"As I gathered the clay chips, sand and some rocks, I felt the sun shining upon me as a golden glow slowly covered my whole being, moving with me as I placed each chip into the containers. This experience sent me on a spiritual high. Each time that I wedge this dug clay, I find myself going into another realm. It is as if the Spirit-Self has taken control. My body knows that I am there because of the perspiration on my forehead. My arms let me know that I am doing the physical work.
When I am working the clay, my mind reflects back to when I was a child in my mother's kitchen watching her kneading the dough to make homemade biscuits. As I wedge, I am more focused on form instead of the function. The experience of making each piece is like stillness. When I sit down to work I have a lot of baggage but I have trained myself to completely concentrate on the work of the moment. When I was in the military and a single parent, I had to learn how to separate myself. On the military base, I had to be focused on the job. When I went home, I took off the uniform and concentrated on the needs of my daughter.
From my teaching and my experience in the military, I have learned that I still have to do a great deal of concentrating on how to help children learn. I have read that there are three types of learning styles: auditory, visual and kinesthetic. But I have learned that making art is another learning style that allows every child no matter what his or her level to see, interpret, and contextualize many subjects. I quote from two educators, "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." (Edwards, D. & Mercer, N.). When any medium of art is introduced - clay, painting, sculpture or printmaking - to children in an art class, or when art is combined with math, science, history or English, art can be the beginning of a rewarding adventure.
Art teachers and teachers can interact directly and purposefully with students to shape and alter their ways of thinking. I have seen that art is a tool that makes children and adults THINK. It allows them to experiment and to explore not only with art but also with real life situations. Behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner said that teaching occurs by exposing students to appropriate environmental stimuli and rewarding them when they make the proper responses. (Kindler, Anna M., Child Development in Art). The students can express the knowledge they have gained without fear of feeling inadequae before their peers.
Our schools have become multi-cultural. They can become a safe haven for all students when art is introduced to troubled students as a way to act out their aggressions. Art teachers know from experience that when students produce art about their own culture, it opens the door of communication with each other. It allows schools and communities to appreciate other cultures and help to heal prejudice and discrimination.
Rachel Ballentine Burnette