Inside the Classroom of Creativity
Growing Young Artists
The room is filled with excited chatter as students crowd around a table in the middle of the classroom. Eyes are drawn on a printmaking demonstration that uses unexpected fruits and vegetables to create unique prints. Smiles spread across the student’s faces as they look at their blank canvas and the opportunity that awaits.
The classrooms of Fennville Public Schools are filled with 120 students, a team of 10 faculty from the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, and their 2018 Artist in Residence. The faculty are pushing students to learn through collaboration and the immersion of art. The Saugatuck Center for the Arts Growing Young Artists program is now in its seventh year and impacting Title 1 and migrant students in the classroom. I had the opportunity to experience a day of the Growing Young Artists program and was completely blown away by this team and how they stimulate the student’s young minds. Creating art does indeed bring joy to these kids, art that they otherwise would not have had the chance to create if not for the SCA. Not only does it bring them joy, but the attendance and test score data have proven that the SCA’s GYA program does indeed work.
A day of Growing Young Artists starts with a little yoga and mindfulness practices. Clearing the mind, calming down and stretching the muscles before a day of creative learning has a plethora of benefits such as an increase in positive moods, energy and relaxation. Although the yoga session was not as quiet as I have experienced before, we were surrounded by laughter as we attempted the poses. Filled with vitamin D, students were bragging about their yoga-abilities as we headed inside.
I was especially impressed with the GYA Instructors. This team includes elementary teachers, recent college graduates and middle school students. While this team is diverse in experience, they do not lack enthusiasm. After a conversation with SCA Exhibition and Education Manager Whitney Valentine, I was enlightened about the SCA’s priority to propel instructors forward as educators.
“We intentionally look for ways to suggest new teaching techniques or classroom management advice to our instructors. Growing Young Artists is keeping educators fresh as well as helping young professionals gain experience for their first jobs in the classroom,” said Valentine.
Lessons are customized for students based on their grade level and ability. While creativity is in motion instructors take interest in student’s art by complimenting, suggesting or even joining in on the fun. The program is special because students are seen as individuals. They not only have fruitful interactions with instructors but also have the opportunity to discover themselves through prompts and outlets.
A typical day will include individual writing and drawing prompts, providing students with an outlet to brainstorm and develop the proper language and fluency skills needed for everyday life. It begs individual answers based on their likes, dislikes and interests that can be incorporated into their artwork. Students are presented with opportunities for self-discovery and are able to communicate that through collaborative projects and reflective group discussion.
Exploring colors, making patterns and filling a blank paper brought so much joy to this group of Kindergarten through 2nd-grade kids. I felt the true joy of creativity while watching one girl cover her hands in paint, to the delight of her classmates, because sometimes learning is messy and kids need to be kids. To my surprise, I now have a piece of artwork named after me as I proposed suggestions during a collaborative pattern project with my favorite kiddos.
I can tell that these students are hungry to have fun and dive deeper into this program. Talen, a 6th-grade student, was very vocal about his enthusiasm when he exclaimed: “I didn’t know summer school could be this awesome!” Talen even brought some vegetables from home to use in the printing process.
Immersing myself in Growing Young Artists was nothing short of enlightening. I saw first-hand the experience and joy that art brings to the classroom and beyond for the students in Fennville. The team of instructors and students, combined with our Artist in Residence will continue to explore the techniques involved with creating individual works of art as well as the final, collaborative flag project. This program will certainly change lives, inspire growth and give perspective to look at our world differently.