“Teaching may even be the greatest of the arts, since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” – John Steinbeck
Spearheaded by Anne Rojan, Apple Valley Elementary has recruited artists to volunteer as art instructors once a month. The program has been a tremendous success, and so far I’ve had the rewarding experience of teaching two classes.
Last year I guided kinders in a lesson on symmetry while we made butterflies with oil pastels and watercolors. We traced popsicle sticks for the body of the butterfly and worked hard to make the same shape wing on either side, then filling it all in with bright paint. “Clean your brush!” My husband was the guinea pig and his artwork is now hanging on the fridge at my in-laws as testament to the success of the lesson!
This year, with my glossy art history books in tow (knew they would come in handy someday), I attempted to teach the third graders about Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. It might have been a tad ambitious, but the students’ artwork was stellar and one even declared that the class was “better than learning about wolves!”
I feel so honored to share the time with the teachers, volunteers, and most of all, the kiddos. After each class I leave with more and more respect for teachers- it’s the most important and challenging job of all time, I’m sure of it!
Some of my favorite conversations of the day: “Did you go to school with Vincent Van Gogh?” “Did he know my grandma?” “How do you make the color turquoise?” “MORE PAINT”
I had the most supportive and talented art instructor in high school (thank you Mr. Richards!), and everyday feel grateful for my exposure to art while growing up. In my daily work as a designer I still use the rudimentary skills I learned in all my art classes. In my first watercolor class when I was 8, I learned patience (loads of it) and that fan brushes are cheating. In my first acrylic painting class I learned first hand how to mix colors (and clean my brush, often). And in my first sculpture class I learned that any piece of junk can be made into art. When I remember to think like I was taught in those classes, I remember how to see like a kid again. Fresh eyes, big ideas, loads of “what ifs.”
These kids nailed it, and in turn have inspired me to crack open my art books more often and start painting regularly again. Nothing like the energy of a room full of kids to excite you, exhaust you, and set you back into motion.
And a very big thank you to Anne Rojan and her volunteers for the wonderful afternoons, and for capturing the lesson and artworks!