‘Writing with scissors’: Carver art activity fosters critical thinking

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By Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Carver Elementary School teacher Kristin Hayes drew surprised looks from her students last Friday after giving them instructions for an activity.

The kindergartners had been studying various emergency vehicles. Now they were to draw a scene involving a fire truck, police car, helicopter or ambulance without using a pencil or crayon.

Instead, they had to “write with scissors,” essentially cutting out different shapes or lines they would then paste together to create an image.

“I knew it would frustrate them,” she said. “It is frustrating not to be able to draw the picture first.”

But that was the point. The activity, which is part of the school’s arts integration program, is designed to foster critical thinking skills as the students are forced to carefully plan their creations in advance.

“They are having to use creativity, and they have to think about their picture and envision it in their mind first,” Hayes said. “It is also really good for their fine motor skills.”

Scraps of red, blue, green, yellow, orange and purple construction paper covered the floor on the day before spring break. Students made images of firefighters getting cats out of trees, police cars responding to collisions and boats being rescued by helicopters.

“This is used for an assessment,” Hayes said. “They have to explain to me what the emergency situation is and how the vehicle will help.

“That is one of the things we learned at art institute this summer. A lot of things can be used to assess certain skills, and they are having fun and not realizing they are being tested.”

This is Carver’s first year as an “Arts in the Classroom School” under the Mississippi Arts Commission’s arts integration program. It uses various art forms to reinforce academic concepts.

“I think it is beneficial because every child can identify with an art form: music, drama, dance, visual arts,” Hayes said. “The arts is a different way for the kids to learn. If they can’t get it one way, they get it another.

“Also, it is memorable. They’ll never forget how they learned certain skills because of the activity.”

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com