Magazine article School Arts

Art and Ecology

Magazine article School Arts

Art and Ecology

Article excerpt

When I was in Mexico City this past summer, I noticed four small children playing in a corner of Alameda Park, Mexico's version of Central Park in New York City. Two boys and two girls, all around four or five years old, had found a large square of thin, clear plastic and were experimenting with it over a hot air grate in the sidewalk. As I watched, they discovered that, if each one held down one corner of the plastic, the hot air would inflate it like a balloon. With much laughter and cooperation, they discovered they could tie the corners of the plastic to the grate to make an inflated tent in which they could play.

Though their parents were vendors at a nearby food stall, they offered no assistance or advice to the children. It was such a joy to watch these children completely engaged in discovery and creativity, using just a discarded piece of plastic and physical conditions they found in their environment. Surely these are the kinds of conditions and experiences we would like to provide in our artrooms, with or without recycled materials.

I suspect that I am the only teacher at my school who regularly checks the wastepaper basket and recycling bins in our workroom for reusable materials. As the oldest of six children, I grew up with a definite need to make things last. Part of my motivation is simply my desire to not waste anything; another is the challenge to come up with creative or novel uses of materials. Some teachers must have noticed my scrounging, though, because I often find leftover construction paper in my mailbox and the office saves me useful items like the paper tubes used to hold laminating film, empty copy paper boxes and lids, and used copy paper.

Since such habits are common to art teachers, throughout our features this month, you will find suggestions for inventive uses of materials such as Sheetrock, shoes, yarn cones, bowling pins, paper straws, and other found objects. …

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