We lead a surprise-filled life here at the Seed. After working this way for over 30 years, surprises have become the norm. I get used to quirky comments from kids, outrageously creative art projects from scraps of paper, and innovative teacher ideas for how to improve what we do every day in the classrooms. But every year the bar for surprise is raised just a bit higher. An idea from one of the dads recently elevated it considerably.
A few years ago one of the parents asked if she could start an Art Masterpiece program at the Seed. She wanted to establish a structured and useful way to spend time in the classrooms. Her own mother participated in the Art Masterpiece program when she was a child, so she thought it would be of benefit to start a program at the Seed. She thought it would compliment the already strong arts offerings at the school and expand the children’s awareness of famous artists.
The way the program works is parents sign up to come into the classroom four or five times a year. They conduct research ahead of time about a famous artist, show the artist’s work (often a large poster), and provide some type of follow-up art activity. Over the years we’ve had Jackson Pollack-inspired crumpled up rice paper with liquid watercolors, “cave paintings” created with mud and spices on paper beneath a sheet-and-table “cave,” hand woven miniature Navajo rugs, and a colorful quilt sewn in response to Faith Ringgold’s story quilts. A few years ago when the Preschool 3s class studied Mexico, Ana, our former office manager, convincingly dressed up like Frida Kahlo to talk about her paintings. She truly made Kahlo’s art “come alive” with her presentation.
Art came alive in a whole different way recently through the Art Masterpiece program. One dad from the kindergarten class presented a lesson on the terracotta army discovered in 1974 by Chinese farmers. The army, believed to be guardians of the first Chinese Emperor, consisted of over 1,000 life-size figures and it is estimated that there are another 7,000 still to be excavated. His follow-up activity was appropriate for the topic. He took the children outside, dressed up in a soldier uniform made from brown plastic bags, and put a nylon over his head. The children were handed paint brushes and invited to “paint” him with mud as he stood in various poses.
When people ask me what sets the Seed apart from other schools, I often say it’s the teachers and the kids. After hearing of this amazing art lesson, in the future I will also add parents to this list. Who knows what kind of wonder was inspired in 20 kindergarten minds by this living terracotta soldier?