Of Tide Pools, Art, & Math Scores

IMG_0602I am captivated by tide pools.  They are little worlds unto themselves full of creatures and plants of all sorts that seem to thrive at the restless edge of the ocean. Some organisms are attached like anemones, barnacles, rock fucus and, mussels. Some move slowly like starfish, urchins, and chitons, Then there are the quick and nimble tiny crabs and fish.  Always there is a palette of color full of glowing greens, oranges, and reds.

Recently I gave myself the challenge to capture the wonder of tide pools in my art process.

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Unfortunately, all my prints like the one pictured on the right either wound up in the recycling or in my collage box to be cut up for later use.  Rather than doing more of the same, I knew I had to come up with a different creative solution.  Instead of interpreting a tide pool in a literal sense I decided to capture the essence of one as I felt viscerally- that is in terms of color shape, texture, and feeling.

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final piece

 

This piece on the left as pictured is what I came up with using that other creative solution.  I collaged bits of my failed prints into this finished piece giving them a bit of reverence.  Without those “mistakes” I would not have been ultimately successful.  Overall I am very pleased with this print- it conveys what I feel.

So what does all of this have to do with math scores?  After I finished this piece was finished a blurb came up on the radio about Oregon’s math scores being among the lowest in the nation.  I stopped what I was doing, listened and pondered that information. Memories of teaching 6th-grade math for 2 years came flooding back and all its frustrations.  A majority of my students entered my classroom without a clear grasp of basic math facts yet they were pushed onto higher-level math prematurely.  Because of that many struggled, especially with fractions and division with the designer, scientifically based curriculum we were given to teach. (Not one of my 6th-grade students knew how to measure correctly with a ruler at first yet most could operate a smartphone).  Yet the powers above pushed harder with more rigor and more color-4503279_1920testing.

So back to art.  There is an amazing amount of problem-solving and creative thinking that occurs in the artistic process.  In my baby boomer education, I started using a ruler in first grade for art projects (think required margins) on up through the higher grades We played the recorder and learned music.  In secondary school, there was required cooking, sewing and shop classes.  All of these required applied math in terms of measurement and understanding of rhythm in music. We understood fractions.  In today’s educational environment the arts have been cut in favor of the core subjects, especially math.

My “out of the tide pool” solution to low math scores? Look for a less literal solution. Put the arts back in education on a daily basis and give students something to apply their math too. Oh…and let them have a little fun.  Children need creative outlets!  And to that old adage I heard so many times, “You can’t make a living as an artist” I say right back, “Most can’t make a living as a mathematician either!”  Maybe have students visit tide pools too.  Who knows what that kind of experience might inspire?

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courtesy Pixabay

Generation Gap

pokemon-1553995_1920I am a retired middle school science teacher.  Besides writing & making art, I substitute teach to augment my income and to keep a toe back in the pond of education and the world of kids.  Mostly I work in high schools now.  The students are out of puberty and are generally easier to manage.  Lately, I have been getting increasingly sad and discouraged about students increasing addiction to their smartphones.  Add to that, there is the total lack of boundaries of cell phone use from faculty and school administrations.  I fear for the next generation…  I wrote this poem after a particularly trying day this week.

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Take Your Earbuds Out

I am talking to you

Let me see your eyes

I am a human

Trying to connect with you

Another human

Continue reading “Generation Gap”

THE SPACES IN-BETWEEN

Years ago a teacher once said to me when I was a student in an art class, “You should consider not using so much white space.” I looked at her incredulously.  Yes, my work pinned to the critique wall was markedly different than the wild expressions of the other students’ work that filled the board.  Mine was made of pure forms with a lot china-20152_1280of white space, or negative space surrounding them; the uncovered virgin-white paper a statement in itself.

For me, that remark was something like “change your soul.”  It was similar to the shaming I received as a young girl from my mother “you are too sensitive.”  Growing up I struggled to fit in a loud world & embrace the social norms that my young culture revered.  The music was too loud, venues claustrophobic, & the presence of too many people intimidating.  I was a misfit among misfits.

The book that rocked my perceptions of myself was Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking,” by Susan Cain.  Suddenly my quirkiness made sense to me.  I was an introvert.  My previous perceptions of introverts were individuals that were uncomfortable with all social interactions.  Not so.  Now I realize Introverts can be social & have many connections.  The difference is we need to retreat to quiet to achieve balance in our lives.

I liken these respites to the white spaces in my artwork, the spaces in between the active parts where the eye can rest.  These pauses are a time of rejuvenation and, in my life, can be anything from a walk, a nap, reading a book, walking my dogs, gardening – or anything that brings my being back from the chaos of daily life.  Conversely, now I understand why the extroverts of our society want to bring us introverts into the fold of busy-ness.  They thrive in that energy & the majority sets the standards of what is normal.

After reading “Quiet,” I learned to honor the introverts in my classroom when I was teaching. If a student felt uncomfortable working in a group I allowed them to work alone. As long as they were learning, I was fine with their style.   I’ve learned to honor my own pace when traveling or hiking rather than suffering to keep up with wants of others.  For me, it’s not the destination but the jewels I find in-between point A & point B.  That might be as simple as a flower, a rock, or a conversation with a local.

Our driven multitasking culture celebrates doing more than being.  It would be healthy everyone, to slow down and find oneself in the spaces in between & honor those who march to a different beat. The magic for me is in the white space of life.  In these pauses, I can ponder, wonder, & feel whole in a world that moves at too fast of a pace for my tastes.  It’s been a relief to let go of the expectations of others & accept myself.  In the meantime, I still enjoy making art with a lot of white space.