Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Recycled Musical Instruments

Recently I saw Landfill Harmonic, a YouTube video about people living in a slum built on a landfill in Cateura, Paraguay. The people make a living by picking through the trash and selling anything that has value. They are also using the trash to make recycled instruments. The instruments are made of wood, oil cans, tools that tenderize beef, forks and other ordinary items. The people of Cateura say they are enriched by these instruments and have formed the Recycled Orchestra. 
I teach in a music school where music plays an important role in the curriculum. Landfill Harmonic inspired me, and I decided to have my art students create their own musical instruments from clean garbage that I collected at our school and my home. At the beginning of art class the students watched the video. I guided a discussion about the video afterwards -  how did the people live, what were they able to create from the trash, and how did the video inspire my students. Then, the students went to our "landfill" to select materials for their instruments. As the students began to work I realized not only was this a great recycling project, but it was also about problem solving. Some students struggled with the construction of their instrument. Specifically, they need help with how  to connect two pieces of garbage together; which adhesives to use; how to manipulate cardboard; best painting methods (always paint light colors first); and so on. As I went around the room to work one-on-one with my students I realized that I was solving their problems instead of prompting them to solve their own problems. I quickly changed my wording so that I was guiding them toward the right solution. As the students completed their instruments I displayed them around the classroom. I was thrilled that they put the time and effort into making their instruments look as authentic as possible. They literally took garbage and turned it into a 3D object. But, even more important, I believe they learned new skills and gained confidence in what they were capable of achieving.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Free Art

I believe it is important to nurture children's creativity. The last time I met with my students I had a chance to talk to them about the content of our art class. I got a lot of great feedback from them about what they were still interested in accomplishing in the weeks remaining in the course. I listened to them and decided to make changes in the curriculum to meet their needs. They wanted to have a free arts day and I thought it was a great idea too. So this week I brought in all types of paper and assorted materials for the students to use. I had fabric, wallpaper samples, buttons, gems, beads, assorted wooden pieces, clay and so much more! The girls had a great time just being creative. They used their imaginations and came up with some unique pieces of artwork as well as practical items (bowls made of clay). Every week we mimic a different artist's style but this week the students were working on their own artistic styles.