Let children learn through creativity

Published 5:48 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Every Friday, after our spelling test, Bonnie Green, my third grade teacher, would introduce our class to music, art and artists, ancient civilizations, authors and poets.

Even the worst-behaved students sat mesmerized as she spun tales of King Tut, the cliff dwellers and their disappearance, and the mystery of Stonehenge.

She would pull down the map of the world and have huge arrows pointing to the places we had studied and read about.

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Although many of us in that class would never leave Kentucky, it was a point of reference. A visualization of unknown worlds, people and places.

She would also speak to us about artists — Van Gogh and his ear that was cut off, Georges Seurat with his dots that made paintings jump off the page and waterlilies in a pond that were washed with blues and purples by Monet.

Miss Green would hand out brushes and tempera paints mixed in small baby food jars. We would paint on huge pieces of yellowed newsprint. We would draw and paint and savor the quiet while the music of Beethoven, Bach and Puccini operas played in the background.

We would hum quietly, but never broke the magic spell created in that room.

One March afternoon, we designed our own kites. We fashioned the kite bodies from coat hangers making the perfect kite shape and took pantyhose and made the body of the kite. Brightly-colored pieces of felt were glued in different geometric shapes (we had been taught those the week earlier) and long pieces of fabric made the tails.

While our kites never made their way off the ground, they adorned our classroom, hanging from the board and light fixtures.

At Halloween, she would turn the lights down low and read Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

The horse hooves that carried the headless horseman came alive by her tiny feet clomping on the floor, while we hoped we would not be taken away by the eerie figure.

Times have changed. Our students are tested and tested. Their lives are filled with much uncertainty and, just recently, the threat of cuts in arts and other programs that nurture creativity is quickly becoming a reality.

It is important students are allowed and, moreover, that teachers are given time for kids to be kids. They need to research places and people. They need to sing, color and dance.

They need to use their brains and not just memorize vocabulary lists. Those words will come alive in their studying of foreign places and ancient civilizations, art and music.

My recommendation?

As Vincent Van Gogh once said, “There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”

Let them paint. Let them create.  Let them dance and sing because, through these actions, they will learn love.

All the tests in the world will never be able to teach that, but experiences in their often empty lives will.

Lisa Johns is a former teacher and librarian as well as an activist on revitalizing downtown Winchester.