Thursday, November 17, 2011

Promising Practices

The session I attended was about integrating art in the classroom and it was amazing.  The first presenter, Virginia Freyermuth taught us about a project that she created for the class room.  The project was inspired by a Native American tradition in the southwest called prayer sticks.  These are sticks that the people made as a meditative tool or as a representation of prayers.  The stick is decorated and each addition to it is representative of something.   Virginia was inspired by this tradition and brought it back to the class room.
 She told us about how she has the children make their own personalized “hope sticks”. She guides them by explaining the Native American tradition and then telling them to create their own and to represent wishes and hopes for yourself or others.  I thought this was an awesome way to teach both history and self-expression.  She also said this quote by Parker Palmer which I thought related to our discussions of how to create a successful lesson

“But what scholars now say -- and what good teachers have always known -- is the real learning does not happen until students are brought into relationship with the teacher, with each other, and with the subject.

Then we each got to create our own hope stick!  There were ribbons, beads and feathers around the class and we each decorated our own stick however we wanted. This was really fun and it was interesting to see what others did.  We also had a time at the end to share with the people around us what ours meant to us if we wanted to. Here is a picture of mine and a picture of the whole classes’ all together.

I thought this project was a very fun way to integrate history and art and also a great way to get the children to empathize with others and express their own hopes and dreams. I would definitely use this in a class room.
The next presenter, Kristen Vito-Silva was especially interesting because it was her classroom we were in in Henry Barnard.  When I walked into the classroom I noticed that there was art everywhere.  The curtains were painted in different famous styles such as Picasso and Jackson Pollock and there were ceiling murals and floor murals and all sorts of art projects on the walls, it was beautiful.  I was very surprised to learn that the children made absolutely everything!  She said that on the first day of class the room is completely bare and it is up to the children to create all the decorations. There is not one lame inspirational poster from the teaching store and I thought that was incredible. This definitely made me think of Alfie Kohn’s chart for what to look for in a classroom. In fact, I could probably add a few things to the list after seeing this classroom! The teacher said that she believed the fact that the children basically create their classroom is the reason there are less behavioral problems in that class. The room is like a community that the children have created for themselves and they respect it!

 I couldn’t believe some of the work the kids did, especially because they are only in 1st grade.  She went on to talk about the projects she does with her kids and I was even more blown away.  She mostly talked about how to integrate all different subjects with art. For example, there was a ceiling mural made up of rectangles that were each personally decorated by a child.  She told us about how they used math to figure out how to make all the shapes fit onto the paper and they used graphing to help the children find their rectangle once the mural was put up.  She also talked about a project in which they painted landscapes and then described what they painted and made their descriptions into poems.  She showed us some of the poems and landscapes and jaws literally dropped.  These 1st graders’ art was absolutely amazing. She gave us a packet which included some of the art observations and poetry these kids had created and I will type one out so everyone can appreciate the kind of things young children can do when guided and inspired:

Move silent
No one can see them
through the night
I climb into bed
I shiver and shake
No one can feel them
No one can control them
They are as pale
as white
Sneaky snatching
Through the air
Breezes through the
My legs curl
My arms curl too
My heart pumps
As fast as

 This whole presentation was really mind blowing to me and made me wish that every teacher in the world was like Mrs. Vito Silva! She mentioned Dee Dickinson’s article "Why are the Arts Important?" and I believe it summarizes what we learned that day.

The next part of the session, to be honest, I didn't grasp much information from (I had a pretty bad fever and had a lot of trouble understanding what was going on) However, the Teen Empowerment section has an excellent website  which I looked through after the convention to try to get a sense of what they were doing and what it means. I also found information about a youth peace conference they do every year which sounds really interesting to me.  It made me think of Delpit in a way because I think this program helps kids from every background understand the rules of power needed to succeed.

All in all I am glad I dragged myself out of bed!


  1. i like the hope sticks! i wish we could have picked more than one session because I loved mine but I also this one seemed pretty cool!

  2. That poem was written by a first grader? Thats brilliant.

  3. Am I the only one slightly disturbed on how deep that poem is? :/ and it was written by a first grader, wow!