Art in the Primary School and Kindergarten

Art teaching in the children's educational framework of NSWAS begins at the preschool level.  There, art is approached not so much as an independent subject, but as an integral part of their learning.  For example, children in the kindergarten this month were currently working on two projects.  One follows the onset of autumn.  The children have been engaged in gathering dried leaves, arranging and mounting them on paper, to make a display.  They have also gathered nuts and fruits, such as carobs and almonds, for an exhibition.  Another project looks at the human body.  To help them to understand its form and symmetry, the children made paper cutout and modeling clay figures, and even baked a cake, which they cut and shaped into human form, using fruit and candy to create eyes, nose, etc.  On some of these projects the children worked alone; on others they worked as a team.

In the primary school, art is taught as a specific subject, although artwork often plays a part in other subjects too (cf. The article on Creative Thinking, WBW Sept 12 –18).  The children receive two hours of art classes each week.  This year, since the previous coordinator of the subject, Diana Shalufi, has become the school’s educational director, Tsipi Zohar coordinates the subject.  It is taught by her and by Ludmilla Bilkis, who has also served as the school’s music teacher for the past several years.

Art is viewed by the school not as a minor subject, but as a central part of the educational experience that we are trying to convey in NSWAS.  This is because in this subject, more than any other, the child learns to define her own perception of the world, and to discover the similarities and differences in the way other children see it.  Tsipi, in describing the basic principle behind her teaching says that, more than anything else, she wishes to give the child a positive image of herself as a creative person.  Everyone, she says, has something special, uniquely her own, to express.  If children receive the legitimacy to develop this, they gain a sense of their individuality.  At the same time, by viewing other art works in various media, both by their classmates and by well known artists, they also gain an understanding of their personal likes and preferences.  While developing these, they also learn that it is equally legitimate to see the world in different ways.  These can be accepted, even when not admired.

This approach to art conveys a fundamental objective of binational education:  With a strong and developed sense of oneself, it becomes possible to perceive and accept the differences in others, without feeling threatened by them.

Practically, the children learn to work with a variety of media and techniques.  Of the two weekly classes, one is devoted to two-dimensional artwork (drawing, painting, etc.), and the other to three-dimensional art (such as clay sculpture).  The two teachers balance each other in their different approaches.  Ludmilla, trained in Russia, teaches according to classical principles of art.  She is currently teaching the use of symmetry in drawing.  As a music teacher she also encourages the children to find a connection between structures in visual art and musical composition.  Tsipi, trained in Israel, adopts a more organic approach, allowing the knowledge of underlying artistic structure to be revealed in the process of the work itself.

Children work sometimes alone, sometimes in teams.  Two projects on which the children have worked in recent weeks have involved elements of teamwork.  One is an environmental sculpture on which the older children are working.  It is a large concrete dragon spreading across the hillside behind the school.  At first, the children were skeptical that they could work with concrete and make something so large.  But now, as the project develops, they are quite excited.  Part of Tsipi's (and the school's) interest in doing an environmental sculpture is to help the children gain some respect also for their environment, by taking a part in creating something for it.  Other projects, such as a "peace tabernacle" are planned.

 Another major undertaking in which the children have been involved is The Umbrella Project, which is sponsored by an American organization of that name.  The organization has been working with children all around the world.  It provides the children with white umbrellas and special markers.  Each child is responsible for decorating a single segment of the umbrella.  The children learn first of all how to plan their project, both individually and as a group cooperating on one umbrella.  They make a preliminary drawing on paper, and then transfer this to the umbrella.  On their own initiative, the children formed themselves into Jewish-Arab cooperative teams and began to work.  Their broad guideline was to take a theme expressing "peace," though the children developed it according to their own interest (for example, some children emphasized ecology, and others love between people). 

Children from kindergarten through sixth grade levels worked on the project, and altogether some 50 colorfully decorated umbrellas were produced.  These will be shipped back to the USA and auctioned off by the organization.  Proceeds of the sale will return to NSWAS.  Thus, the children looked upon the project also as a way to help earn some money for their school, and took a special pride in this.

Students at the NSWAS School enjoy their art lessons a great deal.  The art room is not just a workshop but a rich repository of artwork from all of the various projects that the children have worked on.  Colorful sculptures and paintings line the walls, delicate mobiles hang from the ceilings, and an atmosphere of intense concentration and interest pervades among the happy young artists.

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The Dragon

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Tsipi working with the children

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