Teaching and Learning in the OISE Eco-art Projects

No time to blog last month – we’re midway on the OISE eco-art projects, and it’s been busy!  We’ve got four projects underway, thanks to efforts of my dedicated students, as I couldn’t have done that many on top of teaching and research duties this last month.  I’m working on a nature-based mural project with a class of grade 1s at our lab school, the Institute of Child Study, in collaboration with the art teacher, Tara Rousseau.  We have 2 8 ft. high murals underway with the students, demonstrating what they have learned about tree habitats this last fall.  Tara and I have also been working alongside OISE student Stephanie Heim and a grade six class who are creating a clay tile installation based on the Environmental Rights of Children, and OISE student Hayley Chown, who has been working with the grade 5s to create energy conservation stickers for the light switches at OISE.  Another team of OISE students, Aidan Hammond, Wynette Tavares and Nikolaos Katsiou, are running eco-art workshops to explore their fellow students’ conceptions of nature. 

Lessons are being learned (and re-confirmed) each time we step into the classroom – about how creative kids are, how knowledgeable they are about the world around them, and how adults enjoy the process of art-making just as much as kids, even if they haven’t done it since their own childhoods.  We’re striving to be an environmentally-friendly as possible with the materials we are using – by capturing waste water from the acrylic paints’ clean-up, by aiming for waste minimization, and by using naturally-derived materials like clay.  But these projects have also been a good reminder that contemporary art supplies are not particularly sustainable in their composition or their use, and that there is a huge need for more eco-friendly materials.

We’re also working on dealing with the typical challenge of public art projects.  One of the reasons we’re using clay is that it is inflammable – one of the conditions of installing artworks in the stairwells as they are a fire evacuation route.  If anyone has information on the fire ratings of art supplies I’d love to hear about it!  More to come on these projects shortly…

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