A Single Candle

Teaching art to fifth graders can be full of life lessons

Each child contributed to make this masterpiece.

I volunteer at the elementary school. Not a lot, just a little.

At first I was like: OK, I can help (sigh, eye roll, something else to add to my schedule). Then, I was like: I love this! I helped teach a monthly art project to 2nd graders, 4th graders, and 5th graders.

Making mosaics out of tiles. Painting masks. Creating a Van Gogh masterpiece out of individual pieces. It’s about teaching the children a thing or two about art history and art techniques. It’s about encouraging and reinforcing that everyone is an artist. It’s about creating something that you are proud of. These interactions became a highlight for me (instead of being something on my to do list).

One project was to create a rendition of a Van Gogh masterpiece in pastels. Each child was to create one piece of the whole. One child had part of the vase. One child had part of a flower. Separately, the pieces lacked meaning.

At the end of class, we assembled the Sunflowers — much like a puzzle — into a connected masterpiece.

The children stood back in awe. I made that? No. WE made that.

Each child contributed. They smiled. I smiled.

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

— Buddha

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