Yesterday was the wrap-up celebration for our project with Henderson Elementary. The teacher and I herded the students onto the Fraser bus and made the slow journey down the hill to the Means of Production Garden. The kids burbled and twittered like starlings. It's the end of June. They're ready to leave the nest and fly into the long summer of freedom.
While I gave one half of the class a tour of the garden, Sharon Kallis lead the other half in a workshop on ephemeral art. She showed the color palette of the materials they would be working with and asked them to think about how an ephemeral artist's palette would change throughout the seasons.
Sharon has a long history of working with all ages of students, so it is wonderful to see her teaching in an easy and relaxed manner, with tons of enthusiasm.
The students used materials they had gathered as well as the flower heads, grasses and petals Sharon gathered. I gave them some giant pine cones I found on the Cambie Boulevard.
Here you can see one student's sensitive use of the delicate colors of the materials.
Sharon makes it clear that she doesn't want the artists to "make a picture" with the materials, but work intuitively with color and texture and pattern.
Sharon worked with the students on the sidewalk above North China Creek Park adjacent to the MOP Garden. Here's a long shot so you can see how big those pine cones really are. (The students are down below in the playground at this point, working of some steam before we head back to school.)
Taking the students to see the garden was an important part of teaching them to think about where artist's materials come from. I talked to them about the concept of a renewable resource with a small ecological footprint while showing them the stands of willow and hazel. In this way they can take those concepts and apply them to other raw materials and products they use in their everyday lives.
I can talk all I like about the ecology, when much of what the workshop was about was beauty and the rediscovery of the immediate natural beauty found in the urban environment that we often take for granted.
Creating awareness and mindfulness in students is something that helps them negotiate space on a public bus, on a sidewalk, at school and in the privacy of their own home. I believe that this way of creating ephemeral art is a great tool for teaching mindfulness to students. However, yesterday was a humbling day for me, a day to let go of my hope to influence young minds and win their approval. They are biding time until they can swoop out from under the watchful eye of an elder. The students will use their freedom this summer to have some unselfconscious time, time inside summer and play, which is more important than anything I can ever give them.