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It Takes a Whole Art Colony to Raise a Child

A confident kinderflowerA confident kinderflowerThe quality of the work created by artists in this building is amazing. Evergreen is a special place in several ways but one of the coolest is the different ways my colleagues nurture and grow artistic expression by our students. I see examples all the time, and sometimes I'm bright enough to capture them on camera.

Our dual language school uses a powerful teaching/learning strategy called A lesson in picture and textA lesson in picture and textGLAD. The letters stand for Guided Language Acquisition Design. A visit to a GLAD classroom offers up a rich visual smorgasbord of charts, drawings, maps, posters, and other highly visible written language - in both languages - that supports lessons. Using this much variety to allow learners to access knowledge is part of essential scaffolding that good teachers use all the time. GLAD takes classic scaffolding techniques, adds lots of oral language support, and uses a wide variety of graphic organizers that kidsFlorFlor and teachers employ to share new knowledge. Artistic talent is visible all over the place. One of the techniques that's used employs making drawings of vocabulary words. Another has teachers draw a nearly transparent pencil drawing of a topic of study - say, a flowering plant - on a large sheet of butcher paper. After it's laminated, a dry erase marker or washable pen can be used to "draw" the parts of the plant as children discuss them. Here's looking at you!  (Sorry - couldn't resist...)Here's looking at you! (Sorry - couldn't resist...) Labels in the target language are added and used repeatedly during the unit for reference, to practice the words, or to check spelling during writing assignments. Nobody makes a big deal about relative skill in drawing, but it's clear that lots of practice yields up comfort with lots of public drawing. Teachers model drawing, kids use it extensively, and the art teacher smiles all the time.

A well-loved story with lots of dramaA well-loved story with lots of drama




Art is visible throughout our building and it's not always generated in the Evergreen Studios. A bulletin board close to the kindergarten rooms broke out in pumpkins recently, and the effect is glorious. Pumpkin Town!Pumpkin Town! We see clear evidence of wise teachers who choose projects that extend their children's learning rather than narrowing it into "class set" types of projects. One of the fascinating aspects of this quality of learning is the deep understanding a teacher gains about children during their work. Find the face?Find the face?The child who painted this picture really, REALLY wanted to do a Jack-O-Lantern, even though the story that was being shared was about whole pumpkins. His teacher quietly observed how he painted characteristic triangle eyes and jagged mouth, then used that darker paint to blend and shade the pumpkin. While she noted the beautifully controlled blending, he just smiled.Glorious, celebratory pumpkinsGlorious, celebratory pumpkins
The story line and requisite vines meandered across the bulletin board - beautiful...The story line and requisite vines meandered across the bulletin board - beautiful...

Cloudy with a chance of Spiderman - AKA Collaboration

First there was one Spiderman...First there was one Spiderman...Sometimes art is an individual sport. We spend much time quietly inside our own space, planning and thinking and following our ideas to a solitary conclusion. Other times, the synergy that's generated by working side by side simply carries us away. Meet two talented groups of artists: One, kindergarten collaborators at the drawing center on a recent sunny afternoon. It was one of those days where students practically flew to their studios, ideas screaming to get out of their imaginations and onto paper. I like to have a happy buzz of engaged kid noise going in the classroom, and that day's decibel level was close to perfect. Voices were soft enough that the walls didn't vibrate and loud enough that I could follow conversations if I practiced a little selective hearing. When I looked over at the drawing center, all four heads were excitedly bent over paper and pencils. The thread of the conversation was a little too fast for my translation abilities, but I could see the reason for the thrill. A tiny Spiderman was replicating himself on three separate sheets of paper. By the time I moved closer to see, it was no longer possible to tell the difference between the teacher and the disciples. Ta DA!Ta DA!Wide smiles looked up from nearly identical drawings and the joy in their production was almost palpable. We acquire skills in so many ways. One of the best ways is at the elbow of a friend. Today the Spiderman drawings are identical, but soon they'll begin to show signs of individuality soon. It's also the perfect time for me to share some ways to depict tall buildings, since Spidey is so fond of swinging between them. We'll see if the boys are still in full spider mode when they come back to me in a few days.

The building session begins.The building session begins.

Exhibit #2 in the collaboration realm is a little different. The large set of unit blocks gets a fair amount of attention from children who love to create all sorts of buildings. When this crew of four third graders (the maximum for the blocks center, since it has to be rolled on and off the carpet between center choosing and cleanup) began to build, nobody noticed anything out of the ordinary. This class gets along together well, yields few behavior issues, and is usually a pleasure in the art studios. A museum is born.A museum is born.Each child has an idea of what he or she wants to do in art each day and it's their "norm" to get right to work. Even though they're my last group of the day, they bring quiet energy and a steady, focused interest to their work.

More planning is seen as builders confer.More planning is seen as builders confer.As our architects began to build, they quietly planned their structures as they chose blocks. Instead of the large, group-built structure we see often, each member of the team began putting together his or her own part of the "city." As they worked, classmates in other studios started to notice how the builders were creating something a little different. With quiet voices and encouragement to the other three, each of the group helped to distribute specific blocks that were needed around the carpet. Passageways were built to connect four separate structures. Excitement built even further as the students realized that by working as a team they'd used every block on the cart. ...and more progress...and more progressSurveying their city, pride shone on four faces. "Don't you have any more blocks, Ms. J? We're not really finished yet." I offered them a collection of green foam blocks that I'd cut out of upholstery foam and they happily went back to work. As they completed a city wall that Out come the green foam blocks.Out come the green foam blocks.nearly encircled their work, one student noticed wistfully, "But there aren't enough to go all the way around." I asked, "What could be the reason it's unfinished?" and another student said, "That's where the ocean meets the city!" The rest of the class applauded the city and recognized the unabashed glee that was being telegraphed by the team. We spent a moment smiling at each other (and taking more pictures, of course) and then it was time for clean up. True to form, the whole class did a great job at that, too. Voila, a completed masterpiece!Voila, a completed masterpiece!

Collaboration - one essential element of a comprehensive art program.

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