What can a pair of headphones do with a bottle of hand sanitizer? How can a pencil help a math test? Why is that classroom light so lonely?
These were some of the questions explored by second graders at Rancho Elementary School in Novato as part of Feelings, Friends and My World Through Visual Arts.
This Youth in Arts residency began this month with a live Zoom draw along with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman (remaining lessons will be on YIArts.COR, our digital learning platform). We learned how to hold a pencil like many artists do – from the tip, with your hand shaped like a claw, instead of the way you hold it when you write.
After making thumbnail sketches of their classroom, students looked for a lonely object. The lesson was inspired by educator and creativity specialist Jason Blair.
“When everyone is wearing masks, it can be hard for children to read emotions accurately,” Cathy said. “The Lonely Object lesson is a great way to teach social emotional learning in a new way.”
After finding their object and thinking about why it was lonely, students were asked to give it what it needed. Then they were asked to find another object to be its friend and find a way to connect them. Lonely objects were everywhere in the classroom, it seemed – the globe that never gets used, the dull grey computer, the bookshelf without any books.
One student drew a pair of headphones and gave it a hand sanitizer bottle friend to stay clean. Another student drew an empty bookshelf and gave it a book friend to keep it company (and make it less empty!) Another student drew a math test and gave it a pencil friend that carried a bouquet of … pencils.
One young artist turned a computer mouse into a real one, with ears and a tail.
“I’m always amazed and inspired by the ways students explore empathy,” Cathy said. “Whether they drew a stapler or a pencil sharpener, students were thinking deeply about what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes.”