Posts Tagged ‘Malawi’

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Gone to Malawi

May 2, 2019

Water is Life

Thank you to Krisanne Baker, Ecological Artist and Educator, teaches Visual Arts at Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro,  who provided this blog post. It was previously published in the Union of Maine Visual Artists Journal and again in the Courier-Gazette newspaper. You can see Krisanne’s artwork at HER WEBSITEKrisanne has continued the work that was started in July 2016, Arts Integration workshops for teachers in Malawi, Africa. If you’re interested in learning more please contact me at argy.nestor@maine.gov.

At this time last year, Medomak Valley High School art teacher Krisanne Baker took her mantra, “Water is Life,” to Malawi, Africa, where she educated teachers at the top of a rainforest about their water systems, and then made art about preservation and conservation.

I found myself waking up, in what I thought was a National Geographic magazine spread, at the top of a rainforest mountain in Malawi, Africa. Passion can take you on some funny paths. Ten years ago I could easily have imagined a safari in Africa, but not for the reason that got me there in April 2018 with my teaching colleague, Melissa Barbour, who had invited me to collaborate with her. My reason for embarking was water, the rains of Africa, and the passion to make and empower change.

My day job for the past 25 years has been as a crazy high school art teacher. I get a kick out of working with hormonal teenagers getting ready to jump into life. When people find out that I teach at the local high school, they say, “Oh, thank you!” They can’t imagine why I’d be crazy enough to want to spend all day with their kids, but they are grateful.

Teaching also funds my main job – I mean the one in my head and my heart – being a painter; and all the expensive art supplies that go along with it. Once my son was old enough, I finally had the opportunity to work on a Master of Fine Arts. I didn’t do it to become a better teacher, although it did make me that, but to get deeper into my own work. You see, I’d always felt like there was something missing.

One of the hardest and yet simplest things to put together as a research thesis in grad school was what I was passionate about. I knew it was water. But where to go from there? Twelve years ago, there were no front page headlines about climate change; Flint, Michigan; Nestlé Corporation or drought. Why water? I’d spent years making paintings of its many moods and atmospheres. But the reveries just weren’t enough. What it came down to is that I CARE about water. And when you look at the myriad ways in which it touches our lives and makes our lives possible, I thought, well, EVERYBODY should care about water!

My research led me down a road I never thought possible – one that scared the pants off of me – ACTIVISM. “Oh, no, I can’t do that! I don’t know the first thing about it… what would I say? What could I possibly do? Does that mean I have to give a performance or something? Wait, no, I can’t do that, I’M AN INTROVERT!”

All I can say is, introvert or extrovert, if you are passionate about something, you find a way to share it with people. The hardest thing I found was to stay positive and not blame or make people feel bad about all the difficult water situations. I found the most meaningful way to bring about a change is to educate people. With knowledge comes the care and the desire to do positive helpful things. Actions start small and grow bigger, bolder and louder.

First I did my work in true introvert style. I made short videos, using myself as a model, superimposed upon various water situations that need our attention. That way I could perform, but didn’t have to come eye to eye with an audience. But after my short films, I began having to do question and answer talks, or tell stories… or give a gallery talk about series of paintings I made to raise awareness of water quality, chemical infiltration and women’s body burdens.

Five years ago, I began incorporating my water awareness work into my classroom teaching. I developed the “Gulf of Maine: Endangered Ocean Creatures” curriculum and “Gulf of Maine: Dare to Care.” Students wholeheartedly engaged. When I was presented with the idea of interdisciplinary teaching in Africa to teachers in a remote area, the first thing I looked up was their connection to water. My first thoughts were the Darfur droughts and water wars between Israel and Palestine. The area where I was to go was water rich in comparison. Malawi, if you don’t know where it is – I didn’t – is just inland from the Eastern shores of Africa, and is home to one of the largest bodies of fresh water on the continent, Lake Malawi. It’s just above Mozambique.

My mission was to incorporate art and the local rainforest ecology in a teachable curriculum for the Ntchisi district teachers, in the hopes that they would implement local ecological stewardship through art and action. When we think of rainforests, we usually think “rich in resources,” which they are. Rainforests currently face major deforestation problems, not only due to removal of rare and beautiful woods, but also through exponentially increasing populations – a global problem. I hired a forest ranger to guide 12 teachers and me through the Ntchisi rainforest. We learned about the water system, in concert with the plants and animals, and how everything is connected through water. Back in a classroom, I drew global water systems on a chalkboard. I talked about how much the ocean covers the planet, and how we need to care for all waters, as they continually circulate from oceans to clouds to mountains to rainforests, and beyond. There were looks of amazement, and lightbulbs glowing in the minds of these remote educators. I was amazed that this was new knowledge to them, but in a landlocked very remote area, what else should I expect? I was grateful that they were receptive and completely engaged and passionate.

We discussed the water sources that humans use, the mountain rainforest, and how people cutting down trees for cooking fuel would eventually collapse the water system. Malawi is the world’s second poorest country. This mountaintop population of about 40 small villages has no running water and no electricity, no fuel other than wood. When I say poor, I mean to write on a piece of paper, a teacher would first divide it into four quarters before handing it out, if they had any. Children walking with me on the road between the school and the Go! Malawi compound would ask for a sweet. If I didn’t have any, they would ask me for a pencil. They are hungry to learn. Books are a rarity. A current fundraising project begun by an 8th grade student in Maine through the Go! Malawi non-profit will build the first mountain library in the Ntchisi region, hopefully in 2020. (Visit go-malawi.org/donate-online/ if interested in making a donation.)

I led the teachers to incorporate their drawings (images from our rainforest walks, talks and microscope viewings) into plans for three large, painted murals. Each mural showed the place, the cycles of water, plants, trees, animals, people, fish, phytoplankton and zooplankton. I brought a digital microscope, which we plugged into a solar inverter at the Go! Malawi compound. Each told a visual story of how we are all connected through water and how we must care for this place to protect the water. Each mural had the simple words: Water is Life / Madzi ndi Moyo.

At the end of two weeks, my teachers had become new water art activists. They had a plan to circulate the murals amongst several schools, with thought-provoking questions to spark discussions with their students. We have future plans through Go! Malawi to underwrite tree planting workshops and do-it-yourself solar cookers. Until my workshop, many of the teachers had not ever been in the rainforest at the top of the mountain. They thanked me for opening up that part of their world to them, along with the concept and practices of stewardship. I thanked them by asking them to engage their students, and left a suitcase of art supplies for them to make more murals in their classrooms as constant reminders of the importance of water to our lives. Someday I hope to meet up with one of those rainforest village children who has become a water activist.

Krisanne Baker is a Waldoboro artist, an art and ecology educator at Medomak Valley High School, a former professor at the University of Maine Farmington and an avid ocean advocate. Her work concerns water quality, availability and rights, both locally and globally. Baker’s multimedia installations and paintings are studies of the patterns of the natural world, arrangements of colors and ocean life in macroscopic and microscopic views of the “heart of the planet.”

Baker exhibits nationally, gives talks internationally and collaborates with others. She was recently a Visiting Artist in Residence at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in its world-renowned living marine algae lab. This collaboration will result this summer in a large-scale installation of phytoplankton created as phosphorescent glowing glass sculptures.

Baker’s paintings can be seen locally at Caldbeck Gallery, 12 Elm St., Rockland and online at KrisanneBaker.com.

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In Today’s News

January 19, 2019

Art in Education Triangle – Maine, Malawi, Helsinki

Article written by Dagney C. Ernest, for Village Soup, January 16, 2019. “We teach because the future belongs to learners.” CLICK HERE to read Dagney’s article about Lindsay Pinchbeck and Argy Nestor’s trip to Helsinki and the connection between Maine, Malawi, and Helsinki.

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Arts Integration Workshop-Malawi

November 20, 2017

Lend your skills and travel to Africa, summer 2018

Are you a visual or performing arts educator or a teaching artist considering travel options during the summer of 2018? Are you interested in sharing arts integration methods in a small country in Africa? If so, consider traveling with Go! Malawi to the beautiful Ntchisi Village in Malawi to provide teacher workshops for local teachers. You might be the ideal educator to share your knowledge and make this the third summer that Maine educators have traveled to Malawi doing so. In return, you will be forever impacted by the experience.

In 2016 Lindsay Pinchbeck, founder and director of Sweetland School, an arts integrated school in Hope and Argy Nestor, director of arts education at the Maine Arts Commission traveled to Malawi and provided a 13-day workshop with 12 teachers from M’Pamila Primary School. The experience was so amazing that they are committed to continuing the program through 2020.

Go! Malawi’s mission is to collaborate with rural Malawian communities to develop sustainable programs in education, healthcare, commerce, and education. Read more about the teaching opportunity on the Go! Malawi site.

Read the documented story of Lindsay and Argy’s experience with a description of their program from July 2016. Contact us with questions or to obtain an application. Applications are now being accepted!

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Malawi Stories and Photos

May 31, 2017

Tidemark Gallery, Waldoboro

Interested in learning about arts integration work that took place in Malawi last summer? If so, Lindsay Pinchbeck and I will share stories and photos at the Tidemark Gallery in Waldoboro, Saturday, June 3, 7:00PM. We traveled to Malawi with the Go! Malawi whose mission is to collaborate with rural Malawian communities to develop sustainable programs in education, healthcare, commerce, and education.  are to In addition to Lindsay’s photographs on display will be some of my mosaics that I’ve been creating since our return in July 2016. We’ll start with a Pecha Kucha format and move from there to more in-depth stories and share a video of a Malawian classroom in action. Please email me if you have questions at argy.nestor@maine.gov. And, if you are interested in traveling to Malawi this summer to continue the work please email me ASAP. 

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Arts Education Conference

August 30, 2016

Pre-MICA

TEACHING ARTFUL PRACTICE/PRACTICE ARTFUL TEACHING

Pre-MICA (Maine International Conference on the Arts) – 6 October 2016

MICA – 6 and 7 October

THURSDAY DESCRIPTION – This ones just for you PK-12 arts educators, teaching artists, others interested in arts education!

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 9.03.10 AMThe Maine Arts Leadership Initiative celebrates teaching and learning through “Teaching Artful Practice/Practice Artful Teaching” featuring Cheryl Hulteen, author of YES YES GOOD: The heART of teaching. Arts teaching professionals have much to share in their partnership to create personal artful pathways for students to express and explore creative voice through the arts. Using the Multiple Intelligences Theory, join us in a collaboration – defining, exploring, celebrating and understanding different practices of artful teaching. We will build a learning community that reflects the role the arts play in everything we do, teach and learn by strengthening the creative exchanges of artful process and practice. Come and celebrate the heART of teaching.

DETAILS

Thursday, 6 October 2016, 11:30am – 4:00pm

Franco American Heritage Center

46 Cedar St, Lewiston, ME

4 contact hours provided

$40 includes lunch (no cost for full time students)

Registration located at http://mica.bpt.me/ (Scroll down on the page)

PRESENTER

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 9.03.58 AMAuthor of “YES YES GOOD, The HeART of Teaching”, Master Teaching Artist Cheryl Hulteen has spent over 20 years providing consulting services for school districts, teachers, administrators, parents and students to foster greater learning and insight through building Creative Classroom Cultures. “YES YES GOOD” works with stakeholders across the educational landscape to build exciting, innovative and positive environments for teaching, learning, and arts integrated curriculum development through motivational workshops, professional development and one-on-one coaching. In addition to founding YES YES GOOD, Cheryl also serves as teaching faculty for Connecticut Higher Order Thinking Schools, an initiative of the Connecticut Office of the Arts, managed in partnership with Wesleyan University’s Green Street Arts Center.  “However we may speak, it is through the voices of our children we will most clearly be heard.”

image003MICA – Thursday night and all day Friday

ARTS EDUCATION TRACK for FRIDAY MICA plus other great sessions being offered Lewiston Bates Mill

Registration located at http://mica.bpt.me/

Stories and Images of Malawi No one can show you the sunDzuwa Salodzelano with Lindsay Pinchbeck and Argy Nestor

An 18-day journey to Malawi in July led to the most amazing teachers doing incredible work with very little resources (financial or tangible). The arts were the powerful tool that guided the daily workshops with 12 teachers and opened the hearts and minds of all involved. Join Lindsay and Argy on a visual journey and hear stories of songs and traditions gathered along the paths in Malawi.

STEAMing up in Maine with Kate Cook Whitt, Jonathan Graffius, Malley Weber, and Chuck Carter

What is all the buzz about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) going on across the country? What are the benefits of STEAM in Maine education and beyond? This presentation, in panel format, will bring together four people who are focusing on the topic in their work and play. From PK to higher ed, from teaching artist to game creator. Your questions and ideas are welcome!

Creativity: A Group Inquiry with John Morris

What is creativity? How can it potentially impact our lives? And how do we talk about it with each other? This structured group dialogue will help artists, advocates and educators make connections between creativity research and creativity in practice, while promoting inquiry into the nature of creativity, as well as its role in art, education and community.

Creative Aging

Details being constructed.

If you have any questions please contact me at argy.nestor@maine.gov.

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Stories and Photos – Malawi

August 20, 2016

August 31 – Hope

Article from the Free Press – published this week at THIS LINK.

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Arts Education and Malawi-2

August 3, 2016

The Malawian teachers

This is the second in a series of stories about my recent trip to Malawi in Africa. You can read the first post by CLICKING HERE.

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The teachers at the ceremony with their cyanotype banner.

As part of the Go! Malawi program I traveled to the Ntchisi District of Malawi to provide teacher workshops on arts integration. I collaborated with Sweetland School (in Hope) founder and director Lindsay Pinchbeck to work with 12 teachers from Mpamila, Pondani and Katete Primary Schools. The  teachers that we had the privilege to work with were AMAZING in more ways than one.

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Jane with standard 1 students

Teachers are paid $85.00 per month and are assigned schools when they finish their teacher training program. They can be moved to another school at any time without warning. The school has no power or running water, some classrooms have no chairs or desks.

The grades are called standards and the primary schools each have standards 1 through 8. At the Mpamila School in Jane’s class she had 116 students. On paper the class sizes ranged from 17 to 131. (Did I mention that the teachers we met were amazing?). The lower standards have the largest numbers. As the students grow many drop out for a variety of reasons. It was the last two weeks of the school year (and winter) while we were there and the students were taking their exams. How well they do on exams determines whether they move on to the next standard.

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Thom sharing his quilt/banner.

Each morning we had the opportunity to visit the Mpamila School and classrooms. As the students arrived they were outside playing – we saw some jumping rope with vines and others playing Chinese jump rope. The teachers were meeting to do the kinds of things we might find happening across America – collecting papers and preparing for their teaching day. They shared some of the exams with us and we were able to view the test questions that we used later on as part of the instruction in the teacher workshops. The school day officially starts at 8:30 but we found the classes didn’t necessarily start on time and students wandered in after the lesson started. Many children were looking in the windows or outside playing while lessons occurred.

The teacher training is based on the British educational system. We watched while the teachers instructed the learners to repeat after them in speaking voices and/or singing voices. They used their bodies to emphasize or demonstrate an idea and the students repeated. Clapping was frequently used to engage and celebrate the learners successes.

Two of the teachers had young babies that they carried on their backs or fronts. They taught with them, brought them to the workshops and periodically during the workshops would have a young girl watch after the child.

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In the teachers room preparing for the exams.

DAILY THEMES – learning through an art form

We found that using a theme each day launched the ideas and combined feelings with art making, thinking with creativity. And, it helped launch the environment to a place of trusting one another. I was surprised by the teachers willingness to take risks with us so quickly – strangers from America.

  • Day 1 – Hopes and Dreams: Journal making, planing seeds, paint explorations
  • Day 2 – Traditions: Sharing stories of customs and traditions
  • Day 3 – Patterns and Rhythms: Song, box making and poetry
  • Day 4 – Trust: Cyanotypes, Trust walk, Introduce Individual Action Plans
  • Day 5 – Stories: Felting. Telling, sharing, applying stories to action plans and lessons
  • Day 6 – Making mistakes and letting go: Drawing and printmaking
  • Day 7 – Walls – What holds us back?: Talking Walls Book by Margy Burns Knight – Accordian books with Malawian sayings. Watercolor techniques
  • Day 8 – Another way: Patterns and colors, kaleidocycles, folding books
  • Day 9 – Support and reflection: Completing action plans, letter writing, pendulum
  • Day 10 – Celebration and sharing
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Head teacher Mirium with her baby.

We tried to scaffold their learning from day to day and the daily themes assisted in that. Their willingness and desire to learn was powerful. More importantly, the arts were the vehicle for each of them no matter what their past experiences were with the arts.

DAILY SCHEDULE

  • Opening Circle – sharing inspiration, checking in and sharing new ideas and questions through books and stories. Introducing the theme for the day.
  • Experiential Learning – sharing new skills and materials. Drawing, painting, poetry bookmaking, drama and storytelling activities, printmaking, felting, photography, and more.
  • Journaling/Share – Daily time for reflection to consider how activities can be applied to the classroom. Individual and group work.
  • Projects – Quilt focus and individual action plans.
  • Closing circle – Traditions of song, take aways, 3 happy moments and a question.
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Olipa working on her book cover. Photo by Lindsay Pinchbeck

During the project time the teachers were learning different techniques that they made onto a 6″ X 6″ piece of fabric. The pieces were sewn together in banner or quilt-like form. For example, the day the teachers learned how to felt they actually felted a fabric square that became part of their quilts/banners. On the day they made cyanotypes they did an individual square with their hands and collaborated with secondary students to make a full size sheet one. What a great way to integrate science and visual art.

The teachers arrived at noon each day for lunch and at 1:00 we started the workshop. We were amazed at how quickly the teachers jumped in without hesitation. The art making was the vehicle to their comfort level. Some of the teachers didn’t know each other beforehand yet that was not evident as they sat side by side and created.

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Depicting what a wall means to the teachers or their students.

Five o’clock came quickly each day and before we knew it the end was near and each teacher was hanging their quilt for the critique. On the last day they set up a display of all of the artwork they created. We had a community celebration with the local chiefs, Go! Malawi community committee, students, and the teachers. Afterwards the participants were invited to visit the gazebo to see the art. It was a goose bump experience as I watched the teachers faces filled with pride as they shared their work with the community.

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Creating tableaus with sentences from their exams.

A couple days into the workshops one of the teachers pulled me aside and gently informed me of a Malawian custom and suggested that I adopt it. He said: “When someone is leaving you are to walk and talk with them.” At first I thought he was joking but I quickly learned that it was an important custom. Each day following, we made sure that we walked and talked with them and before we knew it the 10 day workshop was over and we were waving so long to our new friends!

How fortunate I was to have this unique opportunity. The Malawian people often use sayings. One of them is: Ulendo ungatalike bwanji umayamba ndi phawzi limodzi – Every journey starts with a step. I am so glad to have taken the step. I learned much more from the people with huge hearts than I was able to share. Each of them provides the hope for all children in their country.

We’re hoping that the work Lindsay and I started this summer will continue from a distance by sending packages of materials and supplies. If you’d like to contribute arts supplies, pencils, pens, books or other items please email me at argy.nestor@maine.gov. And, Lindsay and I hope that some of you reading this blog post, who are teachers or teaching artists, will consider a trip next summer to continue the work. If not an educator there is other volunteer work you can engage in. Please email me if you might be interested.

Laying out the quilts, getting ready to sew on the treadle machine.

Laying out the quilts, getting ready to sew on the treadle machine. Photo by Lindsay Pinchbeck

 

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Gallery walk to provide feedback on each others artwork.

 

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Mr. Zima teaching patterns

 

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Vivian working on a book cover. Photo by Lindsay Pinchbeck

 

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Kagwa printmaking Photo by Lindsay Pinchbeck

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