Physical Space

Teaching Art on a Cart in 2021: Part 2 (Ep. 188)

Once again, 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: Last week, we heard from three art educators, Beth Caffrey and Cindy Moore and Tara Krasner-Bills, who are art teachers who are currently teaching on a cart this year, and they gave us some tips and tricks on how to manage this task. We had such a great response on this idea of teaching on a cart, because unfortunately, so many art teachers are teaching on a cart that we actually have two more people who are going to speak to us about teaching on a cart today with a bunch more ideas of how to make this work.

We’re going to hear from Joyanne Gochis and Lauren Morocco today on teaching art from a cart. This is Everyday Art Room, and I’m your host, Nic Hahn.

Joyanna: Hi, my name is Joyanna Gochis. I am an elementary art teacher at a school in the Kansas City area. And due to the pandemic, I am art on a cart this year. This is my first year experiencing teaching Art on a cart. I’m lucky enough to have an amazing art room at my current school. And before that, I taught high school art. I have kept the supplies on my cart very simple this year. We are required to either have the students use their own supplies or sanitize in between each use, so I have kept the supplies very minimal and simple.

If they do borrow a supply or use one of the special supplies like Sharpies, I have a bucket on the bottom shelf of my cart. We call it our germ jail, and they stick their Sharpies or whatever they borrowed in that at the end of the class so I can sanitize them and then put them back in the right tub. We’ve been making that work throughout this year, but mostly they are using their own supplies that are in their desks. We are very fortunate with the timing that our district planned to upgrade our technology. It happened about two years ago, and they installed Apple TVs in every classroom in our district.

When it came time to having to push into classrooms and connect to their technology, that has been incredibly easy and has taken a load of the stress off of our shoulders. I know that is a huge blessing and something that a lot of teachers have to fight with or figure out how each classroom is different. We’re really lucky in our school that we have the same technology in every classroom. I think for me, one of the biggest challenges that I’ve had as far as being on a cart was just how I was going to present my lessons and give demos. I didn’t have a lot of space on my cart to have a huge demo space.

Most of the classrooms do not have a space for me to set up, nor did I have the time to get in there and set up a demo space and get all of that ready. I relied on creating my own videos for the students, depending on what project or grade level it was. And that was a huge learning curve for me. It is something though I have learned a lot from, and I think I will continue to use that to some extent, even when I go back to my classroom, although I do very much enjoy doing the demos with the students as they work or pulling them around a table and gathering to show them what we’re working on.

But that has been a huge challenge. It’s toward the end of the year, so I feel like I had done really well with that. But at the beginning of the year, I did not know what I was doing. I feel like I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot with that, and it’s been working in the students. It’s been great for when a student is gone and they come back the next day. They can easily pull out their iPad and pull up the video and then catch up at their own pace. One of the things I set up at the beginning of the year was that I kind of gave many portfolios to each student in the classroom.

When I roll into the classroom, I have a box with the teacher’s name on it, and each student has a gallon sized plastic baggy in it with their name on it. And that has become their little portfolio throughout the year. Since we are on a cart, I have been keeping things pretty small this year, so we’re doing projects that mostly all fit in the baggies. So at the end of the year, they will just take their entire baggy home and it is ready to go. That is something I’ve put in a place that has been really nice for me being in and out of classrooms. It gives them a little ownership over their work.

They get handed their baggy at the beginning of class. And at the end of the day, they have to make sure everything is in it and everything gets back in the box with their teacher’s name on it. I did keep my lessons fairly simple this year. There’s a lot of that learning curve that I was having to deal with being on a cart for the first time and also the other restrictions with not being able to share supplies.

I think that if I were to continue being on a cart and would have some of those restrictions lifted, I think I would go into some of the more intricate and detailed projects like weaving and some things that were a little more hands-on. This year though, I decided for I think my own sake and for the sanity of our students as well, we kept it simple, and we found new ways to do things just with our basic supplies, which worked out really well for all of us.

If I were to tell an incoming teacher what I think they can do to be successful art on a cart for the first time, I would just tell them to keep it simple and then build off of that. Not to worry about what other people are doing, because not every teacher is in the same situation. There was a big struggle for me at the beginning of the year knowing I was going to be art on a cart and not feeling like I was prepared or had the ability to do some of the bigger projects.

It took me a while to overcome kind of that disappointment in myself as a teacher, but I have found new ways to do really awesome in new projects with simple supplies and keeping things at a level where we could all enjoy what we were making and creating together, given that the circumstances are definitely not normal this year. Normal class this year has looked pretty simple. I roll into a classroom, and we spend anywhere from about five to 15 minutes talking about what we will be doing for the day, introducing the lesson, having a discussion, watching a tutorial video.

And then we will pretty much spend the remainder of the time working on our project, doing whatever steps we need to get done that day. And then we spend about anywhere from the last three to five minutes cleaning up. We have a pretty quick cleanup time since we are using some more simple supplies. If we were doing things like a collage, we would give at least five minutes, if not more, to get things cleaned up because I wanted to make sure that those classrooms were as clean as they were when I came in, if not cleaner. So that way I am still respecting the space of the teachers.

That schedule pretty much is consistent throughout all my classes. Sometimes with my younger kids, kindergarten and first, we would watch part of the video and then do that part, and then come back and watch the next part of the video for the next steps, and then go do that part, or sometimes have a brain break in the middle of class. But for the most part, the way I ran my classes was pretty consistent, and it mirrored a lot of how it works in my classroom. There wasn’t too much change in our daily schedule.

One of my favorite projects we did this year together was fourth and fifth grade made Mandala color wheels. We usually do this and we do it large, and we use paint, and we practice mixing colors and mixing tints and shades with our paint. But since we were not doing paint as much this year on a cart, as we got started, we did this with colored pencils and practiced blending our colored pencils together to make your tertiary colors and using value and the pressure on your pencil to blend two colors together to make a new color. I think that the students had a lot of fun with that.

They were really proud of what they did in the end. They were really excited to learn the transferring technique and see how a very simple design could come up with a very, very intricate and cool radial design as they transferred and repeated that simple design that they used. So that was probably I would say one of my favorite and most successful products from this year that I really enjoyed doing.

Lauren: Hi, my name is Lauren Morocco, and I am a kindergarten through third grade art teacher at Center Woods Elementary and Weare, New Hampshire. I usually get to teach in a big, beautiful room all to myself. But this year, I have been teaching on a cart since August, and it’s definitely had its challenges. I’m really grateful to my United Arts Team. They very generously offered some of their carts to me. For example, the physical education teacher didn’t need a cart, so he was able to give that to me.

And so now I can set up multiple carts in the beginning of the day, and that saves a lot of time later, avoiding prep work for changing out supplies through just one singular cart. I can set up all the supplies I need on the different carts throughout the day. There’s a couple of routines that I have been using throughout the year that have simplified the work and made working in the classrooms a little bit easier. For example, I purchased some carts that have drawers and I keep those carts in the classroom.

And each student has an individual drawer that they can keep their own supplies, their artwork, pencils, things like that, so that I don’t have to keep moving it back and forth from my room to their room. I also have two drawing racks that are on wheels. I transport those from classroom to classroom as I go. The tricky part about that is that I have to clean each drawer in between cohorts. When I finish my 35 days with one class, I have to clean everything and empty it all out, and then relabel it and bring it into the new classroom.

But the students are really good about being independent and keeping their supplies organized. I also keep water cups and some paint brushes in classrooms so that, again, I’m not transporting it and the students are responsible for cleaning those out. I forget things all the time. I think that’s my biggest problem is I’ll make the list in the morning of what I think I need for each project, and I’ll get there and the student will ask, “Oh, do you have this color paint? Do you have this size paint brush? Or I’d really like to use a stapler instead of tape.”

I just don’t think of that in the moment, and then I don’t have it when they ask for it. I’m usually the only teacher in the room, so I can’t leave to go get it for them. So I’ll say, “Okay, well, I’ll have to bring it to you next time or tomorrow,” and usually that satisfies them, but it’s frustrating for me because my students are really naturally curious and are able to diversify my ideas so incredibly well, but I now this year can’t really help them be successful and independent in that way because I lack the supplies. Sometimes I just don’t have enough space on the cart.

I’ve been often bringing two or more carts with me down to the classroom just because we’re working on a particularly busy project. For example, my third graders and I were working on a project of a sculpture of an ice cream cone. We were learning about pop art, and I thought it was a really fun way to combine form and three-dimensional elements with pop art. We were making this sculpture, but it requires plaster and tissue paper and modge podge and lots of other things. It was quite the process.

It was very successful and the students ended up really responding well to keeping their space clean and the challenge of just trying to make this really messy object in a space that they need to keep rather clean. It really made me reflect on how I understand mess in my classroom. I often don’t think of my students as messy students, or I don’t look around at the end of class and think, “Oh man, this is such a disaster.” I see it as sort of an aftermath of a really productive class.

Normally, I trust my students to be able to take care of their supplies and really be respectful of materials while also maybe making a mess in the process. That’s just what happens sometimes. It’s been very hard for me to switch gears and think, “Okay, I need to prioritize the students cleaning up after themselves and putting away materials,” instead of just, “Ohm well, let’s focus on what you’re making and what you’re actually doing with that stuff.” Right?

That can get a little bit tricky, but there are some things that aid that process like disposable bowls and plastic supplies that I can throw away or wash very easily at the end of the class.

Nic: I’m really glad we got to hear from Joyanna and from Lauren today, as well as our guests from last week, talking about art on a cart. When I was thinking about this idea of art on a cart, I was kind of brainstorming how to approach this. This actually was a seed in my brain many months ago when I was presenting to Plano, Texas, to a group of teachers in Plano, Texas. I was really proud of myself, listen to this, how proud of myself I was.

I was presenting and I said, “I can tell you how to teach your class, because I’ve taught in person, and I’ve taught hybrid, and I’ve taught online, so I can teach you how to teach.” And then afterwards, I had one individual reach out to me afterwards and say, “And how do I teach on a cart?” Well, that was quite the light bulb that went off in my head and I thought, “My goodness, here I am thinking I was prepared, thinking I was assisting people with my experience, and once again, missed out on a large population of the people that I was talking to.”

Art on a cart is a beast in its own. It is an experience that I have had in the past and something that I have done in the classroom. When I was on a cart, I was pushing into the classroom. And as mentioned last week, I think it was Tara, she mentioned how she created relationships with the teachers that she was pushing into the classrooms that she was pushing into. I definitely found that to be true. It was when I was beginning as a teacher and these teachers that I pushed into our relationships that I have 18 years later probably the strongest in the district, because I worked side by side with them.

Not because they were always in the classroom with me, but sometimes they were, and not because we were teaching together, but sometimes they’d help out. But just because we were in the same space together and that right there created a bond like no other. Other times I was just taking my cart and going down to the lunchroom and teaching down there, but having a little space to like park my cart, it was a little closet. It’s not anything that I haven’t done. It’s just definitely something that I haven’t done for a long time. It was good to seek out the experts for this podcast.

How I found these individuals was I put a survey out on Instagram. You’re going to see more surveys like this. It worked. It worked well. I’m going to put surveys on Instagram, on my personal Instagram account, inquiring different questions. Maybe I’ll ask like… It has to be yes/no questions, but maybe, what mediums are your favorites? Well, that’s not yes/no. But anyways, you get the idea. I’m going to be putting surveys out.

And what I found in the survey, there was over 200 people that answered the survey, and 30% of us in this 200 art teacher survey tool, 30% of us are teaching on a cart this year in this little tiny survey that I took on Instagram. That’s a lot of people. This year, COVID, that’s a lot of people. With Joanna’s message of keeping it simple, I thought that was a really strong message for any of us who are finishing up the year, but then moving into the years to come.

If you get put on a cart next year for whatever reason, budget cuts, new building shifts, whatever it is, keeping it simple is a really good idea, but more so her message of overcoming expectations. Okay. A lot of us are coming from this idea of we work in this classroom and we do these amazing projects and it entails this, this, and this. Overcoming that idea of what art has looked like for us and readjusting our mindset to what it can look like under the restrictions that we are currently working under. I think that that was a really important message in Joanne’s conversation that she had with us today.

And then Lauren, my absolutely favorite message that she had to give to us and one that made me smile from ear to ear was when she talked about the difference in perception of what mess looks like to different people. When we think about mess in an art room… I mean, just take a moment. In the middle of your one hour class, when you look around and they’re doing… Let’s even go as something simple as a collage. And they’re cutting all the pieces of paper up and you look around, there is paper everywhere. There’s paper on the floor. There’s paper on the tables.

There’s paper in people’s hair. Everywhere. There’s glue everywhere. Yeah, that’s what production looks like. That’s what productivity looks like. We know that as art teachers, it has to be a mess. It looks like a mess. And then at the end of the hour, we put away our projects. We pick up all the scraps. We put everything away, and it’s clean again. But the perception of what that looks like for other people and when we’re in their spaces could definitely be a different, a different idea, right? I thought that was really important for Lauren to mention in what she shared with us today.

Again, if you missed it last week or you are interested in learning more about art on a cart, we had another whole podcast last week. So be sure to go check out the messages given then and keep an eye out. Keep an eye out. I’m going to be looking for experts in the future here. And that’s what I’m going to do is reach out on Instagram and start seeking more experts. Reaching out via social media. Give me your opinions and maybe I’ll reach out to you to give your opinion on Everyday 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.