Monday, February 24, 2014

Making Art :: Self-Empowerment

Usually when I show my students how something has been created by artists far away in time and space, they are keen to understand what it all means and how it was done, and most of them want to try out a related activity. There might be one or two who feel unable or blocked, but I have a bag of tricks for getting them to look at things from different angles, allowing them to move forward and accomplish the task at hand. This happened with one of the kids when we spent an hour with the "Four Treasures" of Chinese calligraphy, just a terrible feeling of being stuck and the emotional frustration that goes with that. When the breakthrough came - oh the joy and excitement! I can hardly tell you.

It made me think how people get to know themselves by facing something unknown and doing something to find out about it and about themselves. Making art is perfect for that. It involves activity, interaction, experience - listening and learning, seeing, touching, expanding the mind and heart in some way or another. I guess that is why kids all seem to enjoy art so much, seeing something through from start to finish and having a solid result. Dozens of these little experiences add up to developing useful skills and confidence, and can lead to bigger experiences in a lot of different directions. "Do the thing and you have the power - just do it."
In these photos the kids have already learned the meaning of the characters they are making - some are telling whole stories. They liked hearing a bit of Chinese music and were very peaceful and quiet while they worked. It seemed they tuned in to the serenity and peace of an ancient discipline.

The Kinders still have their minds on all kinds of bears. After a read-aloud and snacks they made their little paper polar bears - yawn - do the great white bears hibernate like the browns and blacks? "We don't know. But we think they need some colorful decorations."

Move to the Olympics at Sochi - Phoenix Rising first and second graders have been drawing, painting, and cutting to prepare for our big diorama of the events, meanwhile learning a little bit about children living in Russia.
Russian village in the style of Ivan Biliban

Not so different from us

Flags for the coming diorama
At the end of the week, on Fridays, teachers and students at Phoenix Rising shift gears from normal activities and curriculum to engage in all sorts of fun, interesting workshops, usually lasting six to eight weeks. I'm gearing up for puppetry/nature journaling and for lamp making. But my most recent Friday mornings have brought me kids ages four to seven, and each session has felt like the happiest little party. They choose to draw and paint or work with felt and clay or just play with blocks.
They love to set up their own little stations in the room, and rotate around to check each other out and try different things.

Zophia's first clay bunny of her "whole entire ever life!"

Alexa and I fashioned a big new pouch so she has a place to store her many small ones.
The only hard part is remembering to pay attention to the clock, so the kids get back to their rooms on time for morning snacks . . . life is good.


Karen said...

Ms. Jeanie. You are so cool. Now I want to do some art so as i can learn about meself.

Anonymous said...

We're sending this to some friends who need to know about this.

Annie said...

Once again a winner:)