Tag Archives: kids

La Vereda Art Class #4: Watercolor Paintings of “What We Love”

3 Feb

This past week we resumed our art class after a two week hiatus.  Luz asked if we’d want to host it on Monday instead of Saturday because the children had the day off.  We did, but for some reason most of the girls were missing that day.  I’ll have to see what happened this week; maybe they didn’t find out the schedule had changed.

In any case,  I had been planning and preparing for awhile to work with the children on making wood sculptures.  Robert was kind enough to get some wood scraps for free but he hadn’t had a chance to cut the pieces down yet so we reverted to Plan B.  I had picked up some watercolors and watercolor paper when I was in Florida last week, and I thought it would be fun for the children to have a chance to draw and paint.  In thinking about an engaging motivation for the lesson, I looked ahead to what I hope will be the culmination of my work with the children- a public mural designed and painted by them in their neighborhood.  I thought the theme of “what we love” would be inspiring and easily accessible to all the kids and might provide a springboard for our mural in the coming weeks.  When the children arrived we asked them to write down 5 things they love- it could be an object, place, person, event, action- basically anything.

Here are some of their lists:

sweets, lollipop, juice, chicken, coconut

lollipop, ice cream, bicycle, trucks, pistols

Dad, coconut, bicycle, car, orange

juice, orange, chicken, dog, ball

Not surprisingly our student Miguel who arrived to class sucking on a paleta (it’s how you say lollipop in DR, but it literally translates as “reed”) inspired many of the children to “remember” that they love paletas so that showed up on lots of lists, haha!  The children are also very fond of chicken (obviously a staple of the Dominican diet, but also a special takeout treat that is economical enough for many to afford), oranges (I need to ask the children where they are getting their oranges because every orange I’ve tried here so far has been meh…not so tasty), and coconuts (si!  hooray for coconuts!).  It was fun to read the children’s lists and ask them about the things they really like and love.  I’m not completely sure but it seems like the group isn’t really used to being asked such questions.  This type of question from a teacher seems to be a new experience for the kids.  Sometimes they seem a little embarrassed or shy at first, but then they seem to enjoy the opportunity to express an idea of such personal interest to them.

The children were given sharpie markers to make a drawing of something (or more than one thing) they love.  It could be from their list, or it could be something else they didn’t put on their list.  After they made their drawings we put out watercolors so the children could add color to their drawings.

Here are some pictures from our class:






Some finished paintings:

"Coconut, apple, cup of juice" -Miguel

"Chicken, apple, cup, rocket, car." -Luis Eduardo

"Sun, coconut, cookie, spongebob, orange, and a car." -Brayan

"Robot & Spongebob" -Guillermo

Briley's Painting

"Ice cream. I like the red." -Onasis

"I made a waterfall. It's similar to a beach by a river." -Diana

We like to celebrate our work too:

Smiles & Paintings!

Check out our marvelous paintings!

This weekend our class will hopefully be working on wood sculptures…and I hope to start working on the mural project with the children very soon.  Will keep you updated!

xo A

First Art Class in the Campo: Making Pre-Cut Shape Collages

10 Dec

Los ninos encanta sus collages!

Today we had our first art class in the campo!  We had 12 children in attendance, ages 4-10.  The kids were so super excited about the class that they all showed up 45 minutes early!  Renzo and I hadn’t even left the house yet when we got a call from Luz to come quick!  LOL, so cute.

The children were all smiles as we pulled up in the car and started unloading the supplies.  Renzo got the kids into a circle and kept them busy making name tag necklaces to wear (makes it easier for us grown-ups to learn the children’s names more quickly and the  kids love making them), while I hurriedly set up our work table.

I planned a simple, classic, collage-based art lesson, providing the children with a range of pre-cut geometric shapes in different sizes and colors which they could then arrange and glue to their papers.  I love starting with this type of project because it is interesting and very accessible to a wide-range of abilities and ages.  It provided a chance for us to talk about favorite colors and shapes, speaking the words in both English and Spanish.  (The children were REALLY excited when I told them I want their help to learn their language and that I would teach them art & some English in return).   This type of lesson also gives me a sense of where the children are at both manually (in terms of fine motor skills) and conceptually.  I’ve also taught this lesson many times to different age groups from 2-12, so those past experiences help guide me in placing where the children might be at in their artistic development, and how I might want to proceed from here.  I was actually quite surprised to find out from the children that NONE of the children had ever participated in an art class before.  Given that, I was incredibly taken with how easily they engaged with the project and their confidence in using the materials (glue, etc).

Teaching the class itself was interesting given the language barrier between me and the class.  I did my best to speak as much Spanish as I could, but often needed Renzo to translate, especially for giving out more explicit instructions and getting the children’s attention.  Classroom management is much more of a challenge in this scenario.  It’s definitely a little strange for me because I’m usually able to read and react to situations very quickly when they arise in the classroom, but not having a firm grasp of the language means losing precious seconds having to ask Renzo to translate or me struggling to find words which I needed to come out much more quickly!  I think anyone who has been a teacher will know exactly what I mean.

In terms of the children’s work, they mostly placed their shapes in different ways on the page,  playing with having shapes touch and overlap- or not.   A fewer number of children represented things from life (mostly faces, which is not a surprise).  There were a few that began representing other objects like trees, flowers, and houses, generally in their second collage (again, not a surprise).  All of the children made two (sometimes three) collages which was fantastic for me to see, because the first collage in this situation is always going to be like getting your feet wet, getting used to new materials and a new way of working, and then subsequent collages are all about new discoveries and beginning to master the materials and process which is soooo exciting for all of us.

After the children had all had a chance to make multiple collages we hung the work up on the wall and sat around for a discussion.  I asked the kids if anyone wanted to share about their collage and…………crickets.  No one wanted to share and they seemed a little embarrassed….it was probably new for them.  So instead I asked if anyone would like to speak about a collage someone else had made that they liked.  Bingo!  The children opened right up and suddenly everyone was out of their shell, wanting to talk about their friends’ work.

I am thinking about what we will do next week.  For sure I want to get my hands on another table so the children can be less cramped.  I think I also want to sit the younger children at one table and the older children at another to make it easier for us to modify the project for the different age levels.   I’m certain that I’d like us to work with collage again, but would like to encourage the children to see how they can change the paper shapes (by folding, twisting, crumpling, etc).  I’m also interested to see how the older children handle scissors (younger ones a little later on).  I’m also thinking about hanging collages…there are some great beams on the ceiling we could hang strings from, literally turning things upside down (so much fun)!

Lots of good stuff to think about.  So glad to be teaching again!

xo A


First Art Class in Session Tomorrow!

9 Dec

I’m really excited!  Tomorrow I am going to be teaching my first art class to a group of about 10 children from the community where Renzo’s family lives.  It’s about a 5 minute drive from the apartment.  We are there a lot since it’s where most of Renzo’s family lives and it’s where his grandfather’s land is located.  I already know a few of the children but am excited to meet some new little friends as well.  I’ve observed the kids around there and they often seem at a loss for activities or things to do.  They don’t seem to have much in the way of toys, bicycles, or even simple sports equipment like balls, etc.   I’m hoping to provide the children with a fun outlet for their creativity and maybe expose them to some new skills.  In return, I’m hoping to learn a little Spanish and teach them some English as well.  Recently a beloved member of the community passed away, and she used to teach religion class to the children on Saturdays, so although I am by no means a replacement, I am hoping our class can help fill the void a little bit and help to continue in that spirit of community service to the children in the campo.

Luz and Robert are very active in their community and they are such good friends to us so they happily agreed to host the art classes at their house.   They have a nice long covered driveway and some folding tables so it’s a perfect setup to teach outside.  Renzo is going to be assisting me, especially with translating, although I am going to do my best to speak as much in Spanish as possible.  The children are SO forgiving in that regard and they love helping me learn new words.   I know from talking to the kids that they don’t have art in school, but I’m not sure what their experiences are otherwise.  It will be interesting to find out.  I really can’t wait to see how they use the materials!


here's the bag o' art supplies we are starting our class with...

When I was back in NYC for Thanksgiving I spent a couple hundred dollars filling a big carry-on bag with art supplies for our class (the 10 pairs of scissors I bought ALMOST didn’t make it on the plane but that’s another story- THANK YOU kind hearted people at JetBlue as if I didn’t love your airline enough already!) however I would LOVE to collect any and all donations to add to our collection of supplies.  If you have any excess art supplies (paper, pens, pencils, markers, crayons, yarn, ribbon, buttons, paints, etc) new or used, I would love to take them off your hands.  Also, please save your fancy, shiny, holiday gift wrap paper & ribbon scraps…they are so cool and we can use them for collages!  I will be back in NY for Christmas and would be happy to pick up anything you have to donate!


On another unrelated note, we have been making some headway in seeking out a curandero (natural medicine man) for Renzo to intern with.  Robert brought us over to Julio Santos’ house last night.  He has worked with a company that formulates natural vitamins and supplements, etc for about 10-15 years.  He’s very knowledgeable about health (he’s even had success overcoming cancer with natural remedies) but he doesn’t have the experience we are looking for working with actual plant materials.  Luckily for us he put us in touch with a man in the community who works with plants and makes natural medicines…he has even written a book about it.  His name is Nelson (not the same Nelson who we are working the land with) and he’s out of the country until next week…so we are hoping to get in contact with him then.  Additionally we have a call out to Senor Pedro who is a family friend that formulates natural plant medicines for a pharmacy here.  Exciting!  Let’s see how it all pans out…

More updates next week…(and pics of the kids artwork!)

xo A