Featured Specialist: Amanda Amsel - Art
Welcome to month three at QAE! How is it going so far?
The staff is amazing, the kids are wonderful and creative, and our parents are so supportive. I love how the staff is so passionate and involved; it’s such a great positive environment to work in. If I have a new idea, everyone is “IN” and excited.
You taught high school students before coming to QAE to teach elementary students—what are some of the joys and challenges of teaching K - 5 students?
What a change I decided to take on, but I love it! I’m realizing that even though my students are younger than I’m used to, if pushed, they can create some amazing things and go beyond what I’ve asked them to do. They can take on multi-step projects, follow directions, try new mediums and techniques that they have never tried, and I can still build on creativity, perseverance, and growth. I feel like I am getting their young minds to create things that I have never experienced. When I put something in front of a kindergartner, they will always try—and they are excited to try. I’m slowly realizing that I can teach some of the same skills and techniques to K-5 students as I did to HS students - just at a different level and pace.
This change has definitely pushed me to become a more organized person with 16 classes and almost 400 students, along with the transitions, time, and remembering everyone’s name (which has been hard)! The biggest challenge has been time management. I think because of the fast classes - only 30-40 min, the change between classes is sometimes 5 min for clean-up and line up - I have to be on top of everything! I also have had to get used to the younger ages and their short attention spans. I can’t talk as much at the beginning of class. They are so eager to DO art, that holding their attention is really hard. I’ve also struggled with the noise levels. They truly love art and want to be there, but they get so excited to talk and do art it’s hard to keep the noise level at a “studio level” - we are working on that.
How often do you see each class?
In the upper grades (2-5), not enough, only 1 or 2 times a week on a three week rotation for 40 minutes; K and 1, I see twice a week for 30 minutes.
What mediums do you teach, and do you have a favorite?
I will teach and have taught everything! I love to paint, do printmaking, and mixed media. I’m sure you will see my style and love for certain mediums shine through my students' work - like the multi-layered, mixed media projects we are already working on. I also enjoy teaching ceramics and would love to get a kiln at this school so we could have the option to work with clay.
How do you incorporate PBL?
I have already worked with the kindergarten classes on their All About Me project - incorporating a self-portrait, a plate of food they like, and pumpkins that look like them. In 1st grade, I’m going to start a “Story Quilt” soon to incorporate their What Does the Past Tell Us project. For 2nd grade, I will work on incorporating their Soil and Water units into my curriculum soon using watercolors and real dirt for paintings. For 3rd grade, I’m working on Cursive in art since they are working on it in Writing; I will also create an art project based around their Salmon unit that is coming up. For 4th - 5th grades, we are meeting soon to figure out some interesting projects to do together. And, Ms. Stone and I are starting a 5th grade PBL project for an outdoor Sound Garden.
When I do have extra PBL time, I offer grades to come in for extra art time if they miss an art class for field trips, holidays, early releases, etc., or if I need to have a grade level complete an art project, ie. during Day of Dead projects, they came in for some extra art time, and students love extra art time!
I hope to do more as the year progresses - I love collaborating!
Who is your favorite artist and how has he or she inspired you?
Oh...this is a hard question! I’ve always loved Marc Chagall and his dream-like paintings, focusing on stories, dreams, life, and colors - Expressionist! Color, emotion, not always real, but so vibrant! There’s something to say about the realists too, but my 20th Century Modern Art class in college was one of my favorites. There are a lot of contemporary local artists who are very inspiring with their mixed-media collaging that I enjoy looking at too.
What art books would you recommend?
The Dot is an amazing story and message for kids of all ages! I started all of my classes with this book this year. Ish has a great message for making a “mark” and becoming an artist. Art Synectics and Design Synectics have some great ideas for higher level thinking skills, especially for high school.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not teaching?
I love to be outside! Any chance I get, I am running, biking, hiking, camping, or on the water somewhere. I love the sun, so I soak it up as much as I can. I also love to read, create my own artwork, and listen to music.
How can I help?
1. Encourage your kids to create, be creative, dream, and experiment with new ideas (work on arts & crafts, bake or cook dinner, build a fort)!
2. Volunteer for one or more of the many opportunities - send me an e-mail if you can help: