Growing Student Artists Through Watercolor

Students in the watercolor class this summer were exposed to different techniques and materials. They learned different additive techniques, such as wet-on-wet, dry brush, and glazing. They experimented with different subtractive techniques, using different tools such as a dry brush, paper towel, and using a magic eraser. They played with different materials, such as rice, salt, oil crayons, and plastic wrap, to create interesting textures. 

Students practiced their observational skills by painting flowers, landscapes, still lifes, and portraits. They learned how to mix complex colors, and reviewed formal color schemes. They practiced observing light and shadows and were taught how to shade different simple objects using a variety of watercolor techniques. For their final painting, students were encouraged to create a personally meaningful piece of artwork and explore dream imagery. Students could use their imagination and choose what techniques and processes to use in their final work, and their final pieces were very impressive.

During the two week class, students created new friendships, grew as artists, and took chances to create challenging works of art. I’m so proud of all of the students this summer, and truly amazed at their concentration and drive as artists and learners. I hope they all continue to create artwork and use it to slow down, reflect on the world around them, look inward, express themselves,  and live in the moment. 

This is Molly Sofranko’s eleventh year as an art teacher in the Cedar Rapids District. Molly has taught art at Iowa BIG, Metro Alternative High School STEAM Academy, Washington High School, and McKinley Middle School. She also teaches preservice teachers at Mount Mercy University. Molly’s passions include exploring different materials and learning new techniques. She works in ceramics, mixed media, bookmaking, printmaking, painting, drawing, and dabbles in digital arts. 

Archaeology of Iowa

What is archaeology all about? We are learning that archaeology is NOT about collecting cool artifacts, but what those artifacts can tell us about people who lived in the past. Archaeology is the study of past human cultures using the materials that they made and left behind.

In our class “Archaeology of Iowa,” we are learning how archaeologists study an archaeological site by mapping artifacts in place and how they learn about the use of objects from their context. Archaeologists recover animal bones and plant seeds to learn about the environment at different times in Iowa’s past and the uses that prehistoric populations found for them.

Archaeologists also study past technologies by experimentation. That is, we try it out. Our students have tried flint knapping (making stone tools) and learned to admire the skill of past masters. Flint knapping is difficult!  We have also tried throwing spears with atlatls (hunting tools used for thousands of years before the invention of the bow and arrow), making our own string with plant fibers, grinding corn, using stone drills to make wooden objects, and many more interesting skills. Our ancestors understood A LOT about the natural environment, physics, and chemistry.

The following is a photo collage from Archaeology of Iowa.


Atlatis and Spears


Flint knapping


Identifying animal skulls


Identifying seeds


Mapping an excavation site


Recovering seeds by flotation


Studying animal anatomy


Studying artifact context


The class instructor, Chérie Haury-Artz, is an archaeologist who works at the Office of the State Archaeologist at the University of Iowa. She has been involved in archaeological research focusing on the Great Plains for more than 30 years. Her research interests include analysis of fauna from archaeological sites, use and identification of lithic resources, rock art, and environmental adaptation of prehistoric cultures. She also has a special interest in public education and outreach and has more than 20 years of experience teaching classes and writing interpretive material on archaeology for groups of all ages.

Sumi-e Ink Painting

Students in the Sumi-e Ink Painting class are creating works of art.

The Japanese term “sumi” means black ink; “e” means painting. Sumi-e is an art form in which subjects are painted with black ink in all possible gradations ranging from pure black to the lightest shades achievable by dissolving ink in water.

The students complete Sumi-e painting using ink, bamboo brushes and rice paper.

This class is taught by long-time College for Kids instructor Jim Jacobmeyer.

Students at tables completing Sumi-e Ink Painting.



Calligraphy for Kids at College for Kids

Students demonstrate calligraphyAfter learning about the evolution of writing and the making of medieval manuscripts, students received their calligraphy pens on Day 2. We all take the letters of the alphabet for granted. Each letter of the alphabet has its own history. Calligraphy is a fine motor skill. Practice is key to becoming a better calligrapher! Students are encouraged to practice at home each day.

The upper right picture is an exquisite

example of calligraphic artwork.


Students share their calligraphy

Calligraphy is a serious, quiet, acquired skill. Classical music is played while students practice/are critiqued in the classroom. They began with rhythmic pen exercises to get used to their pens. Teacher Ida Martin Sorensen critiques each students’ work. The students are learning italic letterforms stroke by stroke with their broad edge felt tip pens. Middle school students are a PERFECT age to learn calligraphy.

The 24th edition Speedball Textbook was distributed on day 5 – it is full of letterform styles and project ideas, a keepsake book for certain. The Making of the St. John’s Bible DVD was shown on Day 6 – it is a contemporary illuminated manuscript made in the old masters way, using quills, vellum (skin), & handmade inks/paints. Donald Jackson, Scribe to the Queen of England, was the lead calligraphic artist. It took 15 years to complete & demonstrates the skills/artistic expression of 23 different scribes and illuminators.

A student practices calligraphy

The power of the written word will never go out of style. There is still a demand for hand lettering projects in spite of technology and computer fonts. Beautiful writing is the ultimate synthesis of words, art and the human connection!

This student is taking Calligraphy for Kids for a second year. During this session, she is working on Uncial letterform (using dip ink/pen) after learning italic letterform last year. She is hooked on calligraphy.



Ida Martin Sorensen has been teaching calligraphy at College for Kids for 25 years. She has studied extensively with internationally known calligrapher Sheila Waters who is 90 years old and still teaching. Ida is the founding president of Iowa Scribes calligraphy guild. She has exhibited work locally and regionally. Ida has done and continues to do private commissions and projects. Her clients include Governor Tom and Christie Vilsack, Mercy Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital, Downtown Rotary, private collections, and more. Many of her students continue to ‘write beautifully’ after their two-week session is over, which makes Ida very proud!


Acrylic Craze

The Acrylic Craze class looks at different painting techniques, brushstrokes, and artistic styles. Students pour paint, freeze paint, and use odd materials like shaving cream to apply unique surface designs.

This class is creative and a little messy at the same time! Enjoy the view from
Acrylic Craze.

The instructor for this course is Katrina Martin.

Ice painting

Ice painting

Bubble painting

Bubble painting

Paste paper

Paste paper

Shaving cream

Shaving cream

Paste paper

Paste paper

Shaving cream

Shaving cream