Last week I brought a couple of boxes of wood pieces over to the after school program where I go once a week. I wasn't able to bring the book I posted about a few weeks ago, it was out of the library, so I brought some photographs of artworks by Betty Parsons. Late in her life she built small, wooden sculptures from driftwood and other wood bits she found at the beach by her home. She would paint them and give them lyrical names like "only the song remained," and "eyes of the sea." I think she also wrote poetry. Besides being an artist, she was also an important gallery owner and supporter of new artists, most notably abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollack. She also supported gay, lesbian and bisexual artists at a time when social oppression was the rule.
We looked at the pictures for a very short time (the kids have been in school ALL DAY and are through with paying attention to a talking adult), and then I gave them each a largish piece of wood for the base of the sculpture. They also received glue and had unlimited access to the boxes of randomly shaped wooden pieces.
It was an incredible success. They became absorbed very quickly (of course, after the obligatory "Do I have to do art today? I don't want to!), and created elaborate abstract and representational sculptures. I worked with three groups, and the last one, the 4 year old boys, especially got into it.
One of my favorite things in the world as a teacher is to watch kids work on a project intensely and independently. That is exactly what I got, and it was especially fun for me because it was the same day that Beckmann and I had gotten our referral pictures and learned more about the boys. I was feeling particularly surreal when I set off to work that afternoon, but had to get into the efficient art teacher mode asap, so I was feeling a bit jangly. The peaceful hum of kids happily working on an art project was just the thing to get me to reenter the real world. Also, the boys are all in pre-k together, and are all 4. We think that our older boy might be closer to 4 than 3, so I was particularly absorbed in watching them that day.
It was a good day. I'm looking forward to doing projects like that with our guys.
To end the project, I provided the kids with Sh@rpie markers with which to add detail to their creations. Some chose to keep the wood natural, but most were thrilled to use the markers, and added some great designs, words and images. And they all wrote their names on them. They LOVE writing their names. Especially the kids who have just learned how to do it.
Yep, a good day.
PS I couldn't get any of my links to Betty Parsons or to my previous post to work, I apologize. I'll work on it. She's easy to Google.