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What’s the Secret to Creativity? Simple Strategies to Raise Creative Children

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

How Parents Can Raise Creative Thinkers in the Face of Elementary and Middle School Social Pressures

It’s proven through government studies that creativity is a valuable asset best developed through the arts. Creativity is known as the fundamental driver of innovation. Art education develops the critical thinking skills and problem solving abilities necessary to create our future innovators. However, it can be quite difficult for parents to retain the adventurous free spirit of early childhood in the face of elementary and middle school social pressures. How can parents raise the next generation of creative thinkers?

Unstructured artwork is characteristic of pre-school and kindergarten age children. They draw stick figures and love to splatter paint with fingers onto huge sheets of paper. Parents enjoy the self-expressive free nature found in their child’s art. Exploration and risk-taking are encouraged, even if the kitchen floor is a disaster and there are two loads of laundry afterwards.

By third grade it’s clear something has changed. Children become much more cautious with their artwork. Looking at class presentations shows heightened conformity and a great degree of similarity across student artwork. Many seem too perfect to be a typical third-grader’s. Children seem a bit embarrassed by their work, and more concerned with approval than enjoyment of the process. Unless parents and teachers step in, children will continue to lose their inborn creative spark.

So what can parents do to nurture creativity into adulthood? Here are four strategies:

  •     Children’s physical ability to color inside the lines is seen as a developmental milestone, thus teaching at an early age that creativity has strict rules and expectations. Relying on coloring books leads to the same conformity. Instead of using structured materials such as coloring books, parents should try sketchbooks to help children find their own source of inspiration and ways to communicate through art.
  •     Peer pressure can influence a child’s artwork the same way it controls what clothes a child wears to school. Our society places high value on creativity, yet children instinctively feel that artwork has to be pretty to be praised. Parents need to be aware of their child’s need for social acceptance, even in art class. Asking about projects can give insight into the amount of peer pressure involved. Try “How is your work different from others in class? Or the same? What do you like / not like about your artwork? What would you do differently next time?” Let you child know that being an individual is important, and that you value an ability to be thinking independently.
  •     School administrators face pressure to keep art as part of the school day in the face of rising budget cuts. However, a comprehensive standards-based art curriculum isn’t just about making clay dinosaurs or painting with acrylics. A true study of the visual arts is cross-curricular, uniquely connecting the “core” course of math, history, language arts and science. As a parent, don’t let art get pushed aside as being a “special”. If your child has art class in school or as part of an afterschool program, find out just what topics are being explored. It’s not just about what they have made in class, it’s about learning to ask questions and explore the relationship between subjects. If you want children with critical thinking skills and better grades, it’s proven that you should start with art.
  •     Art needs to stay fun. It develops self-expression that is free from “right and wrong” test-driven coursework. Art explores the basis of human knowledge about our world and is the best way for children to discover their unique place in it. So keep it fun by taking trips to museums, talking about movies or picture books – really anything visual that creates an emotional response, good or bad. Then think, discuss, and ask “Why?” “What did it mean to you?” “Would you change it?” Not only will you have more quality time with your family, you’ll also be developing critical thinking skills.

Teaching children to ask questions is essential towards their creative development. Art should be a place where children can learn, explore and create without right or wrong answers. By nurturing creativity we develop future innovators. So don’t be afraid to teach children to color outside the lines

A Short List of (Mostly) Free Digital Paint Software

Monday, June 17th, 2013

 

          The internet is a mixed bag. On the one hand it can provide a treasure trove of knowledge and information, and on the other hand it can quickly turn into a confusing array of choices. It can also be a terrific way to spend large amounts of time that you really didn’t have in the search for that one thing you’re actually looking for. Admit it, we’ve all wasted time trying to get Google to cough up relevant information. So we thought we’d save you some time in the search for a kid-friendly (mostly) free digital paint program.

          For those new to Creativity Express, our 16 online art lessons include doART  ‘Creativity Builders’. These are hands-on art projects that can be completed using both traditional art supplies as well as digital paint programs. From a parent’s point of view, a digital approach can have several advantages. Anyone who has supervised an art project involving glitter appreciates the lack of cleanup time computers offer while still encouraging their child’s creative self-expression. Looking towards you child’s future, a vast array of jobs use digital tools for real-world products; a simple example would be architects who rely on computer aided rendering software to design buildings. So it’s a good idea to give kids at least some experience with digital paint programs – it is a worthwhile stepping stone to more complex software.

          In order for us to recommend a digital paint program it needed to meet three basic rules.

  • First, the software has to be kid-friendly. This means that the child can learn to use the program either because it is simply laid out, or because there are good tutorials. This should be fun for the kids, not a burden for the parents to trouble-shoot.
  • Second, the software should be free to download, or low-cost. Though free sound great, it has its downsides. Generally software is free because it has ads in it, and with kids involved that’s not always okay.
  • Hence my third rule: any advertising must be child-appropriate.

There are quite a few digital paint programs to choose from, so let’s get started!

Traditional MyPaint toolsMyPaint – Available for PC and Linux operating systems; MyPaint has a range of functions similar to Adobe Photoshop including pressure-sensitive capabilities for use with drawing tablets. In addition to basic layering features, MyPaint has many different brush settings. Kids can even create their own brushes, allowing them to be really creative with this program!

Firealpaca – This kid-friendly art program is available for free download on both Macs and PCs. A relatively new program, it does contain advertisements. However they claim to be art-related, and only placed ion the introductory screen, along with any relevant update information or user tips. The program has layer capabilities and many different brush settings.

Copic – Another free program compatible with Macs and PCs, Copic has a user-friendly interface that incorporates Copic’s color system as well as different brush settings. Kids will love the easy look of the program, and should be able to pick it up quickly.

Sumopaint – Users can draw online or download a more comprehensive version of this easy-to-use program; it has both PC and Mac compatibility. Its tools for drawing are virtually unlimited, allowing kids to have an expanded choice for their artwork.

ArtRage ToolboxArtRage – This program is very kid-friendly and simplistic, and is our choice for digital art software. It’s available for both Windows and Mac operating systems for $49.90. Supporting all levels of artists, ArtRage is designed to be like a virtual painting space, increasing authenticity and making the experience for kids more fun and realistic.

Artweaver – Suitable for beginners, Artweaver is a freeware program that is available for Windows computers. On this program, kids can even draw from a photograph scanned into the computer – draw on paper first, then paint on Artweaver!

SpeedyPainter – SpeedyPainter has a simple and intuitive design, and is suitable for children to use. It is downloadable for free for Windows users. It includes basic features, as well as a brush library and separate viewfinder to allow kids to really see what they’re drawing.

SmoothDraw – This program has many different brushes that can be used, as well as a simplistic interface; it’s available for free download for Windows operating systems. Children will love the ease of use in this program, and will be able to use it with little basic knowledge of tools in art programs.

Qaquarelle – Part of the Sourceforge portfolio of software, Qaquarelle supports tablet functions and has a simple design that children will find easy-to-use. It’s an open-source software that has a free download.

Last but not least, a clever drawing tool….

DrawPile – Although not specifically a digital paint program, DrawPile is a freeware program that allows multiple users to share the same online drawing board. Kids can have fun doodling and creating with their friends wherever they may travel.

With such a range of choices, we look forward to user comments on these programs, and links to others we may not have discovered.

Enjoy!

The Madcap Logic Team

Madcap Logic Introduces the New Assessment Rubric for Creativity Express

Monday, June 25th, 2012

The sixteen Creativity Express lesson modules in combination with the hands-on Creativity Builders projects create an entire curriculum that meets the National Standards for the Visual Arts. Our new interactive rubric has been designed to assist educators and parents in assessing the depth of understanding any one child has gained from the Creativity Express lesson content.

The National Standards for the Visual Arts are divided into two grade level groups: K-4 and 5-8, with different achievement goals for each age group. Entering the child’s grade level in the ‘Student Information’ area will select the appropriate rubric for that child

The K-4 Standards focus on conceptual comprehension over hands-on execution of artwork. In this age group there may be some quite talented children who simply lack the coordination or maturity to fully execute their ideas. Children progress at different rates during these early years; their achievement level on this rubric should reflect their relative capability at their given age or grade level, and effort put into the curriculum and projects. By grades 5-8, it is expected that the child is able to grasp the concepts rather easily. Their assessment is focused on the ability to analyze, discriminate, and make choices in execution of the projects to fully express these concepts in artwork. Again, those using the rubric should focus on relative skills and effort when deciding on assessment level for any one child.

Though it seems counterintuitive to attempt to measure creativity at a time when most children face a burden of standardized tests, we hope that both educators and parents find this rubric a useful tool. Creativity Express was designed by artists and education professionals to encourage experimentation, analysis, self-expression, and ultimately teach children to find their individual artistic voice. This rubric was designed to encourage these behaviors and serve as a guideline for further exploration.

 

The Madcap Logic Team

“The Balancing Act” on Lifetime to Feature Madcap Logic’s Unique Educational Arts Program ‘Creativity Express Online’

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012


“Madcap Logic is thrilled to partner with BrandStar Entertainment’s TV popular morning show “The Balancing Act” on Lifetime in their effort to address the complex educational needs of today’s students.”

BrandStar Entertainment

“Creativity Express Brings Art Into The Classroom Tuesday January 17th, 2012: Lifetime Television 7:00-8 AM EST. & PST., 6:00-7AM CST

PRLog (Press Release)Jan 09, 2012
(Pompano Beach, FL) Madcap Logic, LLC – creators of Creativity Express, a fun an innovative arts educational program, recently completed filming for BrandStar Entertainment’s hit morning show, The Balancing Act on Lifetime Television.

“Madcap Logic is thrilled to partner with BrandStar Entertainment’s TV show The Balancing Act on Lifetime in their effort to address the complex educational needs of today’s students. In today’s challenging environment we applaud the efforts of The Balancing Act on Lifetime to provide parents and educators with essential resources required for lifelong academic success,” says special guest, Elise Ruiz-Ramon from Madcap Logic.

The segment which also features Robert Monson, President of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, will air this month as part of The Balancing Act’s Parent Teacher Corner series on Lifetime Television.  In the upcoming segment, they’ll discuss the importance of including art lessons in your child’s curriculum as part of the learning experience.

In this edition of the Parent Teacher Corner on The Balancing Act on Lifetime, viewers will learn that with so many schools cutting their budgets, educators are looking on-line to find the types of tools that teach effectively and are cost efficient. “Arts education enables children to draw from their experiences to create meaning that will enhance their learning,” says Robert.  “Research tells us that the arts have a tremendously positive impact on teaching and learning, especially in discovering talents, stimulating academic interests, and awakening an awareness of the vast possibilities of life.”

Children with art education do better across the board.  “Our Creativity Express curriculum reaches some children who would otherwise be left behind,” Elise adds.  “An arts education also helps students develop motivation for higher academic achievement, leading them to become lifelong learners.”

Make sure to watch BrandStar Entertainment’s special Parent Teacher Corner edition of The Balancing Act to discover how a properly applied art education may lead to academic improvement, as well as develop more intuitive thinking and developing creativity and self esteem.

About “The Balancing Act” on Lifetime Television
The Balancing Act TV show airs daily on Lifetime Television at 7:00am (ET/PT).  The Balancing Act on Lifetime Television is America’s premier morning show that’s about women, for women and trusted by women.

About BrandStar Entertainment
BrandStar Entertainment is well known for their cutting edge content driven women’s programming, including “The Balancing Act” on Lifetime Television.  The Balancing Act TV show inspires and empowers women with entertaining and educational segments, placing them in the best position to achieve success in every aspect of their lives.

# # #

O2 Media’s parent company, BrandStar Entertainment, producers of The Balancing Act show on Lifetime TV, have proven themselves as pioneers in the Branded Entertainment industry bringing Social Media to TV with the vision to Engage, Entertain and Educate.

Teaching Children to Help Others

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Madcap Logic is proud to join Primrose Schools supporting the Feeding America virtual food drive.

Virtual Food Drive by Primrose Schools     Primrose Day Care Centers have teamed up with the charity, Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief chairty in America, to raise food and money for those in need this holiday season. As the virtual food drive will come to an end Decemeber 31st, be sure to visit the Primrose Facebook page where you can like the page, which will donate 1 can (or $1) or you can share the page which will donate 2 cans (or $2).

     Although it is a basic life skill, cooperation is not something that we are born with, but rather something we learn as we go through life. It allows us to develop and maintain relationships, and work successfully with other individuals. Infants do not come into this world with an understanding of the importance of sharing and compromise. These traits are learned through experience when the child becomes old enough to interact with others. Most children are introduced to cooperation when they are taught by adults to share their toys and take turns with other children in the playground and nursery. Through sharing such seemingly inconsequential items early in life, one will form a permanent habit of sharing that will most likely continue forever. This habit will manifest in many ways, such as one’s participation in charity work or the volunteering of his or her time to a worthy cause.

     Learning to cooperate and share is the foundation of many other positive characteristics that most parents hope their children will acquire, such as the importance of “giving back” when one has enjoyed success and good fortune in life. It is also how youngsters develop the skills they will need to get along well with other individuals throughout the course of their life.

Leading by Example

     As a parent, it is your behavior that your child will attempt to mimic first. Acting in a cooperative manner and displaying a sharing attitude toward others will instill the importance of these characteristics in your child’s mind. Important values are almost always learned from our parents in the course of daily life. For instance, you might say“If we all pitch in to help clean the kitchen after we eat, we will get finished quicker and can begin reading your new library book.”

Activities Requiring Family Participation

     Planing a family project that requires the participation of each member will help a child to understand the importance of teamwork, and how assisting each other to work toward a common goal will benefit everyone involved. Such projects can be as simple as the planting of a garden, or playing an interactive game.

     Preparing a meal is another ideal family project, as such activities offer a role for each member of the family. Children can search for the appropriate ingredients, and help mom and dad to mix and measure. Additionally, cleaning up after the meal can also be completed through teamwork. A great bedtime storybook to read to your youngster at the end of such a day would be the popular children’s favorite “Stone Soup.”

Stories With a Moral

     The concept of cooperation can be introduced by reading stories to your child that feature characters who share. The Little Red Hen is an ideal choice in such books. After reading the story to your child, you should involve him or her in an active discussion of the outcome, and ask the child how he or she might react if asked to participate in a project that requires cooperation with others.

Children and Music

     Children have an almost magical way of responding to music. Select a short musical piece and listen to it together. Then discuss the way the band, orchestra or chorus made these beautiful sounds by working in concert, sort of like a team. Children love when they can sing along with a karaoke machine or a CD. They also enjoy using simple instruments of rhythm to keep time to music. Gather a few of these things, let them make their own production and record it. They will love knowing what they accomplished together and will want to hear it again and again.

Sumitted by Emily Patterson on behalf of Primrose Schools.

Creativity Express Awarded 2011 BESSIE

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011


Madcap Logic's “Creativity Express” is awarded ComputEd Gazette’s BESSIE award for

Best Upper Elementary Art Education Website.

The Best Educational Software Awards “target innovative and content-rich programs and websites that provide parents and teachers with the technology to foster educational excellence.

Winners are selected from titles submitted by publishers around the world.”

For a full list of winners, and more information about the ComputED Gazette and the BESSIE Awards visit:

http://computedgazette.com/page3.html

For a compete list of the Creativity Express portfolio of Awards, visit:

http://www.madcaplogic.com/awards.php 

Madcap Logic Moves to Florida

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Leaving Colorado in late 2010, Madcap Logic, LLC has officially relocated to Florida. Our move is accompanied by a change in ownership and refocusing of Madcap Logic’s business plan.

“Our flagship sixteen lesson Creativity Express curriculum has been quite successful.” says the new CEO and Owner, Elise Ruiz-Ramon. “However, the CD-ROM delivery has caused significant frustrations from our customers – the operating systems are changing so rapidly that compatibility has become serious issue. We are at the mercy of Microsoft and Apple, and whatever upgrades or patches they may choose to place on any given computer at any time. Our Creativity Express Online product is free from those potential bugs, and is always on for any number of users from any web browser. The internet delivery of curriculum content is now widely accepted by home and traditional school students. Creativity Express Online is specifically designed to meet the needs of teachers and students alike, increasing productivity and creatively engaging the minds of children.”

The new CEO will begin by upgrading essential services within the Teacher Account Center, then improving the store front for greater product choices, pricing transparency and ease of ordering.

“We expect next year to be challenging for teachers and schools given the upcoming budget cuts,'” says Mrs. Ruiz-Ramon, “and we need to be able to provide a viable solution for art education to remain a core component of elementary curriculum.”

Newsweek Reports on the "Creativity Crisis" in America

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Affecting a generation of Americans, both children and adults,
“For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. What went wrong – and how we can fix it.”

If you have school-age children this comes as no surprise. Children are spending more time in front of televisions and computers, and spending days in school being tested rather that taught. The long term effects are now being felt by a society that needs innovation more than ever to solve long-term problems.

What can you do? Read the article, learn, and reach out to the schools and children around you. Stay involved, and use books instead of television. Force your children outside (weather permitting) without electronics. Let them fail so that they understand how to creatively find solutions on their own. Encourage individuality.

Furnace recommends picking up a paintbrush and finding out where your imagination can take you! It’s a great way to spend a summer day. Just try to find a brush your own size…

Time4Learning Provides Creativity Express Art Curriculum to its Members

Monday, July 12th, 2010
Time4Learning Provides Creativity Express Art Curriculum to its Members

Durango, CO – Representatives from Madcap Logic LLC announced today that Time4Learning.com is bundling the Creativity Express online art curriculum with its existing curricula to its Time4Learning members.

Time4Learning.com has licensed Creativity Express web-based art program to add to the educational services that Time4Learning.com provides to its thousands of members. The animated online program teaches art as well as art appreciation and art history. Students learn the principles and history of art through interactive lessons on topics such as line, form and color, using real examples from art history to illustrate each concept. The sixteen-lesson program is available to Time4Learning subscribing members. Creativity Express features a built-in reward system as each lesson concludes with a quiz designed to assess the students’ understanding of the material presented: the higher the students’ scores, the more artist cards and puzzle pieces they collect.

Time4Learning parents and students who have used the art program quickly nicknamed it “Time 4 Art.” They are enthusiastic about having an art course included in the Time4Learning academic curriculum and are thrilled by the quality of the content and delivery of the material. “My kids loved the art so much that they work on the program well beyond their homeschool time, spending their free time on it,” reported one parent. Homeschoolers in particular appreciate the structure the program provides to learning about and creating art. “I am so impressed! Our kids adored being taught about art in such an educationally fun and guided way, rather than our usual laissez-faire approach to homeschool art,” reviewed another parent.

About Time4Learning: Time4Learning is a leading online learning system that offers a preschool through eighth grade curriculum for homeschool, afterschool, and summer use in language arts, math, science and social studies. The Time4Learning online educational offering also includes Time4Writing.com, online writing courses for K-12. Time4Learning was selected as one of the “Top 100 Educational Websites” in both 2009 and 2010 by Homeschool.com and received a BESSIE Award after being named the #1 “Multi-Subject Website” by the ComputED Gazette in 2010. Time4Learning is a certified “Green Business” by the Uniform Standard for Green Business Certification 2009.

Creativity Express selected as a winner of the 2009 FAMILY CHOICE AWARD

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

fca_logo_2007

The Family Choice Awards was founded by the Family Magazine Group, America’s largest free parenting publication,    and is recognized as the premier resource for the very best in children’s and parenting products and services.

Children in Art Museums

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

In my research in art museums many parents tell me they don’t feel comfortable taking children to the art museum. Their reasons vary. Some don’t feel knowledgeable enough about art and fear looking stupid. Others perceive there is nothing for children to do there and are concerned that either the children will damage something or be bored.

Most art museums offer a variety of enjoyable family programs and that are a good way to become familiar with the museum. Check the museum’s website for the family events schedule. Hint: Sometimes museuum websites hide the family programs under the “Education” tab. In addition, many art museums have interactive family galleries where everyone can have a hands-on, minds-on experience with art. Admittedly some art museums are more “family-friendly” than others but here are a few tips for getting the most out of a visit to any art museum.

1. Be curious. Let go of the idea that you need to be an expert. Children don’t worry about this, they just follow their interests. Keep in mind that typical visitor behavior in art museums is more like haphazard grazing than eating a full meal from start to finish, so let children “graze” according to their interests. Some interests will be momentary and others will be more sustained. Rather than feel you have to answer children’s questions, help them follow up on their own questions, ponder possibilities, and seek answers from someone at the museum, if possible, in books, and online.

2. Visit frequently. A trip to the art museum is not like a vaccination – once you’ve seen it you don’t need it again. Every time you go you discover something else, even if you look at the same art each time. A family museum membership is a good value and allows you to make many short visits, avoiding fatigue, and children wishing they were somewhere else. Visit often enough to feel comfortable there and learn your way around. Children like to feel an ownership of public institutions.

3. Plan ahead and be picky. Many visitors try to see the entire art museum in one visit. If you take repeated shorter visits then each visit can be focused on one part of the museum. Check on the museum’s website for exhibitions and collections on view. Let children participate in planning what to do. Explore the website further because many art museums, such as the Walters Art Museum, have special child-friend interactive sites.

Families in ArtSparks at the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY

4. Seek inspiration. Even if an art museum has no special family gallery or family programs when you visit, experience the museum as an artist might. Bring along sketchbooks (adults need to do this too) and color pencils. Most museums allow sketching in the galleries with pencils but check the policy. When you tire of standing and looking, find a place to sit and sketch. Some museums even allow you to sit on the floor but check that too. If there is a sculpture garden and the weather is nice, that’s a great place to sketch and maybe even have a snack – but remember, no food or drink in the museum galleries.

These are just a few ideas to get you started but there are many more. For example, Australian researcher, Katrina Weier, has good ideas for taking young children to the art museum. as does Erica Loop and Abby Margolis Newman.

The most important thing is to go, relax, and have a good time. So take your inner artist to an art museum!

Thanks for the great photos to Johnnie Utah, hoyasmeg at the High Museum of Art’s Greene Family Gallery in Atlanta, and the Speed Art Museum, ArtSparks in Louisville KY.

Sustaining a Creative Spirit

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

“Art has been the means of keeping alive the sense of purposes that outrun evidence and of meanings that transcend indurated habit.” John Dewey, Art as Experience (1934).

An artistic or arts based education is well known to have wide reaching impacts on the development of character not to mention physical coordination and mental agility. While it can also be very challenging to integrate such a perspective and commitment in the classroom, the importance of developing a creative spirit and intelligence enables us, as Dewey says to sustain our purpose and meaning when evidence evades us. So how can we keep this spirit alive?

Sometimes it is about building creativity into the very environment and everyday life you inhabit through art on the walls, sculptures, photos, fabrics, and creative tools close at hand so when someone asks to work creatively, there is something for them to work with, be it crayons, clay, paint, feathers, dirt etc. Other times it is about visiting with artists in their studios, taking art lessons with others, going on art walks or visiting museums where you can be exposed to works of art and can engage in some yourself. There are also times to explore the arts alongside other lessons; for example, my students in intercultural communication may focus on a culture and the kinds of art or creative expression that culture uses to communicate its values. In Kenya, for example, the beads women make and wear communicate social status, age, community etc.

But nourishing the creative spirit doesn’t always have to focus on work. Studies now show that recess or play times for children in and out of school prove valuable as this is their time to experiment with creativity and imagination in social interaction with others. Then there are the ‘toys’ or any objects with which we play — and the simpler they are, the more creativity is used in constructing them in multiple forms! Building blocks made of old pieces of off cast wood (even better if the kids have painted them or worked the wood and oiled them up); felt toys sewn by small hands or even handmade felt where kids can see just how wool, soap and hot water do their magic then craft their own special something for someone; or how about creating your own musical instruments, with pots, pans, strings, cardboard and don’t forget the plastic comb wrapped in paper? Chances are good that if you cast your mind back to your own childhood, you will find some very imaginative ways to keep your own creative spirit alive. If you run out of ideas, check out the Invention Playhouse. It’s a true treasure trove for curious and creative minds!

So go ahead, take some time out to create a creative environment to sustain your creative spirit and play…….!

With thanks as always to our artist — Today is a good day

Rhonda Robinson: Visual literacy for a digital age

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

 

As promised last week, welcome to Madcap Logic’s second podcast, and this time with our special guest, Dr.Rhonda Robinson from Northern Illinois University. Dr Robinson works with educational technology and assessment as well as teacher training for technology and has spent her career working around ideas of visual learning and literacy.

Originally an English teacher in middle school, Rhonda was very interested in media literacy and language arts and began to pursue media production in

her masters and doctorate degree. Beginning with ‘old media’, Rhonda’s techniques now span into the digital realm, encouraging students to analyze imagery from newspapers and also video, tapping into kids’ (and their teachers’) natural creative abilities.

Rhonda has used our Creativity Express program to teach her masters students color and composition, expanding their practical orientation to consider the aesthetic dimensions of the images they and their students create. Rhonda believes that we learn first through vision but the verbal orientation of schools has privileged verbal learners. Whether or not we have natural inclinations towards art, these skills can be developed over time. Images provide us with an easy door to learning, and it may be that we learn more through them than more literary or verbal texts because we have a reduced resistance to them.

Dr Robinson therefore, believes that visual literacy should complement and supplement other forms of literacy in education to aid diverse learners in the classroom. Teachers of reading in particular, have embraced this entire collection of literacies, as have teachers of science and mathematics. Integrating technology into the classroom, as opposed to having it shut out of the lesson or considered something different, is critical as visual literacy involves not only encoding or the creation of the image but also decoding, that is, how we select meanings for the same image and messages. This is increasingly important in a digital age with our ability to manipulate images!

We hope you enjoy our conversation with Rhonda! There is much to be learned from this fascinating conversation around the renewed importance of art and visual literacy in our contemporary times and its contribution to citizenship.

With thanks to lakewentworth for his art!

How Artists See

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Colleen Carroll knows the value of visual literacy. The mother of three girls and an educator found herself creating the art book that didn’t exist. Actually a series of them.

How Artists See, a popular 12-volume series of art books, was written and designed to teach children about art. But not at all like the boring dusty volumes filled with dates and facts.  Each of these simple books take children through a familiar subject, animals, heroes, feelings, weather, etc. Young readers are encouraged to come up with their own ideas and responses, prompted by everything from cave paintings to contemporary art. The open-ended questions in the book stress individuality, and encourage one’s own. Children relate to various artists, empathize with their feelings, culture, tools, times.  Through this lens, they see how the work came to be.

Carroll, who started college as a photography major, soon went on to Art History.  She eventually taught sixth-graders in Southern California, and found no visual arts instruction (or music, dance, and drama). That led her to develop an art appreciation curriculum that dovetailed with the world cultures social studies curriculum. The kids loved it.

 But how did all this start?

“One of my earliest memories of art is looking through a monograph on the Italian master, Leonardo da Vinci. The book was a tome: it was absolutely huge and must have weighed 20 pounds. Every so often my father would hoist it off the shelf and let me flip through the pages. While I was too young to read the text, the plates captivated and mesmerized me. The power of the artwork spoke to me and touched my spirit. Even though I didn’t know who made the beautiful pictures, somewhere deep down I knew I was communicating with a genius.”

By creating the series Carroll makes Da Vinci, and other geniuses accessible to the young. As an art educator, Carroll knows firsthand, the importance of the arts.

“Great art is a powerful visual tool that stretches across many barriers: language, class, race, and literacy, to name a few particularly wide ones. Exposing young children to art sparks the imagination, and when shared with a parent, teacher, caregiver or even a peer, promotes dialogue, vocabulary growth, and critical thinking. Introducing young children to art from a broad range of cultures and time periods builds background knowledge and teaches them that there is a bigger world beyond the one that they know. Interacting with art can help young children grasp abstract concepts, such as hope, justice, and courage. In an increasingly visual world, early experiences with looking and talking about art build visual literacy and analytical skills: skills that are becoming more and more important to possess.”

 Sharing art with children is so simple, yet rich. Carroll lives her life like she teaches it.

“When I was completing the research for my new book series, How Artists See, Jr., the time had come to choose the final images for the volume which looks at dogs in art. I had already done the first cut, but was having difficulty selecting from the fifty or so images left on my list. My kindergarten daughter happened to be home from school with a tummy ache, so I asked her to help me. Spreading the prints out on the living room floor I said, ‘Honey, come on down here and pick out your favorite pictures.’ Within minutes she had the prints in a neat stack, her favorites at the top and least favorites at the bottom. Without prompting, she began to tell me why she liked some dogs better than others, and what certain ones looked like to her (critical thinking and evaluation, expressive language). I share this anecdote to illustrate how fun, educational, and easy it is to share art with young children. Their innate curiosity and imagination, paired with rich imagery is, indeed, a potent learning tonic.”

Lucky girls, Carroll’s three.

 “That Leonardo book? It’s now on my bookshelf within arm’s reach of my own children.”

Maybe this holiday is a good time to gift your own family with a special art book. Visit the art section of a local bookstore and let your children explore. See what they find interesting. You might just be surprised.

Running Group
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