Last year in NYC at NAEA17, I went to a super session, “Meaningful Choices”. One of the speakers was Anne Thulson. In her portion of the presentation she talked about an activity she did with her students at The School of the Poetic City. The activity was called “Think Walk Make”. From the moment Anne mentioned it, I was intrigued and began jotting notes down feverishly, hoping not to miss a single nugget. (Luckily, as a member of NAEA I was able to see the presentation again to gain anything I had missed.)
In this activity, Anne and her students would walk around their community, trying to see the world in a new light. Each student would have a bag with them that contained several items (field journal, pencil, chalk, tiny people, tape, etc.); and it was with those items that the students would “approach the city in an artistic way.” They could index the city, message the city, assess the city, situate themselves into the city. They could even make a tiny world in the city.
Like I said, I was so intrigued by this because I often feel like I am alone in seeing things in a different way than others. I talk to my students about how I take photos of the things I see that perhaps one day, when they’ve trained their artist eye more, they would see too. (They usually just smile and nod.) But, this activity gave me all the feels because there were others who thought like me out there. And, I thought if I could do this activity with my students, then they too could start seeing things, ordinary things, with a new perspective.
I ask my art 2 students to do this activity with me. At first there was a bunch of complaining that we were going to go outside. This confused me, but isn’t it always that way with “today’s youth”. I made them go anyway. We spent the first 10 minutes of class going thru Anne’s slideshow. I wanted them to see some examples of things they could do when on our “think, walk, make” outing. I then handed each student their pre-made bag and we headed out into our campus community. It was hard at first for many students, but after a while, I knew some were getting into it. My second class took much more coaxing to come out of the shade of the building and to really explore, but I am not giving up hope on them.
Here are a few shots from our first outing.
I asked my students to take photos with their phone, then they could upload using the seesaw app. That way, they could edit, add captions or drawings, and they can share what they saw with their peers.
On our second outing, the weather was beautiful. But that did not stop the complaining. Some kids thought it was too hot…not even 80 degrees in a state where we have record numbers of 100+ degree days in a row. SMH. Then there were the kids that said, I did 2 things, am I done? I understand, well not really, that some kids don’t want to go outside, and I understand that art isn’t for everyone. But, I believe so much in this activity and how it can help budding artists to really see the beauty around them, and to really see the ordinary that they may pass by daily. I truly believe this is important for them to experience. So, for those reasons, we will continue to go think, walk, and make several more times this year.
Shots from our second outing.