Bringing art into schools!

After leading workshops for years with what I thought was a foolproof formula:  teach myself via books, internet, skill-shares, then offer an activity interspersed with fun facts to a self-motivated group of students,  I had a block last year when planning a class with no obvious hands-on skill to plug into.  Plus, I wanted to change my approach in order to facilitate a learning experience between people instead of simply “leading” them in an activity.

This winter, I set out to get some speedy lesson planning and handout-creating tactics in place. The local college offered an online certificate – “Teacher of Adults”.  Although there was some good material there, it was beyond my budget ($350/class plus textbooks, amounting to $2500 for the certificate). Back to my old standby, low-cost self-guided study – but there were only two library books that suited my purposes and I didn’t get enough from my notes to improve  substantially.

Along with 18 artists, I found a OAC subsidized opportunity to take part 1 of 4 in the Royal Conservatory Artist Educator series at the end of February. Using interactive methods, highly skilled facilitators Ciara and Michael offered us insight into teaching tactics, motivation, stages of development and more – while helping us explore our own artistic practice.

The class was divided into pairs and we were tasked with creating a 1.5 hr lesson plan.  I’d been meaning for years to collaborate with my partner, Lynda – fashion designer and owner of Sew Helpful.  As if to make up for lost time, we ambitiously set out to design a 4 day class in sewing and textile design. For our presentation, we taught our class how to tie a necktie using a song, explored form by asking them to brainstorm, using prompts: who wears ties? how is the necktie worn differently now than in the past? Then we moved and danced around the room to Alice Russell’s A to Z and when the music stopped –  talked to a neighbour about the patterns and colours on their necktie.  We’d pinned a word to the back of their neckties and asked them to find the matching font on the wall and to discuss their font in practical application.  They would then present their opinions to the entire class (this is a technique called “four corners”).

Using similar teaching tactics, in 30 minutes, I transformed my boring lecture-based workshop from last summer.  With this new toolbox I finally have a formula I can use to teach any subject.

Over the next three weeks a Queen’s Outdoor Education student with an art degree, Laurel, is doing her alternative practicum with me.  We’ll be lesson planning and building handouts for for canning/food preservation, rainscaping, pet waste composting, and also doing a few screenprinting workshops.  Can you think of a workshop you’d like help designing? Drop me a line, maybe we can help.

But before I go back to lesson planning, I want to share a photo of some frames I’m stretching this week and a sneak peak of the cats that are about to find new homes on bike bells.

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