Monday, November 3, 2008

Art For Earth – Class #2 – Victoria Public School

I usually plan to begin my art workshops around 10:30am – just after the first recess break. This gives me time to set up the painting station and to get myself in order with time to chat with the teacher about how the day will be planned out. So… today was the same.

I arrived about one minute before the recess bell and the hallways were filled with students. Can you imagine how happy it made me when I walked into the school to hear an entire class of students begin to shout with excitement, “Hey! It’s Mr. Jim”, “Look, there’s Mr. Jim!”, “Hello Mr. Jim – hello!”????!!!!! Well, a huge smile grew on my face as the students ran up to me and a few gave me nice big hugs! They all had stories to tell me about their newest art projects and stories about things that they have done to make this world a better place. These greetings were from the students that I worked with just a few weeks ago. Today, I was going to be painting with another class and make some more new friends.

Two weeks ago, I had made a powerpoint presentation to share photographs that were to inspire this new painting. Late last week, I found out that this school did not have the equipment I needed to make this presentation. What was I going to do? I’ve always found that when there is little time and few resources available my imagination works the best. Here’s what I did…

The topic was the Temagami forestland and I wanted the students to understand how a forest works – with sapling trees, teenager trees, mamma trees and grandpa trees that are very tall and old. Using chalk, I drew an example of each of these kinds of trees and then I asked a few students to help me. While four or five students began drawing more trees I asked the rest of the class about what else lives in forests. We talked about how old trees fall to the ground and they begin to rot. The rotting trees become food for new saplings. The rotting trees are also homes to spiders, snakes, and lots of other types of bugs. More students began to draw these insects on our blackboard forest. Then we talked about other animals.

“What animals live in a healthy forest?” I’d point to a student with a raised hand, “foxes” – then I’d say “Yes – now go and draw me a fox” and off they’d go. And so on… until we had dears, moose, raccoons, badgers and many other animals.

“But, Mr. Jim – what about the birds?”, and soon the skies of our drawing were filled with birds. Without any direction from me, the students began drawing rivers with fish and beavers, the sun in the sky and clouds as well. The finished drawing was very impressive. The teacher of the class was enjoying this and he gave me a happy smile and nod of his head.

The students returned to their seats and I continued with the lesson. I talked again about the things that make a healthy and happy forest and this time I was able to point to trees, animals, insects, etc as I talked. Then I began to tell the story about how Temagami is an endangered species of forestland. We talked about clear-cut forestry. While we were talking, I picked up an eraser brush and slowly began to erase their wonderful drawing.

Oh! This made the students very upset. I could hear them saying things like, “No, not my tree!”, “Stop, don’t erase my dear!”, “Oh no! There goes my bird and butterfly!” The students had become emotionally attached to the world that they had created. The students were very upset to see this magical place disappear. The students now had an understanding of what it means to see wildlife disappear, trees disappear and beauty disappear. After I was finished I told them, “Now you know why Temagami is sooooo special – there is very little left”. I pointed to the one tree that remained on the blackboard and concluded that only 1% of this forest species remains on the Earth and it is located in Temagami. The students understood.

Then the painting began…

The students always enjoy when I play my guitar. Even though I am not the greatest player, they all still think it’s great! During the lunch break one of the students asked if he could go home to get his guitar so that he could show me the songs that he was learning. Do you think I said, “No!” – of course not.

For about half and hour we sat in the empty classroom playing our guitars. I thought that he was a pretty good player. He knew a lot more than I did and he enjoyed it when I recognized the songs he was playing and I began to sing some of the words to these songs. He played some Ozzy, Blind Melon, Cream and other bands. I think he was happiest when I asked him if he had written any of his own music and he told me that he had and then he played them for me. They were really great! He knew that I was very impressed.

The lunch hour ended very quickly and we had to put our guitars away. Then the painting continued….

I’m very excited to work with these students again, over the next two days!!!

Jim (Mr. Jim as the students call me – LOL)

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