J p O x

Looks like I fell asleep with my head on the keyboard, but it was actually a very successful drawing project for the preschool and elementary students. Driving home at six o'clock Monday, I was admiring the winter sunset of dusty lavendars, pinks, and smoky blues. Against that background the traffic lights were glowing red or green. At each stop the birds were coming to roost on the telephone wires. They were twittering in such a loud, large chorus as to overpower my car radio. It was so loud I couldn't even think.

Ah. Those moments when we can't even think are often the best for receiving inspirations. Arriving home, I checked my favorite blogs. Randel Plowman had posted this collage of band-aids and telephone wires:

I check Plowman's A Collage A Day blog for visual refueling several times a week.

No time to take photos of birds on the wires above the Walgreens parking lot across the way, and nothing right in my files, so I had to search online to prepare for my class. When I showed the students a photo, they clamored, "I've been there! I've been there!" Probably not, since it came from Britain. It's a copyrighted photo, so I won't put it in the blog, but if you follow the link and click through the slideshow you'll probably say, "I've been there," too. Birds crowd a crisscross of power lines in this bane of any urban business owners with lighted parking lots. The birds are loud and frequently messy, but they are NATURE to a child riding in a safety carseat and looking out the SUV window.

My goal is to help children become noticers and observers of their environment, as much as it is to draw or mix paints. It's nice to study meerkats and marsupials, but kids need a connection to the nature right here at home. If I can get them to notice starlings and grackles crowding onto a telephone wire, maybe they will catch sight of a cardinal on a bare branch some cold morning, or a mockingbird singing atop a chimney. If they look up they may feel privileged to see the aerobatic ballet of a scissortailed flycatcher or pause to note the red-tailed hawk surveying her world from the top of a power pole:

Much of the art project was a directed drawing, meaning that I drew samples to be copied. We were drawing birds on a wire, but using letters to begin our birds. Directed drawings help kids feel competent and confident to get started on a picture. I always build in opportunities for students' own creative additions.

J is for making jays and other birds with crests.

p is for birds who perch like the class parakeets.

O is for sleepy birds with their feathers all puffed up against the cold.

x is for a grumpy purple martin who doesn't want to be crowded.

[Is this one an opera libretto or a Looney Tune?]

We made our telephone wires by drawing a line across a sheet of colored letter-size paper, then cutting along the line. I still remember the awe I felt the first time I was shown how to slide the cut pieces apart to create a line against a black background paper. Right now I'm looking out my window at three power lines glowing flamingo pink in the late sunshine against a pale blue sky. To me the blue sky paper must have been cut and slid to let the pink paper show! You can imagine how I perceive jet contrails.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

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