Getting Wavy

I became fascinated (briefly) with movie making in college after documenting a trip that my friend Katelyn and I took from Brooklyn, New York down to DC. During this trip I took my good friend to see the National Gallery, the newly completed National Museum of the American Indian, and the HirshhornWhile at the Hirshhorn, I think this was March 2010, I saw a“Play Dead; Real Time” by Scottish artist Douglas Gordon. It was a double sided panel in the middle of a large room with an elephant being projected onto both sides and eerie ambient sound playing. After this I made a series of abstract video art pieces where I focused more intentionally on sound then I ever had. This led me to research the history of the video art movement, and discover artists like Joan Jonas and John Cage. 

Below is a glimpse of my college years. I now know that blonde works much better for me…

Unfortunately, my last school did not have the resources to have any sort of video program. We barely had working laptops. So passing this interest on to my students would have to wait. Since I have been at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart I have experimented and tweaked this assignment, landing on what I now call our “Soundscape Unit”.

For this unit we focused on sound and then video. We used GarageBand and iMovie to create short “soundscapes”. Each student worked together with two of their peers, chosen by me. To begin, we took a look at sound art, and video art as an artistic medium and vehicle of expression. We found inspiration in the artist John Cage, who relies on chance for his art-making, and composing. This lead us to the term Fluxus, an art movement largely inspired by John Cage and some of his contemporaries. 


For this assignment I asked students to use both their cell phones and laptops as tools. This was one of the reasons that group work was important to me. I did not want to exclude students who did not have a cell phone that was video capable. Luckily we have a one to one laptop program at our school, so everyone had access to the same software.GarageBand and iMovie are both programs that come standard on the MacBook Pros that our girls have. The girls then used these tools to capture sound and video simultaneously and separately. They recorded and composed a two minute composition of just sounds using GarageBand. They then brought this composition into iMovie where they added visuals.

Did I mention this was due on Halloween?

At the end of this assignment presented their video to the class along with an explanation of their process, and intentions. They replayed moments for us where they used the element of texture, the principle of harmony and the three examples of physics concepts. Finaly, their videos ended up here:

This project was also designed to be a follow up to their most recent unit on sound waves in Physics, a class all freshman take. It is a built in part of our STEAM initiative to connect art with other Science, Technology, Engineering and Math classes. Because they had just learned about sound waves in Physics I added the additional challenge of including one example of each of the following to their project:

  1. A change in sound wave frequencies, or the “Doppler effect”.
  2. A reflected sound, or an echo.
  3. A sound wave transmitted through something other than a gas.

Finally, I asked my students not to forget what we had just learned in the previous unit. I reminded them to compose their shots, just like they had composed their paintings, and think about color and contrast. 

I hope you have time to watch more of our videos here: Enjoy!



At Stone Ridge we strive to teach our students the importance of helping those in need. Whether it is our community’s elderly, homeless, children, our animals friends, or the environment, serving is treated as an opportunity to make the world a better place. In fact, the social action program at Stone Ridge was one of the first and most significant factors that attracted me to the school. I was brought up in the Quaker tradition, and had a similar program at my high school that ended up exposing me to my future career. Through serving children in my local community I found a love of teaching that has impacted the rest of my life. The opportunity to potentially offer the same meaningful experience to my students at Stone Ridge is monumental.

Sacred Heart Schools are a connected network of Catholic schools with institutions stretching around the world. Over 41 countries. Each of these schools is united by one set of five goals. Simply put these goals are Faith, Intellect, Social Awareness, Community, and Wisdom. Goal three, Social Awareness, is the one I want to celebrate here today.

An outline of Goal Three as published by the Society of the Sacred Heart:

Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to a social awareness which impels to action. The Society of the Sacred Heart developed the following criteria for this Goal:

1. The School educates to a critical consciousness that leads its total community to analyze and reflect on the values of society and to act for justice.

2. The School offers all its members opportunities for direct service and advocacy and instills a life-long commitment to service.

3. The School is linked in a reciprocal manner with ministries among people who are poor, marginalized and suffering from injustice.

4. In our multicultural world, the School prepares and inspires students to be active, informed, and responsible citizens locally, nationally, and globally.

5. The School teaches respect for creation and prepares students to be stewards of the earth’s resources.

It really impresses me that I work at a place that recognizes the need for such a truly well rounded education. I feel like some Catholic schools might just stop after the first two goals, faith and intellect. According to the Sacred Heart Network, “While five goals and their criterion unite the twenty-four member schools of the Network in the United States and Canada, the schools enjoy an even wider affiliation with the people and institutions associated with the Society of the Sacred Heart in forty-one countries around the globe. This truly international character of Sacred Heart education helps to foster an important global awareness in our students as we strive to build a more just world.” I think a more just world is just fantastic!


Here I have captured only one of many acts of kindness and service I have witnessed in my time at Stone Ridge. Below are photos of the four girls I chaperone on social action days. Every other Wednesday we head down to a local organization called Mary House DC, that serves families. From their website: “The philosophy at Mary House has always been to help others as we ourselves would want to be helped, while providing a safe haven that allows families to reclaim their dignity”

My students help out in the education center. They organize crafting activities, and help maintain the space. The education center serves as the Mary House summer camp and after school program location. Because of this, for our first few months of service my students had never actually seen the children they were serving. (They arrive after school, we leave by 2pm) However, with special permission from our school, and this was no small feet, actually a scheduling nightmare, we were able to stay late one Wednesday, and my students were able to meet the adorable and amazing children they had been preparing crafts for. We threw a little cookie decorating party and it was a hit. My students were touched, and it was an amazing experience for everyone involved. However, most of the time they are working diligently to create lessons and fun that they themselves won’t participate in or see, and I think that is what is truly impressive.

Below, you can see pictures of these compassionate young women doing their best to create a decorative tree for the education center. Each leaf has a helpful and kind behavior and is meant to serve as motivation and positive reinforcement for the children in the after school program. You can also see my students holding up two Thanksgiving themed bags of food they put together to donate to one specific family, as a holiday gift.

Social Action days are truly one of the best parts of my job. I am not just an art teacher I am a witness to the incredible compassion and caring acts of my students.









Bookmaking with Studio II

“For our last unit, Ms. Cowan introduced our Studio Art II class to the craft of bookmaking. Not only were we creating books to physically use, but our creations were something I had never associated with books before: sculptural works of art. Well-crafted books serve their practical purposes well, but in this unit, we stressed the importance of craftsmanship. We were taught two different kinds of bookmaking through accordion books and binding books with thread.
The theme we focused on when creating was “duality”, which is also the theme of Callithump (our school’s literary/art magazine) this year. Some of my classmates used their newfound knowledge of bookmaking to express duality through the physical books themselves. Others, like me, confined the theme to the pages of the books we created.
In all, it was quite a unique experience! I don’t think anyone who signed up for this course thought that it would include bookmaking. At least, I didn’t, but I’m so very glad we were able to do this unit. Not only was it creative, but also educational in how books are typically traditionally made. I’ve got to say, I have a newfound appreciation for the work that went into any hand-bound book.”

Coming Soon…

Coming soon, I will be posting my Foundations of Studio Art student’s work with sound and the moving image. With John Cage and the Halloween season as our inspiration I’m sure some of the films will feature a spooky game of chance!


Studio Two: Student Perspective

In Studio II students have been diving deeper into the elements and principles of art and design. For the first semester there is a specific focus on line and value as well as craftsmanship. We started the year with contour line drawing. This included studies of landscapes, still lifes and the human figure. Here is a description of what we have been doing as explained by two of my amazing student, Lenora and Carter:

“For some of our first sketches in Studio Art II we experimented with a variety of lines. We found that we were capable of capturing inanimate objects or aspects of nature without picking up the tip of the pencil from the paper. The limited amount of time we had made it challenging, however we learned how to control and manipulate the texture of lines to make an object look as realistic as possible. With the control from this exercise, we could further advance our sketches, incorporating cross hatching.”

Thank you Lenora and Carter for a beautiful explanation.











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