Class Projects: Gifts from Kids

On my last post, Amy commented: “We want to make holiday gifts for our teachers. Do you have any good ideas?” That’s Amy Koppelman, one of my new-most-favorite people, (and client). She is a New York mother, wife, and author who’s latest book just hit the shelves. We are currently working on her health-related informational series of books for children. I think it’s pretty cool that she reads my blog, so I spent the last couple of days resonating over kids’ gift-projects.

My thinking is that teachers get enough of kid’s art projects on paper in the classroom, so it could be a GI (thats “good idea”, my sister’s acronym that I love using) to have the kids create something for their teacher that is a bit on the practical side.I pulled out some photos of a first-grade class project that I facilitated for my son’s class’ silent auction item years ago, shortly after the events of 9-11. This was a great project for the kids but quite time consuming for me. I will describe the process below in case you can find a crafty parent in the group that would be willing to take it on. If not, I’m going to throw out some similar ideas that would be a bit easier and less costly.The Bowl of Pride

We chose a patriotic theme, but the theme for a teacher’s gift could be anything from the teacher themselves, or the holidays, the city, the seasons, etc.

I purchased a large bowl from the local make-your-own pottery studio which cost $60, split between the families. After discussing the project with the owner of the pottery studio, she packed up bottles of paint and brushes so I could work on this at home.

Based on the number of children, I divided the surface area of the dish into an equal amount of panels, inside and out, and made paper templates for the kids to draw on. After discussing the project and theme with the kids, I gave each a sheet of paper as their template. The sheet had two panels, so they could have a second go at it if they didn’t like their first one. I included a section at the top of the panels for their names. Using a few designated crayon colors, the kids drew their art. At the bottom of the sheet was a longer box for them to write “something patriotic” in. I later chose from those writings to adorn the rim of the bowl.

The children’s art was so special considering this was a very strange time for all of us immediately following the tragedy of 9-11 and their artwork reflected that. Most of the kids drew flags, though one little girl drew a plane heading for buildings. We talked to her about the idea of recreating the artwork to only show the buildings and understanding, she re-drew her buildings with waving flags on the top of each. Another boy simply drew his pet bunny. That was so darn cute, I had to include it, patriotic or not.

Once all art was in hand, I loosely cut out the sections and arranged them around the bowl taping the tops as I went. Using pieces of graphite paper I traced the artwork onto the bowl. With the strips of chosen wording for the rim, I made several slices along the tops of the paper to allow the paper to curve, then traced the lettering. With the center of the bowl looking a bit plain, I asked my son to draw a star to place there. When the art was all traced, drawings removed and set aside for color reference, I went about reproducing the kids’ artwork with paint. I kept as close as possible to the originals. If they colored outside the lines, so did I. On the bottom of the bowl I painted some info such as date and class info.

With all art and wording transferred and painted I brought the bowl back to the studio for firing. I prayed all the way home that nothing would happen to the bowl in the process. It fired beautifully and sat proudly among the tables of auction items. I included a typed description of the bowl making process and a few cute stories that evolved from it. If I remember correctly, the bowl brought in a final bid of $350, by the family of the boy who painted the bunny.

Other ideas, less complicated but similar in contribution could be:

  • Painted tiles (this can be done outside of a pottery studio with special paints found at the craft store). The tiles can then be adhered to a flat sided planter filled with a beautiful shrub.
  • Small colored paper tiles decoupaged to the frame of a mirror or storage box.
  • Colored paper tiles, reduced in size and made into scrabble pendants hung from a chain for a lovely necklace or garland. (Google “Free Scrabble Tile Pendant Tutorial” for instructions)
  • Small quares of kids’ artwork transferred to fabric (iron-on or printed to fabric) sewn, individually or as a whole piece of art, to the front of an apron. Have the local quick embroidery shop put the teacher’s name at the top.

Using a consistent theme, basic materials, and a few crafty- or at least willing- parents, you can come up with a number of fun ideas to make using a simple tiling method. Be sure to allow room on tiles for names, and make an additional tile for writing a sentiment and date. If you help make a class project, be sure to come back here and share it with us!

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