[Reprinted from this week’s post of mine on SidelinesApp.com at http://sidelinesapp.com/item/impressionism-ice-cream-when-kindergartners-meet-claude-monet/?etk=8637593671bece332fc0ee01f6ea9c8715178f6b&utm_medium=email&utm_source=transactional&utm_campaign=notification. You can join the conversation.]
Like the crazy, eccentric art teacher I am, instead of greeting these last days of elementary school by closing up shop and giving every kid that comes into my art room free access to leftover crayons, paper scraps, and the broom, I decided this week to introduce my kindergartners and 1st graders to Claude Monet and the Impressionists. On a whim. On a lark. In a fit of madness. It’s Wednesday evening now, and I can reflect and say: It’s becoming a beautiful experience.
I first found a 10-minute video on Youtube of a nine or ten year old girl going on a “treasure hunt” for light and color, relating Monet’s ennui with the idea of copying the “Masters” in the Louvre to his desire to chase light and to freely paint what he could see around him.
This little girl, with her pageboy haircut and little girl lilt, a sound with which they identify, took my little students on a tour of golden haystacks and myriad irises in and near Giverny, France. She showed them the pond behind her school which reminded her of Monet’s painting, “The Japanese Bridge”, and she regaled them with painting after painting of flowers, flowers and more flowers.
For my second-language learners (most of them), I pulled up Google images of different kinds of haystacks, because ours here in Colorado are mostly rolled like a jelly roll versus stacked like the huts in Monet’s neighboring fields. I also showed my girls and boys, just for good measure, photos of purple and blue irises, choosing one painting, “Irises in Monet’s Garden” to start them on a little oil pastel drawing of their own, letting them experiment with all of the colors, the dots, bright speckles and lines that could be found in their own impression of a garden of flowers Monet-style.
My children are not finished, but they are having fun, and the results are telling. For teachers, these last dog days of wrapping up and report cards and boxes and wired-tired schoolchildren are all summarized in a cute picture that’s circulating on the internet now: It shows a neat, trim and smiling owl professor at the beginning of a school year giving way to a scraggly, worn-down version that looks like the raggediest owl from that 2010 movie, “Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.” You know which one I’m talking about, with his crossed-eyed self.
Yes, we teachers feel like that now. Each day is excruciating. But, for the best of us, each day also presents us with children who in some way need something we have, and in my art room, that is the freedom to be creative, to be exposed to beauty and to new ideas, to have some freedom that other, more necessarily regimented classes cannot provide in a normal school setting. (Even today, a veteran English teacher dropped off some end-of-the-school-year recyclables in my room as kindergartners were leaving, and I could hear her murmuring “Bless you, bless you” to me as she hurried out of my paint-splattered, clay encrusted art space. Better you than me, is how most teachers feel about an active art room where kids can create freely.) Better me than you.
Well, tomorrow’s Thursday, some of them are going on a last-ditch try at a field trip to a farm, re-scheduled several times due to our eclectic Colorado weather. Unless it snows tomorrow (and it’s still May so, here in Colorado, it’s a possibility), my children will wait until Friday to finish their gardens. Some of their oil pastels look amazingly close to Monet’s work at Giverny, some have superheroes sitting amongst the flowers, a few have tomatoes growing and rainbows sprouting, but here, at the end of this school year, days left in my art room, creativity and inspiration lives!
My nine-year-old just asked me, “Mom, where does the ice cream come in?” My answer: Creativity and ice cream go hand in hand in my book!