Meet the Masters is a wonderful art curriculum that can be done either through the schools using volunteers or for home school. In the public school where my children attend, it is funded through the PTA and run completely by volunteers. Each grade received several sets of prints with information on the artists and project idea. A volunteer like me would go into the classroom once a month with two reproduction paintings to show the children. I would read from the back of the painting where the printed information was such as how long the artist lived, where they went to school, an interesting tidbit about their life and then the facts about that particular piece.
After going over both works, there were given questions to help the children discuss the everything in depth. Sometimes I would bring little treats to hand out to encourage answers.
Once that part was finished, I would hand out supplies for the craft/artwork we would be doing that day. Sometimes I used the suggested project and other times, I would come up with my own as with the Artist Trading Cards (ATCs).
If you are not familiar with ATCs, think about a baseball card or a Pokemon card but each one is handmade by an artist. The intent behind an Artist Trading Card is that they are meant to be traded and never sold. I love the idea of children creating and trading their own mini-masterpieces, so each year that I have participated in this volunteer program, I find an artist that will suit this project.
The night before, I cut out 2 1/2″ by 3 1/2″ rectangles out of heavy white card stock. The class can use crayons, colored pencils, markers or paints depending upon your mood, the lesson you are focused on and what the teacher prefers.
This past school year, I did this project with two 2nd grade classes and one 5th grade class. I instructed them to create a self-portrait on one side of the card using colored pencils. For the 5th graders, I added that they needed to draw themselves in the job they were going to have as an adult. On the back of the card, they were to write their name, date of portrait, birth date and one fun fact about themselves. What that revealed was very interesting to me and I wanted to share about it.
The second grade classes were wonderfully positive when it came to the fun fact they wrote about themselves. From the simple, “I am nice.” to the proud “I am the fastest runner.” and “I am a great friend.”, each one of those 35 or so students wrote something nice about themselves.
When it came to the 5th graders, it wasn’t quite the same though. There was only one boy who wrote, “I am a good football player.”. Almost all the other children either wrote about things they liked outside of themselves or turned it into a joke.
One made me take a breath at his bravery and I guess, his self-knowledge when I read: “Most of the time, I am shy so I don’t deal well with most strangers.” He drew himself to be doctor and I think he will be a wonderful one.
One broke my heart when I read, “I am stupid and that is why I am funny.”
I immediately pulled her aside privately and she confirmed that she meant what she wrote. I shared with her that it wasn’t acceptable to be mean to herself like that. I said that I didn’t care about what kind of grades she got because people are smart in different ways, but that she was to never to think of herself as not smart again. I asked her what she was good at and she was able to list a few things, so I pointed out that those things needed intelligence. I also said that having a great sense of humor needed its own brand of braininess. She agreed to change it to “I am smart and that is why I am funny.”
I hope that she hears the echo of my voice louder than her own the next time she is mean to herself.
What an amazing view into the self-esteem of those children and I loved how art allowed them to open up about themselves. It was also incredible to see the differences in how children see themselves. What happens to them between 2nd and 5th grades that they lose their confidence? More importantly, how can we help them get it back?
Here are some examples of what the children created:
If you have any questions about doing this with your Meet the Masters group, please feel free to let me know.
xoxo ~ Melissa