Friday, March 28, 2014

St. John of the Ladder

On the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent in the Orthodox Church we commemorate St. John Climacus (also known as St. John of the Ladder). He is the author of the book The Ladder of Divine Ascent, a treatise on spiritual exercises and actions. In the book he outlines 30 steps, each one being a virtue to be acquired or a vice to be surrendered. Through these steps a person can better know Christ and attain the Heavenly Kingdom.

I read my children a lesson on St. John of the Ladder from the Children's Garden of the Theotokos curriculum. We looked at how you climb a ladder, one step at a time, by climbing a real ladder in our house. We talked about St. John and his book and some of the virtues he taught. We looked at the icon for The Ladder of Divine Ascent (there is a short video on the link provided above that explains a bit about the icon). This happens to my 6 year old's favorite icon. He has a little book of icon prints he takes to church and he stares at this particular icon through most of the Divine Liturgy service each week! He loves to study all the figures in the icon, the monks and priests climbing the ladder, the angels in the corner, the demons trying to pull the people off as they try to reach the Heavenly Kingdom and Christ in the upper corner reaching out to those on the ladder.

For our project the children made their own Ladder of Divine Ascent picture. We used tan cardstock for the background for this project. I cut out some strips from black construction paper that my children glued onto their cardstock to make a ladder. I cut out some very basic fugures from white construction paper to reperesent the monks, angels and demons. My daughter colored hers in different colors to represent the different figures - brown for the monks, black for the demons and gold for the angels (with halos around their heads). My son chose to draw all the figures on his page. He wanted to add more detail like the original icon with swords and bows and arrows for the demons. They also drew a mandorla (blue circles) in the corner near the ladder to represent the Heavenly Kingdom and golden spears coming out to represent the Holy Spirit.

Let us honor John, that pride of ascetics, that angel on earth, that man of God in heaven, that adornment of the world, and that bliss of virtues and good deeds; for, planted in the house of God, he flourished with justice; and, like a cedar tree in the wilderness, he caused the flock of Christ to grow, those sheep endowed with speech, in righteousness and justice.
-Vespers of the Feast

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Action Jackson! - Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock is a fun artist for children to learn about.  He used his whole body with large motions when painting, hence the nickname, Action Jackson.  I found a wonderful children's book about Jackson Pollock at my local library.  The book, Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan is very lyrical and beautifully written with delightful ink and watercolor illustrations.  The story gives children (and adults alike!) a wonderful glimpse into the life and work of Jackson Pollock.  It includes a brief biography at the end and resources to learn more about Pollock.

I read the Action Jackson book to my class and then showed them some examples of Pollock's work.  Check your local library for books that include photographs of Pollock's work or look for books that include various modern artists including Pollock.  I concentrated mostly on Pollock's drip paintings, but showed examples of some of his other work too.  An internet search will give you many examples of his work that you can show your students.  This website has some good examples.  Make sure to show your students Lavender Mist.  Also, show some photos of Pollock in action painting.  You can find some good photos HERE.

Photographer Hans Namuth gives a vivid description of Pollock at work in the book Pollock Painting (1980):
A dripping wet canvas covered the entire floor … There was complete silence … Pollock looked at the painting. Then, unexpectedly, he picked up can and paint brush and started to move around the canvas. It was as if he suddenly realized the painting was not finished. His movements, slow at first, gradually became faster and more dance like as he flung black, white, and rust colored paint onto the canvas. He completely forgot that Lee and I were there; he did not seem to hear the click of the camera shutter … My photography session lasted as long as he kept painting, perhaps half an hour. In all that time, Pollock did not stop. How could one keep up this level of activity? Finally, he said 'This is it.'

Pollock’s finest paintings… reveal that his all-over line does not give rise to positive or negative areas: we are not made to feel that one part of the canvas demands to be read as figure, whether abstract or representational, against another part of the canvas read as ground. There is not inside or outside to Pollock’s line or the space through which it moves…. Pollock has managed to free line not only from its function of representing objects in the world, but also from its task of describing or bounding shapes or figures, whether abstract or representational, on the surface of the canvas.

Student Project

For our project I had my students create their own drip painting.  I had been doing a 6 week session on modern artists and I think the kids enjoyed this project the most.  I gave each student a large white sheet of poster board.  We took them outside (this is definitely a project to do outside unless you have a big art studio that you don't mind getting messy!) and placed the poster board on tarps and cheap plastic table cloths on the ground.  We placed the less shiny side of the poster board up so the paint would stick better.  I poured some regular poster paint into small buckets and added a little water to make the paint thinner and easier to drip.  I placed a paint mixing stick (but a paint brush would work fine too) in each bucket and put all the colors on a table.  Each student could grab a color he or she wanted to use and fling and drip onto the poster board.  The kids had a so much fun with this project and even my most reserved students really got into the project and were smiling and laughing by the end.  The results were fun and beautiful.  After the paintings dried each student took them home to enjoy.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sunday of the Adoration of the Holy Cross

The Third Sunday of Lent in the Orthodox Church is the Adoration of the Holy Cross.  We decorated our own Russian style crosses with markers and pretty paper scraps.

I drew a blank Russian style three bar cross on card stock and then let the kids decorate their how they liked.

I gave them markers, scissors, glue sticks and some pretty origami paper I had left over from a Japanese wabi-sabi collage project.

 I wrote the Troparion of the Cross on the bottom of the pages.

O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance;
Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians over their adversaries
And by the virtue of the Cross, protect Thy habitation!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy Spring!

To celebrate the first day of spring, go outside and collect some nature items (sticks, pebbles, leaves, flower petals, shells, etc).  Then make a collage using the items.  Glue onto cardstock or poster board with craft glue or tacky glue to make a colorful spring nature picture.  We threw in a few glass beads for good measure!

Happy Spring and Happy Creating!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Craft

Here's a quick craft for St. Patrick's Day - a giant glittery shamrock.
I adapted this craft from the book Crafts for All Seasons.

Supplies used:
3 pieces of green construction paper (green card stock would work better!)
white glue
green paint (optional)
glitter (I only had silver, but I think gold would look better)
hole punch and yarn for hanging

I used a small plate (approximately 8 inches across) as a template to cut out 3 circles from my construction paper. 

This craft would definitely work better with card stock, but I didn't have any green on hand. 

Next I folded the circles over slightly (not completely so I wouldn't make a noticeable crease) and drew a curved line so I could cut the circles into a heart shape.  

I laid the 3 green hearts overlapping one another in the shape of a shamrock.  

Next I cut out a curved stem from one of the leftover pieces of construction paper.  

I tucked this under the shamrock leaves and stapled the pieces together.  

I didn't like the pale green color of the paper so I mixed some brighter green paint with white glue (2 parts paint, 1 part glue).  
I brushed this on the leaves and stem then quickly sprinkled with glitter before it dried.  If you like the color of your paper you could skip the paint and just brush on glue and sprinkle with glitter.
After it dried, I punched a hole and hung on the wall with a piece of yarn.
Now if I just had time to make about a dozen of these to decorate my dining room with for St. Patrick's Day!

Éirinn go Brách!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

St. Gregory Palamas

St. Gregory Palamas is commemorated this coming Sunday (the second Sunday in Lent) in the Orthodox Church.  He is remembered on this Sunday because the condemnation of his enemies and the vindication of his teachings by the Church in the 14th century was acclaimed as a second triumph of Orthodoxy.

St. Gregory was born in 1296 in Constantinople to pious Christian parents. He eventually entered the monastic life.  Through solitude and inner stillness he was able to enter into a state of constant prayer.  He wrote various treatises on asceticism and prayer and defended the methods used by hesychasts.
Read more about St. Gregory Palamas HERE.

St. Gregory taught that unceasing mental prayer is the duty of all Christians and the prayer known as the "Jesus Prayer" is often used for this purpose in the Orthodox Tradition.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

To prepare for this Sunday I read a lesson to my kids about St. Gregory Palamas from the Orthodox curriculum, The Children's Garden of the Theotokos (Anaphora Press).  It teaches children about the use of prayer ropes with the Jesus Prayer.  Instead of making the page outlined in the lesson, I used a craft found on the Crafty Contemplative blog.  Click HERE for the craft.  We did ours slightly different (for instance we used 3-dimensional stickers for the crosses) and added an icon of St. Gregory that I printed.  I made my own with the kids and said one Jesus Prayer as I glued on each of the circles that represent the knots on a prayer rope.  You can read more about prayer ropes HERE.

The kids seemed to really enjoy making their own version of a prayer rope on paper and we hung them on the wall to remind us of this prayer throughout Lent.

(Click to see larger)