Professional Practice

9 Weird and Wonderful Ways for the Art Teacher to Rest and Refresh this Summer

childhood artwork

Being creative means thinking differently. The most innovative and influential artists were the ones with the courage to run with their weird and shocking ideas. For instance, Marcel Duchamp’s urinal, entitled Fountain, turned the art world upside down! While there is a time and place for structure, summer break is an art teacher’s moment to thrive, be bold, and experiment.

Try one of the many unusual yet enjoyable ways to relax below so you can fuel your unique art teacher energy.

1. Embrace the power of productive play.

The Bauhaus is best known for its sleek modern style. It continues to shape graphic design, typography, and industrial design today. Did you know they also hosted some epic costume parties? The parties allowed students to experiment across disciplines and make creative connections around a given theme. They believed that play was the force that made creativity possible. Johannes Itten, a Bauhaus teacher, famously said, “Play becomes joy, joy becomes work, work becomes play.”

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Why not throw your own over-the-top costume party? Ditch your drab comfy clothes for a few hours and encourage guests to don a creative ensemble. You may end up with fresh ideas to incorporate into a future lesson for your students!

Play around with these fun costume prompts:

  • Dress as your favorite artwork
  • Channel your beloved art material
  • Personify an art concept
  • Collaborate to form a famous art duo

2. Fuel your creativity with unexpected inspiration.

Museums are a treasure trove for the artistically curious. Step outside your comfort zone and explore museums that might seem unusual at first glance. For example, consider the Museum of Surgical Science—it may seem strange, but the exhibits reflect an ingenuity and determination that can ignite surprising artistic connections. Check out museums dedicated to the truly bizarre, like The International Cryptozoology Museum (dedicated to mythical creatures), The Idaho Potato Museum, or even The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum. No matter where you live, there is probably an oddly fascinating museum nearby.

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​​3. Make a Mini Masterpiece every day!

Join AOEU during the month of July for Mini Masterpieces: a daily drawing challenge just for art teachers! All you need is a pad of sticky notes and your favorite drawing utensil. Take a few minutes each day to stretch your creative muscles and make something within an amazing community of support. Gain encouragement and innovative ideas by following co-hosts, Chris Hodge and Nylah Khan. Bring the prompts into your classroom this fall for your students so they can build an artmaking habit too!

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4. Nurture your whole self.

Creative energy doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Taking care of your physical and mental well-being is crucial for sustained creativity. One area to focus on is to explore the culinary arts. Find healthy recipes and experiment with plating and presentation. Think of meal prep as a sculptural exercise and a delightful rebellion against childhood admonitions of “don’t play with your food.” Regular exercise is another excellent way to boost your mental and physical well-being. Yoga, walking, running, or biking in nature can help you de-stress and reconnect with your body. If you take good care of your body, it will perform better for you. Plus, nature is another endless source of inspiration for artmaking at home and in the classroom

5. Find your peace and take a piece.

Wherever you go and whatever you do this summer, savor the moments you feel calm, content, and relaxed. Collect souvenirs from these spaces to trigger good memories for a long time to come. Save a ticket stub from your local movie theater, a jar of sand from the beach, or a pressed flower from your garden. After weeks of collecting, arrange them into a work of art. Channel your inner Joseph Cornell and compose a conceptual box.

When you head back to school in the fall, take that little piece of summer with you. It can prompt you to keep calm, and it can serve as a great introductory lesson for the start of the school year. Just as Burton Morris’s nightstand portraits use objects to represent aspects of a person, share how your summer souvenirs are significant to you. Keep the summer vibes going into the school year, all while fostering connection with your students!

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6. Connect with other creative professionals to spark new ideas.

We all have those cherished lesson plans that have consistently captivated our students year after year. Sometimes, even the most beloved activities can start to feel a bit routine. Sign up for the next NOW Conference, where you can virtually connect with the most creative and supportive community of art teachers. Embracing new perspectives can reignite your passion for teaching. Return to your classroom invigorated and armed with a treasure trove of fresh approaches to breathe new life into your tried-and-true lessons.

7. Enjoy getting carried away in a great story.

Throughout the school year, most teachers only have time (and the mental capacity!) to read emails and student essays. Take time to enjoy reading the articles and books you enjoy. There are also tons of great podcasts with fun facts that will have you riveted, even on the go! Art history is full of odd and interesting stories that can give you new insights into beloved works or encourage you to appreciate something previously overlooked


8. Experience the joy and satisfaction of spring cleaning by upcycling clutter. 

Art teachers are professionals at looking at clutter but seeing potential materials instead. Merge this creative mindset with a little productive cleaning. Choose a closet or drawer and empty it. Wipe it down and put back the items you need. Lay out all of the remaining contents and sort them into piles according to color. Sketch a composition—it can be an abstract shape design, a short quote, or something else. While you glue your materials into place to make a mosaic, enjoy the mindless nature of the process!

9. Be okay acting a little childish… because every child is an artist!

Do you remember the joy of discovery you experienced as a child? Go through your old mementos, look in your parents’ attic, and find some of the amazing pieces you created when you were young. Pick out a favorite to focus on and make an updated version. Try to approach the same subject with the same earnestness you had in your childhood—but apply your more mature art skills with your preferred medium. 

You are never too old to enjoy constructing with plastic building bricks, decorating a dollhouse, or playing with other toys you obsessed over as a child. As you reminisce, think about the elements that made these toys so appealing. Is it the satisfaction of seeing a build come together? Do you enjoy daydreaming and fulfilling wishes? Reconnecting with the joys from your childhood will leave you better prepared to engage with students going forward.

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🔎 Teach 🔎

This summer, embrace the freedom to be unconventional, let your imagination run wild, and participate in playful exploration. Seek inspiration in unexpected places, such as a weird and wonderful museum, or transport yourself into the vibrant world of a podcast episode or book. Prioritize your well-being, nurture your creativity, and find joy in everyday moments with a childlike wonder. By fueling your unique art teacher energy, you’ll return to the classroom refreshed, inspired, and ready to make stellar art with your students.

What’s your favorite weird but wonderful way to recharge?

Show us your Mini Masterpiece every day this July!

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.


Kyle Wood

Kyle Wood, an elementary school art educator, is a current AOEU Writer. He strives to make the art classroom fun through gamification and enjoys creating art history podcasts.

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