As the holidays approach, we thought it would be a fine time to feature a successful project we loved this year. Today let’s journey to Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, where students from pre-kindergarten to first grade now explore literacy and the arts thanks to generous donors and the ingenuity of one teacher, Heather McNamara. Her project asking for a classroom library filled with exciting books about art and artists, “Creativity is Intelligence Having Fun!” was funded in two parts earlier this year.
We reached out to Mrs. McNamara to get some more insight into what inspired her to post the project and why it spoke to her students. She told us in an email that she chose to focus on this project “to assist students (and other educators) in seeing that they can make connections between literacy and the arts. Research shows that reading aloud to children stimulates language development and builds early reading skills. Reading with students builds curiosity, and exposes them to conversations that they might not experience in daily life or get through a screen.”
To Mrs. McNamara, an art teacher, the combination of literacy-building and her ability to engage her students proved essential.
“For instance, I’ve read Too Much Glue and asked students to make predictions about what will happen next to Matty (he’s covered in glue and stuck to a desk).” She used the story to discuss her expectations for the use of materials in her art studio. “You’ll hear many of the students quote the story, ‘Make glue raindrops, not glue puddles!'”
Her young students also used the books to dig into the abstract. That’s how they came up with the question: “How can you create a sculpture with just a line?”
Mrs. McNamara credits another art educator, Cassie Stephens, of Nashville, Tennessee, with giving her the idea, while she added the literary spin. “I read them the story, Lines That Wiggle, and we identified different types of lines. The illustrations immediately caught their attention.
“I then hold up a strip of construction paper and ask students how we might be able to create sculpture from a flat line. Students make suggestions (‘Stack lots of them on top of each other!” “Glue them on to a stick!’) until someone says that we can glue one end down and bend the paper to make it stand up.”
Not bad for a bunch of kindergartners. This is how Mrs. McNamara responded to donors on her project after it was funded:
The books you have helped to fund will be only the beginning of our art studio library, which the students and myself will utilize to build cross-curricular connections between literacy and the arts, build reading comprehension, and build works inspired by what we’re reading! In addition, I will be introducing them to the masters and their works: Van Gogh, Matisse, Klimt, and more.
Mrs. McNamara concluded our e-mail exchange by reminding us: “The arts develop problem-solving skills, discipline through practice, and the fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination needed for writing!”
Congrats on the successful project and happy holidays, Mrs. McNamara!