ARTSmart classes focus on skill building for young children

Nico Herrera, 2, of Manhattan, glues down recycled paper with his mother, Sandra Herrera, at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art on March 9, 2016. (Mason Swenson | The Collegian)

Children from the Manhattan area were invited to the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art Wednesday to participate in the exhibition Beneath the Prairie Sky: Photography by Jim Richardson in coordination with ARTSmart classes.

The classes, held each month with different exhibits, consist of small groups of no more than 12 students, Kathrine Schlageck, event organizer and senior educator at the Beach Museum, said. The classes started out with a gallery discussion of the featured exhibit and transitioned to a group art project that allowed the children to engage in media and techniques they learned from the art.

The program is based on the idea of skill building for young children, Schlageck said.

Schlageck said the classes have been going on now for nearly 10 years. The ARTSmart classes put a major focus on building physical skills, fine-motor skill activities and symbol literacy.

The classes also focus on process rather than product, Schlageck said.

“At this age, it’s the learning, the making, the doing, and what comes out in the end is less important,” Schlageck said.

She said the sessions are based on the idea of parents as teachers, where the parents, grandparents or guardians stay with their children throughout the class.

“This allows us to model skills for working with your children and allows the parents to continue on with what the kids are doing,” Schlageck said.

Schlageck said there are ways for parents to teach their children while still being supportive.

“Instead of (the parent) saying, ‘What is this, what is this a picture of?’ which indicates you can’t figure it out, can be a little discouraging,” Schlageck said. “Talk to your child instead and say, ‘So tell me about your picture. Why did you use this pink?’ And in that way, allow the child to explain, but be supportive at the same time.”

Brooke Disney, a Manhattan parent, said she brought her two children to the class because it inspires creativity, introduces different media and encourages her to have them try different things at home.

“They ask about art classes all the time and asked to come,” Disney said.

Disney’s daughter, Soleil Disney, a third grader, said her favorite thing about the class is “getting to make things, any kind of art except with pastels.”

Soleil said she was proud that the prairie grass fire artwork she had made was hung up in her dad’s office.

Another thing parents learn is not to be afraid of certain tools, Schlageck said. For example, many parents are afraid of letting their children use scissors, but if they are not allowed to use them, the children will not learn how to cut, Schlageck said.

“We get kindergarteners that come to do a project with a school tour, and nobody has ever given them scissors,” Schlageck said. “It’s also a place where we can take the mess. It doesn’t have to be your kitchen.”

Schlageck said ARTSmart classes are about helping parents guide their children in developing helpful skills.

“We try to make it so that the parents learn how to encourage their child without doing it for them,” Schlageck said. “The idea is that you can work beside your child, but you don’t have to tell your child exactly what to do.”