Student Mandalas, Fall '07

Here are the most outstanding of the ones from my morning class. Once again, the ones I would have awarded the top honors were not those chosen by the class to receive the prizes, but I would have had a terrible time deciding on first, second and third places. So I will continue to have the students vote on this, although I will always be the one to do the grading.

Weather pundits predicted a terrible ice storm headed our way, so although all we could see were clouds that morning, all the schools (except our college) were closed. N came along with me to see my students' mandalas. She wasn't as comfortable with this group as she had been with the evening crowd, though - probably because as we walked in and they saw her, a loud "awwwww!" rose from the students, and she immediately shrank into herself. (Hard for those of you who know her to imagine, but it really did happen!)

First prize went to this '60s-style "hippie" poster (as her classmates dubbed it), primarily, I think, because it was so colorful. It's a nice piece. She did a good job of incorporating many diverse religious symbols in a cohesive manner, too.
Second place went to a poster that wowed everyone but that I didn't get a clear picture of. The student had visited a church, a synagogue and a Hindu temple and had taken gorgeous photos in each place, then mounted them all on his poster. It's always iffy trying to get a photo of photos, alas.

Third place was a tie between two of the pieces I liked very, very much. This one is a labyrinth created by embedding tiles and wire in calk. Quite nice, and no one could keep their fingers from tracing it over and over.
Below is a picture whose lines flow beautifully. I just like it. Don't you? This guy is a friend of Z's as well as a student of mine, in Z's Chinese class. Interesting fellow. Anyway, you can't really see all the strokes in the picture, but he was meticulous in his use of the marker, making all the strokes go in particular directions. You will see this if you open it in a new window, larger.
Here are a few more from the class that I found noteworthy. This one I am pretty sure was not original to the student, but taken from a website. Still, it's an interesting concept: physical and spiritual evolution.
And this outstanding painting was done by a student who either didn't do his other assignments or did them in such a slap-dash fashion that he did very poorly on them. Yet on this assignment he obviously worked very hard.
Isn't this one clever? This comes from a very quiet, but very bright student who always sat in the back. I wish he had been willing to speak up . . . .
We finished up class by watching a bit of jewlarious and mrdeity, and then when N & I went out into the cold we found ourselves in the midst of the promised ice storm. Instead of taking 12 minutes to get home, it took almost 1/2 hour. Other cars were slipping all over the place, but not ours. Perhaps because of driving very slowly? Guardian angels? At any rate, we were glad to get home.

And here is a picture of Z's tiny menorah, as well as one of N's glass menorah. Finally, now that all the menorahs are put away and we are preparing to put up our tree for Yule!

Next time I will show some photos of Z's & C's latest art.



What Children Learn in School

N has been washing her hands more lately. This is a good thing.

Not that we haven't always taught her to do this, mind you. And not that we have neglected to teach her to use soap, or to spend plenty of time scrubbing (in fact, I taught her to count to 15 slowly while sudsing). But when "nice Mrs. G. at school" tells her to do it, for some reason it carries more weight.

And now she not only washes carefully, but she sings while she washes. Two choruses of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," to be precise.

The school nurse is using this clever strategy to get the younger children to soap up long enough to kill bacteria, and I think it's great! N is enthusiastic about it, and even when she rushes through it, she can only sing the words so fast, you know? Two verses still take enough time that she does a pretty good job with that soap.

Incidentally, she's learned another interesting life lesson from one of her "specials," this one last year, actually. She explained to me very seriously last year that when she runs in gym class she is always very quiet and never yells, because "when you yell, it slows you down - my gym teacher told us that." Heh heh - talk about a smart guy! This is the man who broke her heart by retiring last year, and it's taken the new young woman almost three months to gain N's trust. N is very loyal! This new gym teacher learned the rule from N, according to N, and thought it was just dandy. I asked N if it's always quiet in gym when there is running, and she shook her head sadly. Apparently not all of the kids are as serious about running fast as she is.

Last night it was still enough that R & N managed to light our outdoor menorah. Z had already left for art class, and C had taken her; I was in bed with a migraine, so R & N went out and said the blessing and lit it, and I crawled to the window to admire it. It was lovely, especially with the snow falling. It is R's invention: large jars with candles in them (held in place by wax), sitting on our garden bench. Not easy to photograph, so here's the best I could do:
Maybe tonight R will go out & take a picture from closer up. This was taken by me from inside, which was the best I could manage, given my condition. Considering that the mitzvah is to light a menorah where everyone can see it, and our indoor ones are not by a window, we really should have this in the front yard, not the back, but I'm pretty sure (with all the vandalism lately) it would be broken. Maybe we will try it the last night.



Hanukkah at Our House - Night 1

If you click on the link above, it will take you to the latest Jewlarious Hanukkah film. I am of two minds about this film - on the one hand, having grown up Jewish in the Bible belt, I can really identify with poor Mordecai. On the other hand, the film doesn't exactly promote good relations among religions. On the third hand, why should Jews always be the understanding ones . . . . (Being Jewish, I get to have three hands/see three sides to every issue.)

What do you think?

We make a big deal about Hanukkah at our house, particularly the first and last nights, but all the nights are special. The three kids & I spent a good portion of today cleaning and preparing the house, and R came home early (though he didn't make it in time for sundown, thanks to the hour-long commute and a stop along the way to buy traps for the colony of mice . . . more on that, later). We made mountains of latkes, and when everyone was home and ready, we lit the menorahs.

We gave the kids their presents before candle-lighting this evening. N had told me last week that she felt she needed a new, bigger menorah. C has my menorah, Z has my brother Nick's menorah, and N has my brother Jason's menorah. It just so happens that C's is largest, Z's is middle-sized and N's is smallest (hey, Mom & Dad, did you do that on purpose when we were small?). N opined that now that she is bigger (7 years old), she needed a menorah befitting her size, even though her rank is unchanged.

I'd seen a lovely glass menorah made up of separate blocks that can be configured in all sorts of ways, and had planned to get it for myself, but I got it for N instead. It isn't exactly large, but being able to rearrange it constantly seemed appropriate to her personality, and she loves it. I also found a tiny one that takes birthday cake candles, and got that one for Z, who was enchanted by it and said "Ooooh, I'll take it to college with me next year!" Well, I suppose she can take it to her dorm room, but she won't be allowed to put candles in it. Ah, well.

C said he really only needs one menorah, so we gave him the latest season of "Smallville" instead, and he was really pleased with that.

Then we lit up the five menorahs (I don't put candles in my menorah any more, not since the year I discovered that it was flammable - it caught on fire!) and ate about 3/4 of the latkes (we deliberately make extras). A word about my latkes: I bake them, because I don't like fried foods. So they're weird, but they're healthy. We spent more than an hour over dinner, just enjoying each other - and with all the cooking, the dining area of the house was pretty warm!

At bedtime, I read N a new Hanukkah book: Lemony Snicket's The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story. I recommend it highly, particularly as a POINTED gift to anyone who thinks that Hanukkah is "the Jewish Christmas." N wants to take it to school tomorrow so she can see if her teacher will read it to the class.

We decided not to light our outdoor menorah this evening - it's just too windy, and I was afraid the jars would blow over & break. Perhaps tomorrow night. When we do it, I'll take a picture and post it, along with a picture of the new menorahs. They're more interesting to photograph when there are more candles in them, anyway.

News bulletin: R has come upstairs to announce that he thinks he's gotten the furnace working! Keep your fingers crossed!

Mice: last night, C & I were watching a movie when I heard a noise in the ceiling. Looking up, I saw FOUR large mice (at least, I hope they were mice - if they were rats, they were small ones) skitter across the light panel. C said, "Oh those are just the mice."

What do you mean, the mice?

"There've been mice up in the ceiling since the summer."

Why didn't you say something earlier?!?!?

"We thought you knew about them."


"Z, N & me."

When I mentioned this to Z, she said, "Oh, yes, and this morning when I opened my closet, a mouse ran out of my knitting bag. I should have guessed that would be a place mice would like - a nice, cozy nesting material!"

How long have you had mice in your closet?

"Since last Halloween. It's a problem that I never eat my Halloween or Easter candy. Should I maybe keep it in the kitchen?"

You mean, Halloween 2006?!?!?!

"You think it's getting too old?"

Well, apparently the mice don't mind.


More Student Mandalas

These are from last night's class. Another of the things I love about this assignment is that in general, the winning mandalas tend to be from students who are not the most vocal, popular or academically successful in the class. It's so satisfying to see students who are not as verbally skilled be able to demonstrate their understanding of the material in another way! Here are some of the entries from last night's class.

We talked about religion as a path; this student showed our study of religion as a path as well.
This is part of a larger picture; I liked the way she incorporated all three of the Abrahamic religions into the moon-and-star image.
This one was just plain lovely as well as clever. So I'm a sucker for gold & glitter!
I've never had a student knit one before! He asked his mother to teach him to knit and stitch specifically for this project.
I'm not supposed to have favorites, but I really love the notion of all the gods gathered chummily around the earth. I'd like note cards with this image!
This student had an interesting take on the yin/yang symbol.
My Buddhist student created this one. Not only scholarly, but subtle - his background is Christian, and I love the way he wove this into the design. (And okay, I can't help being a bit partial to one that uses Japanese text!)
This is painted with oil. Very striking!
My Hellenist student, a devotee of Athena, created this one, chockful of information. I think Athena would look upon this with favor.
Another of my favorites, this painting looks very much like a Dine sand painting. Isn't it lovely?
So, can you guess which ones were voted the winners by the class?



Students' Mandalas

Here are the first set of student mandalas. These are from my online class; the students are somewhat limited in that not all of them had scanners, and they had to turn these in halfway through the semester. Still, they did some lovely work. For example, one created a tabletop mandala:

Another student was so into the project that she made two mandalas. The first is a word mandala:
While the second used geometric shapes:
There were many other wonderful mandalas in this class. I do love this project! I have not included them on the blog, however, because they were very personal.

These designs are, of course, copyright @my students.