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Art, Math, Imagination!

February 10, 2021 | Kristen Jordan

In the Trees Class we have been learning about Faith Ringgold, an artist and activist (who lives in New Jersey!). We heard about how she always had paints and crayons with her as a child, and how she was determined to become an artist.  This determination led her to art school, to make art her career, and also drew her to activism about her artistic passion.  She was inspired to create art that was about the lives of the people around her, rather than to copy European masters that had been part of her training. And then, when she discovered that women artists were not treated the same way as men, she became active in advocating to have women’s artwork included in museums and galleries.

One of Faith Ringgold’s characters is Cassie Lightfoot, who imagined what she would do and see when she flew.  “I have told him it’s very easy, anyone can fly. All you need is somewhere to go that you can’t get to any other way.  The next thing you know, you’re flying among the stars.” (From Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold.)

In response to Faith Ringgold’s words and art and life, the children have imagined what it would be like to fly.  Some of the things they said they would see are: the moon and stars, a flying shark, rainbows, a police helicopter, an angel cat with wings and more!  How much fun to envision where you would go if you could fly!

Children have also responded artistically to Faith Ringgold’s work in paint and drawing. 

Faith Ringgold was inspired by a Tibetan art form: the tanka–a painting framed with fabric. And her mother taught her to quilt, an African American tradition.  Much of her art is in the form of “story quilts”; quilts that tell a story with the art on them.  Ms. Gluckow shared part of a quilt that she made, as well as a quilt that someone made for her family (*note the quilt covering the table in one of the flying photos). The children have so enjoyed seeing and hearing about these. Do you have a quilt at home?  If so, it would be amazing to have a conversation with your child about it.  

Geometric shapes are prevalent in Faith Ringgold’s work, and as we learn about her, we have also been studying shapes.  The children are noticing shapes everywhere!  In the quilts, in artwork, even in their snacks.  This mathematical concept is very exciting for preschoolers!  Don’t be surprised if you suddenly start hearing about all of the shapes around you!  Have you ever noticed how many every day items are rectangular?!  Your child will help you to see!

Wait, there’s one more connection!  Blocks were introduced to the children a few weeks ago.  The children are learning routines and procedures for using blocks.  And working with blocks also fits in perfectly with all that we are learning right now: As geometric shapes that help with spatial understanding, blocks are foundational to mathematical thinking.  And when you build something with blocks, you think about how those shapes fit together to create beautiful designs, just like much of Faith Ringgold’s art!

Art, math, knowledge of an inspiring and determined individual, and using your imagination–wow!   

As they were with George Washington Carver, the children have been inspired by Faith Ringgold.  We hope that whatever path they take, with hard work and determination, it will feel like it is an open path on which to walk.

Kristen Jordan

Teacher, Trees Class

Kristen Jordan began helping at Mustard Seed School in 2006, after her daughter had been a student in the preschool. She substituted for many years in all grades; in 2011, she returned to the classroom and has been a teacher in The Nest ever since.

Prior to the birth of her daughter Clara, in 2002, Ms. Jordan worked in Brooklyn as a first grade teacher with the New York City Public Schools. During this time, her school collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum, and this work helped Ms. Jordan develop a real interest in the parallels between the process of making art and the process of writing in the classroom. She thoroughly enjoys teaching both art and literacy to preschoolers.

Ms Jordan’s background includes work with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. While at Teachers College, she trained with esteemed educator and author Lucy Calkins. Early in her teaching career, Ms. Jordan did not think that she wanted to teach very young children but her view has changed! She now really enjoys and takes great interest in young children and their development.

Ms. Jordan enjoys reading, working out, hiking, cooking, and spending time with her daughter and family. Although she has lived on the East Coast for a very long time, as a native of Oregon, she really loves the mountains!

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