In early September, 800 Creative Art Learning Packs were delivered to Redwood and Dana Gray schools for families to pick up for their children as part of Flockworks on-going commitment to Art@School. For the past few years, Flockworks led weekly Art for all Dana Gray students and was exploring ways to bring more art to Redwood School. With COVID and the constraints of distance learning, the Flockworks team was certain that getting art-making tools, materials, and ideas into children’s hands at home would make a difference: art-making helps reduce stress, enhances learning, and generates optimism and fun.
Response by families, children, and teachers was very enthusiastic. The Art Packs added new ways that teachers could engage and encourage students within the constraints of distance learning. Information in the Art Packs was in Spanish (and English) to ensure that all families were readily involved. The enthusiastic response was evident as Distance Learning classes talked about the packs and appreciative notes were sent by teachers and children. The positive community response was also notable, with donations including a $5,000 grant awarded from the Jantzen-Romelli Fund at the Community Foundation of Mendocino County.
“Mask Heros” was an activity included in the first Art Pack as part of the Mask-Up Mendocino Project led by North Coast Opportunities (NCO). 10 cloth masks went to each student with the aim to involve kids in using masks and becoming mask advocates within their households. Children added colorful designs with markers on the cloth masks and gifted masks to household members. Lucy Kramer, NOC coordinator for the overall project, saw the success of Flockworks’ effort first hand. Kramer said. “ I was in Willits and saw a man wearing one of the NCO masks. He said his grandson received it with art supplies! His grandson is in elementary school in Fort Bragg! He went on to gush about how much he likes the mask and how much fun his grandson had decorating masks. He was very grateful. He spoke mostly Spanish and my Spanish is not good, but we pantomimed a twenty-minute conversation about the masks, Covid, and the student experience during the pandemic. “ Another round of masks will be made available after the Thanksgiving holiday to school teachers and staff.
By late October, a 2nd Children’s Art Pack was ready to go, with a partnership from Safe Passage Family Resource Center to help fund materials for this outreach. Focused on puppet making, the aim was to give children positive ways to express emotions, voice their ideas, tell stories, and use their imagination. A special insert also highlighted ways that Safe Passage could help families.
Making a Shadow Puppet Theater from a paper grocery bag and a mini-flashlight became the centerpiece for Dana Gray’s 3rd to 5th-grade students. Several teachers brought Flockworks Resource Artist Norma Trejo into their Distance Classroom to work with children directly to construct their theaters and puppets. For Trejo, finally being back “with” students raised her spirits and determination to help kids stay positively engaged during these challenging times. Says Trejo, “I was nervous and excited to work with the kids in this new format. Classrooms now have a camera that focused on my hands, making it easy for the kids to follow along. Everyone was extremely attentive and it was fun! The teacher said the students were really excited about art time. I hope to get invited into many classrooms, although direct class time is very limited. We are looking for other ways to reach out to children.”
Other puppet types and materials were enclosed including a roll of masking tape donated by Gerry Matson and Matson Building Supplies. For Redwood students, the focus is on making simple finger puppets, popsicle sticks, spoons, and paper. Models for counting puppets and Feeling-Faces were also included. With each Art Pack, Teachers are kept in the loop on the materials and ideas going out and ways they might adapt them to their Distance Learning classroom. They also have an open invitation from Flockworks for help to integrate art into their overall curriculum activities.
The next project Pack with a roll of Aluminum foil and pipe cleaners was ready to go out to Dana Gray students before the holidays with Science/Engineering challenges. Create a boat and see how many pennies can be floated in it before it sinks. Create a 3-D sculpture or action figure as another challenging activity. Several teachers expressed excitement about the tie to classroom reading about canoes and looked forward to challenging their students with these materials.
Joanna Wigginton, Creative Leader for the Flockworks project, took advantage of the fall sunshine to undertake a special art installation project out at Dana Gray. Together with Trejo, a 9 cycle labyrinth was painted in white on the paved playground.
Several teachers and aides regularly use this meditative walk to relax, exercise, and regroup during their breaks from Distance Classroom. Says one Teacher “The Walking Labyrinth gets me outside and helps keep me sane and focused during all this.”
Once we get past COVID restrictions, Flockworks plans to have all the children participate in a painting all around the border. “We expect kids will enjoy this walking path to the center and back as much as the teachers are already!” noted Wigginton.
Flockworks' Art@Schools project is made possible by a grant from California Arts Council, materials support from FBUSD, a Grant from Jantzen-Romelli Fund at the Community Foundation of Mendocino County, creative partnerships with groups like NCO and Safe Passage Family Resource Center, and from generous individual donations. We work with only one part-time paid staff, and all the rest is made possible by volunteer leadership. We welcome support from the community to help us continue during these challenging times! Add your support simply by clicking on Join the Flock and make a donation! Every gift matters!