Art Mondays: Landscapes
I love art. My obsession began when I was a little girl - I grew up right outside of Washington, D.C. and my parents took us to the Smithsonian museums all the time, most often the National Gallery, consequently one of my most favorite places in the world. Once I threw up there (right by the rotunda). Another time a friend and I pretended we were sick and wheeled around in wheel chairs (I'm not sure why we did this). Another time our seventh grade went there and some kid stuck a Hari-Krishna sticker ("be happy!") right on a Botticelli. Two out of the four times I ever skipped school were to go there (I know, I am such a nerd - one of the other times was to watch the whole 8 hours of Anne of Green Gables & Anne of Avonlea with my friend Suzanne because I don't want sunbursts and marble halls. I just want you). I've taken/dragged all (3) of my significant boyfriends there, and continue to bring boyfriend-3-now-husband and our 3 kids to it as often as I get the chance (which is a lot less now that I live in California and my parents are in Florida for a three year stint, volunteering for our Church). All of this is to make the point that I love art and I really, really, really, really want my children to find the same kind of joy looking at it that I get. It doesn't take anything but your eyes and heart to be moved by a great painting - no fancy clothes or money (*except if you have to buy a ticket to get in to the museum. Another reason that I love the National Gallery - totally free).
I've mentioned before that I'm the art mom in my son's second grade class - my son's teacher is nice enough to let me come in once a week and we have an hour to talk about great artists and great art, and then do a project based on what we've learned (definitely one thing that I've found is that the talking part needs to be really short). The first part of the year (and last year) I was kind of disorganized, just doing this or that, but I've finally tried to get my act together and write up the lessons in little units (like, landscapes, portraits, etc). Here's the first lesson that's in this format - an introduction to landscapes. I'm trying to make it so that if you are interested in doing a similar kind of thing in your child's class you can (if you need a starting point) print this out and have everything you need information-wise to present a little lesson/activity. I need to make the point though that I'm not an "art education professional" - just a mother with a degree in art history, so take it for what it is and absolutely if you have suggestions - send them my way!
A lot of the art activity ideas I use come from MaryAnn F. Kohl's book Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters, a book I highly recommend if you are at all interested in getting your kids into art. Also great is Sandi Henry's Making Amazing Art! 40 Activities using the 7 Elements of Art Design. Really good resources. I often start with an art activity idea from one of these books and then supplement it with more art history - lots of pictures and hopefully a good story or two (the Smart about Art series is excellent). We have an art timeline on the classroom wall, where we post up small images of famous artists' paintings to try and give a little sense of where the art fits in.
Finally - to find some statistics on the impact of the arts in education, see www.americansforthearts.org.