Emotional geographic

The connection between children’s drawings and education, art education or developmental psychology may appear to be a given. At the Collection, we like to argue that tighter connections to anthropology, history and ethnography would benefit the advancement of knowledge.

The interest in children’s drawings occasionally emerge from unexpected places. Alina Gabriela Tamas, who teaches in a kindergarten, made a surprising and stimulating connection between children’s drawings and the study of geography. Published in the Romanian Review of Geographical Education (Vol. III no. Feb. 2014), her article presents an analysis of 42 drawings of trees, by 21 pre-school children aged 4 to 7. It is concise and illustrated with all the related reproductions. Who would have thought that we should throw geography in the mix too?

Hello Tree, by Sahana, 2020. Source: CDIC-CIDE, 2021.

Post-pandemic schools

For safety reasons, we are using schools very differently during the pandemic. Air circulation, room capacity and group transitions all had to be reconsidered. Teachers use more electronics than ever, namely for virtual teaching and so do students. The need for breaks from screen time is felt by everyone. Each time the school goes to lockdown and reopens is an opportunity to reconsider whether we prefer to attend school from home mask-free, or at the school masked all day.

Will our school buildings feel increasingly obsolete as the post-pandemic era will set in and we gradually wake up from this collective nightmare? That is a question school trustees, policy makers and unions will certainly be addressing and debating. It is important that parents and their children also take part in this discussion.

Architects as much as anyone else should make their voice heard and encourage new ways to envision future learning spaces that are more adaptable to transitions from regular use to crisis situation. We came across the interesting website on architecture and education, edited by Adam Wood and Emma Dyer. They present over twenty interviews with fellow architects, teachers and other education professional on the subject. They also have a page on school museums around the world, like the Museum of Schools and Children’s Book, in Turin (in Italian). Revisiting what schools were like in the distant past, is one way to reconsider what they should look and feel like in the future.

Header banner, website. Museum of School and Children’s Book, Turin. Source: Fondazione Tancredi di Barolo, 28 February 2021.

The eye of the beholder

Thanks to their own perseverance and that of dedicated educators, therapists and policy makers, visually impaired and blind people have been increasingly able to appreciate the visual arts. Not only as spectators but also as creators. It will be a surprise to many that visually impaired and blind people can also draw. They do and it can even be quite interesting for everyone in a classroom to discover some of their techniques and materials. It can be a real eye opener for everyone and foster empathy and inclusion in the community.

A good place to start for educators is the well established Art Beyond Sight organization which has been bringing “arts and culture to all” for well over 30 years. They published a Handbook for Museums and Educators full of inspiring sample programming descriptions, though it is undated.

Teacher turned consultant/publisher Carmen Willings also has much to offer on her website Teaching Students With Visual Impairments. Registration is required but free. Jump straight to the Creating Tactile Graphics page and see for yourself.

Australia: Annual rainfall, sample tactile drawing. Source: The Braille Authority of North America. Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 8 February 2021.

Safe, healthy, stimulating schools

Over the past few months, educators around the world have witnessed first hand the impact of the pandemic on their students and families. They know that the adaptation and accessibility of education during COVID-19 will be determinant for the post-pandemic learning years. International organizations such as Brookings are among public education supporters for strong public policies and investments. See their recent article by Emiliana Vegas on the subject and make sure your local policy makers read it too.

Investing in public education worldwide is now more important than ever. By Emiliana Vegas. Source: brookings.edu, 5 July 2020

Everyone should draw more

It is never repeated too often. Drawing is a tool, is a learning tool and enhances life for everyone. The George Lucas Educational Foundation too says so, in one of their many interesting videos: The powerful effect of drawing on learning.

George Lucas Educational Foundation. Source: Edutopia.org, 17 May 2020.

Draw your attention to…

As social distancing is in fashion this season, those who stay at home have an opportunity to focus on improving their drawing skills. Make it fun with lots of interactions between siblings, and generations. Play games like “draw me something from this random line”, or “draw this on countdown”, or the popular “pictionary” with home made drawings.

The time is also ripe for a discussion about commitment with the help of a funny character. Explanation… Challenge your child to come up with a cartoon character so fun and lovely, that the family will want to adopt it for good. Warn the child that this will be demanding and will require much work. Ask the child to create the character, AND be able to draw it several times exactly the same. Then, explore positions, emotions and colors of the character. Share verbal stories about the character’s personality and challenge your child with a “what if?” idea to start a comic strip with. Take the time to explore online help such as Instructable Craft and do not let the creative team drift away from this adoption process.

Step 5, Thank you! By PVT Skittles. Source: Instructable.com, 13 March 2020.

Art education at its best

Art teachers, undergraduates art students, curious parents, you must explore Craig Roland‘s web site, artjunction.org , his writings and presentations. He is by far the flip side of scholars who burry their findings deep into expensive publications and mazes of so-called search aids. His short and well illustrated article Young in Art is just one of many examples, most of them available online. Scholars take notice, follow the lead.

Young in Art, cover art, Craig Roland. Source: artjunction.org , 23 February 2020.

If you didn’t do it yet, check out ROE

If you do not know the program Roots of Empathy yet, make sure to check it out and to follow them online. The program brings parent-baby bounding time into the classroom, where students learn about emotions and gain insights about themselves and the world we live in. From these encounters spring awesome drawings and quotes too. See for yourself on ROE’s YouTube channel. Let’s hope, for all of us, that the original drawings and quotes made over the years will be preserved.

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I felt proud when… A children’s Art Show. Roots of Empathy, YouTube, 31 August 2019.

Children, rights and literature

One of our founding member, Liliane Masengo, is not only a respected teacher but also the author of a book on human rights for children: Il était une fois les droits de l’homme. The book is available online, for example from Barnes & Noble.

Liliane belongs to a little known group of teachers who have left their mark on literature about the place of children in society and children’s experiences. Another good example is the hundred-year-old book by Alice Descoeudres: L’enfant, le militaire et la guerre. This book can be viewed online, thanks to the Archives Institut Jean-Jacques Rousseau, at Université de Genève.

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Il était une fois les droits de l’homme, front cover. By Liliane Masengo. Source: Barnes&Noble.com, 21 August 2019.

Inspiring Reading

There are numerous personal and professional experiences over the past 50 years that have motivated the creation of our Collection. Some may ask why we called it “Children’s Design” instead of “Children’s Art”? One of the reasons has to do with the notion of intention. This most interesting article by Dr. Heather Malin is an excellent read for understanding what motivated us in the first place: Making Meaningful: Intention in Children’s Art Making