SchoolArts Magazine

FEB 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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AdvocAcy The Windmill Playground Trina Harlow W hat has more than 4,000 arms and 4,000 legs and moves for nearly 192 hours without stopping? The answer to this riddle is the windmill playground, a volunteer-built community playground complete with more than forty art elements out on the Texas prairie. The effort, planned and led by a group of community volunteers in conjunction with Leathers and Associates, a playground consulting company, brought residents, parents, students, businesspeople, and teachers together to build an extensive playground for a fast-growing Dallas suburb. A Labor of Love I was asked to design the art components for this playground and lead Besides designing all of the Texasthe huge effort to paint and complete themed elements for the playground, them. I immediwhich included ately saw this as an armadillo, Advocating for school art a significant way cowboy, farm girl, programs is elevated to a to advocate for tractor, chicken much higher level when our district's art coop, old main program, but I also advocacy efforts are public. street, red bud knew that careful tree, and twentyplanning was essential for success. five benches with the official Texas With economic woes and budget state symbols, it was important to shortfalls always a concern for educastrategically plan well for the installators, especially arts educators, the tion. district's eight art teachers rallied to assist with the enormous project. community collaborations When working on a community art With the joint participation of our installation there are significant school district administration and challenges. It is paramount to be sucthe town's government leaders, I was cessful, especially when the school able to be on site for most of the week district is taking on such a public and obtained permission for the diseffort within a community. trict's other art teachers to each be on site one weekday to assist. Hundreds of parents and students also participated. Everyone on the project worked together in a spirit of community, many taking vacation days from work. It was exciting for the district's art program, parents, and students to work together to create a project that will last for many generations. And because of the educational environment of the playground, parents can teach their children about Texas history and culture while they are playing. A teaching guide was created for distribution through the town's website. Advocacy without Borders For art teachers to be significant in their districts, they must have significance. Advocating for school art programs is elevated to a much higher level when advocacy efforts are public and not confined to the four walls of the school building. Without a sense of community there can be no community. Art teachers know that community begins in the artroom; a significant art teacher helps make that effort visible to the greater community. Trina Harlow is an art teacher at R. Steve Folsom Elementary School in Prosper, Texas. 12 February 2013 SchoolArts

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