Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Learning About Wetlands

Well, I finally got my photos developed from my last ‘Art For Earth’ class of this school year, so now I can share them with you.

I was working with the grade 6/7 students of Victoria School for this three-day workshop. Victoria is less than two blocks away from where I live, so I usually walk to and from the school. To get into the school, I have to walk through the playground and this is usually filled with students enjoying their recess break. It’s about a one-minute walk through the playground but it usually takes me five minutes.

Now, that I’ve worked with so many of these students, everyone knows who I am. As I’m walking through the playground I can hear many shouts of “Hey, Mr. Jim!” or “Look! Mr. Jim’s back!!!”. Many of the students will run up to me to say hello or to ask me their silly questions. Two young boys came up to me and said that they were told to do laps around the gym… so they did – except these were “laps around the Jim” – and while I would continue walking towards the school, these two boys would run circles around me. This made me laugh pretty hard. These kids are hilarious and I just love their positive attention.

One of my previous students came up to me, just after the lunch bell and asked if he could ask me some questions for his school newspaper assignment. The grade four class had to create a series of questions that they could ask to someone who they thought was a great person… and this young student thought of me. I was very honoured and happily answered all of his questions.

To get back on topic…

The first day began with me sharing stories with the students. I always like to tell a story that allows me to ask the students lots of questions, as my story grows. This way, the students aren’t just sitting at their desks listening, they are also participating with the story by answering my questions.

Then it was my friend’s turn to speak with the class. Denise and I have worked together on many ‘Art For Earth’ programs throughout the last four years and our friendship has grown because of this. Denise works for a local environmental organization and her favourite topic of discussion is wetlands.

The students learned about the differences between swamps, felts and marshes. We talked about how important wetlands are for providing homes to many unique species of birds, bugs, fish and reptiles. We learned how wetland habitats are disappearing because of human occupation – like all those beautiful subdivisions with hundreds of identical houses as well as the always efficient super-malls. Sorry – I didn’t mean to be soooo sarcastic!

After the first lunch break, the painting began…

And nearing the end of the third day, the painting was completed.

Over the course of these three days, I hand out several art related activity sheets to the students. One of the activities is a simple ‘find-a-word’ where the students have to read a story that explains how the sun’s energy gets into our bodies whenever we eat fruit or vegetables. Throughout this story, certain words are high-lighted and these are the words that must be found.

Another activity is the colouring contest. This gives each student a chance to be their own artist. They get to design and colour their own picture of the ‘Earth, Moon and Sun’. While I’m explaining what needs to be done, I always encourage the students to use some of the techniques that I have taught them on the large canvas painting. I always talk about colour blending and texture – and as you can see from these next two artworks – these students were paying attention…

Thank you students of Victoria School for making me feel so welcome. I’ll look back at all my memories with a smile.


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