What are your hopes for the next 100 years? Bell students ask you to consider…


In honor of the Alexander Graham Bell Elementary School Centennial Anniversary, in preparation for the year long festivities honoring the long and valued history at Bell School,  art students are creating Hopes and Dreams Intention drawings showing what they desire to see in the world in the next 100 years. Their earnest care and concern comes through. Check them out!


There are too many to add all of them here but we will keep updating this post and scan more as the weeks pass by. Also, they will be displayed in the school during the school year.

To generate ideas, students were led through a envisioning process, hearing stories about Chicago and Bell School over the past 100 years, what students their age lived through: the tail end of WW1, The Depression, WW2, The Civil Rights Era, Feminism, NASA, the Hippie Culture, The Vietnam and Korean Wars, Desert Storm, 911, Climate Change, Gender Equity and so many more.

untitled-presentation-6We discussed the struggles in society and how families found safety and security having a strong place like Bell School to return to each day during the 100 school years. Our halls are filled with 100 years of hopes and dreams.

untitled-presentation-3What are you hopes and dreams for the next 100 years? We have attached a pdf of the document students used for their artwork.  hopes-and-dreams-landscape

Please download it and create one and bring it to the Bell School Alumni Celebration Day on March 4th.


There will be 8th grade students there to discuss and involve you in their 8th grade Legacy Project Installation, “You Can Change the World.” They will be prepared to give you very personal and specific information on just how they believe you can indeed help change the world via little and BIG steps.




That there is no poverty.
That bugs, trees and plants will be here in 100 years.




Moroccan Artisan Centers, Step 1

4foldsymmetry.1Fourth quarter, the Bell artisan centers continue as students have continued with exploring the complicated and beguiling angles and patterns of 4 fold symmetrical designs.

Prior to drafting their own 4 fold symmetrical design, Kindergarten to 7th grade students’ jaws dropped when they watched the step by step process explained by Eric Broug in his TedTalk video. Later, after they had finalized their drawings and began embellishing the repeating shapes with colored paper inlay, similar but by far easier than the traditional tile inlay found in Marrakech; students were very proud of their drafting skill– shocked that they were capable of successfully drawing what seemed so complicated at first.

We thank Eric Broug for this helpful video! His website has a lot of resources too!


Check out the intricate work of our amazing students!

2016-03-22 09.03.50

2016-04-11 12.52.092016-04-12 12.58.472016-04-12 12.58.55

These tile designs connect Bell students to the more than 1000 year old history and techniques of these designs which can be found from Marrakech, Morocco to Alihambra, Spain. The tessellated patterns transcend our everyday life and allude to an eternal and universal order found in the predictable yet very mystical and awe inspiring repetition of geometric shapes, some very common (octagon), yet when repeated and overlapped, transform in to vivid, gripping and moving designs. Visit Bell School on June 8th to see the walls lined with 900 of these stunning and carefully crafted art works. As an installation, the feeling of the walls will hopefully transport us to the patterned walls of Moroccan homes, mosques and schools. Check out some patterned tile photos Mr. Danja and I photographed last summer in Marrakech. Imagine having a wall or stairs singing color and pattern as seen in these photos! How would that change your feelings? How would the patterns inspire you on a daily basis? Think about it!

2015-07-25 18.29.00

2015-07-26 11.42.322015-07-25 18.26.53

Heather McQueen, Ceramic Artist

orange-custom-proclay-hdrum-by-danmerlophoto.jpgThursday, March 24th, 6th graders from all three departments viewed Moroccan trained, ceramic drum builder, Heather McQueen demonstrate hand-building and drum skin stretching techniques in preparation for their Moroccan, Tarija drum making unit.

websize H upside down throwing by mariannapix.com

Below, you can see Heather sharing her very small Tarija with 6th grade student, Katarina. Heather brought a variety of drum examples to share with the students. She did an incredible job explaining the process of hand-building the drums step by step. 6th grade students are excited to begin the project in the next few weeks! We are hoping to bring Heather back to our Moroccan themed, Family Fine Arts Night on June 8th. We will have donated cylinder materials students can turn into drums that night so they can join in on drumming circles inspired by the nights events.

2016-03-24 09.15.15.jpg

2016-03-24 08.19.44.jpg

As Heather mentioned, wherever in the world there is clay and leather, you will find cultures who hand build clay drums. Humans have been making music using voices for songs and found and forged natural materials for close to 50,000 years. Take a peek at the earliest known drum below, a 37,000 year old, elephant skin drum.

Every family in Morocco has some form of a percussive object at home and if they don’t have a formal tarija, they often look for any household object that can create and project a vibration such as metal tea trays (Often used in the female bands called Laabat), a solid wood table edge (very common), spoons hit on tea glasses (carefully)! Many gatherings involve spontaneous music and these chances become energetic and multi-generational, impromptu performances that lighten any mood on most days. Lesson learned, make more music with friends and family and most likely, your troubles will be lessened or fade away completely!

Tarijas are used primarily in the poly-rhythmic musical circles in the Tkah singing style. This is a very interactive, call and response style of singing that includes comments and familiar rhythms to all involved and is well known in Moroccan communities. Below see a photo of Heather showing different types of drum skinning. We thank York Chan, Bell Tech extraordinaire for helping us use a document camera to project Heather’s demonstration and record it for future review. 2016-03-24 08.25.50

Heather taught us how to use toilet paper rolls as cylindrical forms to make the tube of the Tarija and a vessel mold for the round part of the drum. She also taught us how to glue on the skin top and introduced us to her experiences working with drum makers in Meknes, Morocco since 2005.

Heather is a very talented ceramist. This photo below shows her incredible skill at forming large scale, ceramic vessels and her experimentation with glaze colors in impressive. Heather mentioned that much of her ideas for glaze combinations come from her watercolor and sketching. Notice the images and how they relate to the glaze samples she keeps in her studio.

2016-03-24 08.47.43

2016-03-24 08.48.01

2016-03-24 08.47.27

Before Heather left for the day, she had some extra time to visit the enthusiastic kindergartners in room 211. Students were delighted to show their handmade vessels and play Heather’s drums!
2016-03-24 09.27.37Thank you to Heather for your informative visit. We hope to collaborate with you in the future. Also, thank you to Sarah Hoppe Knight, Chicago Foundation for Education Program Director for stopping by to support our Moroccan programming. All of this work would not be possible had Arabic Teacher, Mr. Danja at Lane Tech and Ms. Pearlmutter not been awarded a Fund for Teachers Fellowship to research art and music and storytelling in Marrakech, Morocco during the Summer of 2015. We are so grateful that so many students and families are still being impacted by this research. 900 so far at Bell and the Arabic students at Lane Tech! Make sure to return to Bell on June 8th for drumming, Moroccan music, an Oud performance, Moroccan inspired artwork set up in an old world, Moroccan souk with live artisans giving demonstrations.



Making Drums!! Check it out!!!!!! Last week, the 6th graders started making their tarija drums in art class! We will continue to update this post as more images from the process become available!2016-04-06 08.56.58


BONUS! Heather was generous with her time and answered some questions we sent to her to learn more about her inspiration as a ceramicist.
Ms. P: Why did you originally start making drums?
H: In the summer of 2000, right after graduating from college.  (here in Chicago!)
Ms. P: Where do you like to find your clay?
H: My favorite place to see clay?  In the caves! (I am a recreational cave explorer)  I know of potters who dig their own clay, but I get mine from the nice people at Chicago Ceramic Supply, located in Evanston.  
Ms. P: Do you feel Moroccan clay is different from American Clay?
H: Ooh, yes I love to compare clays from around the world!  They are all different, in their own ways and for their own purposes!  I’ve enjoyed seeing coarse bodies of clay, like for bricks, that gets used for large utilitarian pieces (tajines), and also really fine-grained clay that is used for nicer stuff (and tajines.)
Here is Mr. Danja (Lane Arabic teacher) softening the clay in an ancient technique that has been used for centuries! Feet can do amazing things!
2015-07-22 12.51.12
Here is Ms. Pearlmutter with a potter friend in the village of Tameslhouht surrounded by ceramic tajines, couscous platters and pitchers. The ceramicists work in a cooperative. More on that soon!
2015-07-19 13.07.26
Ms. P: How did you end up learning Tarija drum making in Morocco?
H: I was already making doumbek/darbukka drums (the larger Middle Eastern hourglass-shaped drum), which is not all that common in Morocco.  So in theory, I knew what to do.  I learned the musical style called “Aissawa” which uses the Tareja a lot.  That’s where I began to realize the potential it holds as an instrument, despite its small, unassuming size.
Ms. P.:How did you meet the artist there?
H:I was introduced by another American friend who had spent time in Meknes.
Ms. P: What is your fondest memory of drum learning/making in Morocco?
H: Seeing how happy my teachers were to see their culture shared, and to have people come from all over the world to visit them and appreciate their craft.  
Ms. P: What is your favorite song that comes to mind that uses your drums?
H: There’s an Aissawa number we call “Ribbani” that uses the camel-skinned kettledrums along with the tarejas and large tambourines (bouznazen)
Ms. P: Can I find a link for it on You Tube?
H: Here’s my group, Chicago Aissawa, at Daley Plaza for Sister Cities day back in 2009
And a group of Moroccan Aissawa playing similar… I tried to locate Baba Jalil and the group from Meknes, but can’t find a video of them with Tarejas.  So here’s one, and it includes another goblet-drum called gwall.  A little unusual to see it in this combo, but the ‘percussion orchestra’ idea comes across.
Ms. P: How do you think drums can affect people, places, energy, community, etc?
H: They connect us at our core- across language, age, culture, disability.  They have the power to lift our spirits, give us joy and heal our souls and bodies!
Ms. P: Anything else you would like to add?
H: It never stops!  I love where this craft has taken me- from Morocco and Chicago, onto the radio, through the UK, national television and more…  and now your school!
Thanks Shana & students of Bell School




Juan Angel Chávez visits Bell School

2016-03-14 11.20.51

In preparation for the 8th Grade Legacy Project, a collaborative mural made each year as an annual showcase of culminating 8th grade artwork at Bell School; on March 14,  visiting artist, Chicago based, Juan Angel Chávez presented his portfolio of sculpture and installation work. Mr. Chávez commented on his early experiences of immigrating to America from La Junta, Chihuahua, Mexico and the challenges he and his family faced due to that experience of dislocation. He shared his experiences of creating street installations out of re-purposed materials that he found in the urban environment.

The city and built environment becomes an aesthetic palette for him as he splices and fuses unexpected objects, curves and bends plywood, incorporates old signs,  reflective cake pans, wires and lights. His explanation of the interactive, Speaker Project which he installed at the Hyde Park Arts Center in collaboration with the Empty Bottle was very inspiring. He designed a beautifully patched together room that featured sound making inside and used orange safety cones to project the sound. He described that visitors were invited to engage in sound making and become apart of the actual sculpture through performance and responding to others in the installation. Learning about this piece inspired ideas for incorporating Bell student interaction with sounds connected to the Legacy Project for this year. News on that to come!

The other project that related well to the Facing History and Ourselves curriculum connecting 8th grade Bell students to issues of identity, choosing to participate, universe of obligation and social and cultural dilemmas and awareness was  Chávez’s installation titled, Neptuno.   In this piece, he constructed a passageway that suggests the hidden smuggler tunnels taken by Mexican immigrants who travel between two worlds near the border, Mexico and America. The title “Neptuno” relates to a song Chávez heard playing often in Mexico which suggests that when Mexicans make the journey to America, that they not act or look like they are from Neptune when they are from the border, that they assimilate their identity to their American surroundings. In this video, Chávez discusses his inspiration.

Linking his assemblage style to the 8th grade students makes more sense in some of his wall installations. Disparate pieces are joined in whimsical and texturally interesting ways. Rippling curves become lichen, shadows play into the overall design and the juxtaposition of sizes and edges come a live. Thank you Mr. Chávez for sharing your vision with us!

Art and Culture of Eastern and Oriental Design

All Bell students have begun working on various art centers inspired by the Moroccan research from last summer. Inspired by the tboga lesson with LaFatima in Ludaya, a village near Marrakech, students began reinterpreting the ancient art of basketry by using magazine and catalog pages. They are folding,  gluing and carefully shaping their re-purposed magazine vessels while also forging the ancient and universal basket design element of the spiral. Students were fascinated to learn that the simple spiral in the tboga and many other ancient baskets follows the Fibonacci sequence.




2016-02-24 12.08.28

RepurposedVessel.PPT (1)


The next center will involve students cutting, braiding, hand crocheting and fashioning utilitarian objects using plastic yarn =plarn. Students will be able to create any object as long as it serves a purpose from this material.


2016-02-02 08.32.23

2016-02-02 09.04.08

The third center opening soon will be that of an exploration into Eastern Design inspired by the intricate geometry of Islamic Symmetrical Designs tile designs. Students will explore the main styles of symmetry and design their own colored paper mosaic inspired by the design styles.



ASAS Symmetry Designs

Sketchbook Reflections

This year, Mr. Busse and Ms. Pearlmutter have led the 5th to 8th grade students in a warm up reading and sketching session at the beginning of each art class. This process helps warm up the students’ left side of the brain while they are able to explore drawing materials on a new page of their sketchbook. Each week, during their drawing session, we read a new page from the incredible book, Radical American Women, A-Z. So far, we are on F for Florence Griffith Joyner. A recent eye opener of a biography that grabbed the hearts of the students was for Delores Huerta. Although we had heard of her, we did not realize the multiple ways her vision and work had impacted Americans. Check it out.


In response to the weekly readings, we write a word on the board and the students have the choice of creating a drawing in response to the topic or draw from their own imagination.

Here are some of the profound pages we have encountered. They are many hanging in the hallway near the art room. Stop by to check out the Bell Sketchbook Reflections!







This summer, Ms. Pearlmutter and her husband, French and Arabic teacher at Lane Tech, Mr. Danja traveled to Marrakech, Morocco to conduct research of storytellers, artisans, musicians, storytellers and Non-profit organizations. They spent 42 days in artistic workshops, collaborating with incredibly bright students writing stories, making videos and exploring cross-cultural ideas and citizenship.

This year the students at Lane and Bell will be given the chance to learn the artistic and communication skills we learned. So that you can learn more about our exciting, learning adventure and read wonderful comments written by our Bell, 6th grade and Lane, Arabic 1-4 students, please visit our blog.



Trusting children with building materials is a key step in bolstering a child’s identity as an inventor and artist. Whether made of tape, paper or used wrappers transformed into a home, a bridge or something with no name at all, young artists develop a hands-on understanding of balance, weight, volume, three dimensions and permanence. As they construct, students learn about stretching time and as they are in the flow of making important sculptural choices while building, they loose track of their surroundings and can get completely taken over by their creation. This type of involvement strengthens the right and left brain hemispheres.

As spring and summer break approach,  Bell art teachers encourage our families to set up a safe tinkering station in your home. Consider starting with simple tools like a tape measure, scrap paper, twisty ties, found objects, masking tape and glue. Later, when students are older, introduce hot glue and an adult monitored–low voltage, hand held drill, screws, nails and a hammer. Contact local carpenters to ask if they have wood scraps you can pick up, save popsicle sticks and corks.  Get some sand paper so they can learn how to treat the wood with care before their sculpture is built and painted, or not. Take a walk with your young artist and pick up treasures you find cast off as trash but would make great art.

Consider the new STEAM learning objectives for developing 21st Century learning skills and how a “Maker Station” will help integrate Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. An essay from the 2012 Making Meaning Conference Symposium, CAISE, or Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education noted that these key factors can positively impact tinkerers:

  • motivation and persistence
  • process, problem solving and learning
  • storytelling and sharing
  • context and support

Additional concepts described by the makerspace community include

  • identity (seeing oneself as someone who uses tools)
  • authorship and agency (posing a problem, thinking independently about what to make next)
  • digital-physical convergence (content knowledge inherent in many maker activities)

Started in 1967 “to explore how children and adults learn in and through the arts,” Project Zero at Harvard University, has made huge strides in researching the links between cognitive development and hands-on problem solving. They host learning conferences, artists in residence, research and online library of resources. Here are some interesting articles to read regarding their work: Mind/Shift and Project Zero Programs.

The Exploratorium in San Francisco is an interactive museum focusing on tinkering, experimental inquiry, science and experiments. They wrote two engaging books, Explorolab and The Art of Tinkering. Check them out!

Use familiar materials in unfamiliar ways

Artist, Scott Weaver expresses the joys of tinkering in this informative video.

Many tinkerers have changed the world. Lenoardo DaVinci had volumes of materials he collected in his studio to bend, stretch and nail into a flying machine or robotic knight prototype.  Rube Goldberg was multi-talented. He was a cartoonist, engineer and visionary. Who else would try to problem solve how to create a machine that can pull the cotton out of an asprin bottle? Although he did not build his inventions, his drawings show an incredible amount of original thinking.  Another brilliant and lesser known group of tinkerers is the French sculptural, husband and wife team, ACM, which stands for Alfred and Marie Corinee. They have been known to fuse together discarded machine parts, fuses, feathers, sticks, sprockets and more.  Check them out! We are fascinated with the variety of textures, layering and colors ACM  blends together.

We have several videos and websites we suggest to inspire a home of tinkering and building. Remember not to aim for perfection but to allow the process of making, falling apart and restructuring with important building decisions to be the focus. Families who create together can do amazing things.

Sites of interest: Caine’s ArcadeThe Tinkering SchoolChicago Tinkering School

Locations to purchase cool tinkering materials and learn cool building skills: The Rebuilding Exchange http://rebuildingexchange.org/, The Resource Center of Chicago http://www.resourcecenterchicago.org/, The Waste Shed  http://www.thewasteshed.com/  The American Science and Surplus  http://www.sciplus.com/    Yard and Garage Sales!!!   Your junk drawer    Thrift Stores

Please let us know if you create a Tinkering station in your home and share pictures too!

Studio Habits of Thinking

Two years ago, I participated in a Chicago Foundation of Education, Study Group coached by a dear friend and amazing art teacher at Mitchell Elementary School, Julie Toole. In this group, we explored, discussed and brainstormed ways to integrate the Teaching Artistic Behavior model in our classrooms as well as develop a working knowledge of my hero, Lois Hetland’s, 8 Studio Habits of Thinking. These habits are:  Developing Craft, Engage and Persist, Envision, Express, Observe, Reflect, Stretch and Explore and Understand the Art World. The structure of Studio Habits of Thinking has given my students a deeper appreciation for their art making, thinking and process. It helps guide me to bring moments of reflection on their planning, practice and assessment. Students have grown to trust each other more,  ask classmates for suggestions, to resist saying “I’m done” until they exhaust all possible perspectives with their work. Also, the habits have helped re-shape our students’ relationship to the materials that they use, idea formation and becoming more reflective and better problem solvers. The art room at Bell is run more like a studio than a classroom when the students bring their best Studio Thinking to the table. Due to the fact that we have so many students, a little over 1000, Mr. Busse and I run the Teaching Artistic Behavior model on a spectrum that offers either full freedom of material and we offer the subject matter or vice versa.  During the 4th quarter, as students finish their final projects, the room features  the Teaching Artistic Behavior model offering centers of fibers, sculpture building, painting, printmaking and other materials as they emerge. This time is a thriving time that the students look forward to and cherish the freedom. Also, part of why Mr. Busse and I have chosen to address certain benchmark projects at specific grades is to guarantee that we cover deeply important art making skills, art historical epochs and/or movements….knowledge we feel we want our students to leave knowing and refining before leaving elementary and entering high school.

8th Grade Barbara Kruger Commentary

Further relating to the 8th grade curriculum connections we make with Facing History and Ourselves themes of Universe of Obligation and critical thinking, students viewed, discussed and created work in the spirit of contemporary artist, Barbara Kruger.  Barbara Kruger is an American conceptual artist. Much of her work consists of black-and-white photographs overlaid with declarative captions –The phrases in her works often include use of pronouns such as “you”, “your”, “I”, “we” and “they”. She critiques the use of power in a civil society, gender stereotypes in culture and how consumerism affects our lifestyle and well-being. (Please be aware that Mr. Kruger’s controversial work is better suited for middle and high school age students.) Enjoy the 8th grader’s critical eyes and words. Their ideas were very personal, representing issues that weigh on their hearts and minds for the planet at this time. I am amazed by their honesty, bravery and artistic choices. Please email me if you have any comments you would like to share with the students, shpearlmutter@cps.edu. Here is their work on Artsonia: http://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?exhibit=586919

barbarakruger10 barbarakruger11 barbarakruger14 barbarakruger16barbarakruger9barbarakruger8barbarakruger7barbarakruger6barbarakruger3barbarakruger4barbarkreuger22 barbarkruger20 barbarakkruger23