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Enter the Arts Closet

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I don't know about you but I'm still coming to grips with this whole school business after a summer of lazy days and late mornings.  In the school I've been working in this week, kids are still staggering in bleary eyed and, on this last day of summer, we're still basking in the early afternoon heat at recess, soaking it all in, knowing that soon winter will start its annual bite. 

One of the projects I assigned myself when I arrived was to locate all of the supplies I might need to help out with Arts programming while I'm here.  I walked into that familiar space, the Arts Closet (insert the voice of doom) and discovered exactly what I expected to find: a dusty, over-filled space with materials scattered all over the room.  Not the inviting atelier that might inspire a teacher to think creatively about the possibilities for learning through the Arts in their classroom.  It's hard to get enthusiastic about experimenting with new techniques and taking risks when you can't find anything. 

So, I started throwing things out, and I threw, and I threw, and I threw.  Scraps of fabric, paintbrushes that hadn't been washed, dusty, faded paper, dried glue, and powdered tempera made in England. 


Amongst those bits of trash, however, were some hidden gems.  Block printing ink, linoleum tiles, charcoal, parafin wax blocks, brayers, carving tools, and natural clay.  It's not surprising.  Lots of great Arts stuff gets ordered for schools but doesn't get used because teachers either lack the skills or the confidence to try them.  We get stuck in the rut of doing the same art projects we've always done because we're pressed for time and, well, the Arts closet is a hopeless mess.

I think back to my days in Kindergarten when I worked hard to arrage Arts materials in an appealing way so that students would want to access them, so that they would be inspired to be creative.  Maybe I need to apply that same thinking to adults?  An appealing, curated Arts closet is one place to start.  A little instruction in some of these more intimidating techniques is another.

So what can you do with brayers, linoleum, and ink, you may be wondering?

This! And isn't that worth fighting through a little dust?


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Emily Caruso Parnell is the K-12 Community Connected Experiential Learning Consultant/Coordinator in the Rainbow District School Board in Northern Ontario. Since beginning her teaching career in 2001, she has taught all grades from Kindergarten to Grade 12. She has taught in public, private, and independent schools, including teaching the IB Primary Years Programme and as the Arts-lead member of the local leadership team for Ontario's Early Learning Kindergarten Program. Emily is a dance educator who holds an MA in Dance from the University of North Carolina Greensboro as well as a Bachelor of Education from the University of New Brunswick, an HBA from York University and is a Registered Teacher of the Royal Academy of Dance. Emily writes regularly for the parenting website Kveller and for the Canadian Jewish News and she sits on the Sharing Dance Working Group of Canada's National Ballet School. Emily is passionate about education in, about, and through the Arts as well as experiential learning, parent engagement, play, and as much time spent outdoors as possible. She strives to bring the same enthusiasm and energy to parenting her own young children.

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Guest Monday, 18 March 2019