Fall 2014 Partnership with PS 33
By: Asya Gribov, Teaching Artist
For the second year in a row, I had the pleasure to teach the Thinking Through Art residencies at PS 33 in Chelsea. Teaching the cultures and traditions of the Himalayan region to students in Pre- K and Kindergarten classes, allows me to think deeper about creating multiple entry points into really big ideas. Together we are able to learn about different cultures, responsibilities and the interconnectedness of the world through exploring themes unique to the Himalayan traditions as well as relevant to our lives in New York.
We began the year by learning about the Himalayan Mountains and the surrounding regions. The students then created their own mountainous landscapes; it was up to me to convey the magnitude of the landscape to students that might have never left the urban landscape of New York. Through embodied play, we pretended to scale the Himalayan Mountains as we gasped for oxygen, tried to keep warm and enjoyed the vistas of the region from the top (and some students helped us envisioned dragons perched at the peaks).
Looking closely at Thankas, found in the museum collection, we drew our own scrolls depicting our community while comparing our daily life to that of a child in Nepal.
Some of the most meaningful moments for me were seeing the students make connections between the traditions we were discussing in class and their own lives. Yaks became our friends and we learned about the craft of felting from animal wool to make clothing necessary for the cold climates. Echoing the thoughts of many in the class, Lucas pointed out that our clothing come from a store and is “easier to get.”
Making museum pieces come to life is another one of my personal favorite parts of teaching. Having the unique ability to share art objects outside museum casing, allow the students to interact with the objects in ways not accessible by simply visiting the galleries. Whether it is creating wind to blow the wish flags around, listening to the Tibetan Singing Bowl, or smelling the incense depicted in the artworks, allows students to use their five senses to form a rich understanding and appreciation for learning about other cultures and new places at an early age. The students are able to hear the sound of the Tibetan Singing Bowl, likening the sound to a bell, and draw conclusions that it might be used for announcements or as Van pointed out, “to help people focus.”
In designing their own wish flags, students discussed the importance of putting time and decorations to make them “special” and important as they make their own wishes. Hermaine wished for bunk beds; Ashton drew all 12 Transformers that he wished to get; Lexi wished to ride a unicorn over rainbows, and Raina’s wish came true when it snowed so much one-week.
As the culmination of the Fall 2014 residency, the Pre-K and Kindergarten classes visited the galleries of the Rubin Museum, (also known to some students as the place where Asya lives) for art making and deeper exploration. Sharing our classroom experience with parents enables the learning to continue beyond the classroom. Students feel empowered to share their knowledge with their parents and continue these thoughtful conversations at home.
A special thank you to Mrs. Lindy, Ms. Harvey, Ms. Burns, Ms. Scott, and Ms. Georgantonisas well as the classroom support teams and all of the parents of PS 33 who helped us make this such a positive experience!