Art

Not just for kids.

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We were working on our clay sculpture. For this project in fourth grade I have my students use white Model Magic clay, and they customize the colour by using markers. I use the theme Where the Wild Things Are and talk about how Maurice Sendak, and Max as the character in the book, use their imagination to create a way to deal with the feelings that seem to most get them into trouble: anger, frustration, anxiety and even an over-active source of energy. It sure beats taking it out on someone else. But like anything, responding to and processing these feelings through art is a learning process. Art as therapy is important to talk about.

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I like to do clay towards the end of the school year because my students love it and it gives us something to look forward to. Also because it is the time of year for state standardized testing, and everyone at school is feeling a little on edge. Providing some clay to pound and poke and knead is a way to let the art be a release. This clay is my biggest expense in my budget, but it has proven worth it.

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So on this particular day we were creating "Wild Things." The only rule is that they make a living creature and use their imagination.

In addition to having the classroom teacher in the room with me, I also, on occasion have a Teacher's Aide in the room to assist with particular children. After the instructions were given and my students were actively engaged in creating, the Teacher's Aide came up to the front of the room to inspect my samples of clay Wild Things.

"Did you make all these?" She asked, leaning in close to see their tiny details.

"I did," I said.

"Oh wow. So nice. You did a good job."

"Thank you," I said.

I noticed her deep interest. She wasn't looking just to be kind or give me accolades. I could tell she was really taking the figurines in, contemplating what it would entail to form the pieces and put them together.

"Do you want a package of clay to try it out?" I asked her.

She waved me away in dismissal saying, "Oh, no no no," but I noticed her intrigue in scoping out the clay Wild Things did not wane.

I let her be, as I walked around the room to assist. Her student she was there to help was creating a fascinating WALL-E just fine on his own.

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At the end of class I gave the Teacher's Aide a package of clay. "Here, take this," I said. "I think you'll enjoy it. And if you make something, take a picture. I'd love to see what you come up with." I was afraid she would fight me on it, insist not to take the clay, but she didn't.

"Thank you so much," she said. "I do think I will enjoy this. I will take a picture."

I was so touched by her soft demeanor, her quiet observance, her obvious excitement, albeit subdued. To have someone connect with a particular form of art is always so inspiring to me. Seeing intrigue and wonder on someone's face light me up as a teacher. It's such a reward when someone wants to take an art idea and run with it. I have come to appreciate it deeply in children, but it is far rarer in adults. So when a teacher gets involved I can't help smiling ear to ear.

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The following week in my third grade art classes I had a teacher participate with her students in their clay sculpture project with the theme of Angry Birds (focusing on 3D forms like cube, sphere and triangular prism or pyramid). She created this awesome old lady Angry Bird who looks to have had her feathers ruffled.

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Then, in a fourth grade clay class at my other school I had a teacher ask me, "Do you take requests?" To which she followed up with the question, "Can you make me a Yoda?"

For her I created a Yoda figurine with an empty speech bubble. Her intent being to take photos of it and then layer different text over the speech bubble via her phone.  Pictured above is the first one she made. This teacher wouldn't consider herself an artist and wasn't interested in working with the clay, BUT she came up with a great idea and asked an artist for help implementing it.

I thought the speech bubble was such a brilliant, outside the box idea, which is why an engaged, active and participatory art room can be such an inspiring place to get to hangout. Always something to learn!

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