Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Skateboards in the Art Room?!- EES

In what kids would probably say is the most excellent art lesson I have ever taught, kids could be found doing this all down my school hallway:

For real. We got a lot of dropped jaw stares.

Sometimes life throws nifty ideas your way, they roll around in your head, mash up with other information, and come out awesome.

One of my goals as an educator is joy. The joy in riding a skateboard on your tummy around your school hallway, pushed and pulled by a friend of your own choosing, is, well, both obvious and enormous. And creates amazing sound effects:

Another goal of mine is getting students to draw with their nondominant hand.  The thing is, kids tell me that they don't like to draw with their nondominant hand, because it "never looks as good." The solution, I decided, is to get kids to draw bilaterally.

Enter stage left, Heather Hansen- contemporary artist, dancer, queen of bilateral drawing:

Heather Hansen at work. Image via
Enter stage right, Tony Orrico- contemporary artist, dancer, human spirograph:

Tony Orrico at work. Image via
To get my students to draw bilaterally, I know that it needs to start big. Whole body movement, preferably.  So we began with some yoga, and students took turns creating bilaterally symmetrical arm movements for the class to copy. After extensive talk about how students thought these artist might make their work, we watched some video footage of Tony performing:

Drawing with your nondominant hand has all kinds of benefits, as does large, gross motor-style drawing.  Doing it bilaterally, and in a way that was fun and silly, evaporated any potential anxiety about how it would look in the end. A friend shared this on Facebook a while back, and I was already hooked on the idea of figuring out how to include skateboards in my curriculum. The concept rolled around in my head for a while until I realized that this project, and these contemporary artists, were the answer.

This lesson gives tons of space to talk about lots of important art concepts. Symmetry (bilateral symmetry here, like a butterfly), contrast (dark paper works well with light colors, and vice-versa), movement ("action" in art comes up here, like in Jackson Pollock, where the movement is evident in the end work), and material choice (we used chalk and charcoal, but really any drawing and painting implements would work. Dot-a-dot markers might be awesome! Next time it will be great to have the kids choose.) Group work was part of it, too. Partners took turns drawing on the same piece of paper.

Each student chose a movement, and repeated it for a few minutes while their partner shuttled them forward and back. Then, the partners switched for a new color and new movement. This is a process lesson, so the product is quite secondary, and yet, the results are quite stunning.

The papers are very large, and conveniently we have lots of blank space on the walls of our long hallways.

Although I did this lesson with my fifth graders, I have confidence that all  of my students across grades K-5 could do it successfully.

It was a great confidence-building activity, too, and it's not a lesson that a single person worried that they had gotten "wrong," even my hesitant artists.

Want to try it in your classroom? Here are few tips: Collect skateboards for a couple weeks beforehand- kids forget them, even with notes in their backpacks. Have tons of smocks on hand. Pre-cut your roll paper to reasonable lengths to save kids' time. Make sure that you have two each of whatever media you want to offer, one for each hand (two red markers, two aqua chalks, two black charcoal sticks, etc.)

You know art class is about to get awesome when you walk in, only to see...
Want to try it outside in the sunshine? Skip the paper, add traffic cones, and do a temporary art installation on your playground blacktop, driveway, or sidewalk with sturdy bright chalks. It'll stay until it rains.  Video and photograph it, and make a little movie of the experience to share at your art night.

This is a sharing lesson. As in, one that I feel I really, really need to share with all the art teachers I know. And the parents, caretakers, and camp counselors. Try it out! The world, and schools, will be better places the more kids experience joyful, anxiety-free, movement-based learning experiences.

One of my New American students: Mrs. Elliott, what was that guy's name again?
Me: Who, Tony Orrico, the artist we looked at?
Student: Yes, him. I am Tony Orrico, Mrs. Elliott. [hits chest.] That's me. And this is really your job? I would like to be an art teacher someday. I can't believe this is your job. And I am Tony Orrico.

1 comment:

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