By Lower Elementary Teacher Amy Fujimoto
It may be better for me to keep working with whatever materials I find in the different places I visit. In this way I demonstrate to others how the studio can be set up anywhere.” Shaun McNiff, “Art Heals, How Creativity Cures the Soul”
This inspires me. Shaun McNiff is a pioneer in Expressive Arts Therapy. In the quote he is referring to the times when he would travel to different studio spaces to create a space for a group to do art together. I feel that in my new remote learning environment: I am literally scraping items together to create a classroom. I am grabbing kitchen magnets, paper, and pens to help me give lessons. I go outside to begin an art or science lesson. McNiff’s quote makes me wonder, what are the essentials for creating a studio for learning?
Space seems to be one important part. I have taken up residence at our dining room table. I have a binder for tracking my students’ progress, because I can’t do anything without a binder keeping me organized. I have pens, pencils, scissors, paper, and books. I have my tea with many refills throughout the day. Because it is at the dining room table, I also have a system for cleaning up and storing my tools from the day. The structure of getting everything out and putting all of it away seems to help me clarify the difference between “work time” and “rest time.”
Tools are what I need to do my work. I have markers for color-coding both days and when items are turned in. The computer keeps me connected to everything! I am tracking the online assignments, posts, and doing videos. I have my phone for outdoor video lessons. Books and stories inspire me. One of my tools is a book to read throughout the day. It helps me stay grounded and bear in mind the big picture for education. This week it is Shaun McNiff’s book. The tools will change depending on whether I am doing a science, language, math, or art lesson. The kitchen magnets are handy for each of these!
Time is the crux. I have a teenager who is self-sufficient in many ways that allow me to have time to work. When he was a whirling dervish of a 6-9-year-old, there was very little time for myself; I am making up for it now. Time for me is also organized by the activity: time for walking, time for correcting, meeting with families, creating new lessons, meeting with coworkers, and inspiration. How I construct my time is unique to my situation. Just as McNiff said, we can create the studio space anywhere, but it will be different in each space. There is a huge diversity of families and homes, there will also be a wide diversity of how each of us can organize our time. It seems every home might have its own unique blend of space, tools, and time. While as a community we are all working toward the same goal, education; how we go about doing it will look very different from house to house.
Below, some homemade materials and some items from home integrated into new materials.