Staff members select something from nature that they
feel connects with their goals: a feather, flower, branch, etc. In a series of
exercises, they explore the object with different art media before settling into
the final rendering. The aim is to experience a transformation of the object
through careful observation and experimentation, symbolic of the transformation
that occurs in students. Here are the steps of the process:
1. Place the
object on a piece of white paper.
2. With graphite, create an observational
drawing of the object.
3. Experiment with colored pencil as a tool.
Apply colored-pencil techniques to color drawings of various parts of the
5. Experiment with collage materials to render the shapes and
textures of the object.
6. Integrate graphite, colored pencil, and collage
media to create the final rendering of the object.
7. Write hopes/goals on
paper and attach them to the artwork.


In the space of the

Staff members imagine and express their desires by observing the open
space of the sky. In a quick field trip outside, they look up to the sky and
make written and drawn notes of what they see. They allow their imagination to
contemplate the infinite space above and expand their thinking about the
possibilities for the coming year.

Teachers and administrators then
return indoors and select images that express their aspirations from their
notes. They create watercolor washes that reflect the sky background. Then
collaged and drawn images are placed into the wash. The resulting artworks look
as if each has taken a piece of the sky and placed it on paper. One of the
teachers drew the chimneys that reached above the trees-as if to let her
aspirations do the same. Aspirations were then written either on the artworks or
placed alongside them.

Poems of hope
This process begins by
immersing everyone in the language of hope. Staff members listen to and
participate in choral readings of poetry such as Maya Angelou’s poem “On the
Pulse of the Morning” (below), as well as children’s poems that express dreams
and desires. These readings are followed by a watercolor process in which
participants let the colors make their own forms on the soaked watercolor paper
and identify shapes that suggest an inspiring image. The shapes may be brought
forward with additional color. Participants attach their paintings to their
written hopes for the year, and end the process by sharing those hopes/goals with each

From Maya Angelou’s
“On the Pulse of the
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look
up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into
Your brother’s face, your
And say simply
Very simply
With hope

Erin Klug taught 7th and 8th graders at New City School in
Minneapolis, and is now a
Developmental Designs consultant for

This article first appeared in Developmental Designs: A Middle Level Newsletter, Fall 2010