Friday, April 29, 2016

Encouraging Teachers to Play with Materials

A couple weeks ago,  I was invited as a visiting artist to
Ed Pazzanese class "Art-infused Early Childhood Education
Activities" at the Urban College here in Boston.  I visited last
year as well and had such a good time with his "students", I
gladly came again.  His students are teachers and caretakers
in a combination of headstart, preschool, kindergarten, and
other situations supporting young children.  After working
all week long, these amazing folks show up for a 4 hour
class on Saturday mornings to further their education. One has
a dream of starting her own schools.  Ed's philosophy
of education is deeply rooted in the child centered Reggio
Emilia approach to early childhood. To use his words,
this course"focuses on the interplay between art, play, literacy
and the environment. "  His course is filled with great readings,
writing challenges. active discussion  and lots of experiential
practicum in the arts.(Check out the artwork created using
masking tape created at a previous class on the wall here:
The class began with a discussion of the value and importance of
developing multi-generational programs. Ed had previously shown
the students a video of the Families Creating  Together organization 
he  began a number of years ago whose focus is offering opportunities
for families to gather  in a multi-generational and inclusive
environment, welcoming adults and children with and without
disabilities and offering Spanish and sign language interpreters
if needed.  I led a "our neighborhood our stories"  mixed media
workshop for FCT last summer...will lead another this summer...
it's an amazing group!! Judy Battat, FCT program advisor and
evaluator was there this Saturday to talk about FCT and other
programs she is involved in. 

After a break, it was my turn to present  -
The art challenge this Saturday was to use the various recycle
materials Ed picked up at Extras for Creative Reuse 
plus some materials I and some students brought and
to create a city scene...could be imaginary or realistic. The students
were divided up into two group tables..and told to try to look at
the materials from a kids' point of view.  Then each create
something which would be combined with the others to
create a story scene...requiring working together in a cooperative
way (sometimes a challenge for adults and children.) At the
conclusion, each person told about their part...and then one
or two people wove a story incorporating them all.

Some dug right in, others took a little longer to come up with ideas,
not unlike the variation in children I would guess.  With support
from others, ideas were stirred and structures emerged: 
I was pleased to see that some ideas begun, morphed into something
else.. (a fence into a track for a subway car..with car..) The individual
pieces and use of materials (ribbons for wall covering for example)
were quite wonderful.   We had everything from city street scenes
(complete with bicycle and sports car:
To dress shop, hotel, Prudential Tower with water fountain with tossed coins:

  even a car wash (check out the face on the happy car being washed!)
To backyard scenes with BBQ and places to relax:

In the end each group gathered round while the table participants
presented their piece and combined all into a single story or two...
If we had had more time those stories could have gone on and on..

 A granddaughter came with her Nana and enjoyed the final
results:  That's the morphed orange line subway car on the track
in the center I mentioned earlier.

Last year when I worked with Ed's class, the materials were
a little more challenging and odd...the end results ended
up more in the imaginary realm...made me realize the impact
of exactly what materials are presented.  These creations
were wonderful, but another time, I think it would be
fun to challenge even more.

It will be fun to hear what from this experience the students
took back to their classrooms.  Last year Ed reported
many did similar projects albeit it ones geared to appropriate
ages in their classrooms.  

I admire tremendously Ed's passion for spreading the
importance of art infused education to promote
problem solving,  creative thought,  cooperation and
skill development . I'm still working up the exact description
for the 5 weekly mixed media workshops I will be leading
for the Families  Creating Together this July..tentative title
"Story Creatures".

But before then...tomorrow I'm gathering folks at the
Hawthorne Youth and Community Center to make
signs for the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute's  Mother's
Day Walk for Peace....and to share community stories. 
The theme for this year's walk is  "Celebrating the Courage
of Community".  I'm heading up a team to walk in honor
of the director of HYCC who died last year...after
a lifetime of commitment to families and community.

More about the LDB Peace Institute and the walk in
my next post.

Peace and onward!    Wendy

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