Saturday, June 10, 2006

Recycled Sculpture

We went on a field trip last week to MOCHA (Museum of Children's Art) in downtown Oakland. MOCHA is a great place - I haven't looked into where they get their funding or anything, but I've taken about 7 or 8 field trips there in my time teaching here, and each one has been a thoroughly positive experience, with teachers who know art and know children. Also, with all the focus on reading and writing in school, we're barely teaching math - you're not about to see art in schools. The kids thrive even just during a one-hour class. It's obvious that they need art.

MOCHA offers a variety of classes. I have in the past taken kids to book making, color theory, clay sculpture, painting, and this time we did recycled sculpture. I think this one is my favorite. Each child gets a hot glue gun, a pressed wood base, and access to all sorts of recycled materials: water bottles, wood pieces, crocheted fruits, cinnamon sticks, pine cones, plastic tops, and things that I couldn't identify.

This field trip was a resounding success because for an hour and a half, the kids just glued and created. They didn't glue each other, they didn't burn each other with hot glue guns, they didn't throw things at each other, put each other down, or even call their own sculptures stupid. We did have problems getting the sculptures back on BART - next time, I need to get a chaperone to drive to MOCHA just to get the sculptures back unbroken. The kids got many, many compliments from passers-by. I think there's some hidden talent in my class!

One of my biggest regrets was that I had to leave children at school. Three children acted up so badly during the few days before the trip that I couldn't bring them. One of them - let's call him 'Alan' - completely fell apart all week, and the other two got into fights the day before. I only had two chaperones (three other parents canceled last minute), so I just didn't feel that it was safe to bring children who needed an adult all to themselves. Especially on raised BART platforms: electric third rail and all that.

Alan is a child I worry about. I looked in his file today and say that when he was born, his mother was 15 and his father was 17. Also, they've been chronically homeless, and he's been 'habitually truant' each year since kindergarten. He's got a lot of odds against him. He usually refuses to do work, and when I sit with him and try to work one-on-one, he just repeats that he hates himself. One time he said it again, "I really hate myself." I said something like, "I know what it's like to feel bad about yourself sometimes." He looked at me more seriously than I've ever seen him and said, "Not sometimes, all the time." It shut me up. I'm hoping to bring him on the field trip next week. I have several friends who are volunteering to chaperone, and one of them - who knows this kid and knows what he (the friend) is getting into - has volunteered to have just Alan in his group. A group of one. And trust me, that's going to be the hardest group on the whole field trip.

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