Sunday, February 12, 2017

todos santos

The Monday after our wedding, Isaac was back to work almost as soon as the plane touched down in Anchorage.  We decided then that my winter break would be for our honeymoon trip.  There was talk of Europe, talk of Spain.  But in the end we just wanted to get away somewhere warm and somewhere Isaac could practice his Spanish.  I wanted good food and he wanted to surf.  That is when we discovered Baja Sur.  It's the peninsula off the bottom of the California and the flights were less than twelve hours from Anchorage.  So it was decided on spending nine days in the town of Todos Santos.

 We boarded our flight in Saint Mary's.

 Took a snooze in LAX.

We flew into Los Cabos airport and drove an hour to Todos Santos on the newly completed highway.  It was really easy drive and we were careful to watch out for stray cattle and goats on the roadway.

One of my criteria for our stay was booking a place with a kitchen.  Lessons learned from experiences in travel this past summer taught me that having the ability to prep meals independently is very valuable when dealing with food intolerances.  We found a newly listed airbnb location.  The whole first floor was ours and it was perfect.

Down a dusty dirt trail, the directions on our app took us right there.  

Due to weather delays we never had time to get an international sim card but with that app, and a local tourist map, we were able to navigate successfully.  It didn't take long to get oriented.

 Sunshine!  We left the village during its darkest time of the year so it was really refreshing to have sunlight.

 The view from the front porch.  Over that far hill is the ocean.  It took me a day to realize the sounds I heard as we were falling asleep was the surf breaking in the distance.

 The garden was beautifully landscaped and I enjoyed these flowers off the front porch.

 We took a nice walk along the shore our first day.  There were not many other people as this is not a swimming beach.

 These flowers made up the hedge in front of the house.  

 One evening the owner was away for the night and gave us permission to enjoy the view from the rooftop patio.

 I believe this is an aloe in bloom.  It was so interesting that I had to include it.

 Our morning coffee was enjoyed while watching the whales in the bay.

With responsibility thousands of miles away it did not take long to feel creative once again.

 One of the decorated streets in the historic street in town.  

Most of the city is just a small town, full of dust, dirt and life.  I enjoyed seeing the architecture shift away from what I'm used to seeing. Many of the building we saw included interior outdoor areas.  They would be walled into the property and seating was outdoors.  I believe there is a rainy season, but the same protection against the elements that exists farther north is not as necessary in this more temperate area.

 This desert garden was inside one of the restaurants where we ate dinner.

Acclimating to ordering and getting my feet on how to order without dairy and gluten took a little while.  The first few meals in town were a bust but it didn't take long to find places that accommodate for annoying gringos like me.  Though not as infiltrated as Los Cabos, Todos has a pretty large ex-pat community and a steady stream of day-time tourists.  The last time I traveled outside the US I didn't have the same restrictions.  Ordering in the English in the States can often be unsuccessful or difficult so I had to be patient with the outcome.  Once we found delicious destinations we kept going back.

La Esquina was a great restaurant.  Their fresh juice and giant mugs of coffee were the delicious.

 Getting inspired by the thatched roof.

 And sketching the surrounding trees.

 Isaac's activity of choice.

 Said mugs of coffee and one beautiful wall.  The tables and chairs were covered in leather.  It was interesting.

 Isaac surfing.

 We made two trips to Los Cerritos beach.  Isaac took to the water while I found some shade.  It was nice just to sit there and enjoy the ocean.  (I get it now Mom and Dad.)  I did take a few books (which I never read) and some stitching to work at on along the way.

 Realizing it was going to be Christmas, our first Christmas together, I felt the sudden need to make stockings.  We asked the local english bookstore owner where to find fabric and she recommended a shop.  What I ended up buying was dishtowels.  But I like them.

 After the trip I used my sketches to show my classes how different things can inspire us.  I also gave them some time for sketching what inspired them.

 Isaac saw this flyer at La Esquina.  We had to check it out.

El Refugio might be one of my top experiences from our trip.  The food was so delicious and the chef came out to explain everything.  They offered two plates of the day - one carne and one vegan.  Perfect. 

 Seating was outside, in front of the restaurant.  And then there was the Mezcal.

 Mezcal is made from agave.  It is a traditional drink.  El Refugio offered flights to taste the many flavors.  I ended up enjoying the smoky varieties the most.

 The lure of mezcal a bloody Mary brought us back for a Christmas day brunch.  It was a Feliz Navidad!

 And then there is this.  While watching the Packers game we ran into Romeo, again.  I was very amused by this lounging St. Bernard shaved like a lion.  He's a regular around town.

 We also enjoyed La Bodega de Todos Santos.  

They hosted tastings with live music and good company.  Of course we made an Alaska connection and have another stop added to our plans in Homer this summer.  It was great to have an easy place to pop into to grab a bottle for a nice evening back on the porch enjoying the stars and the sound of the surf.

With the arrival of our last day in town we wanted to take a little adventure elsewhere.  The tiny town of El Triunfo proved to be just the place.  It was once home to 10,000 miners when silver and gold were discovered.  Now there are just a little over 300 inhabitants.

 The church.

 We found this relic on the street.  Unfortunately, it didn't work.  It's a shame because Isaac could have used it after I lost his cellphone at the beach.

 We snapped this shot with El Triunfo's claim to fame in the background.  The smoke stack was designed by Gustav Eiffel, the same guy responsible for the town in Paris.  

I thought the Cafe El Triunfo was a pretty interesting structure.  It was a tiny store front with seating out back that rambled on and on.  It was pretty cool.  We also learned that Mexico is a great place for a romantic get away with your dog.  There were many people dining with their pups wherever we went.  

The next morning we navigated our way back the airport and back to the States.

By evening we were back in Alaska.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

a swift shift

A month ago, the school year was about to begin.  I was setting up my 6th grade classroom and in the swing of in-service days before the students arrived.

Then, the Saturday before school began, I had an interesting email which led to a phone call.  The call left me with a decision, stay in sixth grade or shift to high school and teach art.  Not all art, but mostly art.  Knowing the rarity of the situation of course I chose art.

The empty high school classroom before everything was moved over to the elementary.

The following Monday I packed up what I had unpacked into my sixth grade classroom and rolled it across the school to an empty high school classroom.  All the desks were already claimed so I hunted down tables.  And then chairs.  And then whatever I could find in the way of art supplies.

The next day I had students.

The first few days we painted.

As schedules progressed my classes have begun to find their routine.  I begin the day with two middle school classes and two high school classes.  The high school classes are elective Art. Most of my students have never had an Art class.  There is no curriculum, but a few state standards.  We are beginning with the elements of art, then we will shift into the principles.

Two weeks ago we began color.  We spend one day mixing the color wheel before we moved on to a little color theory and taking a look at Kandinsky's Concentric Circles.

Each element has a project to explore that thought.  We used Kandinsky's work as our master study for this project.  The high school classes divided their paper into twelve parts.  Each square had a different color theme focus: primary, secondary, tertiary, analogous, complementary, and monochromatic.

A goal that I had for this project was to have work to display for our Welcome Back to School Potluck and then in the main entrance.  To display the work I knew they needed to be protected by lamination.  One major teacher lesson I learned is that laminators will melt oil pastel.  That was a painful lesson to learn.

The seventh and eighth grade classes are spending a few days a week working in expository reading.  Their project was modified to fit this time constraint.  They had only six boxes to work.

Seeing the results all up together is so interesting.  Forty-four students were given the same parameters, the same instructions, and the same materials but each and every single one is different.  There are some similarities but no two are alike.

I'm really excited to see what the year will bring.  We have already had some very interesting conversation and dialogue about art.  The "what is art?" question has already come up.

I think the statement in KQED's Art School video was a pretty incredible answer.  I made my students write it in their sketchbooks.  "Art is about communication.  About trying to either understand the world or understand yourself." -Nigel Poor

Sunday, August 21, 2016

the Marshall classroom

In preparing my classroom for the coming school year, it starts Tuesday, reflecting on last year's classroom has helped bring focus.  My classroom in Marshall began blank.  It developed and built as the school year progressed.  I really wanted it to be a reflection of student learning.  That was what I kept in mind as it shifted from state to state.

 The south side of the classroom.

This side was really devoted to our reading routine.  Each morning I wrote our agenda for the session underneath the date.  The green writing is the word wall that developed around Thanksgiving.  I made a habit of moving the week's Essential Question to the top part of the wall.  Above the agenda were two important reminders: "Be Nice" and "We are here to learn."  My desk was situated so that I could see the whole room from the rare moments I sat at it.  It was also there so that I could run my smart board from my laptop as well as use my document camera.

 The north side of the room.

The three posters at the top were my CHAMPS.  Champs state the expectations for specific activities.  The tan strips are my Accelerated Reader point clubs.  Each student's picture moved as they read more and earned more points.  This bulletin board was for science and social studies.  The practice developed later in the year.  I would write the essential questions for each lesson and hang the vocabulary cards as we discussed the words.  I would also post copies of our science notebook notes for any student who may have been absent.  The middle chart is the line order and jobs chart, rotating weekly.  It's next to the line up procedures.  There are also little pieces of painters tape on the floor tiles so each number would know where they were supposed to stand in line.  At the right is my US map.  As we learned about each state we colored it in.  Beginning the morning with a state was one of my favorite activities of the year.  Students could name every state by the end of the year.

 At the back of the room was the learning center.

Not having any book shelves in the room this became our bookshelf.  Making the investment in class books was really important.  Having material that was at each student's level and of interest to them was huge.  Illustrated novels helped my students to find reading success and be proud that they could finish a whole chapter book.

 Sketchbooks were also high my list of school year accomplishments.

My brother Sam was able to help supply my class with hardcover sketchbooks and individual sets of colored pencils.  We had a class set of pencils but ownership of their own was way more significant.  I build a specialness to the sketchbooks.  They had a special spot at my desk.  I would make them return them at the end of each session. 

 We used a gold marker to put their names on them.  Obviously all of my students are name Stephen Curry.

 Sketching was especially transformative for one student.  I saw his overall behavior improve and engagement levels go up.  Maybe it was that he got to know me better, maybe my teaching practices improved, but I like to think that he found something to focus on.

 Pokemon.  They all liked to copy Pokemon into their sketchbooks.

I tried to give art significance in my classroom.  We learned all the elements of art.  We painted, sketched, glued, and pasted.  We learned about a few well-known artists.  More than once I found them googling Keith Herring after our study of line.  Mark Rothko also had a fair share of hits.  The hall bulletin board always featured their creative work.  It was collaborative.

 All year long they begged to paint masks, so we finally did.

 As the new school year approaches I keep thinking back to my first class.  I hope the best for them and am grateful for our time learning together and my year as Miss T.