Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ashalim: The Macro and Micro

Painting our emotions and actions
Exploring the function of line, color, and texture in TalPaz
Discovering positive and negative space in Bakka
Lately my work has been all about art. The art of teaching. The art of planning. Children's art. Community art. Infusion of art into society. The use of art as a social vehicle. And it's been artfully delightful! Through my work with Ashalim, I have been given the opportunity to participate in the development of an art program that supports youth at risk both on the macro level in my work developing a national scale program that is seeking to nurture hundreds and hundreds of youth, and also on the micro in my work at the two moadoniyot (after school programs) where I am implementing an art curriculum that was developed in Haifa. Both sides of the coin have been illuminating in their own ways.

The Micro
I loved this kid's story about falling and hurting his knee. Can you tell?
The final results were fabulous!
For the past few months now, I have developed a steady schedule and warm report with the staff and children of both moadoniyot. Each week when I arrive, I am greeted by warm hugs and smiles and always look forward to when the children jump on me and then show me something new. I have been slowly decorating the wall of my room with adorable little notes from the kids and filling my photo gallery with pictures of their beautiful artwork. The program has been wildly successful: I see bright color, happy and focused artists at work, great discussion about the elements of composition, and the beautification of the space. Each week, I meet with the counselors to plan out the materials, approach, and focus of the following week's lesson. Recently, I have also taken to choosing a child volunteer who helps me create the sample artwork for that week's lesson based on their participation and work ethic from the past week. Through this, the students have been empowered to be leaders, and I try to choose the kids who complain that their work isn't coming out good or that they can't succeed, and show them that art is all about exploration and mistakes and thinking thoughtfully about how best to portray our topic. So far, we have learned about the line, space, and have begun the basics of pointillism. Each week, I begin the lesson with a short history of a famous artist who can inspire us in our work and then we end each lesson with a group reflection over the incredible art they created that day. I have also felt very blessed to be wholeheartedly included as welcomed staff at each location, being invited to special trips and meetings for the staff, and have been asked by each of them separately if I would consider working there full-time! It's been so nice to be teaching again, but this time in art, something I have always considered a passion and never have gotten to really focus on. It has truly been a period of color, beauty, and discovery through the kids' eyes.

The Macro
Discovering different uses of the line
My hands-on exposure to trying to replicate the arts program in a place without the resources, expertise, or connection to a museum like in Haifa has led to reflection. Each week I have had to change the materials based on the limited tools each moadonit has, and adapt the lessons to suit our needs. Because of this insight and starting to think more deeply about how to successfully replicate the program in other locations, I am now going to be writing a long term curriculum and detailed lesson plan for the program that will be easily distributed to locations throughout the country. I will be traveling to Haifa biweekly to work with the staff there and am thrilled to be given the chance to create curriculum and hopefully impact and enliven the experience of hundreds children! So far I have written several sample lesson plans and presented to the staff at the museum and have been in discussions about the introduction and structure and framework of the curriculum. I have been fortunate to come into contact with many impressive people at the museum, through the ministry of education, the ministry of education of Haifa, the staff overseeing the moadoniyot program, and staff at Ashalim. If by the end of the year I can leave them with a concrete, detailed, and replicable model for an art curriculum that can be understood by teachers, counselors, and artists alike, then I will have met my goal. I am very excited to be a part of this!

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