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Laurel Dell Students Create Word Mural

First graders at Laurel Dell School in San Rafael have been exploring literacy through art with Youth in Arts’ Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. Students love to look at their art. When we make art with words, we look carefully to find what we know, which means we practice reading.

Students built a colorful word mural from important words they know. Using a donated canvas splashed with graffiti, old encyclopedia pages, oil pastels and glue, they made big words and cut them into interesting shapes. The words were glued onto the canvas, which will become a living document; students will be encouraged to add to their work throughout the year.

The goal of the project was to teach the young artists that words are fun. Teacher Vanessa Nunez helped with the project by encouraging the young artists to brainstorm about words they know. She wrote the words on index cards before art class so students were ready to copy them and practice their spelling. The final step was cutting their words into interesting shapes.

“Art is a wonderful way to teach literacy since all letters are shapes,” Bowman said. “Students love to engage in creative art making and show what they know.”

When a large box became scrambled while students searched for their letters, Nunez created a teachable moment. Students who are English Language Learners took turns sorting the letters and then naming them before putting them in the right place.

“Working at Laurel Dell is a great experience because Principal Pepe Gonzalez and his staff are so supportive,” Bowman said. “Working in partnership enables us to accomplish so much.”

Welcoming Suzanne Reich Gibson to the YIA Board!

Suzanne Reich Gibson

Her background as an elementary school literacy specialist, and museum educator at renowned institutions such as the Jewish Museum of Contemporary Art and SFMOMA, make Suzanne Reich Gibson a seamless fit for the Youth in Arts board. We were lucky enough to meet her at one of our Lights On Tours this spring, where her thoughtful questions highlighted her passion for arts education. “I had heard about the wonderful work that Youth in Arts does in Marin schools, particularly working with students with special needs,” she explains, “I was inspired as well by the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Kindergarten Arts Program, which reaches students at the start of their elementary school years and, now, empowers them with arts skills throughout their elementary school years.  I came for a visit to YIA’s C Street gallery and was awed by the students’ creativity and voices on display there.”

Suzanne grew up with arts as a centerpiece in her life, “I was fortunate to have all sorts arts at the core of my childhood, both in and out of school,” she shares, “I also had grandparents who made art of their own and were determined to take us to museums and concerts from an early age.” In her adult life she has found time for art-making as part of her museum work, where she says, “art-making is very much a way of looking at and appreciating the art on display.” And she is continuing her own arts education through a recent mono-printing class, “which was very accessible and refreshing – I will definitely do more!”

Prior to settling with her family in Mill Valley, Suzanne lived in various locations in Europe and learned some valuable life lessons, “I’ve lived in some faraway places – the north of Norway and Warsaw, Poland. There’s a lot to learn by being the ‘outsider’ about who makes a community and the richness of many cultures living together.”

Thank you, Suzanne. We look forward to learning more from you as part of the YIA community!

Art Encourages New Readers at Laurel Dell

Families of kindergarten and first grade students joined together for an evening of literacy fun! Teachers Alejandra Vazquez and Krista Wallinger worked with reading specialist Maggie Stevens to share tools for new readers with students and their families. Participants received books to take home, and grown-ups practiced techniques for encouraging new readers.

Youth in Arts’ own Suzanne Joyal and Cathy Bowman (who is teaching the Walker Rezaian Creative Hearts Program with these students) designed a very special book for each child to make and utilize at home. It features the first letters that students learn, and each page is made from an envelope. Students drew a letter on each page, illustrated that page with words and pictures that start with the letter, then scrambled around the room searching for words that would go in each envelope.

Instructions in the book encourage parents to help their children find more words to add to the envelope pages, and then to take the words out to practice reading and writing. Since the binding of the book is just two holes, a rubber band and a popsicle stick, parents and students can continue to add pages as new letters are added to their word wall!

We are also working on refining the Letter Dance: combining sounds and shapes and movements which we can choreograph with words–stay tuned…

Thank you to our supporters~

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Daisy Come Home: First Grade Storytelling with Laurel Dell First Graders

Students practiced sequencing (before and after), and also reflected on all of our recent work with observational drawing, imaginative monster drawing, horizon lines, landscapes, and color mixing as they worked in teams of 2 or 3 to imagine the adventure a horse might have in Daisy Come Home. We put all of the images together in a book for the classroom, and now they can practice writing to add words to their part of the story. These students participated in the Walker Rezaian Creative Hearts project last year, and we are able to build on all of their prior knowledge.

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Admiring Finished Paintings

Daisy Come Home, By Ms. Nunez’ first graders and Suzanne Joyal (A mostly true story).

A long time ago, before there were cars and lights and motors, my great-grandparents Josie and Buggy lived with their horse Daisy on a farm near the ocean. Every day when the weather was good, Buggie would load his tools onto his wagon, harness Daisy to the front, and ride to the dock at the edge of the ocean. He would load his tools onto his rowboat. Before he got in his boat to row to an island, he would pat Daisy on the rump, and say “Daisy Go Home!”

And every day, Daisy would go straight home to Josie. At the end of the day, Josie would pat Daisy on the rump again, and send her back to the dock to bring Buggie home.

Until the day she didn’t come straight home, and went on an adventure all by herself! No one knows what she did. Where would YOU go if you were Daisy?

Following are a few of the imaginings of Ms. Nunez’ students. Daisy changed colors, went to the mountains, ate some apples and blueberries, made some friends, walked through a snow storm, went to Chuckie Cheese’s, got lost in a rainforest, and even met some dinosaurs!

Thank you for your support, California Arts Council!

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Encouraging Literacy through Art Making

Bayside School and Willow Creek Academy Elementary teachers came together for their monthly Visual Arts PD.

Vibrant paint chips were the catalyst for inspiration.

In pairs, teachers were given the challenge to create a story using all of the words listed in the paint chip color strip.

The writings were playful, collaborative, and incited ideas for further extensions in different classrooms.

Teachers were then given strips of canvas paper with three drawn circles.

The next challenge was to explore color mixing, and to create three new colors.

How can these colors represent a moment in your day? A smell you experienced, an emotion, or a vision that inspired you?

Once the colors were painted on the canvas, language was connected to the mood of the color.

As a group we reflected on what we noticed, and ways these explorations could be used in different areas of the curriculum.