Creature Connections: Building Compassionate Relationships in a Diverse World
Mentor artists interweave concepts of connectedness, compassion, collboration, and courage. Tales of animals 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 collagraphs, working through ideas, developing shared concepts, and writing original stories.
All children love animals, and many want to become experts. Class meetings begin with a sharing of little known data from animal habitats to unusual creature behaviors. Kids become researchers, make connections, point out differences, and learn to apply thinking skills in the context of their studies. Children collaborate on works of art, having chosen an animal that piques their interest.
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 do something bold. 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.
Self and Place in Art: Mapping the Landscape and Ourselves
Each of us views the natural world through a lens that has meaning for us. Considering the local landscape, students take an imaginative leap and create their own original destinations. They make stamps of elements to include while trying out an array of printmaking techniques. Self-portraits give students a chance to envision themselves anew, using color, shape, and line. At the heart of the investigation is a belief that to fully have “a sense of place,” one must first come to know oneself.
We are all Explorers: The Art of Exploration
Imagine what it means to be an explorer in winter. Launching our expedition at the Langlais Sculpture Preserve, children investigate the enormous wooden animal sculptures crafted by a local artist, his studio, and the natural world that inspired the man. With journals in hand, they document signs of animals, then create original stamps of tracks they’ve seen. Back in the classroom, young explorers look through the eyes of Matthew Henson, Robert Peary, and his young daughter who lived among the Inuits. “Hey! We’re learning history, but it’s a fun way of learning history!” one child remarked on a recent journey. And children are keeping authentic journals of their own, tracking their LEAPS’ experience. Artwork focuses on creating an original landmass and an atmospheric watercolor paper prepared as a backdrop for students’ landscapes.
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 their 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 the nature, they have the strength to stand firm and become change makers in a changing world..