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North Chevy Chase Elementary's 6th Annual Big Draw

What do you get when you mix art supplies, artists, museum educators and 411 students? Drawing across the curriculum at the sixth annual NCCES Big Draw!

Artists and sketchpads and color, oh my!

The sixth annual Big Draw took place at North Chevy Chase Elementary School on Wednesday, Feb. 27. Every student was provided with a sketchpad donated by Plaza Artist Materials. The students used materials provided by the Kirsch brothers of Chevy Chase Supermarket and the NCC PTA. Students learned how to use symmetry to draw butterflies, how to use light and shading to create charcoal portraits, how a green pepper can be used to study architecture, how to draw the creatures that live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, how a design becomes a U.S. postage stamp, and the finer points of the ancient art of Chinese brush painting.

Homeroom classes were converted into 16 art studios staffed by area artists and museum educators from the National Building Museum, several Smithsonian Institution museums and President Lincoln's cottage. This group of experts shared their knowledge about art with the students in ways that were both interesting and engaging. The purpose of the event is to let the students see how art can be used across the different curricular disciplines—for example, one can't create architecture without knowledge of math, science, ART and design—and to let students enjoy artistic exploration and learn how and when to apply artistic skills, which can't be measured easily by standardized tests.

Alice Tangerini, a botanical illustrator from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, shared a story about how a dwarf species of Andean sunflower came to be named after her. Tangerini had been given several plant samples of the same species to draw. As she worked, she noticed that one of her samples was not the same as the others. It turned out to be a previously undocumented new species. Her careful observation and sharp eyes picked out the subtle differences, and her art brought knowledge of a new species into existence. Amazing!

The NCCES Big Draw was inspired by a Big Draw family day hosted by the National Building Museum in 2007. The NBM event was done in conjunction with a wonderful exhibit called David Macaulay: The Art of Drawing Architecture. An NCC teacher was at this event, and she spied some NCC parents, Karen and Maury Schlesinger, who happen to be architects.

The Schlesingers agreed to help run a studio if the NCC Big Draw got off the ground. Their enthusiasm, coupled with support from the NBM, the Smithsonian Institution, local artists, local businesses and the NCC principal, launched the event. It has become a much-anticipated event for the students. One sixth-grade student, Celia McCarty, said that she loves the Big Draw so much that she wants to start a petition so that it can happen more than once a year. Fortunately for Celia and her fellow students, the dynamic team of NCCES staff, parents, artists and museum educators intend to keep the Big Draw going for many years to come.

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