Another Way to Learn Our Letters

Children benefit from learning about a concept through many lenses and approaches, because everyone learns in different ways. Knowledge is interdependent. Our world is not segmented, everything is connected. When children learn subjects in silos, they cannot see these connections. But when wletters1e integrate areas of knowledge, we are truly teaching students, not subjects. Meaningful connections help children see knowledge as a way to learn rather than a useless piece of information. Deeper learning relates new knowledge to previous knowledge, correlates ideas to one another, and connects concepts to everyday experiences. Children transfer their knowledge from one situation to the next, scaffolding their growth.

Educational institutions are not set up for integrated learning, and until a complete educational revolution takes place, it is up to us, parents, caregivers and educators, to facilitate the holistic thinking children need to grow as individual thinkers and thrive as enthusiastic learners.

I often relate art ideas, history and techniques to other concepts that students are learning. Art is a physical way of learning, and the doing, the creating, is different and therefore memorable, cementing the concept in our brain.

My Pre-K classes were learning to write their names and began by focusing on their first initial. Watching them concentrate on making the lines gave me the idea of relating initials to illuminated letters, those giant first letters in old manuscripts and fairytales. The children reminded me of medieval monks leaning over their carefully hand done scrolls!

When they came to art class, the children wrote their first initial as large as they could on a piece of copy paper. Then we worked with polymer clay to make coils (this is the “art term” for snakes). I used Fimo Soft brand, but all polymer clay is fairly firm, so it needs to be conditioned, or smooshed with our fingers, to soften it up. This motion is fabulous for building finger strength, which in these electronic days, many children really need. After conditioning the clay, we chose the colors we liked, sometimes combining several colors, rolled them out in coils, laid them on top of the lines of our written letter, and pinched them together to make a large initial. Some children added dots and lines in their clay with clay tools. The act of making the lines of their letter with clay is very different than doing so with a pencil, and this helped many children internalize the letterforms.

letters2The next day we examined prints of illuminated letters. We talked about the lines and shapes we saw – swirls, curls, wavy lines, patterns of circles and triangles, flowers, leaves, some straight lines and zigzags too. I left these prints out for our reference while we created our own illuminated backgrounds with sharpies, markers and gold paint. As we worked I related some vocabulary, explaining that gold is bright and shiny, and the word illuminate means to brighten. I also imparted some history, discussing how wealthy patrons collected these expensive books of gold.

After I baked the polymer clay, the students glued their initials onto their illuminated backgrounds and wow, do these look amazing! The children are so proud of their hard work!

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letters3I extended the learning even further the following day by asking the children to recall the types of lines and shapes from their background work without looking at a reference. They drew those lines and shapes onto large popsicle sticks and painted them with watercolors. Everyone made their own initial with their colorful sticks, then I called out letters and they had fun working to make those.

The process of integrated learning and arts integration in particular serves our children well, allowing them to “connect the dots”, understanding concepts and ideas in a deeper way, becoming enthused and engaged learners. This is what art should do.

Learning to Cut With Scissors:
What’s the Point?

You may wonder why a young child needs to learn to cut with scissors. It’s not something we adults do often, so why do our kids need to know how to do it? And besides, most kids don’t look great with super short bangs!

scissorsOccupational therapists say that children following an appropriate developmental track should start learning to use scissors at 2 years of age. As with most skills, it’s not just the skill itself that is gained, but the collateral benefits of the activity.

Cutting builds up the tiny muscles in children’s hands which are used for holding onto things. This develops skills like holding a spoon, a toothbrush and pulling pants up, as well as painting and eventually writing with a strong tripod grip (gripping with the thumb and next two fingers).

Cutting builds hand eye coordination for activities that involve precise aim such as throwing and catching a ball, pressing a fork into a chosen food, and zipping a jacket.

Cutting builds bilateral coordination – being able to use both sides of your body (and both hands) at the same time. Bilateral activities such as tying shoes, buttoning a shirt, climbing stairs and riding a bike are actually strengthened through scissor work.

Consider all the little things you do every day that involve using your hands and both sides of your body, and you will understand why cutting is an essential skill for your child to practice, both at home and in school.

Safety

Clearly safety is number one. Always supervise cutting activities closely and emphasize these two simple safety rules:

1. Scissors are for cutting things that a parent says are okay to cut, and nothing else.
2. Do not walk with scissors. Always sit or stand still when cutting.

Before Practicing

Do some fun activities together that involve similar hand movements to cutting, such as picking up pompoms or cotton balls with tongs and moving them from bowl to bowl, or using tweezers to drop objects into a bucket. Hole punchers are fun too! Spin a top, use clothespins, squirt water from a squirt bottle or squirty toys, use an eyedropper, play with finger puppets, practice tearing lightweight paper. Make it a game!

Buy Fiskar’s child sized, blunt tip scissors. These are hands-down (pun intended!) the best brand. When scissors get dull, the paper will fold more often than cut, so replace them.
If your child is clearly a lefty (many children are unsure until 4 or 5), consider buying left handed Fiskar’s scissors. Don’t buy scissors that claim to be usable in either hand, those have the upper blade on the right, made for righties, just with an ambidextrous hand grip.

How To Help Your Child Cut

Always sit right next to a child with scissors and be patient, cutting is a skill that may take a while to master, and it is a process.

First, help your child hold the scissors properly. Position the wrist so the thumb is turned upwards. Place the thumb in the small hole, the next two fingers in the larger hole. Many occupational therapists advise curling the ring and pinkie fingers into the palm. Some children are resistant to this, but I would try it. Make sure the thumb is up (thumb faces the ceiling). Some children respond to having a sticker or smiley face on the bottom knuckle of the thumb and enjoy having their sticker look at the ceiling. Then simply open and close the scissors without any paper to get the movement down.

Cut firmer materials at first, such as construction paper and manila file folders, as they don’t flop around so much. It’s also fun to cut plastic straws and thread the pieces onto a string afterwards to make a necklace. Playdough is great for beginning scissor work too. Use small sheets of paper or paper cut in 1 inch strips. Encourage short snips, single cuts, like fringes. It’s okay to hold the paper for them as long as they are using just one hand to cut. As their bilateral coordination improves, they will be able to hold and cut at the same time.

After your child has mastered snipping on their own, they can begin cutting on a line. Use a ruler to draw thick, dark lines from one end of the paper to the other. Gradually draw the lines thinner as skills improve. Start with a half sheet (4.25 inch piece of paper), then move to a full sheet of paper 8.5 inches long. Cut straight lines first, then curved and angled (jagged) lines as your child’s skill level increases. This activity can be made more interesting by placing stickers on various points of the lines and having your child aim for and cut through the stickers. You can use the strips they cut to make a crown or collage.

Encourage your child to use their other hand to stabilize the paper. Their non-cutting hand needs to be close to the area that is being cut and move along with the cutting hand. Many children contort their arms to cut on a curve or angle, show them how to move the paper and not their arms, keeping their scissors upright. These coordinated movements may take a while to learn, give reminders and be patient!

When your child has mastered lines, they are ready to cut out shapes. Most children are at least 3.5-4 years old before they get to this point. Teach your child to cut out shapes in a counterclockwise direction so they can see where they are cutting (left handed children cut clockwise). Give them various sized xeroxed circles, triangles and squares to practice on, and color them in or make something fun with the shapes afterwards.

Practice with your child at home, and make it enjoyable. Just practice as long as they are interested, a few minutes can be enough, and many children will want to cut for longer after they master the initial skills. Use stickers as targets and make something fun with the cut paper. Learning to cut with scissors leads to important hand skills and life skills. This is what art should do.

How To Talk To Your Children About Their Art

Your child runs to you eager to show you what he has created, pushes the paper close to your face and says, “Look what I made!”

What’s wrong with these responses:
“That’s a beautiful painting!”
“Great work!”
“I love that!”
“How nice! What is it?”
“That’s a nice face you drew, but there’s no nose, silly!”

We are our child’s first audience. The language we use to respond to our children’s artwork can boost their imagination and confidence, or inadvertently tell them their choices and feelings are not important.

talkingabtartMaking art is a child’s way of expressing himself. Much of children’s art is egocentric and personal. They make it because they enjoy the experience of making it.

 

What’s Wrong with Complimenting Your Children’s Work?

Isn’t “That’s a beautiful painting!” a nice thing to say? Vague compliments lack essence and sincerity. When we rubber stamp every piece of their art as “beautiful”, our compliments become meaningless. And who should judge what is beautiful anyway? Only the child.

“Great work!” Isn’t this a better response? At least we’re encouraging effort instead of judging results. Yes, but this is still a superficial reply. Children know when we aren’t really looking or listening. Would you want your boss or client to simply tell you you did “great work” without any further explanation? Again, this is an easy response that loses meaning the more children hear it.

“I love that!” Now, how could this sweet exclamation be a problem? It’s great to love your child’s work, but this makes the creating about you, not them. Children should not be making art to please adults, they should be creating to please themselves.

When we ask our child, “What is it?”, we are telling them their art needs to be something representational and they have failed to show that to us or we wouldn’t need to ask. Most children have neither the skill nor the need for their art to look like a specific object. This concept is part of the adult world of expectations.

Many young children cannot form their personal thoughts into an answer. They might want to say, “I liked watching the yellow blend into the blue”, or “this is how I feel when I don’t get my way.” When we ask them, “What is it?” children will likely give us an answer they think we want to hear just to end the conversation.

Do not assume that you know what their art is about. When we say, “What a pretty purple flower!”, and our child says, “It’s a unicorn!”, we send the message that we are taking charge of their work, and their ideas are secondary. They might feel bad that you don’t recognize something they think is obvious. Let them tell you the story of their artwork.

“That’s a nice face you drew, but there’s no nose, silly!” Even correcting in jest discourages children’s explorations, hampering their growth. They know they have a nose, they have chosen to omit it and they have their reasons.

So, What DO I Say?

The next time your child shows you his art, pause and reflect, say nothing for a few seconds. Show him you are studying the work. Pausing also gives the child a chance to speak first.

Not every work of art needs a lengthy discussion. Often a few well chosen sentences will do. The best time to talk about their art is right after they have made it or taken it home, they are most enthused and have the experience fresh in their minds.

Use children’s art as a springboard to increase their vocabulary and communication skills.

10 Thoughtful Ways to Talk to Children About Their Art

1. Specifics – Point out what you see, not what you think you see. Use the vocabulary of the elements of art – color, line, shape, form, pattern, texture, space. “I see you have drawn three wavy lines.” “You used a lot of colors!” “The hole in this sculpture is interesting!” “Let’s count how many red dots you made.” Find the elements of art in everyday items to emphasize art’s connections to life.

2. Ideas – Praise imagination and enrich understanding. “Tell me about your work.” “How did you get the idea for this picture?” “I wonder what you were thinking about.” “I wonder what this shape would say if it could talk?”

3. Process – Dig into how they did what they did. “How did you do this?” “I see you made these lines go up and down.” “What an interesting choice you made here.” “Wow, the oil pastels show through the watercolor paint!” “How did you blend those colors?” “What did you do first?”

4. Effort – Show that putting forth your best effort is more important than a nice end result. “You spent a lot of time making all these different shapes.” “You must have really enjoyed using all these materials!” “You were really concentrating!”

5. Feelings – Validate your child’s feelings and opinions. “What part did you enjoy the most?” “You must be proud of the new color you discovered!” “How did you feel making this?” “This looks like it was fun to make!”

6. Materials – Encourage a love of trying new things and exploring a variety of materials and techniques. “How did you make the chalk smear?” “What materials (or tools) did you use?” “I wonder why you chose the burlap?” “What did you learn about using watercolors?”

7. Knowledge – Use vocabulary and concepts. “What kinds of shapes did you use?” “I noticed these lines are wavy.” “What makes a sculpture different from a painting?”

8. Reflection – Stretch your child to think deeper. “What title would you give this work?” “What do you like best in your artwork?” “Do you want to add anything to your artwork?” “I wonder why… (the girl is larger than the boy, the ground is purple, etc.)” “What could you try differently next time you paint?”

9. Future – Get excited about learning more. “What will you make next?” “What would you like to learn more about (or, how to do)?”

10. Encourage and support“You made a lot of pictures today. Which one do you want to hang up?” It’s nice to conclude your chat with “Thank you for sharing.”

Not every child is going to want to talk about every piece of art they produce. Don’t overuse these conversation starters or feel you need to have a long conversation every day. Letting go of results and allowing kids to enjoy the process of creation can reap big rewards.

Art is a valuable way for children to make sense of life and the world. By being an interested observer and patient listener you’ll help your child develop confidence, communication skills, problem solving abilities, self awareness, and so much more. When you think of art as more than just what you see on a page, you will see your child in a whole new light. This is what art should do.

Making A Statement With Art

I teach a Sunday School elective art class for middle schoolers. It’s tough to be in middle school. They’re definitely not grown ups, but leaving childhood behind. They want to make their own decisions, choose their own friends and foods, go to bed when they want to. They want people to listen to them. They’re moody and self conscious, but just want to be normal. They’re afraid of what’s happening in the world, and dearly want to fix it.

I was fortunate to attend Gary Hirsch’s awesome post-WDS workshop last July, and at the end he invited us to take a piece of his artwork off the wall, keep it, and make something, anything, inspired by it. I somehow gravitated towards this piece of art. gary hirsch art I wasn’t sure why it appealed to me until I got it home and thought about it for a while. I looked at the image of this pink devil guy tossing someone around. I thought about my middle school students, and how they feel tossed around by their parents, peers, school and society. How they are not always sure what is right and what isn’t, and how sometimes they do the wrong thing even though they know it’s wrong.

This thought process led me to the Jewish concept of Yetzer Hara and Yetzer Tov, loosely translated as Evil Inclination and Good Inclination. Our tradition tells us that humans have both inclinations within us at all times, and the free will to choose either. I asked my middle schoolers why they think God made us this way. Wouldn’t it be better if everyone was good all the time?

A very lively discussion ensued. “If everyone had only good thoughts then we would all be the same.” “If we can only be good, this takes away our choice.” “All humans are balanced, both good and bad, there is no such thing as a person who is all one or the other.” “Depends on what you think is good and what you think is bad. What might be good for one person might be bad for another. It depends on your perspective, what you believe.” “If there is no bad, then we can’t repair the world.” “Our Yetzer Hara helps us learn control.” “Through doing the wrong thing, we learn to do the right thing.”

We discussed ways to visually represent our ideas while the teens sketched. They went through the creative process of dumping out all their thoughts – sketching all their ideas, the good and the bad. I told them not to judge their thoughts, that sometimes a “bad” idea turns out to be a great one. Get them all out of your head, I told them. And as I predicted, after all the cliche ideas were out, the great ideas started forming. The kids went deeper into their philosophies, and found original ways to combine concepts and interpretations.

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We also discussed how art is a form of self expression, not a pretty picture over your couch. We create art to tell our story – in this case our own interpretation of Yetzer Hara and Yetzer Tov. Each student chose one sketch to turn into a painting. Some were good painters, many were not. This lack of innate artistic ability did not bother them. They were thrilled to have the opportunity to use an artistic medium in a self expressive way. I don’t think that any of my students have had an assignment like this in school, even in art class.

This project had young teens delving into a concept, really thinking hard about why we are the way we are. They talked about things they did in their own lives that they considered to be the work of their Yetzer Hara, and how that helped them come to realizations about how they can do better. To represent their thoughts, they created a painting that had meaning to them. Through this they realized that art is a wonderful means of self expression. That is what art should do.

Circles and Handwriting

The foundation for handwriting is linemaking. When children can easily make straight lines, diagonal lines, curves and circles, they can begin to write letterforms. If children are pressured to write letterforms before they are adept at linemaking, handwriting will become a frustrating experience for them. Everything in education must be done in response to a child’s current skills and development, regardless of their age or grade. Representing lines and circles in art makes practicing these important pre-handwriting skills fun. Drawing lines comes first; most toddlers naturally practice making lines. Drawing circles takes more hand control and therefore is a great activity to do after children have experienced making lines.

IMG_5632My 3 and 4 year old students have been practicing drawing circles. I’ve shown them the difference between madly scribbling around and around and purposefully making a circle. We learned that a circle starts and ends in the same place. We also learned that a circle within a circle is called a concentric circle, an excellent art and math term, plus a cool vocabulary word. My students practiced making purposeful concentric circles with markers, then with their fingers in a tray of sand. The best way to learn and remember something (called “sticky learning”) is to teach the task from a multisensory approach. Feeling the soft sand in the hard tray and the tactile sensation of moving the sand helps cement the finger, hand and arm movements needed to make a circular form.

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Next we created circles with yarn dipped in glue. This is a bit tougher to do than making circles with markers or sand, and the progressive challenge is what makes learning interesting. Dunking pieces of yarn into a bowl of glue with your hands is one of those sensory experiences that children either love or hate. Some delighted in covering their hands in stickiness, and others struggled with the sensation. We absolutely have to let children struggle so they can succeed in doing things for themselves. When we do things for them we take their personal power away, and children learn that they don’t have to try. When we purposely construct opportunities for children to practice a challenging skill, they get better at doing it. Perseverance is an essential skill for success in life.

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We noticed as we made our yarn circles, that the ends of the yarn touched each other, just as the marker and sand circles begin and end in the same place. Some children constructed pretty good circles, and others made shapes that looked more like a pile of spaghetti, but the process and effort is what is important.

After the glue dried, we revisited our circles concept. I wanted to see how much the children remembered from our previous experience. They all remembered that a circle starts and ends in the same place and adeptly made circles with their fingers on the table. A few of them even remembered the word “concentric”.

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We then painted watercolor circles on our yarn circle papers. Many children painted concentric circles inside or outside of their yarn circles. We used bright liquid watercolor paint to create a happy, ethereal feel, as the colors blended, spread and mixed on the paper. We all agreed that painting a color on top of a color is okay, which gave the hesitant children permission to try it. Gentle painting, as when working with watercolors, increases hand control. My students were so enthralled with the properties of watercolor paints that I will be sure to offer these again soon.

Learning to make circles with a variety of materials bonds the concept and the movement involved into children’s consciousness, giving them a means to visually represent what they can see in their minds. This art experience is an opportunity to struggle and succeed, build skills through a variety of sensory activities, and in the process, prepare for academic achievement in handwriting. This is what art should do.

A Different Kind of Leaf Print

Effective learning progresses primarily from building on prior knowledge. You have to know how to add before multiplying, learn letter sounds before forming words. When children use prior knowledge to learn new things, they realize the point of their learning and the concepts make sense to them. When teachers take the time to evaluate what students already know, they can more effectively construct new experiences and make connections between prior and new knowledge. This philosophy is called Constructivism in teaching lingo.

Think about a time when you needed to learn something new at your job or hobby, how to use a tech gadget, cook a new recipe, put your Ikea furniture together. Go through the many steps involved in learning that new thing and you will realize that you learned it one step at a time, building upon each step. Imagine doing any of those steps out of order, and consider how confusing that would be.

This beautiful leaf printing art experience is an excellent example of Constructivism at work.

IMG_5321 In past years I have taught leaf printing in a conventional way – paint a leaf and press it on a piece of paper. This has been a very nice project with good looking results, but this year I wanted to change it up in order to allow students to use their prior experiences to learn new ones, creating deeper learning through larger connections.

This class had just finished a monoprinting project, where they learned the process of painting a surface, creating lines with various tools, and pressing a piece of paper on top to make a print. I built on that knowledge with this leaf printing art experience.

Each student has a piece of plexiglass, mine are 8 x 10 inches. They paint the glass however they want with tempera paint in fall colors. Then they use the same line tools from their previous printmaking experience to create lines in the paint. Since they had done this before, they were adept at holding and manipulating the tools to create the type of lines they wanted.

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The new part of this experience was placing a leaf on top of the paint before pressing the paper down to make a print. We speculated at what this added element would do to the print. It does not matter if their guess was right, it matters that they are using their cognitive processes to propose a possible outcome.

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When the children pulled their prints (which is the term for when you peel the paper off), they saw a white leaf on a colored background. We talked about how the leaf acts as a mask, keeping the paint that is under it from printing onto the paper. I had the students do several prints, and each time they were more inventive. Each child evaluated all their prints, proudly chose their best print to mount and made a delightful frame around it with sticks and rocks.

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Building on prior knowledge is the best way to guide effective learning in any subject. This leaf printing art experience allowed students to use their current knowledge to create new knowledge, employ higher cognitive functions of predicting and cause and effect, express themselves artistically and exude pride in their work. That is what art should do.

Shared Canvases

This art experience creates a sense of community in your classroom as each child gets an opportunity to add to every canvas. Children quickly relinquish ownership as they get involved in the fun of painting on other people’s work. With the older children I let each child end on the same canvas they started at and later embellish the canvases to make them their own.

I set up the same number of canvases as there were students, and gave each student a cup of paint with a brush in it. This was their color for the entire class period. I did not give the children their choice of color, as this would likely cause fights over who gets the pink (girls) and black (boys). All of my students know that sometimes you get what you get and were perfectly happy with the color I gave them. As a bonus, this project was a great way to use up small amounts of leftover paint colors. I even mixed a few together.

Just for fun, I didn’t explain the activity to the children ahead of time, I simply asked them to find a canvas and start painting. Actually, not explaining what would happen wasn’t just for my amusement, I did this purposely to keep the element of surprise and let the activity unfold to them in due time. A novel wouldn’t be exciting if the whole story was explained in the first chapter! Working with surprise and uncertainty is a key skill for success in life. All good art experiences have an element of experimentation, and this activity engaged working with unpredictability in a big way!

Each child began in front of “their” canvas, and painted with their color for five minutes. Then we rotated one canvas over to the right, taking our paint cup with us. For the first rotation I helped the children move, as they were a little unsure what to do. After that they all got the idea.
IMG_2709Now everyone had a new canvas to add to. I asked questions to encourage contemplation (“where does this picture need my blue color?”, “what types of lines do you want to make?”). My comments encouraged deliberate painting, fostering thoughtfulness and careful work (“we are not in a rush”, “the whole canvas is available to you”). I see myself as a facilitator in my classroom, helping students create their own art to express themselves, not copying my examples or someone else’s work. I had the students wipe their brush off with a paper towel when it looked a bit grungy. We rotated until everyone had time at each canvas and was back at the one they started on.
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At the end of class, I gave everyone the opportunity to explain their canvas to the group to hone their impromptu thinking and speaking skills. I do not believe in pushing the students who don’t want to speak, this just adds to their fear factor. I have found that they will express themselves to me one on one, then I help them discuss their art with a friend and eventually they work up to speaking to the whole class.

Sharing canvases is a great art experience to get children thinking on their feet, learning to deal with surprises and unpredictability, creating a shared sense of community, and reflecting on their process. That is what art should do.

On The Path of Learning

Art is an experience. It’s not just something to adorn your wall or coffee table. That is the product. What is important is the process. The act of creating is what affects you. Everyone can create, it doesn’t matter if you aren’t “good at art”. This is a huge myth and something too many of us have been told at one point or another. The aim of experiencing art is not to end up with a pretty picture – the joy is in the journey, the thinking, the making, the discussing, the problem solving. I’m writing this blog to chronicle my thoughts, adventures, research, and experiences, as I teach, make, and admire art.

How did I get started on tpathhis path?

My elementary school art teacher was teaching “Project Based Learning” long before the term became educationally cool. I was one of those gifted children, as we used to be called. I did very well in academic classes without much effort. Never mind that I was painfully shy, socially inept and never participated in anything. 

When I was in fourth grade, my little school piloted a Gifted Program, and I was placed in it. I didn’t much mind, at least it got me out of those boring classes for a few hours a day. Our art teacher, Paula, (I don’t remember her last name as we all called her Paula) taught the program. She talked with each of us individually about things we liked to do and were interested in learning more about. With Paula’s help, each student then embarked on a journey, be it for a week or several months, discovering more about something. Some chose to investigate scientific phenomenon, others worked on building machines, doing research (much more difficult in those pre-Google days), or conducting interviews. I chose to learn more about creating art, specifically I wanted to learn to weave, crochet and hook (hey, it was the 70’s). I had enjoyed art ever since I was old enough to hold a crayon, and had not had much opportunity in my 10 years on the planet to explore this interest.

Now instead of dragging myself to school because I was supposed to, I wanted to go. I was fascinated with not only my Gifted Class project but the other kids’ as well. I actually talked with some of the kids during our Gifted Program time, and a handful became what I might have labeled friends. Paula asked open ended questions, showed us how to use resources, facilitated presentations, and helped us along without pushing. A stark contrast to the sit and listen teaching standards of the day, which are unfortunately still in use.

We all ran into difficulties with our projects. This was something most of us were not used to dealing with. There were several times I had to undo large parts of my weaving because I had missed an “over” or an “under”. I had a vision in my head of what I wanted my final product to look like, and was frustrated that I did not have the skills to make it look like that. Paula helped us see the lesson in our attempts, to be okay with struggling, and to move forward from there, getting “back on the horse”. 

In Paula’s class, I learned about persistence and passion, failure as a lesson, and the beauty of self expression. I even learned a little about how to make friends.

Children need a reason to get up in the morning as much as we adults do. Creating is what did that for me. Making art was not simply a pastime, or a hobby, it was a way to learn by doing.

But we should not be using the arts to entice kids to go to school. What we should be doing is infusing our schools with creative endeavors that excite our students, in turn making them want to learn more. Children respond to the experience of creating, whether it be a painting, a screenplay, a machine or a building.

Now that I am a mother and a teacher, it is obvious to me that children need experiential learning in order to become good citizens and adept problem solvers. We learn through process and reflection, and making art is an ideal vehicle for this.

Does it really matter whether the art experience is in an art class or within the daily activities of a classroom? No it does not. (Although I’d certainly like to keep as many art teachers as possible in jobs.) What matters is that children are creating. That they are making something, trying something, doing something. And in turn, learning something. Not facts that anyone can google, but learning something about themselves, about their peers, families, surroundings, and about our world. That is what experiencing art does. I will show you how.