Tag: arts integration

“Oh My, Mia Meow!” Children’s Picture Book Project

This post was originally posted on the Mia Meow Creative Adventures blog. Learn more about Mia Meow and the upcoming book at: MiaMeow.com.

Mia Meow Children's Picture Book Project about a creative catHave you heard about the “Oh My, Mia Meow!” Children’s Picture Book Project?

I have done a lot of special projects through the years, and all have been important in some way. This project, however, rises to a whole new level of importance for me.

The more I get into it, the more I realize that this book can have significant impact on the lives of children, and there is nothing more important than making a difference to a child.

The book itself is simple. An ordinary cat faces everyday obstacles and seeks to find a way to overcome them. In the process, she discovers her power through creativity and ingenuity, and she becomes a very extraordinary cat. She explores new environments and meets a variety of animal friends along the way. It is an adventure that is revealed through colorful illustrations that intrigue and enamor children, and thus, inspire their imaginations.

Simple books for children can have a lot of power. Life lessons that are revealed through endearing stories and imaginative illustrations help children develop perspectives to shape their understanding of the world. Tapping into children’s imaginations allows us to broaden their understanding so they can create their own worldview.

So, what is so important about this book project?

  1. The stories and artwork of Mia Meow grew out of my work with preschool children. Their enthusiasm for the character, the artwork, and the story is what inspired me to create the book.
  2. The Mia Meow story teaches children that they can overcome obstacles with creative thinking and imaginative resourcefulness.
  3. Our culture tends to emphasize idealized stereotypes of power and mastery. Typical childhood “superheroes” have unrealistic strength and mythical weapons to demonstrate power, and they give children an unrealistic vision of how they should engage with their world. The story of Mia Meow lays a more realistic foundation for a child’s belief in his or her own creative abilities as a source of personal power.
  4. The story encourages arts integration as an important learning process for young children. The arts are key to childhood learning and healthy emotional development, yet so many schools struggle to maintain arts programming due to funding cuts. Mia Meow offers a creative and fun approach to learning which is supported by research in its effectiveness.
  5. The book engenders a love and empathy for animals, encouraging children to be considerate and respectful of all creatures.
  6. The book project and crowdfunding program, which will be launched soon, has a goal of raising funds for creating and publishing the book, but beyond that, there is also a goal of donating books to programs that serve children. My hope is that the crowdfunding campaign, once launched, will raise enough funds to donate books to:
  • Preschool classrooms of schools involved in the Artful Living Program, where the Mia Meow story and art were inspired.
  • The Canton, OH Police Department Community Policing Program, as a way for police officers to develop positive relationships with children and families in challenged neighborhoods.
  • Libraries in Stark County, OH and surrounding areas.
  • Other school and youth programs designated by contributors. Although my own focus will be local programs, my hope is that contributors will consider donating books to programs worldwide.

I will be launching an Indiegogo campaign soon for the “Oh My, Mia Meow!” Children’s Picture Book Project. I am using this online program to allow others to be a part of the project to gain seed funding for publishing the book and also to encourage donation of books to worthy programs. I hope that you will consider helping me with the campaign by contributing and/or sharing it with others to get the word out. Thanks so much for your interest in the project!

Life is an Adventure!


The downside of being a Teaching Artist

Artist BZTAT at workWorking with kids is very rewarding. They are so eager, and they have such gratitude when you open up new creative ideas for them. They are adventurous and free in exploring their creativity, and they are so excited when they accomplish a goal.

“I did it!!!” are my three favorite words.

As I shared in a previous post, I have been working with children in a number of schools lately as a Teaching Artist, bringing Arts Integration programming to local schools. Arts Integration  uses creative activities to enhance learning in other academic disciplines such as math, science, social studies, language arts, and other subjects.

I enjoy the interaction with the students and I love the use of creativity as a means of helping education come alive for them.

I don’t enjoy being exposed to all of their germs, however.

Don’t get me wrong. I am no germaphobe. I don’t obsess about germs. I have, however, had 3 major head colds in the last 4 months. That can’t be a coincidence.

Last week I missed out on seeing all of my young eager artists, as a I had a severe case of laryngitis on top of the stuffy nose and cough. I am not much better 6 days into it. I am not seriously ill, but it can be quite debilitating, as my voice is kind of important for teaching. It generally takes me 10-14 days to shake a cold, so I have 4-8 days left of this nastiness.

I also had to postpone my Pet Portrait Painting Mini-Retreat for yesterday as I was in no shape to spend 6 hours teaching my pet portrait techniques. I have rescheduled it for March 28, 2015. There is space available, so you can still register.

There is downside to working with kids, I guess. Lets hope that my immunity gets a bit stronger from all of this. I am not liking this part of the adventure!

Life is an Adventure!



“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”― Benjamin Franklin

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”― Benjamin Franklin

arts integration community projectWhen I was a mental health therapist, I used this phrase a lot. Helping individuals overcome emotional distress required learning, and it required the sort of learning that involved individuals in experiences that brought about life change. Telling and showing people the steps to change just wasn’t enough.

I left my 20-year career as a mental health therapist a few years ago, choosing a career of creating art full time instead. Lately, however, the teacher in me has re-emerged. Through the ArtsinStark SmArts program and the Massillon Museum Artful Living program, I have been visiting a variety of classrooms across Stark County Ohio, bringing Arts Integration programming to local schools.

Arts Integration is not traditional arts education. Instead of teaching Art as a discipline of its own, Arts Integration uses creative activities to enhance learning in other academic disciplines such as math, science, social studies, language arts, and other subjects. By involving students in creative activities around other learning concepts, they develop a deeper understanding of the traditional academic curricula, and their interest is piqued so that they have a desire to explore further learning.

It is not just another clever approach to teaching. As concerns rise about academic decline among American youth, we need to find ways to educate students in more effective and meaningful ways. Also, creative exploration is becoming essential to future career success for today’s students. Jobs that once required linear thinking and rote activity have either gone overseas or have been replaced by machines, leaving non-creative thinkers with few career options.

We need to be teaching youth to think creatively as they learn academics, or they will be unprepared for their role in the future workforce.

Research has shown that students whose educational experiences include arts integration tend to perform better on many levels, and they demonstrate more confidence and pride in their education.  It makes sense when you think about it.

Arts Integration - Maya mural drawingShowing 5th grade social studies students photos of a Mayan mural in a book or on a classroom smart board might intrigue a student or two, but the interest is likely to be passing. Involve the entire class in drawing Mayan images to create their own mural, however, compels them to: explore the purposes behind the stylistic designs used by the Mayans; discuss the development of early civilizations depicted through their enduring creative arts; and ponder the importance of  ancient history to present day culture.

Which sounds more educational to you?

Arts-integration-preschool-paper-treesEarly learning, too, is enhanced through artistic experience. Many preschool students have yet to develop language and fine motor skills that are needed as they advance into more challenging educational concepts, and the arts can be an important learning tool for them.

Very simple arts projects built around preschool objectives can help them learn essential concepts that help them build a foundation for future learning.

Art and creativity in academic programming is very important. Integrating the arts into daily school programming teaches children to think in creative ways beyond the simple remembering of facts and figures. We want children to be able to think, and not just be able to recite information on tests, yet our school curriculums seem to have taken to doing just the opposite in recent years.

The politicized atmosphere around public education has led to the most creative and effective programming in schools being pushed out. Arts programming often is the first to be cut when school funding is scrutinized.

You can’t just give someone a creativity injection. You have to create an environment for curiosity and a way to encourage people and get the best out of them. – Dr. Ken Robinson

I am of the opinion that arts education as a separate discipline is an important element of all public and private schools. All children need to learn about the arts to make their education complete and well rounded. I also am of the opinion that the arts should extend beyond the art room and enter into the math, science, social studies, etc. classrooms to enhance learning in all disciplines.

Most schools do not have either. We need to change that.

I am glad that I live in a community that recognizes the need for supplementing the public school system with auxiliary services in the arts. I wish that auxiliary services were not needed and that regular curricula included arts integration. But that is not the world I live in presently.

Because of donations and grant funding, the ArtsinStark SmArts program and the Massillon Museum Artful Living program have been able to hire Teaching Artists to bring Arts Integration to classrooms of all levels across Stark County. I consider it to be a privilege, honor, and huge responsibility to be a part of both programs.

I have learned much, myself, through working with some fabulous teachers, administrators and arts professionals. We all learn through the process of teaching tomorrow’s leaders, and that brings hope for a brighter future for all.

As I have worked with the aforementioned 5th grade social studies class, I have learned about the development of civilization in general from both a youthful and adult perspective. Looking at the rise of ancient civilizations through the eyes of youngsters learning history for the first time, and looking back as a middle aged woman, pondering the cultural shifts occurring in our modern world, has been very intriguing for me.

It is time that we very boldly recognize that art is not just for artists. Arts programming is not simply for preparing artists for careers in the arts. The arts are for preparing ALL students to think in ways that can better the world in which they live.

The arts have been the mark of history for centuries, and they are the light of our future. How can we ensure that creative programming is a part of all schools that educate our most precious resource – our children? How can we take that extra step to involve children in their education so that they can learn?

How can we NOT?

Life is an Adventure!