Appreciating Student Artwork

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One of my new favorite things is looking at children’s’ artwork. It can be messy, the colors can be muddy, but oh my goodness are the kids proud of it. A child’s first attempt at something new is kind of magical.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I taught a lesson on pattern last week.  I related it to a book I had since I was eight years old about a Ndebele girl named Thandi who had patterns all over her house. This week, the kindergarteners and first-graders are taking the patterns they made and cutting them into houses to make a Ndebele inspired classroom “village” to be displayed in front of their classrooms. My second graders are going to cut their patterns into African masks and overlap new patterns and shapes on them.

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The excitement of the younger grades about trying something new is rewarding all by itself. They’re not afraid of what anyone is going to say to them, for the most part. They just want to jump in and make something. If they complete the project and feel successful, it’s great. If they “mess up” (I tell them it’s impossible to mess up in art) and find a way to create around their “oops” and be happy with their end result, it’s nothing short of a masterpiece to me.

Among the many things I’ve learned in the Art Education MAT program is that when young students (or actually people of every age in general) create, they’re activating higher order thinking skills and honing their problem solving abilities. Making art engages multiple brain modalities. When children create, they’re giving you a glimpse of how they interpret their world and how they would enhance it with their imagination. I think that’s something to be celebrated and cultivated.