The Little Great Thinkers™ Series and ArtObet began with a public school teacher, Eleanor Palm, who realized with her own son that children could learn so much more than we realize. Her dream was to create a classroom that would excite and challenge her kindergarten and first grade students.
Teachers go into education because they have dreams of inspiring children to learn. Most teachers can teach the three R’s, but creating a classroom where children crave books, love to write and express thoughts and feelings, and find math and science problems to be fun, mind-bending experiences can be challenging in today’s world of teaching to (standardized) tests. It can be done however, and the results can be phenomenal.
Our hope is that The Little Great Thinkers™ Series will spark ideas for other teachers and help them find ways to bring these rich lessons into classrooms everywhere, encouraging creativity, critical thinking skills, empathy and self-worth.
A glimpse into Eleanor’s classroom
Eleanor’s classroom is filled with images of great thinkers and artwork that will be studied during the year, plus countless biographies of people throughout history. This rich environment filled with beautiful imagery, compelling stories, and easy-to-chant poems creates multifaceted children that are excited to learn.
She begins her first grade adventure by going back in time to better understand the history of reading and writing. This is all done through hands on experiences with cave wall paintings, Cuneiform symbols on clay tables, Hieroglyphics on papyrus, Chinese script with ink and rice paper and finally, a celebration with the Phoenicians, who invented the first version of the sound-symbol alphabet we use in the U.S. today. She follows this unit with a mulch-disciplinary, in depth weekly letter study. Her “B” week unit for example, starts with stories about Botticelli, memorizing and chanting the Botticelli poem, and painting a Botticelli Belle. The children also recite a poem by Beatrix Potter, learn to fly kites with Ben Franklin and freeze dance to Bach and Beethoven. By the end of the week, there isn’t a child in the classroom who doesn’t know and love the letter “B”!
In Eleanor’s classroom, subjects have no boundaries. “U” week begins with images of Uccello’s paintings and chanting of the Uccello poem. But then the discussion on Uccello’s painting, Saint George and the Dragon, morphs into a lesson on math and perspective, noting that Uccello was an artist as well as a mathematician and one of the first artists to really understand perspective. Later the discussion takes a more emotive turn – does the painting mean that good triumphs over evil? This leads into a history unit on a Knight’s Code of Honor. Throughout this rich landscape are writer’s workshops for the children to share their ideas on good and evil, math lessons on perspective and geometry, reading with books on similar topics, and nightly handouts on the artist or topics discussed in class for parents and children to enjoy together. Added to this are the poems written by Eleanor, which help children contextualize and remember the artist while working on reading and memorization skills. In the end, a simple lesson on U and Uccello explodes into lessons on reading, writing, history, math and morals.
Connecting children to great thinkers throughout history is not just about lesson plans. It is also an emotive journey as children learn about people with whom they can identify and connect. To realize the greatness to which humankind has soared builds confidence and dreams of their own potential. To hear stories of the struggles and hurdles overcome gives children courage and empathy, and makes them feel they are not alone. These are lessons that help create multifaceted children that will go into the future with confidence and optimism.
A little or a lot
ArtObet was created for children 3-8. Preschool aged children will enjoy the paintings, letter sounds and music. Kindergarteners and first graders will benefit from using the letter sounds and poems in achieving literacy, while older students will engage with the stories and learn valuable insights about great artists.
ArtObet has been designed to use in many different ways. The film can be shown in its entirety or in segments on individual artists. It can also be used with the ArtObet learning packet for further reading lessons and discussion. The packet includes a box of beads for children to create their own magical ArtObet bead strand.
One of our favorite ways to use the materials is at morning meeting – what we call “Five Minutes with a Great Thinker.” Introduce a great thinker who is intrinsically linked to one or more of your lessons. Leonardo da Vinci’s segment can become a science lesson. Learning about Klimt can turn into a math lesson on patterns. Joshua Johnson can become part of a celebration of Black History Month. Start with the great thinkers in our films, then add more of your own. We hope ArtObet encourages you to further enrich your curriculum and inspire the great thinker in all your students.
For project ideas, please click on our Kid’s page and be sure to check out our Blog, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook and Googleplus. If you have a creative way of using ArtObet in your classroom, please let us know!