How artsy/crafty do your kids’ projects have to be for school?

I learned after a year at our new school that for projects and book reports you need some serious craft supplies on hand.

I keep multiple colors of card stock in my desk drawer. I keep big colored poster boards in between the washer and dryer. I have buckets of colored pencils (the preferred coloring method of the teachers because of more control), colored markers, crayons, paint, glue, glitter and yarn. We routinely use the 3-hole punch, sliding-blade cutter for long even cuts and funky craft scissors.

I can’t decide if this is the arts and crafts standard for projects at our schools or if every school is looking for this kind of commitment to projects to now?

How artsy/crafty is your school expecting projects to be? Are you keeping odd craft supplies at home and using them regularly for school projects? Do you think there’s too much emphasis on appearance in projects and not enough on substance or do you think those requirements are equal?

39 comments Add your comment

malleesmom

September 28th, 2011
4:18 am

We have all that an more LOL. Don’t forget the shoe boxes for dioramas; keep several on hand. Just recently we raided left over doll house parts and kid meal toys for a project. There’s no way the results can be equal if the child is using items outside the classroom. Each child has access to different “stuff”.

DB

September 28th, 2011
4:58 am

I was on my knees thanking God when my kids graduated to Power Point presentations instead of all the crafty stuff!! I’m not a big fan of anything that needed glue, and I absolutely despise glitter (”the herpes of the craft world, because it never goes away”). I always dreaded “projects”, because I’d have to sit on my hands to keep from jumping into it and saying, “Why don’t you do this . . . and this . . . ?” If they want them to do art, then let them have an art class! (Oh, wait, no, mustn’t waste the taxpayer’s money on things as unsubstantial as art or music . . . grrrrrrrr.)

Whatever happened to sitting down and writing a 2-page book report on why they liked (or hated) a book, with emphasis on grammar and punctuation? Why does it have to have a diorama picturing an important scene from the book? And don’t forget costumes for “famous person from history” presentations . . . augh!

malleesmom

September 28th, 2011
6:04 am

DB – you nailed it!!

JesusFreak

September 28th, 2011
6:43 am

And let’s not forget how the grade is a tad subjective; if teacher likes Johnny’s yarn/glitter combo just a little better than Jane’s, there goes her average.

mom2alex&max

September 28th, 2011
6:51 am

Yeah DB you nailed. I loathe those “fun” assignments.

motherjanegoose

September 28th, 2011
7:00 am

I loathe the fact that so many parents are the ones who do the projects for the kids. I always thought it was the kid’s project but guess not. I have seen some pretty amazing things put together by a 10 year old ( not). I am with DB…none of that going on any more here and it is wonderful!

What happens to the child whose parents are not around to “help” or make a run to Wal-Mart for purple pipe cleaners?

Me

September 28th, 2011
7:23 am

Our two oldest have both graduated and I honestly cannot remember them doing very much on poster boards unless they did so in their earlier school years. Their more recent projects, say 9th grade and above, were all created with PowerPoint. Our son, however, now a Junior at Hillgrove, just completed a project for Physics that did make use of poster board, cut-outs, colored pencils, etc. He created something of an elaborate “Angry Birds” theme where he “built” a level of the game and then illustarted the physics involved to clear the level. But, yeah, we still have the card stock, poster board, colored pencils, etc.
@MJG — For the record, I’m in agreement with you in that these projects are to assist with the child’s learning — It’s not a project for us to undertake and never has been. Sure, we would offer advice but I’m too lazy to do it for them!

motherjanegoose

September 28th, 2011
7:32 am

An aside…at the is point in my life, I am not artsy and craftsy. All during HS and college, I sewed all of my own clothes and even sewed for many others ( for hire). I made most of my son’s little shorts and one piece things that buttoned at the shoulders when he was a baby. I was an accomplished seamstress and actually very good at it. NO MORE. I have not touched a sewing machine in over a dozen years. I cannot seem to find the patience for it. I can still thread a needle ( with my glasses) and that is about it. Kind of silly but I have other fish to fry! Funny how things appeal to you at one time and then vanish.

Elaine Colwell

September 28th, 2011
7:48 am

As a teacher, I prefer not to have all the cutesy things purchased and toys etc. used. Just give me good old well written information with research to back it up.

Football mom

September 28th, 2011
8:07 am

I agree with DB. As a single mom (not by choice) I didn’t have the money or the time to do crap like that that. No boss is going to want to see the art project you made in 3rd grade. Teack my child to read, write, spell and do math.

RJ

September 28th, 2011
8:21 am

I can remember having to do dioramas when I was in elementary school. I think it’s a part of the elementary school experience. While I am far from artsy, I do think projects that require kids to create something is beneficial to the child. It allows them to think outside the box and be creative. Everyone doesn’t learn the same way. We all come with different skill sets. For the creative kid, these projects are a great way to demonstrate what they’ve learned in a different way. My oldest is extremely artistic. She will be a music major in college next year. She enjoyed doing creative projects. My youngest is far from it. He hates doing any kind of project. It’s really like pulling teeth trying to get him to be creative.

I don’t enjoy helping with the projects either, but I do see the benefit to doing them from time to time.

buckheadgirl

September 28th, 2011
8:27 am

We had all these things on hand for years because I taught my children from a young age that teachers are human. We all are drawn to what pleases us visually. School assignments are no exception. That’s the way the world works so they might as well grow up practicing. Thank goodness they are all now either in college or finished. I, too, am a glue and glitter hater!

motherjanegoose

September 28th, 2011
8:35 am

I am a visual learner and do think it is appropriate to ask children to turn in various interpretations of what they know. My beef is really with the parents who do most of the work and thus it is not a level playing field. Kind of like Dad batting on a t-ball team.

jarvis

September 28th, 2011
8:40 am

Even playing field? Is it a competition? Are they grading against the curve? Even if they are grading against the curve, do the grades in elementary school count for anything?

motherjanegoose

September 28th, 2011
8:53 am

Yes, it can be a competition. I have been in Media Centers, where the best projects are on display. Some of them are amazing. Many of them are clearly not the work of a 10 year old. If they put ALL the projects on display, then I would say it is not a competition. There IS a difference between helping your child and doing the project for them.

Kind of like the 1st grade teacher who told me that a student turned in a lengthy and detailed book report that was hand written in beautiful cursive lettering. The teacher said to the parent, ” My this handwriting is amazing! We have not even covered cursive in 1st grade yet and your child already has incredible penmanship!” CRINGE

I have said this before, there is a lot I do not know. Many things, that go on in school, I am aware of.

DB

September 28th, 2011
9:00 am

@Jarvis: “do the grades in elementary school count for anything?” BINGO!!!! Nope, not in this day of “self-esteem building”, and “No Child Gets A C” . . . oops, “No Child Left Behind”.

@RJ and buckheadgirl: I agree with you to a certain extent — I just wish they’d spend more time practicing handwriting so a potential employer could actually READ their job applications! I, too, appreciate the difference in fostering creativity – my daughter is a music major — but cutting music and art programs on one hand and then trying to sneak them into other subjects usually means that neither the subject or the art gets treated with the respect and care each deserves.

this particular blog sucks, more than most I'd say.

September 28th, 2011
9:02 am

her kids are doomed.

Lori

September 28th, 2011
9:04 am

I do have some of this stuff around my house as well. I think we as parents go overboard on these projects sometimes though. And it’s pretty obvious when the mom completes the poster rather than a 5 or 6 year old. I have a bigger beef with the costume requirements than the posters. Glue & paper aren’t that expensive, but costumes!!! We have spirit week next week. I’ve got to have a superhero shirt, something for western day, sports day, etc. Plus there will be book character day later in the year. Good grief! I try to use things I have around, or sew things on to existing shirts, but sometimes you can’t avoid having to buy some items. It gets to be a bit much after a while.

DB

September 28th, 2011
9:09 am

@MJG: Or in 2nd grade, where the kids brought in American Indian projects: My son labored over a plasticlay “battle mask” that ended up looking like a glob of dried plasticlay with two holes for eyes, with some paint dabbed on it and some feathers stick in the sides. :-) He bore it in proudly, but was almost in tears as one kid’s dad was carefully transporting a 2 ft. x 3 ft. Indian village on plywood, completely with carefully sewn teepees on popsicle stick supports and a fire ring that had glowing electri embers in it, with carefully placed and glued clumps of grass and trees and Indian figures that no 7 year old was EVER allowed to touch, the costumes were detailed so beautifully, and a corral with hand-carved “logs”. I raised my eyebrows when I looked at the teacher, who was trying very hard not to roll her eyes as the father enthusiastically pointed out every detail. I think it was sweet that the father and daughter had some quality time together over the project — but I question just how much the girl got out of it!

Techmom

September 28th, 2011
9:10 am

I’m just glad the science fair project phase is over. When my son got to HS, he purposely did not register for advanced science b/c of the dang project and I was relieved. Some kids and parents like them but I can’t stand the amount of work it takes outside the classroom to complete a science fair project. For the most part I didn’t mind the poster boards and such because it was usually was a break from the norm and kind of fun but I also don’t think the grade should be based solely on “presentation”. My son’s teachers In middle and high school have tended to give a rubric so you would know what the grade was based on (50 points for content, 15 points for grammar and spelling, 15 points for presentation, etc.) So at least there was more of an emphasis on content and less on being crafty.

Stacey

September 28th, 2011
9:10 am

I still chuckle sometimes thinking about my son’s first project in Kindergarten. The theme was was simply “Autumn” and I cut out beautiful pictures of pumpkins, scarecrows, fall leaves and scenes from old magazines and newspapers (the Michael’s ad was wonderful) and chose coordinating colors of construction paper for the background. I “helped” him cut out the pictures so they would be neat and laid them out on the applicable sheets of construction paper so that he could glue them himself (afterall, it was his project).

While I was inside doing all of this, my son took it upon himself to go outside and pick up different color leaves and acorns to add to the poster. I eplained that his poster was already pretty without the real leaves and acorns so he decided to glue them to a paper plate to turn in with the poster. He came home the next afternoon grinning ear to ear because his teacher said my poster was nice but she liked his plate of leaves so much that she hung it in the hallway for everyone to see when they came through. A few days later I met with his teacher for parent teacher conference and she teased me about being so impressed with my son’s years of scrapbooking experience. :-D Since then my role has been to buy the necessary supplies for him to complete his masterpieces.

DB

September 28th, 2011
9:13 am

@Stacey: We’ve all been there, I think! His teacher sounds like a gem!

ssidawg

September 28th, 2011
9:37 am

I just had to make a poster for my 2 year old to take to his preschool showing his favorite things, friends, family, etc. I was very happy that I had my scrapbook and cardmaking supplies on hand!

ABC

September 28th, 2011
10:01 am

@Lori, you don’t have to buy all those shirts and costumes for spirit week or whatever. If you don’t already have it, just send your kid in regular clothes and don’t stress about it. They won’t be the only ones without the superhero shirt or crazy hair. I always thought those things were lame anyway and take away from real learning. If my child wants to wear whatever they’ve been asked to wear, and we have it, fine. Otherwise, I’d rather he learn some math or something than wear a rainbow clown wig.

fred

September 28th, 2011
10:06 am

I refuse to help my daughters on projects like this. I am proud of the work that they produce and could give a flying fart about the projects that are soooo obviously created by helicopter parents. I am not going to read their books for them, complete their math problems or write their term papers in college either. I really do think that teachers know who did the work on the project and grade accordingly. and if we are honest, grade school grades really mean squat diddely.

RJ

September 28th, 2011
10:22 am

@DB, actually I think it’s great that teachers include the arts in their classroom. Teaching multiplication facts through rap, using visual art as a means to show understanding and creativity. I am a music teacher and I see the value of including these subjects in core subjects.

As far as our subjects being cut, it’s a sign of the times. Money is tight, and more school systems will be making these cuts. We’ve been warned as to the possibility of it happening.

Lori

September 28th, 2011
10:49 am

@ABC, oh no, we DO have to participate in spirit week. It’s a private school, so if he doesn’t dress up, then he has to wear the regular uniform. No one in that school misses the opportunity to not wear the uniform! He would be the only kid in the class not dressed. I can’t do that to him! I wouldn’t mind if they made it easier, like hat day or crazy hair day or something, where you probably already have stuff at home. But western day, REALLY! What the heck! I don’t have anything at all the resembles western gear! Last year they had pirate day, but I got lucky on that one because I was a pirate for Halloween one year.

Lori

September 28th, 2011
10:53 am

@RJ, I like that they incorporate art as well IN THE CLASSROOM! If the teacher wants to do hands on projects at school, fantastic! But please, don’t ask a kindergartener to produce a project that is clearly above their age is capable of doing! Any projects done at home should be able to be completed by the child. If the requirements are such that they can’t, then the project shouldn’t be required.

RJ

September 28th, 2011
11:05 am

@Lori, I just see things differently. As far as assignments being above grade level, I’ve had that complaint about homework that wasn’t arts based. In kdg, my son was asked to do assignments that took at least an hour for him to complete. Yes, I complained. But working with mom and dad on a project shouldn’t be an issue. I would be concerned if Kindergartners as being asked to do projects on posterboard, but not a 3rd grader. Heck, that’s all my son’s elementary gifted class was about…projects every month!!!

RJ

September 28th, 2011
11:06 am

What if the art teacher gave a project? Would parents complain about that too?

Techmom

September 28th, 2011
11:06 am

Lori I have to laugh b/c I just read the theme days for homecoming week in the school newsletter. At least this year they told us a couple of weeks in advance (the last few we’ve found out the week before) but the themes this year are off the wall. We have Salad Dressing Day (Really??) Each grade is assigned a flavor Ranch (e.g Western), Greek, Italian, etc. Then there’s Medieval Day, Hollywood day (each grade is assigned a movie so as not to get out of hand), Inanimate Object day (again, really??) and then spirit day. My son is in HS and of course any excuse not to wear the uniform is taken seriously. I told him he better start figuring out what he has and plan a trip to the Goodwill with his friends b/c I am not plunking down a bunch of money for dress up days. But it is all in fun and I do like seeing all the creative things kids come up with.

Dennis

September 28th, 2011
11:21 am

More of the project work needs to happen in the classroom. Seriously, less out of school projects and more in-school – the kids even at 1st and 2nd grade do lots of semi-guided or independent work at school but even the best kids come home and become dependent on parents because they can be, and parents try to “help” beyond what’s needed. We all do it.

I’ve tried showing my kids some techniques (and idea generation like brainstorming) and then leaving them to do the actual work of it.

catlady

September 28th, 2011
11:37 am

Our 4tj graders come in with dioramas made of lined notebook paper! I kid you not!

Becky

September 28th, 2011
11:40 am

I have only been thru this once and that was when my great neice was living with me..When she was a freshman, she had a science project about the solar system..I have a coworker that is very crafty, so she gave me some ideas and the neice took it from there..

Like others, I don’t think it’s right for the parents to do the project for the child..Help, yes, do the work, heck no..

Lori

September 28th, 2011
11:51 am

Oh gosh, Techmom!! I’m glad my son’s spirit week isn’t that crazy!! But we only got one week’s notice, so I have to get everything ready this weekend.

My son’s in 2nd grade, and we’ve done multiple posters every year, starting with K5. They always have to do the “all about me” poster. But last year, for example in 1st, he had to do a report on an animal. The report was simple, and the teacher gave them a sheet to complete with facts, which I helped him look up online, and they had to draw a picture of their animal. Why couldn’t they stop there. Oh no, they had to display their report on a full size poster, complete with more pictures and stuff. It took us hours to complete. His little hands are not really great with the scissors yet, either, so cutting took a while. I had him design the poster with what he wanted on it, but really I had to to help him cut, place & paste stuff. And of course, all this was after helping him with the research part of the report. I just think that kind of stuff is too much for a 1st grader. Oh yeah, and we only had one weekend to complete the project!! I would have been less upset if we’d have 2 weeks, but just the one weekend to research, buy materials, and complete it!

DB

September 28th, 2011
2:32 pm

I have to admit, I always suspected that teachers who assigned a lot of “projects”, especially the ones in elementary school without rubics, were just doing it to get out of grading homework papers, instead. :-)

From a teacher's POV

September 28th, 2011
8:41 pm

I started teaching when my daughter was in 9th grade, and so I have experience from both “sides of the chalk.” My daughter was very artsy and loved these creative projects – my son? Not so much, lol. It was all I could do to encourage him to turn in something halfway decent looking. Oh how I hated those trips to Michael’s! They are both in their early 20s now, so Powerpoint wasn’t as much of an option until later in high school.

My best advice to parents? Go over the rubric with your child (and yes, there should be a rubric – if there isn’t, there’s a problem). When they do their project, assess it with them – ask them to think about the grade they would give themselves. It’s a skill that will help them in middle school, high school, and college better evaluate the quality of their work. Content should be worth more than appearance, but appearance is important – and learning to pay a little attention to detail, use time management, and evaluate work ARE skills they will use as adults in the real world of work.

I teach science, so I have had my share of issues with science fair projects (which I actually hate). I now teach at a school that does not require them, but the school I taught previously did. If I saw one more “Whcih paper towel is the strongest” or “Which gum has the longest lasting flavor” I thought I would puke. The first couple years I had the kids do them at home…so I got very nice projects completed by parents, or no projects at all. Then I tried having the kids do them at school…ogh, disaster – not to mention that so many projects had nothing to do with the curriculum I taught – in the lovely age of NCLB, that wasn’t going to fly for long.

DB – grading projects is such as pain, I can assure you that teachers aren’t doing it to get out of grading HW – besides, the current trend in ed is to not grade HW (or “practice” as they like to call it). It’s largely a completion grade, and rarely worth more than 10%…and that comes from administration, not teachers.

Also coming from admin, and usually not teachers, is this push towards projects like this – it’s a form of “differentiated instruction” – google it. Projects like this are supposed to let the visual or kinesthetic learner demonstrate proficiency in a way that is more conducive to them learning style. If you just threw up in your mouth a little, you are not alone. A teacher that only assigns written work will not be evaluated as well as a teacher that has the fun and fluffy projects. Yet, now ironically, the trend is to evaluate teachers on the results of a test that the kids take…wonder what’s going to happen to those projects now???

From a teacher's POV

September 28th, 2011
8:42 pm

Sorry about the typos!

Kat

September 29th, 2011
12:49 am

I’m not a teacher, but I imagine that most of the crafty projects are done because young kids (like adults) learn by doing. They might not understand scope and scale without creating a poster of a map (see “legend” for size); they might not get some scientific idea from a book, but when you create a volcano, then the light bulb goes off!

Having said that, I can live without projects made with glitter or food products (cereal, etc.) for the rest of my children’s schooling.