Octopi, Pumpkins, Skeletons and Spiders – Oh my!

Crafting in schools without art programs

~ By Elena

For our students, the month of October has been filled with crafts and activities to stretch their minds and flex their creative muscles. And when I say I have never seen any children smile as brightly as they have this past month, I am in no way exaggerating.

The public primary schools on Isla Mujeres have two classes outside of their traditional curriculum with their homeroom teacher. One of the two being Physical Education the other our English classes. These electives are twice a week for 50min each. And because only two electives are offered, classes like Music, Art and Computers are not found in our 4 schools.

With that being said, this past month’s blocks have been my favorite content to teach thus far. For 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade we were fortunate enough to be able to design our blocks to flex their creative brains and bring art into our lessons. For 1st and 2nd grades, rhyming was the theme of our block and to better under the concept we taught students “One, Two Buckle my shoe” and finished the block with coloring Hens and decorating eggs with the matching rhyming pairs in the song. For 3rd grade, we were learning lyrics to songs and the individual word meanings in stanzas. One song that was incorporated into the block was Octopus Garden by the Beatles, so naturally making octopi out of construction paper to analyze individual lyrics made learning fun and interactive. Lastly, in Block 2, enough room was made in our schedules to teach enrichment based Halloween lessons. My first graders got to learn a song about numbers and skeletons and colored Day of the Dead Calaveras, 2nd grade learned a spooky spider song and made brown and black spiders out of construction paper and 3rd, 5th and 6th all made pumpkin lanterns.

Up until now, I had not realized it, but I had taken the variety of classes I was offered in school for granted. I had art, music, library, gym, Spanish and others when I got into middle school. But for the public schools here, it is not the same experience. Since art is not offered, incorporating creative activities into our lessons showed how incredibly grateful these kids are for any opportunity they are given to express themselves. Pulling construction paper out of my backpack, the whole room would get quiet, their faces lighting up for an opportunity to color, cut and glue to their hearts content. While grading final projects, it warmed my heart to see my student’s personal artistic expression. Their creativity and willingness to express themselves blows me away and makes me love them even more than I already do. Being able to incorporate something they are not normally exposed to felt as though our block was enriching and easy for them to learn, making my job even more rewarding.