This Friday, our Community Arts class will be finishing our sessions with the Alabama Blues Project. It has been a lot of fun working with the 5th grade at Matthews Elementary. Together as teachers, we learned that with the right guidance, children are capable of incredible amounts of creativity. This semester the children learned interpersonal and self presentation skills through cartoon self portraits and theater activities. They also learned collaboration and planning skills through painting murals. Breaking out of comfort zones was an obstacle that they had to occasionally overcome, but once they pushed past and got started on their artwork or activity, they gained confidence and exceeded our expectations. Through discussion, we learned strategies and insights to take back to our individual communities and careers to improve living no matter how small the change. After this semester and beyond, the three of us will have experience and strategies to evaluate and better our different environments through art and collaboration.
As we’ve worked with the Alabama Blues Project thus far, we have seen continuously how the students (as well as ourselves as the teachers) have learned and grown through the process of making art. However, rarely have we been able to so directly and so quickly make an impact as we did today.
After working mostly with visual art projects and with the students’ final show coming up, it seemed only fitting to put their presentation skills to the test! The vocal students got the opportunity to stand up in front of their friends and fellow students and introduce themselves as well as a fun fact about themselves. We elaborated on what the vocal teacher had already taught the students and focused on diction, projection, and stage presence. This means making sure the audience can understand you, can hear you, and can see you.
The difference between the first round and the second was staggering! The shyest of students broke out of their shell in a matter of five minutes, volunteering to go again and asking questions. Every student stood taller and spoke louder and more clearly the second go around. And when we asked if anything was different between the first and second times, almost every single one of them expressed how much more confident they were after going through it once.
It was heartwarming and exciting to watch the students enjoy presenting themselves, and I look forward to seeing how far they’ve come at their final performance!
Throughout the last few months, I have been so pleasantly surprised at the students of Matthews Elementary Schools. Working with the Alabama Blues Project has given me a new perspective on the institution of ar
ts in the schools. Growing up in a public school, I was limited to the programs introduced to me; however, because of the hard work and determination of The Alabama Blues Project, these students are receiving chances that many other students their age are deprived of.
I believe the skills that these children are learning will follow them throughout life. Often, the students play as their uninterested, but as soon as they are given a task or purpose their eyes light up. This is why I do this. Watching the children experience new activities and ways of learning build confidence in themselves and one another. The children of Matthews Elementary encourage one another during every task set in front of them. I believe that arts should be encouraged in schools because when children create others are encouraged.
I have been reminded this semester that change in a school system can be impactful no matter how small. It is better to begin small than never start at all.
Cartooning is more than just creating overdrawn caricatures, and the fifth grade students of Matthews Elementary School caught a glimpse into that world this past week. The lesson was to draw cartoons of themselves included with adjectives that best described them, while simultaneously bringing out their creativity. The fifth graders were encouraged to exaggerate their favorite feature on their face and then, using lines to create spaces in the background, fill in the spaces with adjectives that best describe themselves like “kind” or “funny” or “smart.”
All of the students that I was able to talk to were extremely enthusiastic about their work. Perhaps the only downfall was that most of them were intent on making their cartoon drawings “perfect;” however, this gave us the chance to show the real reason that we decided to do this activity: to boost self-confidence and cultivate creativity that was not necessarily realistic. By the end of the session, the students seemed to be grasping the concept that cartoons don’t have to look real; in fact, often they don’t and shouldn’t.
When the time came around at the end of class to present their work, it was amazing to witness the shyer students getting out of their comfort zone and presenting their cartoons to their fellow classmates. They were proud, and it was heartwarming to watch.
Paul Klee once said, “Drawing is the art of taking a line for a walk.” That is just what some of the fifth grades girls of Matthew’s Elementary School did last week when they designed landscapes for the backdrop of their final performance with the Alabama Blues Project.
The lesson started by reading Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon. The girls were then broken into groups to plan, draw and paint the landscapes. The goals of this exercise were to elicit collaboration and communication through group activity, produce planning skills and
reveal how lines make-up the things we see every day. The girls became so enthralled with planning that many almost ran out time to paint. Because of the time constraint, the lesson began to be an exploration of creativity and problem-solving to come to a stopping point.
Interestingly, the three groups designed and implemented different lines and symbols in each landscape and created three unique and clever designs. This lesson was a reminder of just how important every person is to the design process and how fun every step in the process of creating can be.
Thankfully, the girls finished their landscapes beautifully and will be on display along with the other talents the students of Matthew’s Elementary are learning from the gracious volunteers of the Alabama Blues Project.
This semester our Community Arts class is working with the Alabama Blues Project doing art programs at Matthews. The Alabama Blues Project is a non-profit that seeks to preserve the Blues music as a traditional and contemporary art form through interactive programs that educate and entertain. For the last three weeks, we have had the artist Ron Morris working with the 4th graders. The children got to work with clay in order to make gong like instrument. The first week they made clay stamps, the second week they used the stamps to decorate the clay gongs and glaze them, and on the third week, the children decorated their sticks and played their gongs. The next few weeks the 4th graders will be split into groups with singing, dancing, and art on Thursdays. The 5th graders are split into groups doing vocals, guitars, drums and harmonicas on Fridays. Our Community Arts class will be assisting the Alabama Blues Project by helping with art and theater lessons. The program will end with a final performance where all the children will come together and perform with their instruments and have speaking parts about Blue history as well as displaying a student made backdrop. Our class is super excited to be partnering with the Alabama Blues Project this semester! Visit their website at alabamablues.org.
The “Cooperation and Conflict” class is headed to Matthews Elementary this Friday! We will be creating pinch pots with over 100 third graders. We will be teaching them the history of pottery, how to create their own basic pinch pot, and how to jazz up their creations! We will then fire their pieces in a kiln so that each student will have a final piece to bring home. We can’t wait to meet them all and spend a great afternoon together!
Tuscaloosa ARTS is excited to be kicking off the Spring semester! We will begin the year by working with the awesome 4th graders at Matthews Elementary on February 3rd at 12:00pm! If you are interested in volunteering next Friday or sometime in the future, fill out our “Get Involved” form. We are always looking for new faces!
Also, if you would like more information about our organization, feel free to contact Brittany Grady (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I want to send out a special thanks to all of the UA students who volunteered this semester, especially the amazing group from my class New 238: Honors Cooperation and Conflict. They took responsibility for most workshops, from the original project idea to scheduling to leading the activity and helping the children.
And I’m not alone. 2nd grade teacher Ms. Presley writes, “Thank you for the art activity. The students loved it!!!!!!!”