Wednesday, March 28, 2012


For the past several years, our preschool class, along with the preschool class in the room next-door to us, teach a two-week segment introducing our students to some of the world's most famous artists, and their different styles of artwork.  Then, we pay tribute to the artists that we have studied, by creating an art project, that, in some way, reflects the style of each individual, or some element of their work.  Finally, we host a museum, housed in the school library, to showcase all the talent of our own young artists. Their work is always extraordinary.
The artists included this year are:
Van Gogh-impasto painting/sunflowers
Picasso-puzzle pieces/Cubism, one color painting/The Blue Period
Matisse-snail collage/The Snail
Chagall-stained glass vases
Louis Comfort Tiffany-Tiffany "hurricane" lamps
Rauschenberg-beach combine/driftwood collections
Monet-water-color painting
Pollock-action art
Seurat-dotted suns/Pointillism
Stratton-class mosaic/pewabic pottery
Mondrian-blocks with limited color palette
Arp-collage of happy accidents/random art
Cezanne-still life fruit/still life painting
To quote Picasso, "Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain one once he grows up." 

Thursday, March 1, 2012


When I was a child, the arrival of a new home appliance was a matter of great importance to all the children in the neighborhood.  This was not because we coveted our neighbor's new refrigerator or washing machine; we merely coveted the box that the refrigerator or washing machine was delivered in.  That cardboard packaging was a canvas, upon which, one could bring to life possibilities limited only by a child's own imagination and the amount of elbow grease he or she was willing to expend to realize those visions.  They were pirate ships, or skyscrapers, hidden in plain sight, waiting to be coaxed into existence by hard-working children, and the loving adults who helped foster their creative notions. Possessing an appliance box elevated ones status with all the other children in the neighborhood too, for each child instinctively knew that appliances were not the only things housed within those boxes; days of fun and play dwelled within them, as well. Sadly, the day would arrive when that noble vessel of childhood's imagination would be discarded, and life would resume as normal; leaving children to hope, wistfully, for the early demise of another home appliance, as quickly as possible.
During those days, when my husband and I were children, creative play was a daily staple, with television viewing kept to a minimum, and computer games not even yet conceived of.  Days were spent playing outdoors, in warm weather or cold, filled with healthy exercise for both body and mind.  Occasionally, creative play could sometimes yield unexpected consequences, such as when my husband was playing pirate and buried his brother's coin collection in the alley, but, regardless of whether our play resulted in praise or in punishment, knowledge was always gained from the experience...even if we didn't realize it, until many years later.  During an era when play was not always scheduled or structured, our ability to entertain ourselves taught us how to be self-sufficient. .As we labored together, making our own backyard ice rink to skate on, we, unknowingly, discovered the benefits of team work.  The time we spent with garden hoses, building up the surface upon which to skate, taught us to be patient, and that hard-work and time are two of the important ingredients needed for success.  Skating on that rink was empowering, for we understood, that, even though we were children, we held within ourselves the power to create something on our own; needing little more than our willingness to work, along with a bit of ingenuity. The instant gratification derived from throwing ones skates into the car and driving over to one of the well-kept rinks provided at our city parks, could never equal the joy we experienced from skating on that, less than perfect surface, we had created in our own backyard.  We knew that it had risen, like a phoenix out of the ashes; as the snowy landscape was magically transformed, using little more than boards, shovels, snow and water, to do so.  As I have so often said before, it was a wonderful time in which to grow up, and we are, each of us, the people we are today, because of those teachable moments we experienced in our past.
Recently, I watched the news on the television, as the events of yet another school shooting were being described.  It caused me to wonder if, sometimes, we fail to provide today's children with the same tools that we were given.   Fast-paced, often violent computer games and hours of unsupervised television viewing are poor substitutes for those precious moments a parent needs to spend with a child, to lay that all-important foundation, upon which, that child's future will depend.  I think many children today are lonely and isolated; never learning the give and take of interacting with others.  They are unaware of their own worth and abilities, because they have never been afforded the opportunities to develop them.  Later in life when they are tested, and, as every adult knows we are all tested eventually, they lack the self-esteem and resilience to stand tall in the face of adversity, because they do not possess the resources they need to do so.  Having never known the feeling of empowerment they, instead, feel powerless, and sometimes fall back on the only tools they know; the ones learned from TV and computer games. 
Our world today is very different from the world I remember as a child.  Life is busy and, oftentimes, hectic, so I am thankful for the amazing devices that modern technology has provided me with. In an age when most parents must work long hours, in order to provide for the children they love, it is a blessing that we have so many modern conveniences to save us a little extra-time.  I guess the really important consideration is what we choose to do with it.  Perhaps, we should spend a little more of it with our children, looking around the neighborhood to see if anybody recently had a new appliance delivered, because, if we are fortunate, there could be a pirate ship on the horizon, hidden within the box it was delivered in.  ~ ~ ~