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Sole patterns.

Are your students developing the kind of creative-thinking skills they need for the challenges of tomorrow, or are they just spending time acquiring a body of technical knowledge: if you're not sure of the answer to that question, I'd like to tell you about an exciting program that has helped transform my curriculum from ho-hum to meaningful. It is the New Art Basic concept developed by art educators at Iowa State University in art classrooms--elementary through high school throughout the state of Iowa.

New Art Basics

The program began when Dennis Dake and John Weinkein, associate professors in Art Education, conceived and organized a cooperative program in which art educators could come together in summer workshops and develop strategies for teaching which put the emphasis on visual and creative thinking.

There are currently more than five-hundred written strategies that are continually being compiled, tested, refined and documented under the following categories: Getting Ready, Visual Thinking, Visual Logic, Metaphoric Thinking, Historic Content, Cultural Content and Human Content.

As a New Art Basic teacher, I would like to share one of my Human Context strategies. Like many art lessons, it developed from an accident into a success.

One day, as I learned over to pick up a sheet of drawing paper that had fallen to the floor in a heavy traffic are of the room, I noticed the dusty prints from the patterned bottoms of shoes. I wondered what would happen if I took a pen or marker and started tracing some of these interesting lines and shapes. During the next few days, the paper lay on my desk, and I began to draw over some of the lines and shade in others. I glued some tissue paper on parts and the design possibilities continued to grow. I decided that this was an experience I wanted to share with my students.

I began by talking with my eighth-grade class about New York City graffiti artists, and how they seem to have an inner drive to create art in their environment, even at the risk of going to jail. We considered questions such as Where do artists get ideas? and How does meaning emerge from form?

The class helped me place drawing paper in a large circle on the floor, and I played marching music. The class lined up and carefully stepped on each sheet of paper. We started with a few extra sheets in case of tearing.

When the parade was over and the music stopped, students picked up a paper and went back to their seats, stopping at the supply cabinet to pick up markers. I told the students not to try to find Something in the dust markings right away, but to start tracing the lines and shapes that interested them. Everyone became involved with the patterns before them, and was able to develop an interesting composition. Some saw realistic objects emerge from the dust; other objects were fairly abstract.

Later in the semester, I decided to see how first graders would handle this kind of strategy. Since they met in another building where the artroom floor was always very clean, I had to alter the process. We simply rubbed pastels over the shoe bottoms before starting the paper parade.

Symbols and Forms

As I mentioned before, this strategy was taken from the Human Content category. The lesson has to do with humans as symbol makers, responding to their environment. However, this lesson also overlaps conveniently into the Metaphoric Thinking category. This is where analogy and playful, substitutional thinking take precedence over associative (functional and categorizational) thinking. With such an emphasis in education on making clear, linear and literal connections, the synthesis of new evocative forms is an important productive thinking skill for all students who hope to do more than memorize information. As Picasso said, "Reality is more than the thing itself. I look always for the super reality. Reality lies in how you see things. A green parrot is also a green salad and a green parrot. He who makes it only a parrot diminishes its reality. A painter who copies a tree blinds himself to the real tree. I see things otherwise. A palm tree can become a horse."

This lesson is just one example of how a summer workshop program has turned my lessons from media-centered rights to people centered right hemispheric, creative--thinking experiences

Faye M. Thompson teaches in the Jefferson Scranton School Jefferson Iowa.
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Title Annotation:arts education program that began with shoe prints
Author:Thompson, Faye M.
Publication:School Arts
Date:May 1, 1993
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