The program started with lofty goals and aspirations—we would tour the world through the lens of significant art, progressing through history with each week. These goals met with reality in a disastrous way during the program’s first day; as I tried to explain the meaning and uses of archaic pictographs, kindergartners pulled chalk out and started to run around; as I looked around the sidewalk at what everyone drew, all but two didn’t follow directions. Best of all was a unicorn poop tree, whatever that is.
Now in December, I’ve learned valuable lessons about how to structure my programs and what goals I set for the students to learn. Primarily, I’ve lessened the restrictions on what they make, focusing more on what the students want to get out of the activity and less on what would be educationally ideal. It’s better to have an excited, engaged student doing what they prefer than a bored one doing what I do. As a result of this change, I’ve seen a lot of innovative and frequently amusing works that really showcase the individuality of students.
Although it’s never perfect and often challenging, I and a changing cast of students continue to engage, create interesting art, and learn a little about the past. As Timmy, the mountain with a face recently created during an Olmec clay activity would probably say, “there’s always gonna be another mountain.” AmeriCorps is a climb, I guess.