Growing with Change

Jan 16, 2022

Change is a natural part of life. However, children are experiencing a greater than usual number of these at the moment due to the CoVid-19 pandemic: restrictions in numbers and venues for birthday parties, limitations on seeing extended family, people wearing masks, lockdowns, homeschooling… How can we help kids deal with these changes when we ourselves are sometimes struggling to adapt?

Our perceptions and attitude towards change can influence our ability to grow emotionally, to develop intellectually, and to contribute productively. Exploring strategies to manage change is an element of the Health and Physical Education learning area in the Australian Curriculum. Change can be challenging, confronting and sometimes scary for kids. 

Creative endeavours like art, as well as physical activities, are known to help alleviate stress and improve our sense of wellbeing. If we combine these for our students with an increased awareness of how we are impacted in all sorts of ways by change, we are engaging our minds and our hearts, our thinking and our emotions.

The Australian Curriculum has a component which underpins all learning areas - referred to as the General Capabilities. Critical and Creative thinking is one aspect of this. Focusing on the techniques and approaches involved with this type of thinking can help develop an ability to not only deal with change but make our own changes. One of my favourite sayings: it’s not what happens to you in life that is important but what you do about it - your response.

Critical and creative thinking involves things like inquiring, imagining, considering, designing, producing, reflecting, analysing, synthesising, evaluating… All skills that can help us deal with change and effect change. Engaging in these skills, and using art, is a great approach. 

For me, to grow implies positivity. I want kids to recognise changes and to learn to find the benefits and good things that come from this - a growth mindset. “I’m grateful for the extra time I have spent with my family at home.” “I’m grateful for the holidays and hikes I’ve had exploring places close to home.” “I’m grateful for the health workers who are keeping us safe.”

So, how can we connect the curriculum to what is happening in our ever changing world? I’m suggesting a focus on ‘Change’ in the teaching and learning we’re preparing for our children - from an intellectual as well as an emotional point of view, manifesting itself in creative representations. 

Where is change and how can we ‘visualise’ this? We can explore some of the how, when, where and why of change to help kids develop an awareness, acceptance and appreciation of and for change, and their role in it. 

Biological Sciences

This is an easy place to start. Living things, both plant and animal, start as babies and grow to adult versions of themselves. Some become extinct. It will depend on the age and learning level of the students as to what the inquiries and discussions might look like - compare and consider. Studies in these areas lend themselves well to diagrams and drawings. Each of these activities listed includes Artventure lessons in italics.

ART ACTIVITIES

  • Life cycles: Butterfly, Caterpillar, Butterfly Life Cycle, Monarch Butterfly, Monarch Caterpillar, Monarch Chrysalis
  • Growing Plant, Pot with seedling 
  • Dinosaurs: Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus, Triceratops
  • Baby animals: Duckling, Spring chick, Kitten, Fox cub, Owlette, Goat kid, Happy piglet
  • Adult versions: Duck, Lion, Chook, Rooster, Cat, Owl, Pig

Social and Emotional Development

Moving into this area takes us into the realm of Health and wellbeing: aging, relationships, events, reactions, feelings. It is an opportunity to talk about changes in human bodies as we grow from babies, to teenagers, to young and then elderly adults. There may well be a time to discuss the full cycle of life, including death. I found as a mother, to have pets with young children helped them to come to terms with the full cycle of animal life - guinea pigs were a good example, but it may be a pet dog that dies (lives longer and harder to say goodbye). Children may also experience the passing of a grandparent, let alone a family member dying at a much younger age. 

Across the world there are many variations on what a family looks like. These invariably change over time. With these changes come emotional reactions. Beyond our families, our friendships and social interactions gradually evolve. How we express ourselves when things change can be shown in our body language and facial expressions. Learning how to draw these can help children communicate in ways that they may not otherwise want to. 

Art can be a means of sharing when talking is too hard… It can be therapeutic, just like exercising gets those endorphins going: feel-good hormones in our brain. Good changes are happening in our body!

ART ACTIVITIES

  • Family: Two adults and two kids, Cousins, Siblings, Grandparents, Portrait of a child
  • Our circumstances can change: Girl with glasses, Person with glasses, Wheelchair, Medical equipment, Friends in hospital 
  • Expressing emotions: Face - Happy boy / girl, Facial expressions, Frustration, Feelings show
  • Being active: Jumping, Skateboarder, Tennis / Cricket / Rugby player

Products and Processes

Changes are integral to the Technologies curriculum. Here, I am referring to changes that are man-made (or human-made): the development of languages and communication, the design of shelter and transport, the production of food and clothing. Once these innovations and inventions have been considered, students can be encouraged to design their own products and/or processes. What changes would they like to see? Depending on what avenue you decide to follow (just suggestions below) could then inspire students to create new possibilities: encouraging imagination based on their objectives.

ART ACTIVITIES

The Impact of Human Activities

Through our development of products and processes, global issues have come to the fore that put the sustainability of our resources and our life as we know it, in jeopardy: climate change, food shortages, pandemic diseases, cybersafety, dwindling resources… These are changes that will affect the lives of our children. Helping them build an awareness of these issues can hopefully inspire them to direct the adults who have been ‘responsible’ for these changes, and do something to rectify the situation.

ART ACTIVITIES

  • At this level, I’d be looking at students possibly developing a presentation of some sort that draws on diverse visual conventions and involves multimodal approaches. Determining one area to focus on, then using drawing skills, layout and visual design techniques, and multimedia platforms to build a powerful and evocative exposition can bring all their artistic abilities together.
  • Presentations may take the form of animations, slideshows, programming, web production…
  • If you also have access to Art Eye Deer  (Artventure's art lessons for older users), you could try some of these activities: Colour wheel, Lettering, Triangles and typography, Design brief, Design challenges, Future architecture, Architectural concept drawing.

Drawing it together

Confronting and considering change can help us cope! The Australian Curriculum looks at Personal and Social Capabilities: self awareness and management, and social awareness and management. How well do our children recognise their emotions and express them appropriately? Are they developing confidence, resilience and adaptability? Do they appreciate diversity and understand relationships? How well do they collaborate and communicate? Could they contribute to civil society as effective, positive leaders of change? And let’s use art to help them get there!

Erica
Teacher and Artventure Blogger