A few months ago I had the great good fortune to be asked at the last minute to run a short afterschool art program open to kindergartners, first- and second-graders at one of our local elementary schools. The savvy mom* who did the asking knew, or at least hoped, that I couldn’t say “no” once I learned that there would be no afterschool art offering for these young artists if I didn’t say “yes.” And so, for 4 weeks I was able to find a couple of hours on Tuesday afternoons to guide a group of enthusiastic young artists through a series of projects that (I hope) broadened their artistic horizons, nurtured their imaginations, and encouraged their artistic curiosity.
And the kids were awesome! We painted watercolor monsters inspired by children’s picture books like Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, we made leaf prints by painting the undersides of fresh autumn leaves and pressing them to paper, we learned a little bit about the artist Joan Miró and created our own Miró-inspired marker drawings, and we formed our own heart-shaped animals inspired by Michael Hall’s My Heart is Like a Zoo. I adapted most of these projects from ideas found on the wonderful website, Deep Space Sparkle, a terrific resource for art teachers and classroom teachers, and parents and homeschoolers, too. I would spend about 10 minutes introducing the project, then the kids would dive in, drawing, painting, stamping, cutting, and composing for the next 30 minutes, then we would share our work and clean up. It was sometimes loud, most often quiet and focused, and always messy – but I got to see the most creative, intense, and joyful expressions of art and imagination from these young artists. Like I said, my great good fortune.
I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t have strong feelings about monsters! This was a great opening project, emphasizing the marvelous variety that can result from a single question posed, in this case, “What does a monster look like?” click here to view a pdf of this project
The Leafprint project sparked the children’s curiosity about both art and science, as we used leaves from several different kinds of trees. We talked about the seasons of the year, tree types and leaf structures as we composed our leaf prints, adding sponged-on fall colors among our stamped leaves. click here to view a pdf of this project
The most fascinating project, for me, was the Miró-inspired marker drawing. Some of the older 2nd-graders were tentative and had a difficult time restricting their drawings to shapes and color. Instead, their drawings kept leaning toward representational compositions, filled with hearts and ladybugs and the like. Conversely, the younger kindergartners showed no such hang-ups and dove into this project with great enthusiasm and focus. I wondered if I was witnessing an effect of the creativity crisis I’ve been reading about, an indication that a few years spent in a typical school environment is enough to begin to limit the creative thinking of children? click here to view a pdf of this project
-click on a photo above to access the slideshow-
Note: I forgot my camera on the last day of the afterschool program, so I have no pictures of the young artists working on their Michael Hall inspired heart-shaped animals. If you’d like to see a similar project (with photos), you can read a previous post, “rainy day project: My Heart is Like a Zoo”.
*This afterschool art program wouldn’t have been offered if that dedicated, savvy mom hadn’t asked me, or if I’d said “no”. Did you know that in our elementary schools, children only experience and explore art for 40 minutes, once a week? Imagine if math instruction was offered for only 40 minutes, once a week! Yet creativity and its related problem-solving skills are increasingly important to success and fulfillment in our 21st century world. The Arts Room wishes to thank all the adults who work hard to make these afterschool art programs possible – the parents, teachers, administrators, and professional artists – and we encourage more parents and artists to offer their talents to our local schools!