When I was at Sunnyside School in Kellogg during my elementary years the teachers were known for certain art projects that were done each year in their classrooms. I loved that I could peer in rooms at recess and admire projects that I could look forward to doing if I got that teacher. It was powerful. Art was displayed at our school in amazing ways also. There was a glass case by the office that student work was highlighted each month. In the cafeteria the classrooms rotated their work so lunch time could be spent gazing at brilliant crayon designs, fall leaf paintings, and pencil sketches. Also, at PTA Chili Feed time we could feast our eyes on the student designed posters for a contest to advertise the yearly event. After forty- some years I can recall the artwork that influenced my early development of my creative side. Friday afternoon after recess seemed to be the time everyone did art! It sure gave me something to look forward to all week. Art was indeed powerful.
In Mrs. M.'s room in second grade I still remember the fall trees we painted. The class did an art walk in the neighborhood by the school picking up leaves along the way. Then we experimented with mixing paint colors to create autumn trees. I recall the smell of the fall day, the texture of the leaves, and the joy in creating those trees. The whole experience was more powerful when the works of art were hung on the glassed wall above the windows in the classroom.I also enjoyed doing a paper mache Christmas ornament and an Easter Bunny.
When I moved to Mrs. C.'s class in third grade we painted the American flag on butcher paper with tempera paint. I have fond memories in the intermediate grades of creating watercolor washes, designing chalk drawings, and rolling up tissue paper balls to make beautiful Christmas trees. All these projects were ones I had studied in the display case and the cafeteria. Art was important in our school and we were encouraged to be be creative. I hoped I would get Mrs. T. in 6th grade because she did my two favorite projects... the water color cartoon characters and the pencil sketches of shoes.
I did get Mrs. T. in sixth grade. I really felt like I was an artist when we did these two projects. She brought in comic pictures of characters like Popeye, Charlie Brown, Nancy, Henry, and Wimpy. They all seemed to be people. She showed us how to imitate the artist and sketch the cartoons. The part I loved about this project was using a tiny water color brush and painting our cartoons. I believe we actually outlined them also. When my picture of Emmy Lou was hanging in the cafeteria it made me feel proud.
I had an even prouder moment when we did our pencil sketch shoes. With this project we took our shoes off , put them on our desks, and pencil sketched and shaded our shoes. I had my worn brown saddle shoes on that day, but they were the perfect pair for the still life drawing. Mrs. T. entered mine in the AAUW art contest and I won a prize. Gazing at my picture in Hutton's window uptown and seeing a ribbon on my pencil sketch was a powerful moment for a sixth grade student that never considered herself an artist. KW was an artist. She could draw anything. I just was a wanna-be. That year I really felt like an artist.
I moved to junior high and never did any art again. I played in the band, but no time for art. In high school I couldn't take art because I was in band and choir. By then I didn't think I was good enough to do art.
Then I took Elementary Art Methods in college. That love for elementary school art came back. I knew then I would always try to provide creative opportunities for my students. When I taught elementary school I did just that. I don't know if we always had art Friday afternoon after recess, but we sure had art every week. I studied different art forms trying to expose my students to different experiences. I wanted them to feel how powerful art could be.
When I moved to middle school the students could take art class. I tried to allow them to be creative while teaching writing and drama, but art for Mrs. B. For my students that didn't take art, their lives probably became like mine did when I left elementary school. I was reminded last week when an artist came to work with drawing with my students that all of us need that quiet time to draw. My elementary teachers taught me to encourage students to take risks with creative projects. I took time to sketch the picture above this morning. It is a view of the lake from my window. I will share it tomorrow with my students and model how I need to build in more time for art.
Art is powerful in supporting that creative side of the brain. I am going to dust off my supplies, dig out those art methods books, and figure out ways to integrate art with my students again. I feel fortunate to have had such a rich art background in elementary school. I think that background has always helped me encourage students to explore their creative side. Now I want them to explore even more. Often teachers struggle with the balance between time spent on "core curriculum" so that "no child will be left behind". I'm going to see if our writer's workshop can include art! I would venture to say that students would score as well on a state write assessment if they could create a subject with sketches and color as they practice essay writing. That would be powerful!
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