crumbs around the room confirmed it!

Here's the whole crew with our Palm Tree cake sculpture!

So yummy, Christopher is licking his fingers in the picture!

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