This spring LEAPS of IMAGINATION launched its second year with the support of our new partner, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art and funding from the Davis Family Foundation. Returning to Lura Libby School, Thomaston, ME, we felt the bounce of positive energy from the moment we crossed the threshold.
As artists and teachers, we’d gleaned much from our pilot project in 2014. We knew that the 90 minutes we’d spent twice a week with second graders gave children the time to tinker with new mediums and ideas. “If you’re going to be creative, you need time,” we’d heard them say. As their mentors, we needed time to wade through our thinking so that we could make our work with children even better.
Leaps of Imagination is an in-school art program. Interweaving literature with art making, mentor artists collaborate with classroom teachers to promote creative exploration, investigation, and connected thinking.
Our first decision was to break down every element of the process. We wanted children to be able to sink their teeth into each new skill, so we limited the materials we introduced, and gave them considerable time to practice one skill before integrating another. Not surprisingly, kids became pros at the small stuff before moving on to more complex work.
Classroom teachers gave us 30 additional minutes a day, making our sessions two hours each morning. Kids were deeply invested, feeling none of the pressures of typical school scheduling.
Another change we made was to give children the time to get to know each artist as an individual. We carved out time for artists to share their personal journals, their stories, or their artwork, so that children had a deep sense of who each mentor was and what she was bringing to the project. Although students had journals last year, having seen how artists used their journals, this year’s student crop seemed far more inspired to dive into theirs.
Our month-long goal was for partners to create a collagraph that told an imaginative story. Children worked out ideas in their journals, invented stories in small groups, and tried out new printmaking techniques long before they began working on their final print.
As a team of adults, we recognize that it is critical for us to take risks too – the same kind we expect from the students we teach. We’ll share more stories from this year’s LEAPS project in the next blog post. With gratitude to the phenomenal artists and teachers with whom I work, Nancy Harris Frohlich
Mentor Artists: Alexis Iammarino, Susan Beebe, Sarah Rogers, Sandy Weisman
Second Grade Teachers: Terri Bassett, Teresa Brewster