I’m delighted to share with you a guest post written by Sunnyside Micro-School’s documentation specialist and art teacher, Melissa Stepien. Melissa is an educator with a strong creative/visual arts background and extensive experience integrating pedagogical philosophies that support progressive learning modalities. She views the art of teaching as a journey based on reflection, reciprocity, and relationship and values her role as a protagonist with students engaged in meaningful inquiry. Thank you for such a soulful and inspiring post, Melissa! 

“Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing
there is a field
I’ll meet you there.”

The stage is set: large sheets of blank paper, varied complementing and contrasting materials of color and texture, paints and scissors. Every Thursday afternoon at Sunnyside MicroSchool, visual art opportunities are designed and offered as a means for self-exploration and understanding.

Creativity in traditional art endeavors is generally equated with its results. A process based approach throws away the map, there is no direction or goal; specific expectations and rules are replaced with a sense of adventure. I invite my students to inhabit and explore their present states of reality with playful spontaneity.

Of course, it can be challenging for asynchronous children to navigate such an open-ended proposition. Perfectionism and self-doubt can be formidable obstacles for our resident artists, and yet I’ve found that the strength of resistance or aversion usually indicates something waiting to emerge. It is at these times that I might offer an idea prompt or scaffold an existing thought process in a way that lends encouragement without it being an obvious teacher directive. Then again, sometimes a simple “try to keep going” can be enough to get them past a wall.

I am delighted when I see my students engage with the process, exploring emotions or taking risks they may not generally allow themselves to take. Recently we had a table full of laughter and fun as each child made an expressive choice that revealed an aspect of a shining self.

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