Friday, August 2, 2013

Gryphon House: Global Art Review

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We had the opportunity to expand our knowledge of different cultures this summer.  I knew I wanted to keep the children learning, even though we were putting our MFW lessons aside for a couple of months. When the opportunity came up to review the book Global Art: Activities, Projects, and Inventions From Around the World from Gryphon House publishers I thought we would have a wonderful time. And I was right. 

Global Art by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Jean Potter is one of the many educational books put out by the award-winning Gryphon House publishers. Gryphon House actually began as a distributor of children's books in the early 1970's, but they expanded into the realm of publishing in 1981. Their goal is "to publish and distribute the highest-quality books for educators, parents, and caregivers."  After perusing their shop I discovered that I was already familiar with several of their books which I have borrowed from the library in the past and really enjoyed. They have books in many different subjects, including:

  • Math
  • Literacy
  • Science
  • Spanish
  • Art
  • Character Building
The book Global Art is one of 27 Art books ranging in topics from First Art (for toddlers and 2 yr olds), to Primary Art (for children ages 5-8), and Art with Anything (for children ages 4-10). There are just so many books I would like to try out, because I feel that art is so important for children. You and your children could also explore math, cooking, science, environmental studies and so much more with all of the different art books available through Gryphon House. 
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Global Art contains over 130 art ideas and is divided up by continents; within each continent section the activities are organized by country or cultural group. You will discover projects based on customs, celebrations and discoveries/inventions. Others are based on native materials. 

The Table of Contents shows each chapter/continent divided into projects alphabetically by country/cultural group.

When you flip to the first page of each chapter it is labeled with the continent name in addition to a drawing of the continent and a list of the projects arranged alphabetically by country. The projects are then listed alphabetically under each country.

Returning to the beginning of the book, I wanted to mention that there is a "Welcome" page plus some instructions on how to use the icons. The icons were really helpful in deciding which projects we could do. The authors placed these symbols at the top of each project page. There are three different categories:  Art Techniques, Planning and Preparation and Experience Level,.

The Art Techniques will show which art medium is the primary art medium used in the project:
  • Painting
  • Sculpture
  • Construction
  • Drawing
  • Collage
  • Printing
The Planning and Preparation icon shows how easy or difficult preparation will be:
  • 1 indicates that all the materials are likely to be found in your home.
  • 2 indicates that you will probably be familiar with all the materials by you may need to find them or purchase them.
  • 3 indicated that some of the materials may be unfamiliar. The book says they should be easily found at such stores as art supply stores or hardware stores. I will say that living in a rural area, they are not as easy to come by as they may be in other areas. Our closest art supply store is an hour away. 

The Experience Level can be 1 of 3 levels:
  • Beginning artist with little experience-indicated by 1 star
  • Artists with some art experience-indicated by 2 stars
  • More experienced artists-indicated by 3 stars
*Some projects also include an extra Exclamation Mark Icon that warns the parent that caution and one-on-one adult assistance is needed while working on the activity.*

When I was planning which activities we would do, the icons were very important and helpful. It was wonderful to know at a glance whether a project would be appropriate for us. As the children are so young, I knew I would more likely than not be choosing activities with 1 or possibly 2 stars. Due to the fact that it is difficult for us to get to a decent store, I knew we would also be limited to projects labeled with a 1 for planning and preparation.

I realized the book could be utilized in different ways. I decided to focus on one continent at a time, making a unit study out of it. 

However, if you are already studying a certain area or culture, you could open up this book and find a project or two to help make that culture come alive for your children.

You could also search through the book to find a project you and the children want to work on, leading into learning about the country/culture.

We started by focusing on Africa. I knew I would want some books to read so I searched online and found a nice list of books that are set in Africa. What I hadn't realized, in my haste, was on the very first page of each chapter there is a list of appropriate books arranged by country. In planning, it is nice to know which books will go well which each project, but we found some great books by not limiting ourselves to the books listed in the bibliography. For example, though there were no specific projects for "Kenya" we read some great books set in Kenya and learned quite a lot.

When starting a project I would read the little "Did you know?" section on the page as it gave some interesting information about the culture the project came from.

Then we found the country on our globe.

Each project explains what the child will be doing, what materials are needed and a step-by-step process. Some projects also list variations.

The girls made "Decorative Necklaces" from Central Africa, "Substitute Ivory" from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and "Drum Decorations" from Senufo on the Ivory Coast.

While we were making the necklaces we looked up African necklaces on Google Images and while we were making the drums we read a book called Jamari's Drum by Eboni Bynum and Roland Jackson. In fact, the girls love banging on their drums and chanting, "Bede bada boom kabede."

Our "Drum Decorations" craft

Our "Substitute Ivory" craft.

(Unfortunately our Ivory soap didn't mold really well. We allowed it to soak longer than recommended, but didn't have much success.)

We have since moved on to Asia, starting with China and Japan. The girls had a blast creating a "Moribana Flower Scenery."

I am looking forward to doing more projects in our study of Asia and other cultures. As the girls get older we can revisit our studies and use the more difficult projects. 

Global Art is a great book to introduce your children to other cultures while engaging in a wide variety of crafts. If you would like to try out some of the projects in this book you can check out the Free Activities in the Resources section of the Gryphon House website.

You can purchase this award-winning book for $16.95. It is appropriate for children in grades K-5, though quite a few of the projects were able to be completed by Hannah who is 3. 

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