To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Teaching Teachers - Jefferson Nature Center 8-22-09

Hello! I'm still alive ~ I think!
I'd hoped to get this blog entry up a lot sooner ~ it's been a much more than a month since I gave my last workshop, but my time since then has been fully occupied with turning both my Observing Nature Guide (for kids) into a downloadable file, and creating a downloadable Teacher's Manual to go with it. Then I created a webpage within my website to offer them on. It takes so much TIME.

(click on images for a larger view)

The Teacher's Manual (which needed the most work) went through at least ten editing proofs and "reproofs" and a reading or two by my brother, David (who is a treasure), to get it to a usable state. I included examples of what they might expect student journal pages to look like throughout the manual. Course objectives are outlined in the picture at left.

I spent nearly a month adding things to the student workbook, as well. Here are images of two of the pages I added ~ one of mammals they might see, another of interesting things to look for and journal. The latter was fun to write. I put in things like doodlebugs and spittlebugs, galls and bark beetle tunnels, etc. An image of that page is below left.

Then I had to make it available to educators. I am my own webmaster ~ I have written every speck of code from scratch for all 104 pages of my website. (The very thought of having done that gives me heartburn.)

The hardest part of such a page is to get things to download properly when writing the code. I don't do webpages every day, so I forget stuff and sometimes it takes ages to sort through what's wrong. And, of course, I have no one to heap recriminations on if it fails to work properly (THAT'S a drag!).

I sent it to all my sibs when I thought I had it working. As webmaster, I can't test buying the downloads because PayPal won't take my credit card from my site ~ they just set it up that way, for some reason.

Ack! The buttons didn't work properly. My sib-fake-customers paid for their downloads, but the email with the link to the files never arrived in their email boxes. I went back into the code and rewrote it, trying to figure out what could be wrong. Finally, on September 28 I sent an SOS to PayPal to get some troubleshooting help, and we STILL haven't sorted it entirely out.

You can download your book right when you pay for it, no problem, but at the moment, yours truly (I) get the email with the link for downloading it later. I'll send you the link as soon as I spot it in my email box, which I check frequently throughout the day, but if I don't see it right away you may experience a slight delay. But YOU WILL GET YOUR LINK!

I may offer a CD of the workbook and manual as an alternative, in case some people aren't on broadband. I anticipate some of my customers will be home schoolers, who may not even be on the grid. To these folks, downloading anything bigger than a peanut makes them feel faint (and/or frustrates them mightily). Two of my sisters are in that situation ~ one is entirely off the grid ~ so I know whereof I speak.

At any rate.....

The workshop at Jefferson Nature Center, on August 22, was interesting. I had seven students, some of them public elementary and high school teachers this time (the last workshop, while larger, had a teacher or two, but ). These are the very people I have written the Guide and Teacher's Manual for. I had made improvements since the workshop at North Mountain Park, and it's a good thing because this group was much more demanding. The teachers at North Mountain Park Nature Center were mostly planning to work under the auspices of the Nature Center and were mostly volunteers and nature center staff. That nature center has its own Guide which I made specifically for their locale. These participants weren't planning to start from scratch to do it themselves ~ they'd do it in concert with the nature center.

Today's group wanted to know how to take the course and use it for a variety of purposes, and I didn't yet have it available online. Their questions and suggestions really helped me sort out how I wanted to handle availability (which is what precipitated all the webpage stuff at the beginning of this blog).

We met in the JNC meeting room, for the first part of the workshop, where I ran them through the exercises in the student guide just as though they were youngsters (in this workshop I tell them that's what I'm doing so they expect to be guided through as though they were between the ages of eight and fifteen or sixteen.

This gives them the opportunity to watch my teaching methods, compare them with their own methods, and decide what would work best for them with this curriculum, their locale, their students, and their own teaching style.

I went into the mechanics of this workshop rather thoroughly in my last blog, so I don't think I'll repeat that here. The second half of the class was the sketching done outdoors along Bear Creek. The students scattered along the banks and had an absorbing sketching and journaling session. One thing we discovered was that older students ~ highschool age, perhaps ~ could probably go out to sketch and journal for 45 minutes without any problem, whereas 20 minutes is plenty for younger kids.

As they sketched, I went from one to the next, admiring their artwork, identifying natural items they were journaling about (poplar and alder leaves and twigs, galls, etc), refraining from making suggestions to improve their art. The whole idea was to show them that they could teach this without an artistic background, since I was teaching it to them without giving them any art advice at all.

It was a gorgeous day, warm in the sun and cool in the shade, with birdsong, ravens and jays croaking, baby lizards barely 2" long skittering across the sand along the creek (see the picture), etc. The liquid chuckle of the creek masked traffic sounds (the nature center is between a highway and the freeway), and the half hour they spent journaling was a peaceful and rejuvenating time for us all.

It does help to have at least a minimal familiarity with the local flora and fauna when you're teaching a class like this, but it isn't essential since you can look things up later. That's what good notes are for, and making the drawings as accurate as possible.

I am fascinated by the differences and similarities between adult journal pages and kid journal pages. The journaling part, of course, is more complete and introspective on adult pages, because this is what we go to school for, to learn to write and think about things. But often the art is almost exactly the same quality, child or adult. This isn't a put-down of anyone's art capabilities. What it says to me is that people, in general, completely abandon their artistic education at approximately 8-12 years of age. What a shame!

Still, with even the minimal Right-brain instruction they received in the first half of the class, my seven quasi-kid teachers were doing great, and more to the point, drawing with confidence. I have no doubt that with continuing practice they could develop their skills considerably.

Here are their journal pages ~ be sure to click on them to see them closer-up: Enjoy!

So there it is. If you'd like to download your copy of the Observing Nature Teacher's Manual and the Observing Nature Guide, along with the rights to copy it as many times as you need to provide workbooks for your students (but not to resell or share with other educators ~ that would infringe on my copyright), you can find it here. I may not have the CD available when this gets posted, so let me know if you want one.

If you have questions that aren't answered in the workbook or manual, please get in touch. I need to know if anything isn't perfectly clear.

Thanks for reading this far. I know I get wordy sometimes, but hey, that's because I'm an author, and that's my JOB.

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