Having a Blast

I’m getting more and more involved with my Madera School District art teaching. Madera Arts Council asked me to take on daytime teaching in addition to the after school teaching. So I did. Daytime is different from after school. Daytime is structured just like an ordinary classroom while after school is unstructured.  We’re relaxed in afterschool. I teach the same concepts but it’s not in the context of a specific project.  After school kids are exhausted from a long day and they just want to chill. So we chill. We sit around and draw animé or manga subjects, for example, because they’re really into it anyway and I insert pointers, ideas and philosophy as the need comes up.

In daytime classroom I have a structured project that I have to accomplish start to finish in one hour. I decided to have the 4th graders make their versions of cave paintings. It was a rousing success.

My kids loved their first lesson and can’t wait for the next. We were short on paint brushes, but I was able to find some of my old ones in my cabinet. All in all, the kids had a lot of fun with Renée.

Mindy Ruz, 4th grade teacher, Madison Elementary

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I start by showing pictures of real cave paintings from Spain and France and we talk about them a little. Remember, I don’t have much time. I say we’re going to talk about the first artists, the first artist studio and spray paint. We look at the paintings and I ask the kids what they see.

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They all yell out “It’s a buffalo!”

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It’s a horse!

They’re all more than eager to speak out which is terrific. I wish I could just have them make comments because all the comments are so good. But we move on. I tell them don’t ever let anyone tell you art is not important. Just think. 30,000 years ago people thought art was so important that they sought out quiet places, the first artist studio, to make their art. I tell them you can see that art has been important for a long, long time. Then I tell them about spray paint. I tell them we aren’t going to do this in class but that I want them to know how that silhouette of the hand (of a person a lot like us 30,000 years ago. Imagine that!) was probably made. Probably the artist took a bunch of muddy liquid in their mouth and spurted it out in a spray. They all grimace. I say it wasn’t toxic but it probably didn’t taste very good.

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Our ancestors

So we begin the project. It’s controlled chaos and they’re all into it. When we’re done 55 minutes later and it’s time to clean up they’ve done a  real good job. I’ve had to get out my favorite admonishment maybe only once. Can’t do it? That’s ok. I’m OK with you saying that. But I want you to add a word to that sentence. I want you to add the word “yet” as in “I can’t do this… yet.” Art takes practice and, trust me, when I was your age I drew just like you. But I never gave up. That’s what it takes. So give yourself a break and..

let me see what you’re doing and how we might make it more to your liking.

My favorite part comes when I say now I want you to do something with your almost finished drawing. I tell them to hold it up. A little suspense does not hurt. Then I demonstrate. I wad the drawing up. I revel in the shocked expressions on their faces. I tell them. No worries. Just carefully unwad it and see how it now looks more like “rock” when it’s all crinkly.

We’re expanding minds here, folks. Let’s think outside the box.

It’s a good project that I came up with. I didn’t really know if it would work or not but turns out it does. The kids learn something and they’re having a blast. Isn’t that the best way to learn something?

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8 thoughts on “Having a Blast

  1. Ann H October 23, 2016 / 9:49 pm

    Wonderful!

    • Renee-Lucie Benoit October 24, 2016 / 12:28 am

      Thanks Ann! And if you don’t object I am going to follow your blog. One way to stay in touch, huh?

  2. julia ross October 24, 2016 / 4:40 am

    Fantastic lesson plan and I know the kids will never forget it. You’ve made a big impact.

  3. Ron van Wiggen October 24, 2016 / 6:32 am

    oh (wo)man! This is great!! You being a teacher as well!
    I love what you tell and show them AND that you have something besides your farm. Looks like everything’s coming together at last.
    Well done.

    • Renee-Lucie Benoit October 24, 2016 / 1:52 pm

      Thanks Ron! Yes, it is coming together. s…l…o…w…l…y

  4. Linda October 24, 2016 / 9:35 pm

    They did amazing work…I love the hands!

    • Renee-Lucie Benoit October 24, 2016 / 10:21 pm

      They did, didn’t they! But I think you mean the conglomeration of hands image. That was actually by the cave artists from 30,000 years ago if I’ve figured right. Isn’t that crazy? What people did so long ago? It just proves (to me) that art is a very important part of human life that should not take a back seat to more “practical” considerations. It should be right up there along side all the other studies.

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