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Teaching the Whole Child
-observations of a parent volunteer
by Glennis Dolce
I am constantly amazed and excited by my own opportunity to learn as I
experience my childrens educational progress. Volunteering in their
classrooms on a weekly basis, a practice which I learned as a co-op
parent, I have come to recognize that the public school which they
attend is lacking curriculum that addresses the creative mind.
There are many reasons for this, which could be an article entirely unto
itself, and one I will leave alone at this time in favor of exploring
the ways in which I decided that I could make a difference. Maybe you
Working in the classroom during “art time” I saw the children being
rushed through projects (outcome sample provided) that left little or
no room for real creativity.
Children rushing to catch up with the teacher as she completed steps 1,
2, 3, & 4. Questions, asked in small voices, hung in the air like damp
socks on a windless day.
The question asked was “Is this right?” “RIGHT!?”, I wanted to yell.
Art is not right or wrong. It simply IS. Right then and there I knew I
needed some help. I wanted to create some art class plans that were
open-ended, that were simply exercises for the creative mind.
Expressing this to the teacher, she was visibly relieved, confessing to
me her dread of art and her inability to teach it any other way. Right
then and there we formed a team . Our goal- to inject some “real” art
and creativity into this one small window of time for these children.
My first project was painting. Looking back now, I realize this was
probably not the best of ideas. But I was driven! We would do a
landscape painting in watercolors! I would bring in all kinds of art
books and show them some famous landscape paintings by various artists.
I would bring in quality brushes, paper, and paints. (As it turned out,
this was my saving grace.) We would talk about what a landscape painting
was. Learn the color wheel. How the artist used color. I would caution
them to relax, to explore the materials, to be open to changing
direction if it seemed their painting took them down an unfamiliar
path. Basically, I talked too much. Fortunately, we had a whole hour
and the children finished with a great feeling of satisfaction and
completion. We got lucky. Each titled their paintings which were
matted and displayed in the classroom.
I now realized that although I have an art background (college art
courses and I currently own a porcelain company) I was totally
unprepared for the task. I came across a book I had read in college and
remembered as germane to my own development as an artist, Drawing on
the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.
Reading her book again, I was pleased to find what I was looking for-
techniques used to teach oneself and others how to connect to the
creative (right brain) mind. Based on her ten year search for a new
method of teaching art and drawing on numerous brain research studies
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain offers up simple, basic
exercises designed to release creative abilities and teach anyone to
draw. I am now in the process of culling the exercises for ones that
are applicable to the elementary school classroom. I will continue to
search for other resources in this area and apply them.
As I travel further down this path I become more aware that nurturing
our childrens creative right brain is not a luxury, as perceived by the
school system and demonstrated by them in the form of budget cuts, but a
necessity! How are we to inspire within them the ability to think
outside the normal everyday parameters in order to find solutions to
world problems in areas such as ecology, environment , energy, medicine
and the like if we only teach them the analytic, verbal , symbolic, and
digital mode of thinking and neglect the analogic, spatial, intuitive
forms of thought allowing leaps of insight that could one day solve some
important world problem?
It may sound grandiose, but then again... it could happen.