Why is art education so valuable? Think about it – art provides youth an avenue for creativity and self-expression, helps with motor skill and visual development, aids with focus and concentration, promotes collaboration and teamwork, improves academic performance, and encourages career exploration (Martin, 2014 and UF, August 2021).
To the youth, they are having fun exploring with paint, pens, crayons, and pastels. To youth development professionals, they are actually engaging in experiential learning. The popular model that 4-H incorporates, “Do-Reflect-Apply,” is used to engage youth in project area activities. It works like this: the educator introduces or shows the youth what they will be doing, and then the youth engage in the educational experience. Following the activity, youth discuss and think about the experience – asking questions, evaluating their performance, and developing goals. Using their new-found knowledge, they apply what they have learned to begin the process over.
Volusia County 4-H offered a one-day art camp on July 6, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Twenty youth, between the ages of 8-16 discovered various mediums, emulated famous artists, and made new friends. Hand-outs, videos, and hands-on instruction were provided to teach the youth.
The first activity was an acrylic pour and the results were stunning. Youth were able to choose their own color palette and it was undoubtedly the most popular activity of the day.
From acrylic pours, we moved on to raised-salt watercolor paintings. Using white glue, youth “drew” pictures. Then they covered the glue completely with salt. While the glue was still wet, they used watercolors to color the glue and salt – learning about “wicking.” Another watercolor activity, was string art. Youth dipped yarn into cups filled with watercolors, leaving the end free of paint. They then laid the string in “curly-cues” on half a sheet of card stock. To finish, they folded over the other side of the paper, held it down securely, and slowly pulled out the string. The effect resembles calla lilies.
Following our foray into watercolors and acrylics, we moved to pastels. The youth watched a YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0ErIT7kI_c) and received printed out examples to demonstrate how to use pastels. The youth used thick drawing paper to make their artwork come to life, using their fingers to shade and blend.
Youth were introduced to Mondrian and Matisse. Besides creating art pieces in the styles of the famous artists, they learned that being an artist can be a career. Mondrian used bold straight black lines and primary colors in his art. With rulers in hand, the youth drew their own geometric shapes and used paints, crayons, colored pencils, and markers to emulate his work. Few know that in his later years, Matisse made masterpieces out of cut up paper. His work influenced Eric Carle and others. For their last project of the day, the youth made three-dimensional paper sculptures that were inspired by photos of Matisse’s abstract work.
REFLECT AND APPLY
As each project was completed, the youth discussed the activity. For most of the participants, the camp was their first exposure to pastels, watercolors, and acrylics. Reflection on their work was both positive and negative. On the positive side, they all enjoyed exploring and creating and were generally happy with the results. On the other hand, many times children believe they should master a skill the first time they do it. They also had to realize that the vision one has for a result might be very different from the completed project. By discussing and showing the results, the youth were able to contribute to the entire group – by giving positive feedback and providing suggestions, and coming away with ideas for their own future projects. They also came to understand that art is for all and common household items can make beautiful art.
A written evaluation was given to the youth. On it, they were asked to rate the workshop, what they learned, and what they planned for future projects. Each of the budding artists replied differently. As an artist, I appreciate that. In summary, all of the youth experienced knowledge gain and intend future behavior change by visiting their artistic sides more frequently.