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Valentines creations offer students opportunities to draw and learn

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Catherine W. Idzerda
February 13, 2012
— Teachers are tricky.

There you are with your glue sticks, crayons, markers and colored paper, thinking that finally you’re going to get a break from the desperate drudgery of first grade.


Then it dawns on you: “Hey …. we’re learning something, too.”


Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and for the past week, youngsters have been cutting out hearts, coloring bears, sticking one piece of colored paper to another and generally having a good time preparing for the big day.


They also were practicing fine motor skills, following instructions, working on penmanship and learning what it means to be a friend and a role model.


At Turtle Creek Elementary, students in Madie Jacobson’s and Brenda Scheff’s classrooms made valentines for patients at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.


The project involved cutting out a beaming paper bear, sticking it to another piece of paper, coloring it in and writing, “I hope you feel better” on the card’s back.


Sometimes, they ran out of room, and their well wishes slanted awkwardly down toward the bears’ paws. But even then, their printing was tidy and remarkably readable.


Isai Gomez, 6, has never been to the hospital, but he could sympathize with sick kids.


“My brother once had a stomach ache, and my mom kept him home,” Gomez said. “She would keep me home if I had a stomach ache.”


Mya Hattox, 6, was sick once and got a stuffed bear. Well, actually, it was more like an elephant.


“I hope this bear will make them feel better,” Hattox said.


First-grade students have a “friendship party” on Valentine’s Day that stresses kindness and consideration rather than popularity and sugar consumption.


In Darien, the “buddy classes” of early childhood education teacher Stephanie Hicks and 4K teacher Stephanie Krueger worked on valentines together.


First, they sat and listened to a story, giving the 4K class the chance to model the Mt. Everest of life skills: sitting quietly and listening.


Then, older students paired up with the younger ones for a small-motor skill marathon.


Take top off glue stick.


Turn dial to advance glue.


Clutch glue in fist.


Smear on back of red paper heart.


Stick to center of larger, pale pink card.


It was all up hill after that. The squares of paper that required gluing got smaller. Backing had to be removed from a sticker. Tiny plastic eyes had to be glued to the paper.


Then they had to write their names on their creations.


The early childhood kids took the whole thing very seriously. Brows were furrowed; youngsters consulted each others’ cards and made changes to their own, adjusting their plastic eyes to better positions.


4K student Gianna Arellano was a model buddy, helping her buddy, Adelya Aranda with everything from printing her name to managing those little plastic eyes.


Adelya scooted closer to her friend and looked at her adoringly.


Back in the classroom, students shared what kinds of valentines they planned to give: Barbie, princesses and Sponge Bob.


Then, Ms. Krueger asked them a tough question: What would happen if you brought valentines cards for all the students except for, say, Caden?


Silence.


Then lots of very small hands shot up into the air.


“She might feel left out,” Ben Morgan said.


“Hurt feelings,” another little voice said.


Well done, kids, you’ve got it exactly right.


Hearts were appropriate art assignment

It was an appropriate topic for the month of February.


At Turtle Creek Elementary School, Delavan, students in Rachel Hill’s fifth grade art class are studying modern artist Jim Dine.


Dine is perhaps best known for his series of paintings of ordinary objects and shapes, such as hearts, tools, bathrobes and torsos that look like they come straight of out a museum’s collection of classical statuary.


In Hill’s class, students were assigned to create their own heart paintings. Part of the goal was to learn how Dine used symmetry and asymmetry in a single work to create something beautiful and alive. In Dine’s world, one image or shape can carry many different emotions.


“I didn’t plan it for Valentine’s Day in particular,” said Hill.


“But February is a good month for it.”


Each student created grid on paper for his or her hearts. Then, using a perfectly shaped paper heart as a guide, they drew a pencil heart in each grid.


A mix of oils and a watercolor wash was used to create the works.


Maddy Andreoni, 10, loved the project—or rather, she loves most creative enterprises.


“We have drawer of scrap booking stuff at home, and my mom and I do those together,” Andreoni said.


She liked the idea of using an everyday item as the subject for an artwork.


Daniel Diaz, 10, was less enthusiastic.


He likes Leonardo da Vinci—his painting of the mysterious Mona Lisa, his inventions and his knowledge of the world.


“He knew almost as much as Copernicus,” Diaz observed.


As for Jim Dine, Diaz thought he was just OK.


“Hearts really aren’t my thing,” Diaz said.



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