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Recess Enhanced with Creative Art Programs
Posted 12/1/22

kids working on art

It’s a windy morning at Victoria Elementary as parent volunteers arrange art supplies on lunch tables covered in paint-splattered drop cloths. Cups with Mod Podge and paint brushes are carefully placed next to aluminum trays filled with scraps of colorful paper in different textures. Spools of washi tape in fun patterns are added atop the trays, partly to attract interest and partly to keep the wind from blowing the paper onto the playground. The person in change scatters examples of this morning’s project on the tables to provide inspiration as kindergarteners excitedly begin lining up, ready to be creative.

Art for All was started as a passion project by Julie Haley while volunteering at her kids’ elementary school. She created a program where once a month kids watch a short video on an art medium, and as they are released for recess, students gather supplies needed to make something of their own. 

Each month has a different focus: collage, painting, pottery, etc. Haley says she tries to supply the kids with materials they might not find in the typical classroom so that they always have a new experience. Even though the kids watch a video and see examples, what they do with the material is up to their imagination. “Each project is unique to each child,” Haley says.

Students are encouraged to use their intuition and enjoy the process of creating art. This helps them understand that there are many ways to see and interpret the world around them. The kids sometimes discover that what they start out making can look very different in its final version. 

That program has since expanded to other NMUSD schools. While school-affiliated, parent-and-family organizations fund Haley’s program at some elementary schools, other parent-and-family organizations have brought a similar idea to their campuses.

At Kaiser Elementary, kids in third through sixth grade toss their lunch boxes into colorful wagons as they hurry into the multipurpose room, eager to see what this month’s craft is. Parent Elyse Hardesty displays pictures of the project on tables while parent Sarah Hansen fills paper bowls with pony beads in muted fall colors. In one corner, two parents twist brown chenille stems into spider-like shapes and cut lengths of raffia ribbon. 

“We’re making corn cobs!” Hardesty excitedly tells students as she circulates through the room, showing off a sample of what the finished project could look like and offering gentle tips. 

Hardesty and Hansen coordinate the school’s Recess Art activities as part of the Kaiser Parent Faculty Organization. Each month, a different craft is offered, usually with a tie-in to the season or an approaching holiday; everything is geared toward the kids being able to work independently while socializing. 

“It’s fun to see how their projects turn out. Everyone makes something different,” Hardesty says. 

This loosely structured program is well-attended each month, with kids dashing into the room throughout the staggered lunch period. 

Activities like Art for All and Recess Art bring students a creative option to enrich their school experience during recess and lunch. Check your school’s calendar or parent-and-family organization for activities offered.

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