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Wind Down an Odd Year With an Inspiring Book and Morale Boosting Art Project

The end of the school year can bring about contradictory feelings. You may feel a sense of relief that a break is coming, a concern that students did not learn all the content you had hoped for, and the gamut of emotions in between. This school year, in particular, has challenged teachers in new ways. Likewise, students have had a strange and complicated experience returning to in-person this year. As the finish line approaches, end the school year strong with this art activity to engage students and boost morale.

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The Magical Yet

An activity to help students of all ages define and understand the concepts of practice, perseverance, and potential is to create a fun, open-ended watercolor resist creature. Reading the gorgeously designed book The Magical Yet is a fantastic way to start a conversation mirroring these concepts. Author Angela DiTerlizzi and artist Lorena Alvarez immerse the reader in a world of possibility. When the main character thinks they can’t go on, they learn about the magic of “Yet.”

“Yet” is a growth mindset that lives inside each person. This book begins with a struggling young cyclist who is ready to give up until they discover their Yet. With her optimistic, artful, fairy-creature interpretation, Lorena Alvarez brings the invisible Yet to life. The Yet helps the cyclist realize they will meet their full potential if they keep trying.

The most endearing spread in the book is when we see several children with their personal Yet right by their sides. The Yet can also be thought of and explained as the little voice in one’s mind that cheers you on when you need extra confidence and a boost of positivity. “This Yet finds a way, even when you don’t. And Yet knows you will, even when you think you won’t.”

the magical yet book

After reading, guide students to create a mixed-media Yet for when they need extra reassurance. Reiterate that they can do hard things, appreciate their progress, and actualize their goals when they believe in themselves.

Set up the lesson.

This project is adaptable for distance learning, digital art creation, or in-person artmaking using the various materials you have available. There are endless possibilities when designing a uniquely perfect Yet!

Before diving into the watercolor resist, tell students they are creating an “art paper” for their final work of art. Explain that the art paper has the potential to transform and become something even more significant than they can imagine right now. Encourage students to use their favorite colors, shapes, and designs to make them happy. Frame this studio time as practice and exploration.

watercolor paint

Create the watercolor resist.

Once the lesson is set up, it’s time to begin artmaking. If your students have never used watercolor before, here are some tips for introducing this medium.

  1. Students write their names on the back of the paper with crayons or pencils.
  2. Students draw all over their papers with crayons. They can choose colorful options or experiment with white only. White crayon produces the most unpredictable, exciting, and high contrast outcome.
  3. Tape the paper to the table or drawing boards if you have space. This will prevent the paper from curling as it dries.
  4. Apply watercolor paint over the entire paper. Watch as the wax from the crayon pushes away the water-based paint. It “resists” the watercolor and stands out vibrantly against the paint.
  5. Allow the paper to dry thoroughly.

Connect the book to students and their lives.

Once the entire class has created their watercolor resist art papers, you are ready to explain how they will be used. Read (or re-read) The Magical Yet and discuss the themes of practice, perseverance, and potential. Ask students to identify the themes as they notice them.

Here are some talking points to guide the discussion:

  • Acknowledge that our inner voices can encourage us when the going gets tough and that it’s okay to feel like giving up.
  • Ask students for examples of when they have given themselves positive pep talks.
  • Reaffirm that what matters most when we have big feelings or a hard day is we remember we can all reach our potential with practice and perseverance.
  • Share what students’ Yet companions would look like in real life.

Design a personal Yet.

Students generate ideas for their personal Yet by sketching a few different characters that help them recall feelings of positivity and encouragement. You may offer them body part pages filled with various facial features, hair, and body types to get them started.

illustrated creatures

Once the brainstorming is complete, it’s time to put everything together:

  1. Remind students that the art paper they demonstrated watercolor resist on has the potential to become a Magical Yet.
  2. Students draw their Yet on the back of one of their art papers.
  3. Students cut out their Yet.
  4. Students apply glue to the reverse side of their Yet image (the blank side) and adhere it to a new solid-color background.
  5. Create elements from the leftover watercolor resist scraps (like stars) and collage them to the background.
  6. Add details by outlining features in black marker and adding more color with crayons.
  7. Add glitter, wiggle eyes, or sequins for extra embellishment to send the “magic” factor soaring!
  8. Include a few words of encouragement like, “You can always believe in the Magic of Yet!” Students can also add a specific goal to their final piece.

student exemplar

The Yet finds a way.

Much like returning to in-person learning, winding down the school year can bring about mixed feelings. As the transition to summer begins, students will find comfort in a morale-boosting art project. Read The Magical Yet to remind them that everyone can strive toward their potential with perseverance, no matter where they start. There is no timeline for learning and growing as long as you believe in the power of “Yet.”

How do you help keep students’ spirits high as they strive to reach their potential?

How do you talk about practice and perseverance in the art room?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.

Andrea Wlodarczyk, a middle school art educator, is a current AOEU Writer. She is a deep believer that the art room can be a brave space for students to collaborate across cultures, languages, academics, and socioeconomics and celebrate self-expression and diversity through community.

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