They look but never see!

I have just returned from a trip to the UK for a conference and holiday and have been reflecting on all the wonderful sights, places and people I encountered.

I have plenty of time to think (as severely jet-lagged) so have twice the time for reflection!

I love the National Gallery in London as it houses so many of my favourite paintings and each year I notice how few people really look at paintings.

While in the room with many of Van Gogh’s paintings I just sat and watched people. There was a huge crowd jostling for the best space to click, click, click with their mobile phones and NOBODY looked. NOBODY gazed and tried to take in the incredible beauty, challenging messages, colours, juxtapositions of objects and sky and strange unsettling images.

Sadly they just wanted to have these little rectangular pictures on their phones to show and prove they had been there.

Why?

Don’t people want to SEE anymore?

Is it really too hard to interact and to have to think and reflect?

I was with my cousin, his partner and young daughters (4 and 5 years) and witnessed completely different reactions from the kids.

Their parents encouraged them to stand and stare at a couple of the pictures and then to try to draw them. The kids were SO engrossed and spent around 45 minutes at their drawings. They SAW far more than these people who were “doing the National Gallery.”

I want the kids I IMG_3250teach to SEE and to BE and to not fall into the trap of interacting with their environments in such  shallow ways. To do that I have to plan learning activities where they can really THINK, REFLECT and INTERACT with learning materials.

When children are rushed they are troubled and the world is already so full of troubled people living lives at headlong speeds. Taking time, reflecting and really SEEING can be healing opportunities where we grow, find out who we are and dwell in the deep end for a while!

ART FROM THE HEART

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I woke this morning with that Christmas morning feeling you get when you are anticipating joy!
All week we have ART FROM THE HEART classes and I know the atmosphere at ICE will be peaceful, excited and yet strangely calm.
We do a little bit of art in every course we run and of course HEAPS of art in ART FROM THE HEART!
ART should always be from the heart. Art engages the left and right sides of the brain as children imagine, plan, organise, “feel” their way in, create and revise. I love to watch their faces as they engage in art- they GLOW and all concentration and tension issues seem to fly out the window.
Interestingly, the learning that takes place after art is ALWAYS deeper.
Sure issues of low self-esteem, lack of confidence and worries about it not being perfect surface but the art time is a great place for these things to come up and be dealt with. Teachers who help kids engage in art are really not just doing art- they are helping to grow more centred, creative and self-aware people!
Should we ALL be drawing/painting/crafting?
Maybe hardened criminals and terrorists should attend daily art classes! It truly seems to make for calmer, happier children so let’s try it on some big people.
I am starting an ART FROM THE HEART pinterest board today and will be sharing lots of techniques and ideas as well as displaying kids’ work. Please follow and share some of your own creative ideas too!
Let’s make this a week where we ALL indulge in some creative practices and share.

NO TIME TO IMAGINE ANYMORE!

 

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We are once again losing the plot!

Schools are using NAPLAN as their excuse for turning themselves into efficient factories with kids having knowledge rammed into them reminiscent of Dickens’ HARD TIMES scenarios!

Of course we have to improve young minds, help children retain knowledge, remember facts and spell, read, write and do basic maths. Nobody would argue with that.

But…we also have to inspire, light the fires of curiosity, lead, excite a love of learning, teach how to know oneself and how to be with others. We are called to be EDUCATORS and truly educating a child is a complex task calling for highly trained, sensitive and empathic human beings to lead, motivate and awaken hearts and minds.

This young extremely intelligent 9 year old had some literacy issues and LOVED the school holidays because she could dream, imagine, make things (she was a gifted little artist), and just be herself. As soon as school started her imagination had to shut down.

She came in crying one afternoon and thrust these words into my hands. I could hardly speak. I asked her if she would mind if I shared her words with teachers and her reply? “I WANT YOU TO!” So here I am sharing this child’s honest comments.

Let me translate:
All my imagination has to be locked up. I feel sad about this. Because school has started again. I have no time to imagine any more.

Surely we should be doing the opposite? Surely we should be awakening their imaginations by reading them great literature, providing enriching experience in the arts, music and movement and promoting divergent thinking skills?

Is this the bleak future we are offering? In that case we can expect more children to tune out, lose interest, become sad, depressed and lose the ability to dream up the future. We need to wake up from this nightmare and give our children back their hopes, dreams and futures.

TODAY LET’S PLAY WITH ART!

41835873[1]I LOVE watching children create! This week we have many creative holiday courses at ICE and I am fascinated by the way all kids can comprehend more and write fluently if they are encouraged to use art as a tool to help them learn! Whenever we have these days they are messy, unpredictable, enjoyable but above all filled with learning – and lots of it!

I have never met an uncreative child or an uncreative adult. Art is a wonderful tool for all families and individuals to use to unlock the creative process, improve learning and build self understanding!

Here are a few ideas to get you started- both kids and adults!

* Stop criticising yourself or your child as you draw or create- just enjoy the process!

* Keep a CREATIVITY BOX handy – fill it with crayons, coloured pencils, markers, stickers, a tin of paints and brushes, different sorts of paper, cardboard toilet rolls, old Christmas and Birthday cards, scissors, sticky tape and so on!

* Turn the TV off regularly and get the CREATIVITY BOX out so it is easily accessible.

* Sketch a much loved garden plant- follow every line of stem and leaf so you intimately KNOW the plant- this is sort of like a slowing down and meditation exercise. We often use this with very “sparky-brained” and “wired” children!

* Occasionally turn a drawing upside down to copy it. It encourages very careful copying and seems to suspend the self- criticism voice. You become more aware of the lines, shapes and the results are often quite pleasing!

* Get to art galleries regularly with your children so they can get to see great models and start to develop art appreciation.

* Buy some great kids’ art books- there are many available to help kids get to know artists and learn new techniques.

* When you read to your child  make sure you spend time discussing the illustrations and the style, techniques, colours that have been used by the illustrator. Picture books so often have more information in the pictures than the text!

* Link NATURALIST and VISUAL SPATIAL intelligences by constructing collages with objects found in the natural world such as bark, sand, leaves, berries etc.

* Use chalk on bricks and drive ways to draw. It is completely non- threatening because it can be washed off.

* Make some play-dough or purchase some plasticine and make the main characters from the book you are sharing with your child. This helps them develop characterisation understanding- very important for the writing genre.

* Paint pictures of the settings of stories you read aloud.

There is no doubt that enjoying art- both for yourself and your child, will lead to deeper learning, increased ability to imagine, wonder and dream and higher intra-personal and visual spatial intelligences!