I am so excited to announce the return of Backyard Art! I have spent my school year wisely learning all I can about teaching art to kids and am thrilled to put it all to use creating another summer of creativity. I have hid all of my hard work from the blogosphere all year and can finally share some of the fruits of my labor.
Let me back up a little and give you some background info concerning art education in Utah. As a mother I have had many opportunities to be thankful to live in the top school district in the state. We have wonderful buildings, amazing teachers, and more funding per child than any other district in the state. Park City school district provides an open door policy allowing and encouraging parents to be in the classroom as much as they desire. Because of this priviledge, I have been able to know the teachers and students that my kids spend the majority of their day with far better than I image most parents get to experience. In many ways I am thrilled with the public education my kids are living. With that said, public education is far from perfect. Along with all the great experiences, I have had feelings of discouragement. I have had to face the hard truth that public education is limited and does not provide all the education I wish for my children. Because it is the public education system of Utah the focus is on what the government determines as "core" subjects. Math, reading, science and social studies are the emphasis, at the neglect of many other subjects I considder "core" as well. In Utah there are not Art teachers in the schools. I have learned through research that this is NOT the case around the country. Back east there will be at least one, if not more, art teachers to educate a school. I know one specialized teacher per school doesn't sound like a lot but it is one more than the ZERO number of teachers per public school in Utah. Having NO representation of art in an elementary school means it is either up to teachers to educate the humanities or our children will have NO early exposure to the arts.
Why is early exposure so "core" to the education of our children? Art focuses around creativity, teaching a child to think, interpret, express and to problem solve. Tell me how these qualities are not considered "core" material? Our world needs kids with limitless imaginations and the skills to take their dreams and turn them into reality in order to solve the complex issues facing the world. Nothing in our global world requires easy or conventional thinking. The best gift I can give this world is a child who understands problem solving and has the courage to dream big. Art allows children to strengthen their imaginations, interpret those dreams, and then solve the problem with creative expression. It is essential that our children have the confidence to tackle any problem that is thrown at them and the more exposure to creative expression they have the more confidence they will have conquering the unknown. If we don't teach the tools of art, kids can grow up with a self inflicted stigma that they can not do art or be creative. What a sad restriction to carry on our shoulders. I want to raise a child that has the confidence to attack anything while thinking, "I can do this!"
My kids elementary school has attempted to bridge a gap with the arts. We have a volunteer run art education program called, "Masterpiece In Art." (MIA for short) The program is far from perfect but our MIA program is the best run in the district and definitely something to be proud of. I have been fortuntate to work on the executive committee this year becoming even more passionate about teaching kids art. It is a challenge to get enough classroom time available for art, especially as the kids get older. I have been able to teach at least once a month, generaly twice, in my first graders class. Fourth grade has definitely been harder because of the requirements of their traditional "core" subjects. Luckily I have been able to lead a number of great projects and experience some earth shattering moments.
In the spring the MIA program puts on a huge school wide art festival. There are 3 objectives for this: 1- fundraising, 2- showing off the kids art, 3- community involvement. I was incharge of my first graders bulletin board among other things and managed to capture it to share with you. Each child has 3 works of art represented, showcasing the years worth of Masterpiece in arts classes.
In first grade we started off the year talking about, "when a line bends, a shape begins." Pumpkins were the result.
We moved onto print making in our next project involving winter cardinals.
Since we have A LOT of snow in Park City, I wanted to do a snowman piece. This included oil pastels and the results were fabulous. NO one could believe first graders produced this level of art.
We worked on a piece for February involving primary colors and paper weaving. Again, the results were awesome.
First graders spend a good amount of time studying space, so the teacher requested a project featuring this. This project was called, "Lines & Shapes in Outspace."
I really wanted to integrate a 3-D art experience for the kids. We also happen to have a large hispanic population so we focused on Mexican Folk Art and created lucky lizards. I think this was the class favorite of the year. The kids can not wait to take them home and hang them in their rooms to give them luck and eat all the bugs. ( When we went to Mexico they told us it was lucky if you had lizards on your wall at night because they would eat the bugs... I passes along this advise to the kids.)
Here's Jonas with both his lizard and heart. Each lizard truly showcased the personality of the 1st grade artist who lovely poured their heart into it.
There were a few other projects in Jonas' class that I was able to volunteer helping but didn't teach. It was always helpful to observe other people and their teaching style. We learn a lot from each other. I was back in his classroom last friday teaching a lesson on texture while creating a summer beach scene. Next week is my grand finale for the year... I'm think Jackson Pollock
Although I was able to teach a number of projects in fourth grade I only have 2 photographed. The top project is our interpretation of Wayne Theibaud's cake portraits. It was a fabulous project dealing with perspective, shades and tints, and complementary colors.
I also taught a great leasson on Matisse and helping the kids to understand what abstract art is. In true Matisse style we used scissors to paint.
It has been a truly inspiring year with moments that showed me how important teaching kids art can be to self confidence. One important lesson I learned was consistancy and the repeated exposure to creating. If a kid only gets the opportunity to create occasionally at sporatic intervals, they put to much emphasis on doing it "right" instead of learning that art is about the process as much as the end result. Kids can become paralized with expectation when they think their artistic opportunities are scares. The more opportunities to use their imaginations the stronger the creative muscules become.
Which brings me to Backyard Art..... I started Backyard Art last year because I wanted my kids to have an art experience during the summer but I didn't want to have to shuttle each kid to their own summer art class, that is alot of dropping off and picking up. So I decided I could give my kids the art experience I would want them to have if I just made it a priority. It took me about half the summer to figure out what my purpose and goals were besides just keeping the kids busy and away from the TV. Spending the year teaching MIA has helped me define the purpose to Backyard Art.
The Mission of Backyard Art... To build confidence in a childs ability to create and think creatively. To provide exposure to the many different tools of art, building familiarity with the creative process. To introduce great artists and their different styles of self expression but yet the unifying human need we have to express ourselves.
Backyard art is not about dropping your kid off and having me teach them art. It is about bring your kids to and creating with them. Older kids will need less of moms help and younger ones will feel safe with siblings and mom around to help them through the project. This is team work and I count on parents to work side by side with their kids. Each week will start of with a children's book introducing either the artist and/or concept and include a snack break. Although I still may make changes in the itinerary my current projects inculde: Van Gough,Wayne Theibaud, Jasper Johns, Alexander Calder, Picasso, Monet, Paper Mache, Mosaics and Fabric Art. To help kids see the big picture of art, a trip to the Kimball Art Center in Park City will be added as a field trip. At the end of the summer we will celebrate each childs art with a Backyard Art Evening Gallery Stroll where all the art created will be on display and parents, grandparents and friends and can come share in the kids creations.
If you are interested in being a part of Backyard ART 2011 let me know immediately by email firstname.lastname@example.org . The cost is $10 per child/ per week. (No charge for kids under 2) Although the times may change a little I am planning Wednesdays June 22-August 17, either 10-11:30 or noon to 2ish.
My kids are just as excited as I am to have another summer filled with art in the outdoors. I will continue posting our projects weekly through out the summer if you just want to read along. I think Albert Einstein always says it best, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”