Arts, Environment and the Child: Walking the Wheel of the Seasons

Project Reflections


Nature Consortium Office


I found the Nature Consortium (NC) office in West Seattle and dropped in on Nancy, the director. I had met her at an improvisational dance performance the NC had put on, and expressed my interest in volunteering. I briefly described my interest in the group; a perfect match for my love of children, environmental learning, education, the arts, and this course. She briefly described the NC's components, gave me a tour, and went on to connect me with the right people. I look forward to working with this group to gain experience and insight to my above interests, to nourish the community and environment around me, and to hone in on my skills in working with people of all ages.

Gea's home


I traveled south to Gea's home where we discussed our intent and focus in visiting different schools to gain broad insight on education. We decided to visit 2 high schools and 2 elementary schools; one school being a standard public school, and the other focused on alternative education. We decided to observe environmental education (preferably pertaining to sustainability), creative art, and hopefully something combining the two. We will visit Concord Elementary in the South Park area, and Pathfinder Elementary in W. Seattle. For high schools, we will visit Nova and Garfield in Seattle. Our lesson plan will take place at Concord because Gea already has established herself there.

I am pleased with our idea to visit different schools because at this point I just want to broaden my educational perspective so I know what is out there.  I am also pleased to be entering high schools just to observe, as this is the least intimidating introduction.




Today I made initial contact with Nova and Garfield high schools by phone. It was a bit intimidating but I mustered my confidence and it all went well. The principal at Nova was welcoming and directed me to the right teacher contact, and suggested that we observe after the new semester begins Feb. 13th. The principal of Garfield was absent, so I left a detailed message. I am excited to get into these schools at see what inner-city high school is like.

Youngstown Cultural Arts Center


Today’s meeting was immensely exciting! Victoria was a smiling, energetic gem who only inspired me more in all of these pursuits with art, the environment, and teaching children. She and the NC are networked with so many other awesome organizations and artists and it feels wonderful to be tapping into such a community of like-minded and talented people; many now located in Youngstown, in my own neighborhood! This organization and I are such a perfect and synchronistic match. I filled out the necessary paperwork and we discussed and collaborated on our wants and needs and came up with some very fruitful and exciting opportunities for both of us.
The NC and other arts education organizations are involved in a comprehensive evaluation process to determine their ability to reach their educational goals.  Thus, I can help by observing/evaluating these awesome classes, which helps me gain insight and experience in a variety of learning situations.  Also, Victoria offered me the opportunity to design a field trip to teach an environmental lesson outside, in which they could provide me with the transportation, kids and other means. Wow. I am thoroughly inspired to begin my work with them.

Gea's ride
On our way home from class we discussed and planned the lesson plan for us to make an herbal vinegar with the kids at Concord.
I looked over the classes offered by NC at various spaces around the city, decided on which ones would fit my schedule, and corresponded with Victoria.
Gea's ride
Let Your Children Go Back To Nature was inspiring and had thoughtful ideas on what to do with a lot of kids outside. I think it will help....
For the Lunar New Year Celebration I helped set up/take down the stage. All I have to say is that the Diamant kids were incredible.
I wrote up an informal resume per the request of Nancy, the NC director, so she could get a sense of who I am and what my background is.
I came up with some art/drama ideas for classes I’d like to do for when the time comes.


Ranier area

Today I traveled to the Ranier Vista project-housing site to observe the World Dance and Culture class put on by The Nature Consortium.  Patty, the teacher, arrived shortly after me and clued me into the informal nature of the class; children were free to go or stay as they pleased at this space.  So she tried to get the 2 boys’ attention and direct them to choreograph a dance with the moves they liked to do.  They were shy, but showed off some hip hop/break dancing moves.  After 10 minutes or so they decided to leave, and that was the last of the class. I played Connect Four with another young girl there and talked with Patty a bit for the rest of the time.
I was a bit disappointed to not see more of the class, but was grateful for the introduction to the space and the realities of this kind of work.  I realized that work with these kids from poorer backgrounds could be challenging in areas of attentiveness and discipline.  This is something that I am glad to have a chance to become more comfortable with.  I am also glad to work with a colorful array of kids with diverse ethnic backgrounds.
One thing about my trip that struck me was a way one of the boys was dancing to the hip hop/rap radio station when I got there, before Patty arrived.  He was obviously imitating the greater musical culture in this move where he was lifting up his shirt, grabbing his crotch, and circling his pelvis.  I couldn’t help but wonder what this 6/7 yr. old thinks when he moves like this. It honestly sickened me, because I saw it as an idealization of a music and lifestyle that often promotes very negative, shallow, money hungry, and derogatory visions of women and sex (Though, it should be noted that this is not all hip hop and rap, only the majority).
So, I’d like to talk to Patty, because she said she teaches them hip hop dance styles, and see what her views and intentions are.

This was all the time spent logging in all of this. Its great to be more and more comfortable with web work, and allow my cross-national family to view it....hi!

Yesler Community Center


(This is the Evaluation I submitted to the NC. Part of my volunteer work is to help them check up on how their classes are going.)

On February 21st, 2006 I had the honor of visiting ‘Natural Voices,’ a class put on at Yesler Community Center by The Nature Consortium.  Erica, the instructor, started the class this particular day at 4:15pm due to the kids having been in another class before ‘Natural Voices.’  The class was set in a smaller concrete room that was beautifully colored with art of all kinds. There were 4-8 girls that participated throughout the class, ranging in age from about 6-12, with a core group of about five, 9-12 yr. olds.  Erica began by having them stand around the center table doing breathing exercises.  I saw definite improvement in the girls’ ability to hold and control their breath. 

At 4:30 they all sat at the table and wrote down, then shared, their favorite song, artist, and why.  Erica offered them insightful questions when they had trouble coming up with ‘why.’ (i.e.: ‘How does it make you feel?’)  Then they said or sang the songs’ chorus.  During this beginning part of class there were a lot of disruptions; kids poking their heads in, trying to go in and out of class, talking, eating, and needing assistance of various kinds.  Erica delt with these efficiently, respectfully, and calmly; always returning immediately to the lesson at hand.

At 4:55, Erica led them in standing vocal exercises, leading into working on songs.  The group is much more focused now, and disruptions have ceased.  Through encouragement and positive challenges, she slowly got the girls comfortable enough to sing alone.  Their smiles of confidence and self-satisfaction were apparent. Also, peer support increased as they opened themselves and took risks together.

From 5:10 to 6:00, the group became very focused. They worked on their final song; a positive beautiful song in lyric and melody that, as I found out later, Erica had written.   They worked in a group as well as alone, and with Erica’s encouragement they took even more risks with themselves and developed even more complex vocal arrangements.  At the end, Erica introduced the concept of harmonies, thanked them for their courage to come and sing, and encouraged them strongly to come back.  After class Erica was sparkling with enthusiasm and dreams of what she could do with this class.

I found this class to be immensely successful in empowering kids through the art of singing.  The girls left with increased confidence, better peer support, and a greater understanding of vocal work and their own ‘natural voice.’ Erica provided a safe, positive environment while challenging them to try their best, and they loved her for it.  Her competency in teaching this subject was obviously excellent and her voice was incredible. My only lingering question is this: Does this class need to incorporate the environment to meet The Nature Consortium’s guidelines? If so, I recommend singing songs with environmental themes and discussing them.  I was blessed to be a part of ‘Natural Voices’ and praise Erica and The Nature Consortium for their inspiring work.


Duwamish Greenbelt



This field trip was very fun and adventurous despite the fact that only 2 high school kids showed up! They were very tepid about walking through the woods, mostly due to laziness and a fear of mud and bugs I think, but they had a good time and showed a lot of curiosity despite themselves.  They were very fun and funny, wishing they could go to the mall, making jokes about the bugs ect.  I showed them pictures in my identification guide and talked to them about signs of spring.  I also enjoyed sharing knowledge and learning from the 4 other adults. We all had different things to offer and I ended up learning a lot about invasive species, the lifecycle of ferns, geology, and plant identification. I also shared some knowledge of medicinal plants. I also got to see the Soundway (or sometimes called the Duwamish Greenbelt), which is a parcel of land near my home that Nancy at The Nature Consortium basically saved from industrial overtake. I was on the lookout for a black cottonwood to harvest buds from, and with Tracy’s keen eye, I was able too see one. It was gigantean! Beautiful, big roots jutted up from the earth and its branches towered high above me leaving me no foreseeable way to get to them for harvest (and none on the ground either). Another time I hope. I was happy to have this opportunity to share my knowledge with kids and adults and to get to know my peers at the NC.

Youngstown Cultural Art Center


         This was the grand opening of Youngstown Cultural Art Center, which is across the park from my house, and the new site of The Nature Consortium.  The streets were filled with cars and people, a strange sight for my neck of the woods, and excitement filled the air. The place was packed when we arrived and the building was magnificent! I talked with some other volunteers of the NC and played in their craft room with kids making and playing rhythm instruments.  It was very exciting to be a part of this amazing new community center and I look forward to what it will bring to my neighborhood.

Concord Elementary

South Park Seattle

(See ‘curriculum work’ button above for full outline- first lesson plan)
Gea and I planned and prepared well for this activity and it really paid off, especially because the communication and organization of the coordinator, Ruby, at the school was lacking. Despite this it was a success! Only~10 kids showed up (we were expecting 20-30!), but this turned out to be a blessing because Ruby had only brought us 12 or so jars and a few of them didn’t even work for our activity. We arrived and couldn’t find Ruby so we set up. Then she came and moved us so we set up again. Finally a few kids trickled in so we decided to start.  The kids were rambunctious but surprisingly attentive as I explained the process of making the vinegar. They especially liked smelling the herbs. Then they excitedly went about making their herb vinegars.  They had fun tasting it and adding more herbs, and even went back to make more.  They seemed genuinely excited about the activity and about coming back next week to learn more about the herbs and try their vinaigrette!

Overall the activity went a lot smoother than I thought it would. As always, with kids, thorough preparation makes all the difference. 

Concord Elementary

South Park Seattle

Today’s lesson plan was a frenzy. Most of it was because we didn’t have time to get set-up properly.  This happened because we didn’t see Ruby right when we got there, copies took too long, and Ruby’s supplies were not readily available so we had to hunt. So, we learn: next time arrive even earlier, have even clearer communication with ruby about supplies being ready and her meeting us at a certain time and place.  The kids trickled in at 4:15 and we handed out worksheets and gave instructions soon after.   It was all very uncertain if, when, why, and how the kids were supposed to be there. Next time I also want to find out more about the after school program we were entering.  This uncertainty we felt made for a less structured environment, which made for more rambunctious kids, which made for less absorption of learning material.  It seems that this is the general atmosphere of the program, which makes it hard to fit into. Also, by this time of the day the kids have been in school over 9 hours and are understandably crazy. So we ended up setting up while the kids did their worksheets so we didn’t get to talk with them much, but they loved when I threw in the fresh sprig of rosemary for them to touch, smell, and identify. Many had seen it, and now they know a lot more about it! Then, they lined up and got salad and veggies with the herbed vinaigrette and olive oil on it. They loved it! Well, most of them did. We all had a good time eating.  Then the kids trickled out and took their herbed vinegar home, though many forgot their worksheets. Next time we will make the transition from worksheets to salad more structured so the kids put their worksheets away before salad. I learned a lot from the challenges posed today and am grateful for that. Besides the challenges, the worksheets were great and the kids really enjoyed the activity so I consider it a success.



Vollunteer Park

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum
Visiting Reflections

I made this trip a family affair with my sweetheart, his mother, and his niece.  It was a beautiful day for an outing in Volunteer Park, and made even better by the museum’s free admission.  We first entered the calligraphers section and I was happy to dispel what knowledge I had about the Chinese language and calligraphy to those with me.  There was a lot of surprise to the fact that Chinese does not have letters, only symbology for words. Beautiful intricate writings and paintings awed us.
Then we followed a tour of Buddhist sculpture.  I learned much about the Buddha that I had not known previously, though the lore and figure is familiar to me.  In the story, Buddha’s royal father had received a fortune telling of his son becoming a great monk.  So, he kept Buddha inside his castle walls for 29 years, keeping him from setting eyes on religion or things that would drive one to a religious or spiritual nature; like pain, suffering, and old age.  Buddha eventually left the castle walls and was inspired by a monk to leave his family and seek enlightenment, or nirvana ‘the releasing of breath,’ so he would not have to incarnate again. We saw many figures of Buddha and contrasted their similarities and differences in different cultures.  Tibetan images tended to be surreal and heavenly, while Japanese were very earthly; carved out of a tree hundreds of years old.
Then I wandered into the Orchid Pavilion area where I was unfortunately rushed by others in the group.  I was, however, deeply moved nearly to tears by the orchid pavilion preamble translation. Amazing to feel so touched and connected with people who lived so long ago, relating thousands of years ahead and thousands behind.  I love to gather, drink wine and write poetry!  I feel much the same as they did all that time ago, and that is exactly what the preamble attests to. This writing is very meaningful to me now, those that gathered then, and all of those in between because it shows the ‘oneness’ of humanity through time and culture. The rest of the poetry and paintings were also touching and magnificent and I was sad to have to breeze past them. I would love to go back and get to know this more intimately.  The only thing I did not like was the lack of literal-word-for-word translations.  I think this would have been useful so people could understand the language differences and the dance of translation better.



Nature Consortium


Victoria, Nancy, and I met today and collaborated on how to evaluate NC programs.  My continuing involvement with The Nature Consortium seems that it will be mostly in the realm of evaluations of the classes.  This will help me gain perspective on effective teaching techniques and helps the NC gain perspective on their programs.  Today, we looked at what other organizations are doing, and discussed what we thought was important. We want to do a pre and post class survey for the kids in the classes to gain an idea of what they got out of it.  Coming up with an effective, interesting survey will be the tricky part, and I’m sure it’ll take a lot of tweaking to get it right.  I left reflecting upon how difficult it is to measure learning, especially in youth.  Learning is such a dynamic, holistic process and most ‘tests’ only gather a narrow spectrum of absorbed information. This process brings up a lot of fundamental questions about teaching and learning in any setting.



Concord Elemmentry

 My observation work this quarter was a bit scattered due to issues of scheduling, communication, and teachers’ absence.  I ended up able to visit 2 classes, once each, and gained a lot from the experience. First, I visited the physical education class where a student teacher was teaching gymnastics. I came to get a perspective on how I could integrate my gymnastics work and knowledge into a school setting. The teacher had a lot of fun stations set up and the kids would rotate between them working on balance, motor skills, rolls, beam skills, bar skills, and more. I talked with the regular gym teacher and got some insight on the regulations of physical education in schools, and found out there are hardly any.  This observation helped me visualize and get ideas for the possibility of doing this in the future.
My second observation was in a fifth grade classroom.  My first thought was, “Whoa, 5th graders are big!” They were. I am so used to little ones. The classroom was well organized and fun. They had cubbies and groupings of tables instead of desks.  There seems to be an emphasis on reading and writing. There is a poetry corner and many reading and writing posters and displays.  There is a poster of Caesar Chavez in the room, one in the principal’s office, and a park named after him down the street. That’s great.
This day the class was making ‘humdingers.’ They got a lot of different parts (including a motor, battery, wires, and bell) and had to figure out how to make the motor ‘hum’ and the bell ‘ding’ with the pull of a string.  They were all very interested and focused. I noticed how well fifth graders worked with each other. It’s like at this age they are grasping more of a sense of social and self control. I also see issues of self-confidence come into play, as some won’t even look up at me. The teacher gave them bits of guidance through the activity.  When she unveiled the example at the end they were all curious and excited to see how this activity could be done.  It was great to see kids sharing enthusiasm of learning. 
I am grateful for this insight into 5th grade, though it tells me that I am happiest with little ones.  I just want to play and entertain, but I’m sure the more intellectual rewards with these older kids are gracious too.

Overall, I found Concord to exceed my expectations of an inner-city school in a diverse neighborhood.  Concord is a state-of-the-art facility full of warm people and an inviting atmosphere.  The teachers seem to do their job well and love it.  I am glad to have gotten to know a little piece of this little universe that sits in the South Park valley of Seattle.



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