Physical Space

Teaching Art on a Cart in 2021: Part 1 (Ep. 187)

After a short reflection on current events and the difficulties of this school year, Nic enlists some help from teachers across the country to talk about how they are teaching art on a cart this year. Listen as multiple teachers tell us about the setup of their carts, the logistics they have worked through, their best advice for those teaching on the cart, and so much more. Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Nic: Podcasts are often recorded weeks in advance, and that has been the case lately, so I haven’t been able to address the tragedies that are once again occurring in Minnesota. The nation is looking at Minnesota again, watching closely as we are watching the trials of Derek Chauvin for the loss of George Floyd’s life. And then tragedy strikes again in a Brooklyn Center cop, as she fires her gun, rather than a taser, that she thought she was firing, on Daunte Wright, who then lost his life. Another black life is lost, another tragedy has happened, anger, sadness, unrest occurs again.

In this podcast we bring to you art education, and we talk about our education and everything that it entails. And what it entails is everything. It entails our students, who are affected by the happenings of our world. So from day one, from episode 99, which is where I took over for Cassie Stephens hosting this podcast, Everyday Art Room, I made a vow to you, or gave you a goal, a vision that I had, to bring in experts when I don’t know what I’m talking about, which is often. I try very hard to do the best that I can, but there is no way that I am an expert in all things art education. So I told you from the very start, I’m going to bring in lots of guests, because there are so many experts in all the areas of art education.

I have tried very hard to bring in voices that are different than mine. I’ve sought out voices from the world, bringing in Yaz Gaté who is from Australia, and Kit Lang from Hong Kong, and Vicki Wilson from Vietnam. Because I identify as a woman, I try to bring in voices who identify as male. Don Masse from California, I brought in Joel Scholten from Nebraska, and Jordan de Wilde, who also identifies with the group of LGBTQ, and he was very open and able to talk to us about how to bring those matters into our classroom.

Because when I fill out paperwork, I check the little box that says white, I try to bring in people with different voices, people who have darker skin than me. Michelle Mullins-Means, she spoke to us not only about our education, but what it’s like to be a person of color teaching in our career. Candido Crespo also had that hard conversation, was honest with me. Danielle Bryant was raw, spoke to me, spoke to us. And then I turn to the people that I turn to in my district, our equity specialist, bringing in Troy Johnson and Yuko Larson, who also had the hard conversation that they have with my district on a regular basis, how to bring in equality into our classroom.

This is what I want to do with this podcast, is bring in the spaces that I don’t know. I want to learn, and I want you to learn with me. This is important to me, I will continue to make this the goal for this podcast, Everyday Art Room. Today is no different, we are going to hear from many voices, not just my own, and not just one interview.

I have put out a request to several people to give us a perspective on what it’s like to teach on a cart. It was many years ago that I was teaching on a cart. In fact, I was pregnant with my 15-year-old when I was teaching on a cart. I was pushing around not only big pregnant belly, but also a cart, moving from room to room. And there are people, lots of people, doing this now, and I have reached out to them, they’ve sent me a recording, we’re going to listen to what they have to say. You might be very interested in this because maybe your life is on a cart right now as well. So let’s listen to the experts on Art on a Cart, this is Nic Hahn, and this is Everyday Art Room.

Elizabeth: Hi everyone, welcome to my thoughts about my Art on a Cart. This is Elizabeth Caffrey, most people call me Beth, and I’m an artist educator in Duxbury, Massachusetts, with kindergarten through grade two at this time. I want to tell you a little bit about myself. I got my BFA in art ed in 1982, when Proposition 2½ did not help with art teaching positions. So I changed my tune for a little bit and was an illustrator for Hallmark for nine years. It was a wealth of information to bring in, and I am glad for that experience. You could call me the late-blooming art teacher as I did not get my teaching job until I was 41. So this is my 20th year teaching in Duxbury. I’ve also taught in middle school and for grades three, four, and five, I have been at K one and two for probably about 16 years. This is my first past year with Art on a Cart there as I have a beautiful art room that I absolutely cherish and love and miss tremendously right now.

So I guess I would like to say that I look at my cart as my art room, and I want it to be special for myself, as best I can, and really fun for my students. So we have named her Miss Zip-a-dee-doo-dah. She has a face, and she’s decorated with themes that change monthly. We have stringing lights, and we have embellishments on the sides of the cart. Sometimes she’s wearing a crown, sometimes she’s wearing hats. But anyway, it’s been a great thing to do. The kids are excited every time I come in, they welcome her and me. So I think probably that’s something to think about when you’re doing Art on a Cart, how can we keep it special? Because of the challenges coming into the classroom, how can we give the children that transition so they feel like, wow, this is really art time for us right now.

So my cart, let’s talk about my cart and its successes. It has three shelves. There’s edges on the shelves, which I highly recommend. If you’re going to look for a cart, make sure that you have edges. Mine are probably about two and a half to three inches high around each edge, but that’s great for all the storage I have, and all the containers I have, nothing goes flying off, everything stays in its place, nothings sliding around, which is important when you’re running up and down the hallways trying to make it to your classrooms.

So containers, yes, I have everything in containers. If you are aware, every summer Target is full of containers. It usually starts coming out at the end of June, beginning of July, that’s when I got mine. I have six of them, they’re seven inches by 12 inches, and four and a half inches high. I have everything from crayons to markers, color sticks, scissors. I have miniature whiteboards and markers, I have liquid glue and small sketchbooks, small papers. I use a lot of covers to my shoe boxes when I want to display small papers for kids to get quickly, that way I don’t have to spread them out on tables, or anything, I can just put the lid down and they can come to it, choose what they need, and go back and sit down, as we are pretty restricted still with the movement in the classroom.

The other success of the cart is I usually keep the top shelf for things myself, like my own scissors, my own pencil, pen, whiteboard markers, I have a chime for mindfulness, I have a timer, I have a map of the school, and I like to have my laptop up there, and my phone is there. And if I have any extra activity sheets, I usually keep those on the top shelf too, where all the buckets are on the second and third shelf down.

What would I want my cart to do? Well if it was motorized and I had a little step to sit on or stand on, I should say, that would be awesome, but I know that’s not going to happen. So it’s just been really tricky with the wheels, and getting the cart to go straight. The more things you put on an art cart, the heavier it becomes, and sometimes it won’t go straight, so you have to play around with which side of the cart allows you to go straight. So I’ve played around with it, we’ve practiced different sides, which works best, and believe it or not, now I push it back, it’s twisted. So I’m not pushing it with the handles, I’m pushing it with the front of the cart, and it’s been straight for me now, which is so much more to the ease of my arms and wrists.

So I hope this is helpful information. I know it’s rather quick, and I just wish you all the best of luck with Art on a Cart. Positivity is the way to go, as hard as it is, but the more decorated, the more fun, make it a little game, give it a name, and the kids really, I think it helps them, and they look forward to seeing you. Have a great day, and thanks for this opportunity.

Cindy: Hi, my name is Cindy Moore, but my students call me Miss M, and I teach at Bridlewood STEM Academy in Flower Mound, Texas. This year we had to switch gears and teach Art from a Cart, And I opted for a small mobile tool cart from the local hardware store. I had a nice flat top with a foldable tray that I could pull out if I needed to, and the bottom tier was nice and wide. It was able to hold multiple art bins in order of the classes that I was seeing that day. I even added a magnet to the bottom of my water bottle so that it could stick to the shelf on the tool cart.

When it came to routines and procedures, I really had to be mindful of what was already set in place in the student’s homerooms. Being code orange, students are behind desk shields with limited movement around the room, so the specialist team and I decided to incorporate an overall classroom management system with pompoms. We just had a clipboard with velcro, and the classes all have the ability to earn those pompoms. At the end of the semester, if they earned a certain amount, they got to participate in a mini field day experience outdoors. This allowed us to be mindful of the teacher expectations, and kids became very familiar with our own, which are very similar, to be respectful, raise your hand, etc.

They knew that supplies couldn’t be shared, so when I walked in, they pulled out their our portfolios and the individual kits. If students were out of something, or if we were doing something special, like clay or paint, I had them pre sorted before I arrived in the classroom. I was very fortunate to be able to do very similar projects that I would have normally done in the classroom, but it did involve a lot of prep time, more than I’d like to admit. We had a strict rule that supplies couldn’t be used in between classes, and at least for 24 hours, so I had to get creative with different lessons, different supplies, and that meant presortings kits and having my tubs ready for pickup and drop off. But it made my life easier, and the kids didn’t even notice. They were just so happy to paint and weave and do clay. We’ve had a great time this year, and our kids are so resilient, they are living testimony that anything is possible, and we can get through tough times together.

Advice I would give to a teacher that’s going to be on a cart for the first time is to not rely on technology, because it might not be available in the classroom that you are going in. I had to learn the hard way that there are going to be days when the technology in the homerooms just doesn’t work. So I started bringing a big post-it note poster and I would demo on it, and then I would also make handmade visuals and sort them into page protectors, because they were easy to wipe down clean. So the students who needed visuals could have them at their desk, because it was sometimes hard for students to see the front of the room, depending on where they were sitting.

At the beginning of the year, I checked in with the teachers to figure out what the kids would have and what they wouldn’t, and then I would use that to help myself sort the supplies into my bins, and figure out what might be needed in the classroom. That way I could pop open my glue stick bin if a kid was fresh out. Being organized, whatever that looks like for you is a good rule of thumb.

Finally, stick to it feels right for you, but also don’t be afraid to take risks. I really wanted to paint this year, so I bought cups with lids from Walmart, and those were my cups, and the lids kept the water from spilling. I had a tub with a lid that I kept water and soap in it, so the students could just drop off their brushes, and baby wipes, definitely baby wipes, to wipe up our hands since we didn’t have sinks. Like I say, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and if you’re happy, the students are happy.

Tara: Hello, My name is Tara Kratzner-Bills, and I’m art teacher at All Saints Episcopal Day School in Phoenix, Arizona, and I am an Art on a Cart-er this year. I normally teach in a beautiful art studio, and I am now teaching on a beautiful three-tiered janitor’s cart. I do highly recommend the three tiers janitors cart, though. I’m excited to incorporate this into my clay routine in the future. The three-tier janitor’s cart with the lift edges is a go-to for me, I do enjoy this cart for a classroom organization on a regular day, so this will be a nice contribution to my regular clay schedule once I get back into my room, though. For now, it does help me to keep things from rolling off, because I have to roll through my bumpy paved campus. I am a campus that is kindergarten through seventh grade this year for me, so I am definitely rolling all over the place and going up and down elevators on a regular basis, so the lift edge is ideal.

Another really awesome feature to this cart is that it is customizable, and I did add the garbage can, which you would think is like, why do I need a garbage can? There’s garbage cans in the rooms I’m pushing into, but the garbage can has been key because I decided to put it behind my handle where I hold onto, and I have put everything from my extra portfolios and sketchbooks for my kids who come and go. As they are coming in from remote learning, I have extra sketchbooks on hand for my new edition, and even if they catch me off guard, I still have the supplies there to welcome them. And I have extra pencils and pencil boxes in here, I have a two hole punch so I can punch extra paper for sketchbooks when they are needed. I have additional sanitation supplies, my paper towels are in here, my spray, my Lysol, my gold cards, which are positive reinforcement rewards, and my sweatshirt for when I have a cold classroom I’m rolling into.

I also have a cup holder on my cart, which I really love for my coffee, because you can never have enough caffeine this year, and my water, because hydration, because sometimes that’s important too, I guess, in addition to the coffee, and health. I also installed a organizer on top of my cart that holds paper, and pencils, and Sharpies, and my stapler, and a chime, and scissors, and hand sanitizer, all the things. So that has been a nice addition to the cart as well.

When I’m pushing in and out of rooms, I do like to keep my students work in portfolios. So each student has their own paper bag that has been turned into a wide portfolio. It gets organized in a cubby in a main organizer room that is my hub this year, it’s not my normal room, but it is my organization hub. And when I push into a room, I grabbed that classes portfolios, pop it on the cart, and roll off to my class. My class schedule is organized about two hours at a time, and then there’s break, so I only have to put two classes worth of supplies onto my cart at a time, so that has been really convenient.

A supply that I cannot live without this year has been the non spillable paint cups, which I am not using for paint, instead I’m using for water. I don’t have water in all my middle school rooms, in particular, so I have been using these non spillable paint cups for water this year, and using them for my middle schoolers and for my little guys, and it has been a lifesaver, to say the least. I am also really loving Kwik Stix more than ever before, I’ve had them for at least six years as a staple in my art room, but this year they have really then a definite need for not bringing paint, but it’s that just grabbing the Kwik Stix and rolling in with those. I definitely have been relying on them more than ever.

So I think that’s it. I definitely have been loving those non-spill cups and the Kwik Stix, and the three tiered janitors cart like nobody could ever have imagined. Look for those rainbows, guys, I have the loving pushing into everybody’s rooms, because it has given me a window into the classrooms to see how much our integration is happening in my neighboring faculties rooms, it has been so nice to see my math teachers creating beautiful theme parks that are just gorgeously illustrated, my English teachers creating blackout poetry with beautiful illustrations, our history teachers beautifully illustrated historical periods of ancient grief, and, oh my gosh, so many things that I never knew were happening. These beautiful things that I didn’t know were happening, and now I see all of the integration that’s happening throughout campus, and I’m also finding so many new ideas of ways that I can incorporate their curriculum in my own.

I’m so excited for all of the new collaborations I can incorporate next year, and all the new, beautiful relationships that I’ve been able to form, because normally I’m upstairs and far from everybody, so now I’ve formed all these new, beautiful friendships that I wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for pushing into their rooms, so they’re really have been these great rainbows that have come out of this. So hang in there, keep doing what you’re all doing. I know that it’s not ideal, but hey, they’re have been great things to come out of this. Thanks for this chance to share, bye-bye

Nic: I loved what I heard there from all three of the participants that we heard from today. I mean, Beth, or Elizabeth Caffrey with the way that she decorates that Art on a Cart and gave it a name, and everything, that is amazing. It made me smile, we all are, these visual arts teachers that are listening to this, I know every single one of us had a picture in our mind of what she was describing.

I love how Cindy was talking about having a magnet on the bottom of her water bottle that made me smile from ear to ear. Yes, yes, we need a magnet to even hold that water bottle on, how clever. Art teachers are so, so clever. I like that she worked with her team as well to come up with some kind of a reward system, working as a group, figuring out, how are we going to maintain some classroom management as a group, as a team, even though our system looks so different? And then just the extra little tips of even as simple as baby wipes. When we don’t have what we’ve used before, such as a sink, what can we use? Just baby wipes.

And then Tara, who I have been distant social media friends with for a while now, bringing in the rainbows. My goodness, girl, thank you. Bringing in the rainbows of the relationship with the colleagues, and I think that, to me, was the number one conversation in what she had to bring to us, because for me, I feel more distant with my colleagues than I ever have ever in teaching ever. We haven’t had one meeting together as a group, we’ve been only Zoom calling each other, having our meetings in these little tiny boxes on a computer. I don’t know what’s going on in my colleague’s life, I have no idea what’s happening in their classroom, I don’t know, because we are in our little pods, we are supposed to stay away from each other, we are not supposed to transmit anything. And what Tara is describing is she’s one of the few that gets to burst into these other areas, and because of that, the rainbow effect is that she gets to have a relationship and see what her colleagues are doing that can relate to what she is doing every day in her curriculum.

So how wonderful, thank you so much to Beth, Cindy, and Tara, and guess what, we had such a good response with Art on a Cart that we’re going to be presenting a little bit more on this next week. So we have a couple more speakers to give more ideas of how to do Art on a Cart, more ideas on some more systems, and some really good ideas on structures. So tune in again next week for more on Art on a Cart.

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.