Aboriginal Head Start Art Workshops

For the past two days I have been involved in a wonderful project I’d like to share with you. I feel very fortunate to have been included in this project as I love doing things like this and always welcome them as opportunities to learn. The project was a two-day workshop for Aboriginal Head Start program coordinators at the AGNS. (coordinators of a preschool program for First Nation’s children) It’s fantastic because there are a number of groups involved and there is lots of cooperation, so much so that I’m at a bit of a loss to explain it all. I won’t go into all the details because I just want to reflect a bit on the experience. In a nutshell, the workshops were about art and young children – coming together to share ideas of how to include and value art in their program. This is phase one. The teachers went home with a fantastic package of supplies for art making and will send in work created by their children. Phase two is the creation of a book using some of this artwork.

We began each day with a smudging ceremony, which was new to me, and then embarked on a number of explorations and discussions. One of my assigned jobs was to discuss with the participants Talking to Children about Art, which I’ll admit I was a little worried about. To me, it is a very interesting topic but I always get very excited about the intellectual side, which is something I don’t always expect others to share. But I worked hard to make my message and idea friendly and not overly complicated, and I think it went well. They seemed genuinely interested. I tried to emphasize that you don’t need to be an expert on art to talk with kids about art, and that all you need is to be willing to look, ask questions and listen! In fact, the First Nations Gallery had recently been re-hung so when we went into the gallery to talk about art it was a perfect example – we looked and talked about pieces I had never seen! They had some wonderful things to say and I enjoyed talking with ADULTS about art for a change!

The participants were also very positive about the art making portions of the workshops. Many people just don’t get the opportunity to have fun making art. If you give somebody a positive creative experience they are far more likely to see art as something important and valuable in their program. I particularly enjoyed a session when one of the leaders told a Mi’Kmaw legend while everybody worked with clay. They were free to play with the clay and be inspired by the story. I’m excited to try this in a class of my own – perhaps this summer.

Sometimes in my line of work I do a lot of teaching alone. In many ways I quite like that since it’s fantastic to be able to “do my thing”, but there are times when you feel a bit isolated and just need to get together with people to re-affirm what you are doing and your ideas. Even being a part of leading a workshop, where you “know” a lot of what is being presented, is a great opportunity to reconnect and become re-inspired. And of course next week I will be diving in to my March break art class so a little shot of inspiration is just what the doctor ordered!

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Filed under art, art classes/workshops, art with children

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