Teaching Shadows

You’d think rule one of any teaching class would be never turn out the lights. But here I am, the newly minted art teacher, closing the blinds and flipping the switch.

I mean how else do you really teach kids about shadow without a spotlight and some well placed puppets? So here I am with a room full of kids, five shadow puppets and a huge piece of paper taped to the wall. You got the scene? Great. Cus it gets out of control from here on out.

The thing I really love about art is it’s long range impact into other subjects. I can show you how shadows work by changing the distance of the light between the object and show the difference in the size of the shadow. That’s important because it’s how projector screens and movie theaters work. I can demonstrate where a shadow will land based on the location of the light source. That’s important for engineering skyscrapers and their range of impact on the landscape around them. We talked about trees in our yards and how the tree’s shadow is wonderful for summer picnics but not for planting gardens under. Art matters, big time.

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for. –Georgia O’Keeffe

So when I showed all these things and asked the kids if shadows were “art” or “science” I expected the kids to say both! Friends that is not what they said. Some said “scary!” and most said “fun!” I’ll take those answers too.

Trying to keep the kids on track tracing shadows was not an easy task. There was plenty of tripping, giggles, and not nearly enough puppets to trace. I encouraged the kids to use teamwork by having one kid hold the item creating the shadow and the other tracing it on the paper. That was fine until partnerships collapsed around too much movement or too slow of drawing.

All of this is me trying to say that creativity is messy business. Collaboration can be hard. Shadows can be both fun and scary at the same time. But that doesn’t mean give up. Never that.

Happy Questing!

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