Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The importance of art education (part 3)

This post originally appeared on Keep Forever Box on  September 22, 2014.

There are many fun ways to help support art education and develop creativity in children. To help your local art teacher, introduce yourself and offer to volunteer. You could help arrange a bulletin board for her, or provide supplies. Personally, I’m always in need of copy paper, baby wipes, and toilet paper tubes. I’ll also gladly accept any unwanted old art supplies you have at home. I use old markers to make my own liquid watercolors. Google it if you’re interested—it’s awesome fun and inexpensive. Ask what the teacher needs. Sometimes it’s really simple to help. You could also offer to come in and help on messy days. Clay day is a blast. You’ll see the joy and the thrill of the art room first hand.

Art books
Read these fun, creative books with children to help get their creative juices flowing
For the little ones, read them one of these excellent art books. Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg is a pop-up book about how to turn mistakes into opportunities. My toddler nieces and nephew love it, as well as my younger elementary students. It turns drips of paint into little pigs riding cars and crumpled paper into fun surprises. After we read the book, I often give the children a paper with a mistake on it. Then it’s their job to figure out how to make great art with it anyway. It’s easy and good fun. Students get to practice recovering from their mistakes, and you get to put scrap paper to good use. It also teaches not to waste! Yay!

Another book along the same lines that helps develop creativity is The Perfect Square by Michael Hall. Again, it teaches resilience, creativity and alternate points of view. It’s about an optimistic little square that gets torn up, shredded, and crumpled. That poor little square goes through the wringer and turns it around to create beautiful experiences out of hardship. What a metaphor for life huh? For the activity, all you need is a construction paper square, scissors and a glue stick—let the kids tear apart poor little square and then practice re-creating beauty out of a mess.

My last favorite children’s art book is an oldie but a goody. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson teaches students that they have the power to change their environments and to solve their own problems with imagination. All they need is a silly little crayon. It doesn’t even have to be purple. For an art project, I often give students a purple crayon as well as different purple shapes. It’s their job to take it from there and create whatever masterpiece their heart tells them to make.
Art at home
Here are some ideas to get creative juices flowing at home. Stop motion image from Organized Chaos, fort building ideas from All for the Boys, and Invention box ideas from Pink and Green Mama.

Other art activities to develop creativity at home can include:

Sidewalk Chalk Paints: Mix water, food coloring and cornstarch in a muffin tin. Hand over a brush and let the little ones go to town outside. They can learn color mixing, develop fine motor skills, and build observational skills critical for science class later on. When you’re done, hose everyone off, especially the toddlers. It might be the best part.

Homemade play dough: With simple ingredients and 30 minutes, you can create a huge amount of play dough. For tons of recipes, just Google homemade play dough or homemade salt dough. Children develop fine motor skills while they practice making tracks, rolling logs, building houses or even cooking. It’s great, cheap fun and puts your child in control for a bit. See a tutorial here. 

Cardboard Fort: It’s every kid’s favorite. So what if an expensive toy came in the box. Sometimes the box is still the best part. Offer crayons, construction paper or paint, depending on how messy you’re willing to let it get. See where the box can take your child. It could be a spaceship, a battleground for superheroes, a veterinary office for stuffed animals, or a doll’s dream house. Fun!

Build it Box: Put clean recyclables and random doo-dads in a box. When your kids are bored, get out the “build it box” and have them create an invention. Brainstorm about what kind of robot they could make and inspire them with some online research.

Stop Animation: If your child is a little bit older and technologically savvy, get him away from the video games by making him a movie producer. There are lots of stop-motion animation apps that are fun to play with and fairly easy to figure out… especially if you’re 8. A few of my favorites are: iMotion, StopAnimator and OSnap! Lite. Most of these are free downloads in the app store. Kids can take multiple pictures of their toys in different positions and really make some awesome and hilarious video shorts.

Remember when you’re arranging group activities with siblings or neighbors, allow kids to set roles for themselves. I do an amusement park engineering lesson with students where they create a ride from simple machines and recycled materials. There are always roles like safety engineer, lead designer, lead engineer—make it sound fun and give everybody ownership and specific roles for a more successful collaboration.

I sure hope these ideas help get you started to develop creativity with your children!   If you try some of these, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The importance of art education (part 2)

This post originally appeared on Keep Forever Box.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.   Last year at the middle school where I worked, we raised lots of money and wrote a grant for a sculpture project called “Recreating the Dream: The March on Washington.”
We secured hundreds of rolls of packing tape for our students and for students around the county. A total of 10 art teachers from 7 different schools worked together to have students re-create the March on Washington of 1963 and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. Students made life size sculptures out of clear packing tape.
"Recreating the Dream: The March on Washington" sculpture project created by middle schoolers.
Artist and educator Katie Wall Podracky led middle school students with other art teachers in creating this sculpture project “Recreating the Dream: The March on Washington.”
Student groups of three or four were given the problem of creating one protestor for the march. They had to self-assign roles for each other, which often included a model, a safety engineer, a taper, and a structural engineer. Students researched the history in the computer lab to learn about who these people were and why they were protesting. They also watched the entirety of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech for perspective and inspiration. Students also spoke with a local commemorative sculptor about his process, and learned about George Segal’s work on the great depression and the holocaust. This project is a great example of how students practice problem solving, creativity, collaboration and communication in art class. Working together, they had to create a sculpture that would stand, communicate an idea, and fascinate their audience. It was a huge success! I believe it taught them so much more about themselves as individuals. They learned that students, especially student artists could be powerful agents of change in this world. This project involved learning way beyond reading passages in a book and taking a test about history.   Instead, students put themselves in the shoes of the person they were creating. They got caught up in the emotion of the event, and they were intrinsically motivated to do a great job. I am so proud of them!
"Recreating the Dream: The March on Washington" sculpture project created by middle schoolers.
Last year at the middle school where I worked, we raised lots of money and wrote a grant for a sculpture project called “Recreating the Dream: The March on Washington.”
Art class often includes the best practices in education. It’s basically how we all want to be treated in a classroom. We want to be engaged, entertained and experiencing hands-on learning instead of sitting back and receiving a lecture. We also want to have a little control over our own destiny. We want the freedom to put our own stamp of creativity and personality on our projects and we want to steer their direction to an extent. We also learn a lot from our peers when we’re allowed to interact with them. Art class is essential.
Students build civil right sculptures
In all, we had right at 125 sculptures of protestors at the march, and roughly 700 students participated in creating them. Some students were interviewed by the newspaper or television. One student group created a mini-documentary about the project on their own time. Many students said it was their favorite project all year. Art class is not only awesome, it’s lots of fun and it keeps students excited about coming to school.

To learn more about this art project and to see additional pictures and video documentaries, visit www.recreatingthedream.blogspot.com.

So you’re probably wondering how you can help ensure that your children receive this kind of education. There are many ways to do this! You can help your local art teacher, or you can tackle some artistic learning at home on your own. For some inspiration, check back here later next week.