I'm officially brain obsessed!
I have been self- educating myself all about the beautiful/ science based concepts of Neuroplasticity and Mindfulness.
Here is a quick definition from good old wikipedia:
Neuroplasticity refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behavior, environment, neural processes, thinking, and emotions. The concept of neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how – and in which ways – the brain changes in the course of a lifetime.
Studies are showing amazing and healing changes in the brain due to practicing the most simple thing, being aware of the present moment.
So, as my own practice, I have been meditating since February of this year off and on and seeing the effects that these moments of stillness can bring to my own thinking and emotional well being. I would love to have a brain scan done to see the evidence measured!
A word that keeps coming up for me surrounding the idea of meditation and mindfulness is this:
This balance comes from giving the mind a chance to both rest and exercise all at once. Mindfulness is a word that is thrown around a lot these days (thank goodness). Here is a simple definition:
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by,mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
It is my intention to continue to practice mindfulness and to seek out training in mindfulness instruction so that I can share this with kids and families that I have the honor to work with each day.
Here is a list of resources about the science of mindfulness and organizations training teachers to bring mindfulness to schools:
This past weekend we went pop up camping in the rain so on Saturday we went for a drive to see some cool stuff in the area. We ended up at one of the nicest libraries I've seen in Covington, va. They had a kids area with great toys, puppets, puzzles and the coolest item you can check out! A nature knapsack!
These L.L. Bean bags had maps, field guides, sketchbooks, art supplies and super great patches from douthat state park.
I want to create my own version at Holton for art outside.
Years ago, I had an art book by the artist collaboration, Olly and Suzi, and I loved the whole idea of their process of working in nature, with and near wild places and animals.
In the past few weeks, I have been exploring the world of sensory processing as a way to enhance what I do in the art room at Holton. So many children exhibit sensory needs and also love sensory experiences, just because. This book is a new release and it has all sorts of great games, information and help for parents and educators who may have a child they live or work with who also has a need for different sensory input. Check it out here!
Keri Smith is an author, illustrator and guerrilla artist. She has written a whole bunch of books, most of them about creativity and many of them participatory in nature. Here is a recent article about her latest book:
Here is her website:
Last school year, a group of 2nd graders created an "art door" with artist, Chris Milk Hulburt. Our door, along with many more, are all over town as part of a scavenger hunt to raise awareness of homelessness. The doors are going up for auction in October and you can get your tickets now! Here is a link:
You can also VOTE for the HOLTON door here!
It's been a great first week back!
Each class is touring the new and improved studio space and learning about the change in our routine to a centers based classroom. So far, so good.
Our song of the month is an oldie but a goodie, by our friend, Kermit the Frog: "The Rainbow Connection"! We are learning the words to that and getting our little art handbooks decorated.
Next week, we have a few more classes that need the first day orientation and a few classes that will take a tour of the gardens and start working on our painted bikes for the UCI bike races here in Richmond.
It's good to be back!
This website, formally known as "the art room" and braniganart.weebly.com is currently undergoing a sort of metamorphosis alongside yours truly.
It's going to be a work in progress for a while. It'll get a new name and some curated content maybe some branding eventually. These things take time and money.
I want to thank you Internet friends and readers for all your support over the past five years! I've inadvertently gained quite a readership and in checking the free stats available for this site, I found that in just this past year alone, i've had 80k page views!!! That seems like a lot.
Clearly, this website isn't something that I should abandon. Especially now that I've really got some things to say.
So, never fear, I will still be bringing to the internet all sorts of news and goodies from the world of teaching art. This time, in a whole new light.
"There is a light that never goes out." -the smiths
"Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better." - maya Angelou
I figured out what it was missing:
the rainbow connection.
In this vision quest I've been on, I've realized that my purpose, at least for now, is to let my love shine in the school where I spend my days and to let my light shine to other hungry hearts out there in my city of Richmond, Virginia and in the Internet realms. I'm especially interested in connecting with teachers and parents and folks who are responsible for the shaping of childhoods.
I am a teacher. I am a messenger. I am a writer. I am an artist. I'm a singer, I'm a dreamer, I'm a river girl. I dwell in the present moment.
I am many things and all of these best parts of me will be in rotation as I structure my days to come with the children In the art room at my school and in all of my creative endeavors.
"How you spend your days is of course how you spend your life." -Annie Dillard
I have no way to know exactly what lies ahead and I don't need to. The present moment is the only one where i can truly dwell, anyhow.
Sometimes I feel scared but lately I feel bold. children need to know this truth about the present moment so their daily lives can begin to shift the future. It's easy to see that many of us human beings have drifted off course for far too long.
Somewhere along the way, we lost the knowledge of our true radiant selves.
Children know it.
"Let the children play. Worries for another day." - fraggle rock theme song
The future is now.
This is me, saving myself by learning myself, knowing myself and being myself.
There is still so much to say and I hope plenty of time to say it in.
Oliver Sacks died today. I've been reading some of his writing lately and his reflections on dying. He lived a good life. He shared it with us. I want to emulate his transparency and vulnerability as I, too, have this fire in my belly to write, to share, to shape, to sing, to create, to paint, to collaborate with children and with the dreamers of the world.
This is the beginning of a new trail that we will create as we walk it. We will build the bridges as we need them, we will ask for help if we need it. The lovers, the dreamers and you and me.
I can't tell you quite where we are going because we are dreaming it together as we go. I do have some great tools I've decided to carry with me, I've also got great friends and allies, I've got heroes and teachers, I've got poets and peacemakers. I've got you and you've got me.
My art will be my life. My life will be my art.
My life is teaching, painting, singing songs, walks in the woods, swims in the river, laughs around a fire, trips to beautiful and sacred natural places, finding peace, making friends, gathering to eat together. My life is front porch swings and summer camp backyard.
My life is in my son and in my husband, forever and always. They are the earth family that I chose and that chose me.
My life is planted here, in the south.
"Grow where you are planted."
The time is now. Now is the time. Now is everything. Everything is everything.
"This is our time down here!" - from the goonies
Tomorrow, more of this.
Tell me, are you with me? Do you feel me?
It's time to find art doors! A class of second graders from Holton participated in this fun event for the summer months! Happy door hunting!
Art on Wheels is bringing Holton a blank door so that students can participate in this project with 40 doors total, created with local professional and amateur artists, a selection of area schools and volunteers.
Here is the project in a nutshell:
We will install the doors at various public and private sites throughout the city·
A summer-long media campaign will encourage families to find the doors·
Each door will have a short story on the back about the experience of formerly homeless person, and information about the artists, Art on Wheels, and Virginia Supportive Housing.·
The campaign will include a mobile app, printed maps and a website·
Folks can upload photos of the doors to Instagram and win prizes
Can't wait to get started! Follow us on instagram with #holtonartroom
The art room had a special guest last week when a Holton parent, Travis Robertson, came in to visit a few classes and show the students about screen printing. He made a drawing of a Holton Lion and each student got to pull their own print using the squeegee. It was a really fun afternoon and very cool to see the kids learn a new process. Thanks Mr. Travis!
This year, I am trying something new with the 5th graders and so far, really great engagement! I have struggled to engage this group as much as the other grades and I know that this is a transition year into tween life and middle school coming up. So, I had been thinking about what the kids were drawing in their spare time and decided to take a more problem solving approach to the lessons I do with them.
We made a mind map about design last week and each student divided their paper into quadrants and made some thumbnails sketches of a design that they would like to create.
This week, we looked at an actual design company called IDEO and specifically a project they took on to make Mondays less blah!
Check out Holton Artists at
Artsonia- Kids Art Museum