10 March 2008

the power of art

The words "recession" and "tight budget" are becoming everyday topics of conversation, especially with teachers and school districts. I'm not sure how much more some schools can cut, having seen so much disappear already (art, music, physical education, many basic supplies).

Linda Crawford, author of "Lively Learning", states there are six reasons for integrating the arts into the daily curriculum of schools (teacher-talk directly ahead for a short bit, but I have watered it down a smidgen for you--just bear with me):

  • the arts make the heart or core of the curriculum more accessible through different modes of learning (visual--seeing, auditory--hearing, kinesthetic--movement)
  • the arts rekindle that feel of delight, wonder, and surprise in learning
  • the arts give children a way to understand and connect personally with the subjects being taught, as well as allowing them to express their feelings and thoughts
  • the arts support students in recognizing and grasping abstract concepts (my personal favorite is movement with mathematics)
  • the arts stir up and awaken higher levels of cognitive brain activities (Benjamin Bloom identifies these as: analysis--compare, contrast, identify; synthesis--explains, creates, summarizes; evaluation--concludes, describes, evaluates)
  • the arts creates and sustains a sense of community (in the classroom, in the neighborhood, in the country, in the world), as well as cultivates collaboration skills (group work on large projects)
I look forward to the annual Arts Resource Faire for teachers, hosted by the College of Education at CSUS, the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, and Rudolf Steiner College. It refreshes and activates the right side of my brain, making it "exercise" by building neurons and connecting with the left side. This event comes in the spring, just when the pressure of mandated regulations seem at their most challenging, offering teachers a reminder of light, color, and dimension in learning. I work hard at finding creative ways to work a pinch and a dash of art into my lesson plans, while still meeting the crushing demands of the state and federal government. Try this exercise. Can you access both your left and right? Which is dominate?

I've included a few photos of art work from kindergarden through sixth grade that were on display at the ARF, in order of grade level. Some of them are stunning.

The premier part of the day, the goal of the day, is being able to learn a new aspect of art by taking workshops, discovering new ways to incorporate art into the curriculum (with budget of zero or darn near close to it), and walking away with small completed projects (if possible). Several I have done (differently) in the past in the classroom myself, but I am always on the hunt for new variants. Below are a few of the "take-homes" I produced, as well as scaled-down, watered-down lessons.

Tin man (really aluminum man, but "tin" has a nicer sound). I love the texture and bend-ability of this guy. He's made out of one solid sheet of 12 inch by 18 inch aluminum foil--no body parts will fall off. He can be used instead of the fancy, expensive articulated wooden body to learn about the human body's proportions and to draw poses.

A self-portrait, drawn without looking at the paper and never lifting the pencil. Feel like you might want to cheat and look? Take a piece of paper, poke your pencil through the middle/center (keeping the pencil in the hole), and lay the paper on your hand like a blanket while holding the pencil for drawing. Or have someone else draw you (using this "blind"), facing you, while you sit still.

Not lifting the pencil becomes important when using the drawing to create, with floral wire, a sculpture of the face. Starting with where the pencil first began (and starting with only about a yard/meter of wire because more than that is difficult and dangerous to work with), bend it, connecting it at crossings, attaching more wire as needed, until you have...well, yourself. I have added it to my inspiration wall above my desk.

Calligraphy is quality writing with a rhythm and regularity to the letters--painting with graceful letters.

Oh, the extended possibilities are endless in my mind.


Antevasin said...

Calligraphy is so beautiful yet such a shame to see it going by the wayside!! Art was (and still is) my favorite subject in school, well, besides reading....

Gotta Knit! said...

Great "A"!