On Monday we met for preliminary planning of the Seed’s summer art camp. I realized at that moment how much I love the creative process of curriculum design. It’s always fascinating how it all comes together, particularly when everyone’s ideas are considered and heard. For the past few weeks I had been thinking about sustainability as a possible theme and was also quite interested in ideas the staff would bring forth. Several different options were proposed, including focusing on the elements earth, water, fire, air, and space. We agreed that we wanted the art to be a continuation of last year’s emphasis on STEAM, yet give it a new twist. Then the concept of “from here to there” was mentioned, making connections between one thing to another, such as a tree to paper. About this time in the discussion, I presented my idea about making green art, using recycled materials to make art in a way that was also sustainable for the planet. I thought of using a different type of material for each week, such as cardboard, paper, wood, natural objects, and plastic. As the conversation continued, we came up with a way to focus on the connections idea (changing it slightly to “from this to that”) and then it started coming together as we considered possibilities for each of the six weeks. Most of the materials fit neatly into our plan except for one, plastic.
While conducting my research on sustainable art projects, I came across an excellent article on teaching kids about sustainability (http://mylifecity.com/top-ten-ways-to-educate-your-kids-about-sustainability/). In her article, Carla Robertson states, “Making recycled art projects like caterpillars out of egg cartons doesn’t teach your kids about recycling or about sustainability. In a week or two, that egg carton caterpillar ends up in the trash, just like the original egg carton would have – except now it has some pipe cleaners, paint and glitter glued to it, and all probably made in a factory in China and shipped to the US, with carbon dioxide spewing into the atmosphere at every step.” Without having read the article, our plastics discussion touched on this issue. We all agreed that we should minimize using plastics that could be recycled, so as not to further the problem of recyclable plastics mixed in with trash.
My task now is to pull the ideas together to create a summer arts curriculum that is engaging, innovative, creative, and sustainable for the planet. It makes it more of a challenge to incorporate the sustainability piece, yet it’s also an immensely important consideration. What came out of the planning meeting and follow-up discussions with individual teachers is that this is yet one more way we can educate children and families about planetary stewardship. As time goes on, I recognize that this is one of the Seed’s primary responsibilities. I look forward to seeing how it will be expressed through the children’s beautiful art.