I feel so fortunate, as today I got to experience one of the coolest, most beautiful things ever: one of Ruth Anderson’s pre-school level art classes, Learning to Look and Listen, right here at Michener.
Walking into the class, expecting your run-of -the-mill, “Now little kids, you take this elbow macaroni and stick some glue on it and paste it down…do you think you can even handle that” type of art class, needless to say I was blown away not just by the level of creative artistry I witnessed from these boys and girls, ages 2 1/2 to 6, but also by hearing the most eloquent, precise and intelligent words spoken by these boys and girls.
The hour long class started in the art classroom with Ruth discussing directly with the children the itinerary of the class: group introduction on the floor rug, moving to the galleries to look and talk about a piece of art work, reading a story, returning to the classroom for an art activity and finally ending with a discussion of the art created.
From the get go, I was overwhelmingly taken aback and genuinely touched by the level of interest, affection and enthusiasm with which Ruth addressed the class and how positively they responded to it. By talking to these very young children in a sincere and direct fashion, the level of comfort, delight and inspiration emanating from these children was tangible and palpable. Confidently sharing their thoughts and opinions, respectfully in their own turns, not at all judging the comments made by the other children, the level of the art work discussion was so elevated it reminded me one of my art history classes back in college!
In fact, the children were encouraging each other to share even more and showing genuine appreciation for every comment made with their ooos and aaahs, and the sometimes subtle/sometimes not so subtle nodding of their adorable little heads. It was pure individuality and team work at once, something I, personally, have never witnessed quite like this before, let alone from people who barely come up to my thighs in stature!
The children definitely enjoyed story time and the actual art activity. It was really moving to see the way in which the proudly took ownership of their artwork during final sharing time on the rug. But, I absolutely believe that it was the proper and clear acknowledgement and encouragement of each child’s ideas by Ruth, that kept the kids so engaged, actively participating and well-behaved; thus proving that cultivating a safe, calm and respectful environment, at any age, allows for the true, deep intelligent self to organically radiate out into the world.
-Sumreen Z Chaudhry, Michener Intern