Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fresh Beginnings

Simple, humble materials and lots of freedom to be imaginative have filled the first five weeks of art schooling at Phoenix Rising. A quick scan of mental notes brings up moments of singing aloud and laughing from sheer happiness. We've done a lot of projects to enhance curriculum unit studies of the ocean, the weather, "same and different," "living the dream," and the eight keys of excellence.

I usually don't offer the kids pop culture projects, but small monsters made of rolled paper tubes and pipe cleaners grabbed their attention and helped set the stage for greater things.

Ms. Melody's first and second graders have been deeply pleased with themselves being able to engineer paper plate ramps into slopes and curves for rolling marbles - not necessarily easy to do!
Stewart is one of the kids who led the way for others to gain new abilities and confidence. He and two of the other boys instinctively knew how to coordinate curves, slopes, and angles, as well as how to build up sides and make protective tunnels to keep fast-rolling marbles from flying off to all parts of the art room. It was beautiful to see their enthusiasm and careful focus become infectious over several sessions, how their work got other kids to feeling they could also make something new that they had never thought of doing. (And fortunately our kindest of volunteers Willa and Kazue came by at critical moments to help see us through.)
After making the runs, the kids developed stories inside their own made-up worlds of tape-and-paper houses, tree forts and trees, a teensy house for a little red worm (!), and of course a dinosaur or two amongst exploding volcanoes. (They like tape, lots of tape!)

Back to the cloud artists here:
A wonderful thing is that through weather studies and artwork, Ms. Megan's third and fourth grade children have become very much aware of winds, temperatures, precipitation, and different types of cloud formations - their beauty, movement and color, their changes through time and seasons. It began to make sense to them that cultures from ancient Greece to the Northlands developed characters and myths explaining the vigorous life in the heavens. They saw how weather influences so much of human life, how we dress and where we live, how our foods are grown and need to be stored. It is really delightful to have kids blow into the art room loudly chattering about fast-changing skies and gorgeous clouds, "the most gorgeous clouds and sunset I ever saw, ever, ever!"
Thor, the Norse god of thunder and lightening
A few other glimmerings from workshops and classes:


Yes . . . six little girls evolved past initial resistance to insects. They had direct experiences with drawing a beetle in its torpid state (by putting him on ice packs), and oohed and aahed tenderly as he came back to life, stretching his feelers and legs in warm sunlight, clearly happy to walk away into the shelter of bushes and dappled shade. One day when the girls went out to gather fresh leaves they came back with a nature journalist's treasure, knowing there was much to explore and learn from the body of a robin that had somehow met its end in the wild wood. They studied scaly legs and feet, different types of feathers and soft, rich, velvety colors, a sharp yellow bill. It made sense to them to know that birds have padding beneath their feet (to cushion their landings), and their bills are strong and sharp for piercing juicy berries and catching wriggly worms. (Did you know a robin can live for fourteen years? Unfathomable when you yourself are only five or six.)

Ms. Sophie's big kids are drawing in their personal notebooks, anguishing over proportions, shape and size relationships, textures, and just how to use pencils and erasers to express and share what they see and feel.
Sometimes one just has to stop and paint or simply stack the crayons.
One thing the kids are demonstrating at our little country school on the winding back road - the freedom to make something out of nothing seems to be one of the most fundamental urges of the human spirit. Learning new skills to make that happen is one of the most satisfying of all possible endeavors. At least, that is a combination I see working well with the children in my charge.

1 comment:

Melody Rae said...

This is wonderful, Jeannie. Heart warming to know that Stewart made a difference. It is so good to give children many ways to feel success. Thanks for your hard work.