SchoolArts Magazine

MAR 2013

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Elementary THE LABYRINTH PROJECT Nancy Brady S everal years ago, I was introduced to a labyrinth by our school's Rabbi Chavah Carp. I have been teaching art at Solomon Schecter Day School (SSDS), New Mexico's only Jewish school, for the past fourteen years, and that experience changed my life as an artist, art teacher, and most importantly, as a human being. A labyrinth is a spiraling design with one path that takes you to a center place. You then turn around, walk back on the same path, and exit where you entered. It is a land artform that has been around since the Bronze Age and has been found all over the world. Most labyrinths are constructed with stones, but they may also be etched into the earth. 38 March 2013 During my first walk, I was deeply moved by how the labyrinth's winding path slowed me down, calmed me, gave me time to think deeply and become aware of my surroundings, and inspired ideas. I couldn't help but think of the labyrinth as a metaphor for life. A Community Collaboration I decided at that moment that we should have a labyrinth at our school. I felt that building one with students, their families, and our teachers would be a rich community experience. I thought students would love walking and playing in one, and that it could be used for community celebrations. SSDS's community, including students, teachers, parents, grandparents, and alumni worked on Sunday afternoons for two months to build the labyrinth. Bricks and crusher stone were donated. I drew a conceptual design of the labyrinth space and a space at the entrance for a circular mosaic mandala that was to be created by students from Acoma Pueblo's Sky City Community School (SCCS). The design of the labyrinth ended up being a complex Chartres design and was a mathematical feat to create. This was led by volunteer and school-board president Morris Albert, who did most of the work laying the bricks. After the bricks were laid, crusher stone was put in between to create the paths, one shovel at a time. SchoolArts Continued from page 39. Inspiring Student Artwork After walking the labyrinth I asked students to turn the experience into a work of art. The only rule I gave them was to have a path of any shape that lead to a center place that could be traced by their fingers. I gave them watercolor paper and choices of drawing materials such as chalk pastels, oil pastels, watercolors, markers, colored pencils, and permanent. At first, students sat looking at the blank paper. They were quiet and calm; I could see they were deep in thought. Slowly, I saw their inner thoughts emerge in lines, shapes, symbols, color, and words. They were deliberate with each mark, and I could see they were designing with no preconceived plan, just building on what was there. This experience was very powerful to me as an art teacher. Usually my lessons begin with a theme, visuals, or a technique demonstration, but this time, student art-making began as a deeply personal experience. What each student thought or felt was completely his or her own and the art they created was rich, beautiful, and original. The result was one of those "aha!" moments that deepened my love for labyrinths and their mystery. Nancy Brady was an art teacher at Solomon Schecter Day School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, during the Labyrinth project and is now president elect of the New Mexico Art Education Association. nbrady@unm.edu, artealacarte77@gmail. com Web Link Feed your kids the Arts. Studies have shown that involvement in the arts helps kids increase test scores and promotes academic achievement. For 10 Simple Ways to get more art into your child's life, visit AmericansForTheArts.org. labyrinthlocator.com schoolartsonline.com 55

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