In the 1990s I was doing my student teaching work in Chillicothe, Ohio as an art teacher. Diminishing school budgets hit the art field hard, so I found myself traveling from school to school through out the day doing what I could to give kids a chance to express themselves with what I could supply with my own money. I latched on to Origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, as an affordable and highly adaptable art that could be taught from Elementary school on to High School, and did my best to show them how they could make art even if they couldn’t afford paint brushes and paint. As I went from class to class demonstrating everything from paper cups to birds and horses, an amazing thing happened: they took what I showed them and made it their own. What started as one class of children learning how to make functional paper cups for the water fountain by the end of the day turned into three times as many kids knowing how because the ones I taught were able to pass it on to others. When I taught the older kids how to make horses and birds, some of them took the initiative to help other classes learn it, while others moved on to a higher scale and made life-sized animals. Children have the need to feel empowered…to know that “Yes, not only can I do this, but I can help others do it too.” They also need that connection between what they’ve learned, and what good can come from it other than a government statistic. Let them own their knowledge (or lack thereof) and make it a part of lives.

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