Creature Connections: Building Compassionate Relationships in a Diverse World
Mentor artists interweave concepts of connectedness, compassion, collaboration, and courage. Animal tales from diverse cultures highlight this program. Picture books like Ashley Bryan’s Beautiful Blackbird and The Gigantic Turnip bear an important message for children, conveying themes of difference and collaboration. Listening for subtle messages and sharing theories with the group gives students the opportunity to think deeply. In pairs children design representational collagraphs, working through ideas, developing shared concepts, and writing original stories.
The Art of Story
Linking literacy and art, we read stories with social justice themes and focus on the values of difference, standing up for one’s beliefs, and befriending those in need. We connect messages from How to Heal a Broken Wing and Lennie and Lucy with themes from non-fiction books like Brave Girl. Learning about a girl who goes on strike to protect the rights of her peers empowers young people to dare to make bold changes. With literature as an anchor, small groups create art and stories with powerful messages. As makers, children gain the confidence to believe in themselves and to become active members of their communities.
Working Across Communities
LEAPS’ artists bring 2 groups of students in 2 communities together to experience 1 common theme: connectivity. Children from each school experience Wheeler Bay Wildlife Sanctuary to forge a personal connection to the Maine landscape and initiate a study of animals or insects. Each child chooses a creature to research and designs an elaborate print. Participants from both schools keep journals and offer feedback to a student partner in the cooperating school. In their final week of LEAPS, the 2 schools come together and partners make a collaborative print. If students learn, at a young age, to work across communities through art, they’ll be courageous enough to collaborate and communicate beyond boundaries as adults.
We are all Explorers: The Art of Exploration
Imagine what it means to be an explorer. In an expedition to Wheeler Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, children investigate the landscape. With journals in hand, they document local plant life, find evidence of animals, and record the beauty of their natural surroundings. Ultimately, back in the classroom, kids create original prints inspired by their observations. They examine accounts of historic biologists, inventors, and local artists. One child said, “Hey! We’re learning history, but it’s a fun way of learning history!” Like the individuals they have studied, kids realize the value of keeping detailed journals of their own, tracking their insights and LEAPS’ experiences, and becoming skilled printmakers.
Galvanizing Connections between the Landscape and Ourselves
Investigating the beauty of their local landscape, children build intimate connections with the land while creating expressions of their “home place.” They become keen observers of the “world close by,” designing motifs inspired by walks in the woods or by the water. They work in journals, make prints, and write poetry, integrating ideas from books like Sail Away and House Held up by Trees. Their final artworks combine images from nature with unique self-portraits. Young people learn that when they are rooted in nature, they have the strength to stand firm and become change makers in a changing world.