I recently got into a little debate with my wife. I know it’s unfair for me to post this without her side being represented but, hey, it’s my blog. She is the director of a wonderful Vermont based distance learning company. An accredited elementary and high school, they provide instruction and curriculum to hundreds of home schooled students. Recently they held an open house and as part of the organization myself and a part time teacher with a few high school students in music I was tasked (as I am every year) to provide an ad-hoc hands on activity integrating art and music. I do this by collaborating with the art teacher to engage kids I don’t know to design and present a crankie show in an, uh about an hour.
So a crankie show is a long scroll of paper moving through a small puppet show like box theatre. It can be accompanied by music, narration, be backlit with shadows puppets, etc. Here is one I completed with my 4th graders two years ago:
On this particular day, there were lots of unknown factors so or course with minimal preparation, the art teacher and I set out to have a random cross section of home schooled children illustrate the classic song “The Rainbow Connection”. We wrote the lyrics out on the long paper. As children filed in with their families, they were encouraged to draw anything they saw fit.
My wife later commented that she was underwhelmed by the product adding that I could have created an experience that directed the artistic content a bit more. I argued that sure, I could have drawn things myself that the children would color, and sure, it would have looked great. But… the process and experience of children doing whatever they wanted, inspired by the lyrics on the page is most important. Sure it was beautiful, messy, and chaotic but isn’t this the argument for homeschooling/ child driven learning? You tell me. The kids had a great time, we sang the song, and most importantly, they were able to see their art as a moving framed picture with live music. Crankies are wonderful and provide opportunities to package minimally planned and crafted art projects into a complete presentation in minutes. Lots of teacher guidance is great, especially if the objective is to create a set for a play, or a display, but an impromptu art project is a magical thing when you just let it go.