Woman in Question – Linda – Perspectives on art and children
Occupation: Art teacher and Enterpreneur, Director, Abrakadoodle Art Programs for Children, Northwest Atlanta
Education: PHD in Education
Born and Brought up: Wilmington, Delaware. I grew up in Maryland, Virginia, and Florida
Places Lived In: Maryland, Virginia, Indiana, Florida, and Georgia
Interests and hobbies: I used to do a lot of pottery on the wheel, but lately have just been playing with clay and modeling compounds. I love watercolors, and learning about how colors mix together. My hobbies right now are getting my backyard ready for spring flowers and cooking. I’m learning to cook more “heart healthy” vegetarian dishes.
Kids: I have one daughter, Catherine, who is 22 and a senior at Auburn University. Her major is Fashion Design and Merchandising. She wants to open her own boutique someday.
Why was education the subject of your choice? Were you always an art teacher?
I wanted to be an archeologist when I first went to college. I loved learning about history and anthropology. Then I decided to become a teacher. I had always been exposed to the arts as a child. My father would play operas on Sundays, and I took ballet, piano, and viola lessons. I took several art history classes and learned how to throw pottery on a kick wheel. I became a middle school teacher and taught geography, math, and life science. My Master’s Degree is in Special Education because I became interested in the children who weren’t learning as well as the other children. That led me to finish a Ph.D. at Georgia State in Language and Learning Disabilities. I taught college and worked for a software company as the Director of Training.
Tell us about Abrakadoodle in your words.
Abrakadoodle is an art education program for young children. Because the focus is child-created art and art as play, we take away the constraints of art looking like something or that it has to be “pretty”. Art becomes a playful emotion: it’s fun, it makes the kids feel free and empowered “I can do it”.
How does teaching art evolve as the child grows?
Picasso once said that every child is an artist. I like to think of art as play. Developmentally, children learn through play. Even very young children can hold a brush or a large crayon in their grasp and make marks on paper.
When they do this, they learn cause and effect. I move my hand, I make this mark. It’s not so much about color or shape at this age but about what happens, what it feels like, what it tastes like, what is smells like. That’s why young children put things in their mouths; it’s just another way for them to learn. The more access to experiences we give children the more they absorb and learn.
The Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget, found that children follow similar developmental patterns based upon their experiences. So, we think of art as both play and experimentation. And, as children learn, they also attach language to that learning which gives words and meaning to what it is they do.
In art education, we simply start with the play aspects of art with the younger children. At older ages children begin to understand colors, shapes, lines, and textures and how these can be combined to create forms.
What are the differences in the classes for toddlers, three to five year olds and older kids?
Our Twoosy Doodlers (ages 20-36 months) are the “scribblers” a very necessary step for them. By doing art, a two year old learns how to control a brush or a crayon in their hand. They also just have fun making lots of marks. Every child goes through this stage and it should be encouraged. Lots of scribbling, lots of lines! They also are begin to develop small motor control or the “pincer grasp” picking up small items, gluing, and using lots of different types of things that can make marks. Twoosys also like sound effects and rhythmic types of things like “zip, zip zip” or dab, dab, dab, or swish, swish swish. Art is also very tactile to this age, and we do a lot of handpainting and printing.
The Mini Doodlers (ages 3-5 years) have a range of skills. The older ones have good cutting, brush and crayon control. They can make a recognizable “person” (younger children make a head, eyes, and mouth). They know colors and we work with them to look at painting and tell what they see. This age loves to experiment with making different colors, and in using many different kinds of art media: pastels, watercolors, and modeling compounds.
The Doodlers (ages 6-9 years) are the most sophisticated and think of art as having to look like something. We want the children to continue thinking of art as play and experimentation. We get more into other art-related issues such as how paintings make us feel, or why we choose certain colors.
What do you enjoy most about your classes?
I enjoy watching the children as they do their art. They are so engrossed in what they are doing whether it is painting, modeling, cutting, pasting. I enjoy asking them about their art work and listening to their ideas. It’s important that we not second guess the children, but rather let them express themselves as they can. For some that may be pointing, for others a very long involved story!
How do you go about choosing the art projects for children?
Abrakadoodle has a wonderful curriculum that is updated yearly. I try to select lessons that give a cross cultural appeal so that we can do a lesson by an American artist, a Latino artist, an Asian artist, and then maybe something from pre-historic times! I look for projects that are developmentally appropriate for the kids.
What do you think are the benefits to kids of learning art at an early age?
When children learn through art, they are learning many different things. They are learning large and small muscle control. They are learning language and meaning. They are learning planning and spatial relationships. And they are also learning collaboration skills. They learn pride of ownership and pride of accomplishment. They have a sense of self-confidence and self-worth. Research also shows that children who have arts education do better on standardized tests and win more academic honors in school
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