This is a really long post, but its more for me so that I can remember what I learned.
As mentioned in my previous blog posts I am hoping to pursue teaching theatre here in LA. I have been looking into different organizations that would help me pursue that. One such organization that I found is called Inner City Arts. I was looking into volunteer opportunities with them. This facility that they have is just phenomenal. This is probably the best funded arts program I have ever visited. They have a wide range of arts that they teach from including animation, music, painting, drawing, sculpture, dance, theatre, video, photography, I mean the list just goes on. What they mainly do is have teachers come with their class to the facility to have art classes. Teachers will come for a 3 week series on a certain art disciple. The hope is that the teacher will continue what they learned in the series in the classroom. They also have a lot of teacher training about how to incorporate arts into the classroom. I was invited to attend this training as part of the orientation to become a volunteer. This training was incredibly amazing. I was sitting there just trying to soak in everything the leader was telling us. They had amazing teaching philosophies and principles about creativity that you could clearly see had been developed over time and with experience. The training is a series so we just learned how to introduce two disciples at this session, drawing and dance.
First we started the day by talking about what is creativity and what things hinder creativity. A few things that hinder creativity, especially with children are too much surveillance, reward systems, evaluation, competition, restricting, pressure, and over control. Although these things make sense when you talk about them, they are hard to implement in keeping control over a class. We also talked about how behavior “problems” are actually an invitation to learn about a child in how they function and what way they need to learn. We were led through several exercises that you could lead students through.
We started the drawing class by talking about lines. We drew straight lines, diagonal, vertical, curvy, continuous, etc. Next, we did this exercise where we crumpled up a piece of paper. We visualized an ant walking around the perimeter of that crumpled up paper. Without looking at our drawing paper, we drew the perimeter and followed the ant on his journey around the perimeter of the crumpled paper. This was to help keep a continuous line and focus on the detail of the curves. Our next exercise was drawing a portrait of the leader without looking at the paper and keeping a continuous line. This exercise was to help break our fixation that drawing should be about making it look exactly like what we are drawing. Then we were given an object in a paper bag and told just to feel the object without looking at it and draw what we felt. This exercise was really helpful for me in drawing 3 dimensional objects because I could feel the curve of the line that sometimes just looking at it I couldn’t see. Feeling the curves helped my brain connect visually to what the line was. We talked about how people learn differently and how some people are more kinesthetic learners and they have feel and experience things to learn. Really interesting. We then each took a toy dinosaur and were told to study it for about 2 minutes and notice all the details on it. Then we put the dinosaur under the table and were told to draw everything that we remembered about it. Once we were done with all of the exercises everyone was told to pick one drawing from the day. We put all the drawing on the wall and did what was called a non judgmental critique. This was a great experience too in learning the language to use with art. She asked us what things we noticed about the different drawing, what similarities and what difference they had. How did the drawing make us feel and why did they make us feel that way? Kids have a tendency to say, “I like that one”’ or “I don’t like that one.” She talked about how we can rephrase that language to, “I see that you are drawn to this drawing, why is that?” Rather than, “I like that drawing.” All of it is to affirm the creativity and not place judgment on it. So incredibly helpful.
In the afternoon we learned about dance. We first started by doing some physical stretches and warm ups. And then we named the moves that we did, such as stretching, reaching, jumping, and bending. We talked a lot about how to introduce art vocabulary. Name what you did instead of doing what you named. It’s easier for kids to grasp the vocabulary if they have already done it and can name what they have done. We then did a mirroring exercise where you mirror the movements that your partner does. (We do this a lot in theatre to create unity and trust with your partner). We then did an exercise where we moved around the room in different lines . So we walked in a straight line and changed directions. Then in curvy lines. After that, we did an exercise where the leader played some music and on a piece of paper we drew lines based of how we thought the music sounds. Did the music have long curvy lines or short straight lines? Did the lines change throughout the song? Then she played the music again and this time we drew the lines in the air with our finger. She then asked us to draw the lines with our whole hand, then with our shoulder and then with our whole bodies. So then we were able to move around and just draw lines with our bodies based on the rhythm of the music. I loved this exercise because it almost tricks you into dancing. We are not dancing, we are just drawing lines with our bodies. A lot of what we did in all the exercises was building up to a performance so that you don’t just throw kids into a scary performance setting. They call it emotional scaffolding. It really does help you build confidence in your movement and not feel like you are being judged as a “dancer.” Everyone is going to draw lines with their body that look different and that ok. We also discussed how in our culture communal dancing is so associated with sexuality. There isn’t really a space to dance communally in an affirming and celebratory way like there are in other cultures. Then we were put into groups and told to come up with a short “dance” but really it was more based on movements that we had done in earlier exercises. You had to include 3 of the movements we had talked about earlier. Then as one group performed the other groups were the musicians and poets. The first time the dancers performed it was silent. The musicians all had an instrument and thought of how they could use their instrument to help accompany the dance. The poets wrote down a word on how the dance made them feel or what they thought of in the dance. Then the dancers performed a second time and the musicians included their instruments as they performed. The poets all wrote a second word about how this time with the music the dance made them feel. Then all the poets brought their words together and arranged them in a way to tell a short poem. Then the dancers performed a third time, this time with music and poets reading their poem throughout. So it combined a lot of other art elements as well.
I hope to be able to continue this series and learn more about other forms of art and how to teach it well. I think I have said it enough, but hey once more for kicks and giggles. This training was AMAZING!