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Faith Ringgold: Artist and Activist Inspiring Preschoolers!

March 8, 2023 | Kristen Jordan

The children have gotten to know Faith Ringgold, who they learned about as part of our larger study for Black History Month.  They have learned so much about her life and journey to becoming an artist, and have been very inspired by her work. 

One of the ways they learned a lot about Faith Ringgold was by watching videos about her, and hearing her speak about her own life. Since she is still living, there are many recordings of her sharing her ideas and experiences.

The children have also done a great deal of looking closely at her work.  They have seen much of her artwork both in the recordings, and in many books that she wrote and illustrated.  When they examine something closely, they are developing observational skills and building stamina.  

Children have been practicing speaking as they describe what they see, and also developing habits of being good listeners as they attend carefully to what their classmates say.   Our thinking grows and expands as we hear others’ ideas. 

Children have responded in several ways to Faith Ringgold’s work. They imagined something they might like to do and then created beautiful drawings with details showing their ideas. Children had many creative and interesting ideas for their drawings such as “Me flying to my cousin’s house.” and “Me as a baby AND a big girl on my Aunt’s rooftop.” “I’m flying over the rainforest.”

Since many children drew themselves flying, they have begun to create paintings of themselves flying. The learning will continue as children later think about where they might be flying!  Stay tuned! 

Much of Faith Ringgold’s work was in the form of quilts.  Children also looked at part of a quilt that Ms Gluckow made and they created more designs on it at the light table.

They also had the opportunity to to design a section of a quilt using collage materials.  Children chose carefully, cut out their pieces, and made careful plans for each section of “quilt” that they designed, usually making “frames” around their work, just like Ringgold did. 

A mathematical extension of Ringgold’s work has been through the children’s explorations with geometric shapes, like many of the shapes found in quilts.

Drama has been a great place to engage further with Ringgold’s ideas.  After hearing the book “Tar Beach,” children created a rooftop deck where they imagined themselves gazing up at the stars and eating meals like Cassie Lightfoot, the main character in Ringgold’s book (based on her childhood and going up to her own rooftop at night and dreaming that she could fly). 

 The children also built a miniature George Washington Bridge (GWB), that is prevalent in Ringgold’s book. After adding environmental visuals, such as string lights for stars, and drone video footage of the GWB lit up to commemorate Memorial Day, the students began to embody Ringgold’s classic illustrations, at first flying around and over the GWB and then, becoming different vehicles driving between NYC and NJ.

As a culmination of the work in drama, the first grade class collaborated with the afternoon preschool children to show us how they made wooden cars in Art with Mr. Johnson and they even allowed us to take turns driving their cars over our bridge!

This type of mixed age learning is a touchstone of what our school has become known for, with older students sharing and scaffolding their prior knowledge, often having been inspired and by the interests of younger students – all provoked and supported by well-rounded Reggio Emilia and *STEAM approaches! *Science Technology Engineering ARTS and Math!

It has been so exciting to see how energized the children have been in response to learning about Faith Ringgold.  Their work has been inspired!

 

Kristen Jordan

Teacher, Rivers 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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