Children’s Art Program

Today was the first day teaching the Children’s Saturday Studio art program; on the whole it was hectic and not entirely organized, but a good time was had by all, and the kids kept busy and made fun books. I was on a team with Susan, and Elii, who’s daughter was helping along with one of the ARE 200 students, and Mike, because there were so few kindergartners. My group had decided that each of us should be responsible for a different week, designing the lesson, doing most of the prep work, and teaching most of the class. This was my week, and I was doing Lotus books with little pop-up mouths, and pockets with wee little accordion books. The kids stayed busy pretty much the whole time, and most of them finished everything, although some decided to decorate their books other ways and skip the pop-up.

My teaching style is to teach students individually or in very small groups if I can possibly help it, so I was having a bit of difficulty when it came to teaching the entire class at once, which was sometimes necessary (and Susan kept suggesting I do more of). One thing that makes teaching a medium to large-sized group more difficult is that I have a squeaky little voice (I’ve been told that I could get a job doing voiceovers for animated children), which doesn’t project well to either get kids attention or instruct from across the room, so Susan had to keep intervening so they’d know when to pay attention to some more instruction. I’m not really sure what to do about that for elementary grades, where at least some noise can hardly be helped. In high school I suppose I could just have everyone pretty close and quiet, and talk in a normal voice, and then spend a lot of time going around working one-on-one. From my experience in summer camp, if there are more than 20 students I think I’d need a whistle.

We had second and third graders, who are one off the larger groups, with about 20 kids. That wasn’t a problem since we had six adults and a teen teaching or helping, but it would be an awfully daunting task to teach that many on my own!

I was wondering — what are teachers supposed to do when they have one or two students who may have already done the the project they have planned for that day? Because on the one hand, it usually wouldn’t be practical to change things too much for them, but I’d also feel kind of bad just having them do the exact same thing again. I was wondering because I had one kid who I’ve taught the book we were working on to before, but there were enough things added that it was still somewhat interesting for him.

After class I went down to the Ceramics complex for a shift tending the new train kiln. On the way I ran into quite a large high school marching band, complete with flag dancers and very large white feathers in their hats, walking down the road in formation , apparently headed to a northern Arizona band competition in the vicinity of the Dome. It was a somewhat surreal experience, just walking up and seeing all those uniforms, and especially the very prominent feathers.

They didn’t really need me to help with the train, so I hung around, and unloaded part of the wood/wood soda kiln that had finished firing earlier this week. There was quite a lot of really nice stuff coming out both of those and off the older train kiln which was being unloaded at the same time. They’re both going to be re-loaded tomorrow so that we can fire them again for the conference. I had signed up to fire the wood-soda kiln tonight, but since it’s between firings, I’m off the hook. There seem to be a great many people there who actually seem to enjoy spending 10 hour days stoking fires, and I don’t feel at all guilty for letting them do it instead of me, as that’s not exactly my cup of tea.

Week II

This week Susan was in charge and teaching on “movie books.” I thought it went quite well, and spent the majority of class time wandering around the studio helping kids who seemed somewhat unclear about how to proceed, checking out cool books, and at the end I sat down with some of the kids and we made lotus books. It went well. Not too much to say else.

Week III

Yup, that’s right: we passed the midway point of the Children’s Art Program with week three: instructing kindergartners in the construction and decoration of accordion fold books with pockets. For a good description of how things went and some pictures, check out the respective blogs of Susan or Elii. Otherwise, it was pretty fun; today was my 20th birthday, so I ran out of class as soon as it was over to go hiking in Oak Creek Canyon with some friends, and they threw me a little tea party before we all went to vespers together. It was cool, but I was pretty distracted at the art program as well; too much so to gain many deep or meaningful insights.

Week IV

Today Elii was in charge of the lesson with an accordion story book and a hidden pages book to first and second grade children. The first (main) project was the accordion book; it was made with six pages that were each (something like) 4 1/4″ x 11,” each folded in half, taped together, and then accordion-folded into book form and glued into a cover. It’s constructed so that the viewer can either view each two-page spread individually, or can unfold the entire book and see it as one continuous image.

In her example book, which she brought last week as well, Elii had drew the Amazon river as it makes its journey from the high mountain springs down to the sea; each spread has a different emphasis, such as the river’s mountain origins, jungle creatures, most notably a jaguar stopping for a drink, and a little boy who makes a wee sailing boat and sends it down the river. One thing I found neat about her idea is how when it folds out everything flows together into one continuous narrative picture. The other example book, which Elii’s son had made was a pirate story with pictures and text; it was pretty neat.

To introduce the activity Elii showed her example books and read the kids a story about two boys living a while back, and their respective trips to another town, one by train and the other on foot.

For anyone interested, Elii also had a hidden picture book that she had adapted from the Exquisite Corpse ones we had been considering making before. Instead of all the page sections having the possibility of interacting with any others, as with the Corpse, each page was self-contained, but little flaps could be pulled back to reveal another page underneath. I don’t think anyone, including Elii, got quite that far though.

I thought it somewhat interesting what the kids did and didn’t know about the conventions of bookmaking. For instance, some of them would remember to sign the cover with “written and illustrated by,” but would have their book open from the left side rather than the right. Many of them were very interested in spelling and letters, which I suppose probably reflects an emphasis in first grade at school. Susan explained to several of the kids one-on-one about what needs to go into a story, and what every story should have. Were I to teach this lesson in a classroom I would probably either coordinate with the classroom teacher on a language and visual arts project, and have him or her teach how to write a story, keep it purely visual, or give a brief lesson on what goes into a story, and what a book needs to have. The kids had a lot of fun ideas, and definitely copied ideas off of each-other, especially at one table, where all three ended up doing horse stories somewhat like Black Beauty. I was especially interested in one child who decided not to do a story at all, but rather an informational book about science experiments and the workings of technology like car engines and hot air balloons. Many of the kids were starting to lose focus by the end of class though; I’m not sure what I’d do about it, other than perhaps have art for an hour twice rather than two hours once.


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