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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Teaching color theory to the wee tots

Corinne Kelly Avery will have her munchkins make smocks that coincidentally teach them color theory.
I tried teaching my own young kids art many years ago; I made them cry. So whenever a gifted art-teacher friend tells me about lesson plans for youngsters. I’m blown away. For example, Corinne Kelly Avery recently told me about her ideas for her Summer Art Camp for Munchkins (4 and 5 year olds) at Parkminster Presbyterian Church later this month.

Corinne has taught Sunday school at Parkminster all but one of the past 34 years. “I call myself the Oldest Living Sunday School Teacher,” she said. Corinne attended SUNY Potsdam for fine art, crossing over to St. Lawrence University for art education. She has her master’s in art education from Nazareth College and substitute teaches in Gates-Chili, Churchville-Chili and Spencerport schools.
Dip one palm in red, one in yellow, and then rub them together, and you have a kinesthetic understanding of orange. Dang that's brilliant.
Corinne ties the story of creation to art in an arresting way. “Before God made light, there was no color. How did he create all things? He started with light. So the first thing we’re going to do is make sun-catchers. The next thing we’ll explore is color, because we wouldn’t be able to see color unless God created light.”

Corinne will have her munchkins make their own smocks. “I want them to feel they are covered and that they created that cover,” she said. At a local home center, she found a fiber paper dropcloth with a plastic lining, which she cut into 20X48” pieces with holes to go over the kids’ heads.  The kids will do an art project on the fabric side.

“I’m teaching that God is the creator of all things and he created each of them uniquely, as shown in their fingerprints. Why not take that forward and let them create?

Watercolor resist fish for Corinne's munchkin camp.
“Their hands are a stamp of who they are and how God created them. I remembered a book called Mouse Paint I read to my own kids years ago. I thought, I can take that concept and do that with these kids. They can take red paint on one hand and make a print, and then take yellow on the other hand and make a print, and put their hands together and mix them to make orange. It’s a kinesthetic way to appreciate color; it’s almost magical. It’s basic, but it’s also satisfying.”

Being a good planner, Corinne made test smocks before she actually teaches her class, which is how she realized that not all blues and reds make purples. Sometimes they make mud. Back to the art store!
Corinne will take her kids through the Genesis account of creation, using, for example, Van Gogh’s Starry Night to talk about the heavens, and a watercolor resist mobile to talk about the birds and fishes.

I asked Corinne the question that is always on my mind when someone tells me about something so far out of my own area of expertise: why is it that she’s so smart about teaching little kids, and I’m not? “What if we were all autobots and had exactly the same thoughts?” she answered. “What a boring world this would be! God made this a world of infinite variety. Look at insects, snowflakes, flowers, plants. How would it be if we all thought and acted the same? We wouldn’t be attracted to anyone because they would all be just like us. There’d be no communication or community or life at all.”

And that sounds like a great answer to me.

If I had a munchkin, I’d definitely send him or her to this program. There are two sessions: July 15-19 and July 22-26. The first week is sold out; the second has four openings left. If you’re interested, the cost is $50 per kid, and you can call 585-247-2424 to register.

I really got to know Corinne on our drives back and forth to my workshop in Maine this June. There is only one slot open for my July workshop at Lakewatch Manor in Rockland, ME, and August and September are sold out.  Join us in July or October, but please hurry! Check here for more information.

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