Art rooms are busy places. For much of the school year, the heartbeat in our studios is a rapid one. Our schedule is set up to support our colleagues' shared planning time as well as their students' fine arts/library/PE needs. Because of that, an entire grade level is with us, albeit all over the building, for their designated specialist time. The pace is intense for lots of good reasons - kids are naturally curious and the wise adult provides LOTS of choices to keep them focused on learning; our standards and benchmarks are comprehensive and detailed so we have to hit the palette running to have half a chance at meeting expectations, and, as is the case in all schools, there just aren't enough hours in the day.
Still, following the sage's advice, "If you want something done, ask a busy person," there are additional tasks that are done "for the good of the order," to celebrate hard work, or, frankly, just to celebrate. What school improvement committee work can't be improved by siting it at a broad studio table surrounded by brilliantly colored child art and accompanied by an obscenely large tote full of chocolate in the center? Is there any day that's too busy to drop what you had in mind for planning time, pack up your French horn, and introduce her to a couple of classes of Mozart-loving second graders? What better activity for a winter teacher conference day - when people are coming and going and an artist might just need to drop buy and......decorate an edible masterpiece? And what about the care and feeding of the most vertebraically gifted inhabitant of the program? We offer public interaction (with a parent permission slip and snake lover hallway pass, of course, and don't you think those are some interesting conversations over the dinner table?) every month or so at feeding time. Sometimes it's just the art club kiddos and me, but Jezebel has a few slightly taller, adult friends, too. A couple of "cases in point:" Mr. E and Ms. B have worked hard on their snake befriending skills over the past two years. Initial reticence has given way to closer interactions, more and more comfort closer to a goal of actually touching Jezebel, and, finally, full contact snaking. I present to you the latest members of the "I don't like all snakes - just this one" club. One set of pictures proudly made the rounds of family and friends and the second set actually had to be printed out in wallet-sized versions so a certain teacher's mother could share with all of *her* friends. I'll let you guess, fair readers.
In my first visit since the new hip debuted just over a week ago, I found the art classroom in yet another metamorphosis - plant hospital and spa. We did surgery on a waterlogged angel-leaf begonia, re-potted several leggy pot poaching types, and watered the collection that's grown into a lovely jungle. Art and kids and plants and kids and animals and kids and cookies and kids and people who like being around kids and kids. Yep. I'm in the right place.
One, actually, but she's a beauty. I've been a snake hobbyist for years and currently have two red-tailed boas. Fractal and Jezebel are eight years old this year and are great pets. Boas are mellow by nature and kids are fascinated by them, which makes them good classroom visitors. Jez first visited during fun day (when we reward all our well behaved ducklings with a free choice specialist day) just before the holidays. She travels with a big cage, ceramic heater, clip-on lamp, and a smile. There's a short facts poster near her cage and lots of counter space so artists can get “up close and personal” with crayons, markers, or paints.
So we have snake paintings – full splashes of vivid color (some kids like to liberate Jezebel from her natural camouflage) and careful colored pencil drawings and lots of melted crayon masterpieces.
Snakes fit in well with several parts of the curriculum so Jez has visited classrooms learning about animals who molt (and left some primo, laminated sheds behind for teachers to share) rain forests, and reptiles. She's good, quiet company and students love visiting with her through the glass.
What can I say? Sssssssssssssssssssssssssshe's good company!