Leese, Art Docent – Impressionist Autumn Tree Project

I’m a fan of arts programs. If it weren’t for art, I truly wouldn’t be where I am today.  I was fortunate to have had piano lessons and art influence from my mother and teachers as a child. With kids spending much time in front of a screen these days, experiencing tangible art is a rare occasion.

The budget cuts in California have greatly affected public schools. Even though I lean towards the more conservative side, it saddens me to see art and music programs cut. Luckily, there are many parents who volunteer to fill in those gaps at my daughter’s school. So when my daughter’s 3rd grade teacher had a sign-up sheet for volunteers, I stepped out of my comfort zone and signed up to be the art docent. I never thought of myself as a good teacher—nevertheless a good teacher to other people’s kids.

Let me tell you – my daughter’s whole grade level has been labeled, “fire babies” since Kindergarten. The teachers have cautioned each other whenever this class moves on. These kids are super smart, quick-thinking, imaginative but CAN NOT SIT STILL or be quiet for that matter. It’s like a certain energy is bubbling inside them that they have release in other ways. So you can only imagine my apprehension to be in front of a class that constantly “buzzes.” Also, these kids are almost as tall as me (’cause I’m short). Well, at least we’ll see eye-to-eye! **insert rimshot here**

Taking their busy-ness into account, I came up with a quick and and easy art project that would appeal to their senses. They need color, contrast, and a semi-controlled freedom. “Semi-controlled freedom?” Yes. Knowing these kids, they always want to move on and are always asking, “What’s next?!” After doing some research online for a fall-themed idea, I found this photo in a search:

 Autumn Sunset Dreams by Lena Karpinsky

Now THAT was cool. I “3rd-grade-ized” the project by using flat paintbrushes instead of palette knives (can you imagine kids just stabbing those things into their desks?). We “dotted” tempera paint instead of “scraped” colors. I made a sample to show the class:

The kids loved the sample and were anxious to get to painting. As expected, the “What’s next?!” came up time and time again. It was easy as telling them a color and doing a demonstration on how to get the colors to blend but keep the strokes seen.

The kids work turned out amazing. It was so vibrant and they were all very proud of their project.

Even though there was never a moment where all the students were sitting down, they thrived while doing this project. The most amazing thing was the transformation of the more challenging students. They were able to pay attention, be better behaved, and SIT STILL. Oh. My. Goodness. If that’s not testimony for having an art program, I don’t know what is.

I can’t tell you enough about how it’s important to volunteer at your child’s school. Even if it’s not art… offer to help staple homework sheets or sharpen pencils. Don’t have time to be at school? Take home a project… perhaps collating papers or correcting classwork. Your kid will love that you are supporting their education and they will see that’s important to you as it is to them.

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