Artists’ and Writers’ Journals: A Doorway to Good Thinking

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IMG_5120“Art helps students access their ideas.” ~ Second Grade Teacher, Cold Spring School, New Haven, CT

My visit to Cold Spring School last month opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of adventurous thinking – both children’s and adults’. As the guest of the Director and with an invitation to stand in as her son’s grandmother on Grandparents’ Day, I spent part of two days exploring their city campus and experiencing a lesson in one multi-age classroom.

IMG_5131Cold Spring is in the heart of New Haven. At the core of its mission is the belief that we are all learners and makers, and with a creative and connected mindset we can do important work in school, our neighborhoods, and the larger world.

All School Outdoor Mural
Student Created Mural

IMG_5105IMG_5158Outside and in are Art-covered walls. And all of it is displayed with the goal of making children’s thinking visible within the context of the overarching study.

IMG_5106 IMG_5128Making connections is a high priority, and conveying that message to the school community is another.

Thematic Studies interweave what most schools consider, discrete subject areas (Literacy, Math, Science, History, Art, Music.) Given Cold Spring School’s commitment to the earth, (children are engaged not only in observing the natural world, but preserving it) much of what I saw on the walls was about caring for the environment – including IMG_5116a cherished, lush pear tree!IMG_5115

Even the youngest children articulated that “Art is a doorway to good thinking,” and that is what I witnessed in the Art studio as older students critiqued one another’s paintings of birches.

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Circling around their Art, they talked with one another about what they noticed and appreciated.

IMG_5118 IMG_5176This fall teachers began building a new relationship between Writing and Art, introducing Artist’s-Writers Journals into their curricula. On this particular day, grandparents became learners alongside our 2nd-3rd grade hosts – inspired by a piece entitled “Family.” Children had a xeroxed copy of the Art, and on the previous day they’d thought about and written about it.

IMG_5172When it time for us to make Art related to this piece, some grandparents were stymied or intimidated. Children were off and drawing.

Artwork about Sunlight
Sunlight
My host
My host

Their imaginations were like kites flying in the autumn breeze. One child noticed the reflections on the sculpture and made her sketch about sunlight. Others’ Art represented memories, Art they’d seen, or experiences that they’d had. Many went for the abstract.

As I said my good-byes I realized that what had moved me when I first walked through Cold Spring’s door was even truer for me as I was departing: Making Art changes minds.

Courageous leaders and teachers know that Art is key to good thinking – and at Cold Spring School they are doing a remarkable job of giving Art-making a major role in their program.

Thank you, Arati Pandit, for welcoming me into your community.

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With gratitude,

Nancy Harris Frohlich

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