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Beacon Day School students will enjoy a winter break, with a minimum day on Friday, December 21st leading into vacation until school reopens on Monday, January 7th, which is also a minimum day. Are you wondering if cabin fever is going to flare? Fear not: Beacon art teacher Juli Inagi has art projects for you to do there!

Here are fun projects for parents to share special times with their children of any age! From Juli:

Every Monday when I enter the classrooms at Beacon, I am excited to see the students' efforts in modeling my instruction and also allowing themselves to have creative liberties. This month, we have been exploring masking techniques with tempera and watercolor. We used masking tape, magazines, and removable contact paper to mask different sections of our paper, and then, after removing the paper, we painted objects within the masked sections. There is an example of our poinsettias pictured below.

You can do this at home during break. Abstract masking technique pictures turn out looking beautiful.



5. Paint one color in each of the masked sections. Direct them not to mix colors of the masked sections so that the masked sections are distinct from the background. Math skills of the direction "only one" are developed and also fine motor skills of painting within a space.

During the final week of school, I will be directing the students in how to make sock snowmen. This would also be a fun family activity. Many of the steps to this activity provide movements to develop bilateral coordination and finger strength to develop handwriting skills.


1. White sock: I am using men's socks and found them at the 99 cent stores -- or you can use an old sock.
2. Colored sock
3. Rubber bands
4. A strip of fleece or knitting
5. Buttons or eyes
6. Tacky glue
7. Rice or beans
8. Paper shred, torn paper, or batting


1. Watercolors--I bought a set of watercolor tubes at Dollar Bell in Stanton. Other dollar or 99 cent stores often have the cake watercolor tray. I find the liquid watercolor easier to use. But many students are able to follow the sequence of water on the paint
brush, swirl on the "cake" color, paint on the paper, repeat. Fine motor skills are incorporated in this process. 2. Contact Paper: Any color is fine. I also found these at the dollar stores. Repositionable contact paper works best.

1. Put rice or beans into the toe of the sock about 1" from the bottom. Grabbing the rice with their hands provides sensory input, and having to hold the sock opening with one hand while the other pushes through the sock ribbing forces them to use the bilateral movements.

2. Put paper shred into the rest of the sock up to the heel section (same sensory input as the rice). Some students who need more help can pull the top ribbing open with two hands while another family member stuffs of vise versa.

3. Use a small rubber band to put around the sock where the paper shred has finished.

3. Paper (cardstock or watercolor paper) 4. Scissors and paintbrush

Process and areas of instruction:

1. Students can cut free shapes out of the contact paper, from simple strips to detailed shapes.

This aids the fine motor development areas of eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, and finger strength. Having students either cut on a marked line or a self-drawn shape helps in developing those fine motor skills.
2. Peel the backing off of the contact paper and place in different areas of your paper. Peeling gives sensory input. The contact paper gives resistance to the pull. Some students may need help starting the peel. I've instructed them to fold the corner to help separate the adhesive from the backing.
3. Use watercolor with a water-dipped paintbrush to paint the page in various colors. Allow them to experience the mixing of colors and see that if they mix too many colors, it comes out muddy.
4. After the paper dries to the touch, peel off the contact paper. Sensory input and finger strength is a prewriting skill.
Having the students pull the rubber band open provides finger strength development. You can have them stretch it out while another family member pushes the top of the sock through.
4. Cut the top of the sock off an inch above the rubber band.
5. Put the second rubber band around the stuffed sock separating the head and the body. Again, have the student pull the rubber band wide with both hands while another family member holds the snowman.
6. Cut the colored sock 4-5" from the toe. This is your snowman hat. Slip it onto the top of the white sock over the rubber band binding. Cutting the top of the sock into a spiral can give you enough for a scarf.
7. Lay the snowman on the table in the supine position. Squeeze the tacky glue bottle (giving sensory input and resistance) to put glue dots on for eyes, nose, and buttons. Glue on buttons or googly eyes and buttons for the nose and chest buttons.
8. Wrap your fleece around the neck and he's good to go!

You are a mentor teacher and an art teacher at Beacon Day School. First, what does a "mentor teacher" mean?

A mentor or master teacher is one who supports and guides the teachers at Beacon who are in the process of finishing up their credential program. I am also playing a role as a resource specialist for all the teachers as well as the behavior interventionist. I provide resources for implementing the student IEPs and give advice on IEP development and academic assessments. More recently, I have also coordinated all school events, building staff and Beacon family morale and enthusiasm.

How did being a mentor teacher gravitate into also being an art teacher?

Beacon has given me the liberty to, in some terms, create my own job. Our art teacher was dismissed a few years ago. I have an art specialist creden-tial along with my elementary and severely handicapped specialist credentials. I have used my art education in the past to integrate typical students with students with autism by providing art classes that would provide opportunities for all children to cooperate in creating their projects. Stepping into the "art teacher" position allows me to support the teachers as well as get to know each student individually by teaching an art class weekly.

How long have you been working with art, in general, and with special education students and art?

Not to reveal my age, but I have been in the special education field now for about 35 years. I found my "love" for the field in high school with the Re-gional Occupational Program (ROP). The ROP program placed me in a special day class for children with severe disabilities run by the Orange County Department of Education. I immediately knew that this was going to be my career. Many of my early mentor teachers included art in their programs, touching on several areas of instruction within an art lesson. My career has included 30 years as a special day class teacher, 1 year as an inclusion specialist, 1 year as an Autism Specialist Supervisor, and then this position at Beacon. I helped our director out when the school was just beginning. Then I came back a few years ago.

Why is this particularly gratifying?

A couple of aspects of each of my jobs that have been particularly gratifying have been these: the ability to use my creativity to provide programs that help each student progress to their highest potential and the pleasure of working with the families. I truly enjoy being able to share in those moments when parents can be proud of their child's accomplishments despite the many challenges that they have to face. I have also added "event planner" to my job description. Planning events when families can enjoy activities together has been exciting. The most recent was the Summer Relays event.

Do you feel that art strengthens individuals' skills in other areas, as well?

You can strategically touch on all areas of a student's specialized needs through an art lesson. Each week I like to include social skills, such as greet-ings, following directions, and attending to task. Language is also easily applied. I use sign language and gross motor movements in my art instruction. This increases their ability to model the instruction and participate in the project.

Does creating artwork also help students in sensory areas?

Yes. Depending on the media I choose for the month, I am able to include sensory activities in the lesson. Tearing, crunching paper, rolling, rice, sand art, glue, as well as gf/cf safe finger paint and modeling clay can be incorporated into the art lesson to provide sensory input and reduce sensitivity. Paper pulp in paper making was truly a project that brought challenges. Even some of the behavior interventionists were resistant to touching the pulp made from dryer lint.

What is your most important advice to parent who see their child display an inclination toward this?

Baby steps and high reinforcement. We cheered even when the students touched the paper pulp with gloves on.

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