Friday, September 26, 2014

Going Home

Going home was a bittersweet experience. I loved Costa Rica, I loved my school and my students, I loved the pineapple pies at McDonalds and the weird Spanish soap operas, I loved the stray dogs in the streets and all sorts of other things. But I was also excited to get back home.

I made up a bunch of 'thank you' cards for everyone who helped me out on this trip. The one on the left is a picture of our school library for my mentor teacher (he was a serious guy, I didn't feel like he would've appreciated cartoon animals haha). The one in the middle was for the woman who worked with us teachers and the program which placed us in the schools and Spanish lessons. It's a sloth pooping. I taught everyone about sloths pooping. The third was for my Spanish teacher, it's a big parrot teaching Spanish to a little parrot.

On our last couple days the three of us teachers had to give 45 minute presentations about our time in Costa Rica, and they left this sweet little note on the board for us! They even gave us cake con leche which is delicious.

We were presented with certificates for completing our programs and our Spanish lessons. I am certified in alto-basico Spanish according to this!

They had recently cleaned off the huge multicultural whiteboard. I drew a giant sloth pooping.

Never looked back.

For our family I made this card showing Rocky and Bruno, our family dogs (they were so sweet and wonderful!) and we presented them with various gifts from Minnesota. 

And after one ridiculously long day of flights and security checks and customs, we made it home.

Smell ya later Costa Rica.

It's been real.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wild Cats School Assembly

One of our last days in the school was spent at a "Wild Cats Assembly". The school's mascot is the wildcats, and the students are split into two groups by even and odd graduation years. At this school you are either a 'wild' or a 'cat'. Every so often the school has a wild cats assembly where the kids compete 'wild' against 'cats'.

It is a crazy, disorganized mess. It was the least organized school event I have ever attended, but fun. Here are the kids wandering around confusedly because no one knew what was going on or who was going where.

We ran a station where students competed to put together a puzzle faster than the other team. 

It is cool how the kids of all ages, from elementary through high school, work together for these challenges.

On the other end of the gym kids compete to make the most baskets in time.

Other sorts of relays are going on inside and outside of the gym at the same time.

This picture is great, because this is every single student in the school (ages 3-18!) sitting together in one half of the gym, the green shirts are the seniors. It's definitely a tiny school.

Then somehow, in someway that no one seemed to really understand, one group won more challenges than the other. Then somehow they added up the extra points earned by the preschoolers, and no one seemed to understand how that worked either.

And somehow, one group won and the other group lost.

And all the kids jumped around and hugged and everyone was super excited about it. But the teachers were just confused. That seems to be a common thing in Costa Rican schools, nothing is very well organized or planned ahead and schedules are all over the place. We just kinda run with it.

It was nice to see the whole school together before we left.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My First Field Trip

While in Costa Rica I was able to join my high school students on my first field trip as a teacher! A small gallery in the city was displaying an exhibition of student work, and several of our own students were included!

Students from all over San Jose entered art work for this contest, and the best were chosen for display. For the field trip, classes of each grade represented were able to go on the field trip (for example, if a second grader's work was exhibited, all of the second grade got to go on the field trip).

Since my high schoolers were pretty much fine wandering around, I got to wander myself and look at all the work. The preschoolers, however, were led through with their teachers to look at each picture.

It was cool to listen in on my high schoolers while they talked about the art and took pictures of the ones they liked.

I took pictures of all of the artwork from students in our school, and just the ones that I liked.

Some students from my school:

And ones that I liked (all high school):

And then we got back in our rich private school vans, and drove back to school.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Teaching in Costa Rica - High School

I wrote a bit earlier about my challenge and learning experience in teaching preschoolers, but my other biggest challenge was in teaching my high school students. This was the first (and only) time that I've had to teach teenage students and I loved it. This post is going to be very wordy, because it's a good story, and I don't have a lot of pictures that I can share without showing students' faces. In Costa Rica, I had two high school classes. The school only offered one elective for art in high school (as opposed to in the U.S. where we generally have Beginning Art, Advanced Art, etc. or even Drawing and Painting, Ceramics, etc.).

Like all of my other classes, my teacher was very project based, so my high school classes consisted of each student working on as many individual projects as they wanted with whatever materials they wanted. The teachers just were there to act as mentors. We did not teach any art history or criticism, etc. So my challenge was to bring my own into that. I think I already mentioned on here how I was able to do a critique with my students, but I also brought in this art appreciation activity that we learned in my college education classes.

To start the activity, you place a ton of different prints of many different types of art work around the room and create different tokens for each student.

For each student I created 8 tokens, and asked each student to place the token on a corresponding image. The heart was to be placed on the image they liked the most, the thumbs down on the one they liked the least, the house on one they would hang in their home, the lightbulb on the one they thought was the most creative, the hand on the one they thought had the best craftsmanship, the money on the one that cost the most, and the clock on the one that took the most time, and the blue ribbon on the one they think is the "best" from a critiques' perspective, not their own. 

After the students have placed all of their tokens, we go around and discuss the different ones on each image. This leads to discussions about different ways that we appreciate art. Craftsmanship, ability, creativity, decoration, etc. and we can talk about differing opinions (such as if one person said an image was their favorite, and another person said it was their least favorite). This is a great way to get everyone involved because everyone has to cooperate and place all their tokens, even if they aren't going to participate in the discussion afterwards.

I'm sorry I look terrible in this picture, how embarrassing (greasy hair brought to you by the lack of hot water)

This was really awesome, and my students here were probably ten times more engaged than I expected. Here we discussed this Picasso print, because a lot of students placed the "most creative" token on it. I got to talk about how it was a good placement because cubism was a brand new and very unique technique for it's time, and the students got to join in with their input.

This was also interesting because one of the 15 year old students pointed out that it was a "naked lady" which I hadn't even noticed it when I set the picture out. They were just like "oh yeah it is, here is her breast and her hips.." and everyone was so mature about it. It was crazy. Then we got into a discussion about the difference between the word "naked" and "nude" which was insightful. Also good to remember that most of my students were not native English speakers and this kind of discussion about language is helpful.

After discussing the image that they all thought took the most time, one student jokingly asked my mentor teacher if he could have painted the same thing. He told them he could do and how long it would take and then mentioned, "that's how long it took me to paint the picture by the stairs." none of the students knew what he was talking about and he told them that he had painted the picture above the stairs by the school office, so one student asked "Can we go art appreciate that?" and I was like heck yes let's do it.

So we walked across the school until we got to this picture, painted by my mentor teacher. We talked about it for a good half hour, about the colors, the contrast, the brush strokes, warm and cool colors, balance and so on and so on.

So many of the students were amazed because they had never known that he had painted it, and some of them said things like, "I walk by this painting every day but I've never really seen it." It was such a cool opportunity to let the students take the lesson into their own hands, and to incorporate not only famous well-known works of art, but of the art around them.

This was one of the best classes I have ever had as an art teacher.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Teaching in Costa Rica - Preschool

I am posting this in January, finally getting around to finishing writing about my trip in September. So forgive me if the details aren't perfect haha.

Two of the biggest challenges, and areas where I grew a lot as a teacher, were teaching my preschool and high school students. My mentor teacher was an entirely projects-based art teacher. Myself on the other hand, am much more interested in teaching aesthetics, art history, art criticism, etc. It was a struggle, and a good learning experience I guess, to try and incorporate my mentor teacher's style into my own teaching while also bringing my own style to the classroom.

I taught three levels of preschool, K3, K4 (these are basically 3 and 4 year old students), and Prepatory (which is the equivalent to kindergarden). Incorporating project based style meant a lot of free-playing, hands-on experimentation getting to know the materials. And kids move quickly, so they can move through a lot of projects :)

These are my Prep students. One of my biggest classes, but still small enough to fit around one table. Sorry for the ugly white boxes, but I think it's illegal to post clear face pictures of students. Probably.

With my preschool students there were three teachers, my mentor teacher, myself, and the preschool helper. With such a small class, and with so many adults, we had the opportunity to do some really cool projects. This one I came up with allowed students to choose 3 different colors of paint, then we covered their paper with plastic wrap, and the kids used their fingers to smear the colors all over. It was a great way for them to get really hands-on with mixing colors, without getting dirty. A super fun project for me as a teacher, because with so much prep I would never be able to do this on my own with a class of 20+ students :)

This is my K3, my smallest class consisting of only 4 students. The second step had students practicing cutting across different types of lines drawn across their paper. (For K3 I drew the lines for them)

I did the same project with all three levels of preschool, but varied it for each. Another big struggle with my young students was the fact that a lot of them didn't speak English! Trying to verbally give directions to a room full of preschool students who don't even understand what you're saying is tough haha. I had to learn to incorporate a lot of visual gestures, and modeling carefully of every step.

These are some of my K4 kids, and me trying to re-explain how to draw different types of lines.

Finally, they practiced cutting on the lines and gluing the pieces onto a different sheet of paper. For my K3 students this was their first time ever using scissors (at least in school) so they needed a lot of help.

I definitely learned a lot about teaching without language, which is a great skill to have when I think about the ELL students I've had in the United States, and how easy it is for them to get lost in the classroom.

Sorry if this was a boring post, but I should probably prove that I did some actual teaching while I was there.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Museum of Contemporary Art and Design

After visiting the history museum, we finally found our way to the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design.

I was extremely set on visiting this museum after we had gotten totally lost trying to find it weeks before haha. But when we got there it is a very small, about 3 exhibit, museum. I was a little underwhelmed but it was very cheap so I'm not complaining. Anymore.

The main exhibit was by an artist named Benvenuto Chavajay, a Guatemalan artist. The exhibit was called "Chunches" which is basically just a Spanish word along the lines of "Thingy". Or bizarre objects without explanation or purpose. This was the first museum we visited that did not have bilingual signs. Contemporary art + Spanish = What even is this?

Here is a picture of the exhibit room, (which for some reason turned completely pink). For my followers who are not art majors, you might want to turn back now because I'm going to talk about weird, contemporary art ha.

At first I took this picture just because it was the first piece that I "got" so I was like hey I can write about this on my blog and people will appreciate my art criticism skills. But like with most contemporary art it took some time and a few more views to settle in and now I really dig it.

The imagery of weapons in Costa Rican art seems to be an incredibly common theme, and always used as a kind of protest against violence. The guns are made of ceramic (or are at least meant to look like ceramic) and resemble shards of ancient pottery or figurines giving a sense of "this is in the past" or an almost fossil-like look at them as the piece is displayed flat on the ground. The fact that the guns at the top are solid and as your eyes flow down, the pieces become more fragmented, adds to that sense of a passage of time. The combination of natural materials and colors with man made objects reminded me of this piece we saw at the other art museum

This piece also has a sense of "old and new", a contrast that this artist seems to be very interested in. This piece is meant to intertwine traditional weaving with modern plastic beads and jewelry. I took this picture because I know quite a few art teachers who are interested in fiber arts.

 I don't understand this at all. Let's be real sometimes contemporary art is just ridiculous.

 I'm not entirely sure what the significance of this one is, if any, but rubber bands were a very common material in many of his works. I just really loved the textures and arrangement of this one.

Again, playing with the contrast between  natural or agricultural materials (it seems like agriculture is also an important staple of Costa Rican art work!) and modern material things.

There were two more rooms of the museum, featuring videos, which I wasn't too interested in and obviously couldn't have shared pictures of anyway. Funny enough, one of the women who had to overhear my final presentation mentioned that she goes to this museum once a month and that the video exhibit was one of their least interesting. Maybe next time I'm in Costa Rica I'll check it out again ;)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

National Museum of Costa Rica

On our last weekend in Costa Rica, we decided to stay in the city and visit some of the museums we had not gotten to see on our first weekend in San Jose. We started at the National Museum of Costa Rica. (I did not take this picture, I stole it off of google, but I seriously don't remember this museum being nearly this yellow...)

In the first room, we were surprisingly treated to a butterfly garden!
Signs throughout the garden give information about butterflies, in English and Spanish.  Costa Rica boasts an enormous amount of insect diversity, and that includes tons of butterflies.

Along with some information about the building itself. 

There are little feeding stations throughout the garden. We saw tons of these brown guys before realizing they are actually the infamous blue morpho butterfly, an important symbol of Costa Rica.

 The butterfly is so amazingly camouflaged with it's wings closed, we had no idea. They are so good at keeping their wings closed when not in flight, it's impossible to get a picture. So I took these off of google.

This one is apparently a "zebra longwing"

 I'm having trouble identifying this one but I think it might be a "postman butterfly". The real joke here is that no one is ever going to correct me.

This is a giant stone sphere. These are extremely popular in ancient Latin American art, (and pretty impressive if you think about how difficult it would be to make something this round by hand and with primitive tools). These things are found all around the museum. 

 This is a "giant swallowtail"

There are several large cupboards of chrysalises and  cocoons waiting to hatch (and several freshly emerged butterflies as you can see!) These are all chrysalises in this photo. I had always heard that the difference between a chrysalis and a cocoon is that a chrysalis is what becomes a butterfly, and a cocoon is what hatches a moth. Cocoons are also spun from silk and material, whereas the caterpillar literally turns into the chrysalis. 

This museum however stated all of the above, except mentioned that cocoons are for "nocturnal butterflies" and did not mention moths at all. I don't know if that means anything really, but at some point on this blog I mentioned that I might write about insects and you gotta deal with me here. My blog my bugs.

Here's a monarch! Probably the only type of butterfly I can identify without the help of google. I can also tell you that this one is female and that Laura could tell you the same thing now. One of my favorite butterfly tricks to teach people is monarch gender identification.

The next exhibit leads you through this creepy dark corridor. 

This next exhibit is about the building that the museum is in. This building was originally the Bellavista Fortress "The fortress was built in 1917 and was originally a military barracks: the exterior walls still have many bullets lodged in them from the country's 1948 civil war. It became the site of the museum in 1950. (from wikipedia)

This exhibit features many of the original features of the fortress.

Including some cells, which (although hard to see in this picture) feature doodles and writing on the walls from long forgotten soldiers. Mostly crude naked women.

The fortress originally had two of these towers. One was torn down when the army was abolished, and the other was left standing, riddled with bullet marks, as a reminder. These holes were where soldiers could shoot through.

 You could look through the holes, but now you just get a nice view of cars and billboards.

 This picture shows the scene in town following the abolishing of the army.

On to the next room. The next exhibit follows through on pre-columbian history.

This image shows many of the animals who were first found in Costa Rica, mostly now extinct. The big yellow guy is a giant ground sloth, like Salvador from the sloth sanctuary!

Throughout the room there are illustrations and information telling about pre columbian life.

Lots of  information about early pottery. I am very interested in pre-columbian pottery now, so I take a lot of pictures haha.

Some small displays show what homes were like in early societies.

 Lots of pottery of course.

 All very similar to the pottery we've seen at the Jade Museum.

Lots of animals of course.

 Jade necklaces of course were very important to those in power. These are just like the many we saw at the Jade Museum.

This would be a perfect picture to show students if there wasn't a random guy's penis in it.

 There were hieroglyphs in pre-columbian artwork too, but not as prevalent. Here are some examples.

 Later, pre-columbian societies developed smaller family groups. These homes resemble the ones we saw at the jade museum. (There's definitely a theme to this blog)

This next display case is about the symbolism of animals in early artwork. It features the actual animals next to artwork which resembles those same animals. But really I just think taxidermy animals are way creepy/hilarious.

 I mean are you seeing that iguana?

This is the first we've seen of rolling stamps here, although they are a very common feature in prehistoric art in many different cultures.

This small display shows a war hero returning from battle carrying a decapitated head. Pretty sweet. The people wearing animal furs and masks are generally shamans. They were thought to have many of the same mystical powers as animals, and often dressed like them.

 The next exhibit featured many pieces of pre-columbian gold, although the room was insanely dark and none of my pictures turned out. This illustration shows the process of collecting and melting down gold.

This image shows the way gold was carved and engraved into different ornaments and jewelry.

Like jade, gold held different mythological beliefs and was worn only by those in power.

This last illustration shows how gold ornaments were used in ceremony. Like in the earlier display, you can see the shaman being decked out in an animal mask.

And of course like in all history some European  guys showed up and ruined everything which brings us to our next exhibit.

The next exhibit features a recreated house of a rich person, following the European takeover.

Like in many cultures, European and Asian goods like furniture and art became a great symbol of wealth.

Most houses featured a patio/garden in the middle of the house.

 More imported European and Asian goods.

This bedroom is put together from  furniture which belonged to a former president.

 Here's a study.

 And some books and junk.

 This next exhibit is of the average colonial house. Much smaller than the rich person house.

 Outside of the museum there is an old sugar mill and oxcart.

Here is an oxcart. I don't think I've posted one yet on this blog but they're everywhere in Costa Rica. Usually they are very bright t colors and full of patterns.