Art Inspires Malawian Students

11/21/12

Mollie Mitchell is a teacher serving for six months in Malawi as an Education Consultant with Children of the Nations (COTN).  One of the joys consultants get to experience in-country is the visits of shorter-term Venture participants, who come with projects, supplies, and new ideas to bless the children.  Last month, Mollie helped host COTN board member Bonnie Steele and her husband, Kirk, who came to Malawi for the first time to meet the children and teach art at COTN's new secondary school, the International Christian Academy.  
A month later, COTN teachers are still marveling at the lessons she taught, and finding new ways to integrate her art lessons into their curriculum.  These continuing lessons, as well as a newfound passion for art in students and teachers alike, are a testament to the long-term impact a short trip can have.  Below are Mollie's reflections on this incredible activity, from her blog:


If you could walk into COTN's school’s assembly hall right now, you would see walls covered in student renditions of Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Monet-style trees.  Last week our students had the privilege of learning art from an amazing teacher who has been implementing her art program in the US for over twenty years.  (You should check out this program—Meet the Masters.)  She came to Malawi loaded with art supplies, lesson plans, and other teacher-training tools, and lots of love for kids whom she had heard about but never met.  Best of all, she and her husband came with an extra dose of flexibility!  As teachers, we always want to be over-prepared, but in Africa we have to be willing to go with the flow—especially when the power is out for the majority of the time on the days you are teaching your program.  

With the help of kitchen staff and students running pots of water from the village well to the generator, a couple of tech-savvy Malawians, and lots of flexibility and patience on everyone’s part, we got the fabulous art program up and running!  Our students had the opportunity to learn about the day’s artist and his work and then create the master artist-inspired works in our science-lab-turned-art-studio.  

As they learned to use oil pastels, I watched their own versions of Starry Night spring forth from black paper.  The next day, they learned how to mix colors in order to paint in the style of Monet.  I guess I’ve always taken for granted that students learn about mixing colors in elementary school, but these high school students were amazed to learn that they could create any color of the rainbow from the three primary colors.

The day our fabulous art teacher and her husband packed their bags, our students delivered the farewell ceremony they had prepared for our guests.  The students and staff expressed what a rare privilege it is for a Malawian school to receive art training.  And of course, our students sang goodbye.  

I seem to always cry when I hear our students’ beautiful voices singing at a farewell ceremony, even if I’m not the one leaving. Our generous art teacher and her husband left our school with so much.  Evidence of our students’ work is on our walls, and a passion to continue growing as artists is in many of their hearts.  Half of our teaching staff from both the secondary school and the village primary school chose to attend the training on their day off in order to teach two more artist lessons.  Art supplies and teaching tools fill my kitchen and living room right now.

I don’t know what’s next, but ideas are budding, from after-school art club to integrating art with history class.  I am grateful for people who are willing to give of their time, talents, and resources in order to invest in our students.  For everything each of you does to be a part of what is happening at this school, I want to thank you.

 

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