Art in the classroom

When my daughter was in elementary school, the PTA purchased a program called Art Vistas that brought classic works of art into the classroom and encouraged kids to explore their creativity.

It was tailor made for me! I couldn’t wait to volunteer for it, but for two years someone else beat me to it. I was so disappointed. Sure, there were other things I could do to help out, but I studied art history in college, for heaven’s sake, I wanted that job!

My daughter was in third grade when I finally got it. I split the role with another mom and we had a great time.


The program they purchased included a lesson in Art History and an Art Project that focused on a specific aspect of design or color theory. There were 2D and 3D projects to make, as well as a variety of mediums to try. Each grade had a different theme with different works showcased so there was never a repeat. There were 6 lessons per year and at the end we put on a big Art Show so the students could show off their work.

It was the best volunteer experience! I would prepare by reading through the history lesson and pulling the works of art to showcase from a giant (organized) pile of them in a supply closet. One lesson included telling the stories of artists behind the old masters to illustrate a lesson in portraiture, followed by having the kids pair up and draw each other. Another lesson highlighted the bold colors and shapes of abstract artists and the kids used oil pastels to create their own. We learned about landscapes, the rule of three, shadow, contrast, pointillism, Georgia O’Keefe, Jackson Pollack and much more.

I had the best time working with the kids and seeing them explore their artsy side. One of my proudest volunteer moments came when I asked a class full of 5th graders if they had a favorite artist and almost every single one of them did. It honestly brought tears to my eyes.

Art is this secretly amazing, mind-expanding experience. It seems like everyone recognizes this in pre-school, but as kids grow up there’s suddenly no time for it.

What’s worse, it becomes something they “can’t” do.

“I’m bad at art” is one of those statements that kids (and adults) make that makes absolutely no sense. The term “Art” is so inclusive that everyone can, truly, do wonderful things.  Remember this scene from the Princess Diaries?

SERIOUSLY – you can create Art.

Take the challenge this week — Don’t take yourself too seriously, make a mess, and have a little fun!

P.S. If you haven’t seen that movie in a while, you really should watch it again!


Help Just One

My earliest memory of volunteer work is helping Grandma Thone pack up food for the man that lived under the tree by the freeway. I was about 5 and I was handing her things to put in a bag.

It had been a long day, I don’t know why. I just know she was tired, I remember her breathing hard from the effort and holding tight to the chairs as she moved around the kitchen.

She was born missing part of her leg and the limp she had throughout her life was severe. Add in arthritic knees and too many pounds around the waistline and you can imagine that just getting through the day was an enormous physical challenge.

Grandma Thone and Lizzi in February 1998.

Grandma Thone and Lizzi in February 1998.


She had picked up my brother and I from school that day, as she did most days, then drove across town to her house and arrived just after the school bus dropped off three teenage girls in front. Two were sisters and the other had been living there just a few weeks. They were foster children and over the years my grandparents had nearly eighty come through their house. They went school, learned to drive, went to church and celebrated every holiday and birthday with us. As a little kid, I thought of them as cousins.

I don’t know if my brother and I had been a handful that day, or if it was the teenagers that tired her out. I just remember that she asked me to help her pack up the food for the man under the tree.

I had seen her do it before. She would fill a grocery bag with food and plastic forks. Sometimes she even sent her glass baking dish. A 2L of soda usually went, too, along with a roll of paper towels. Grandpa would drive back to the freeway exit, but he never took us kids with him. He just came back a bit later, sometimes a long time later, and he would tell Grandma that the man said thank you.

Grandma didn’t let herself get overwhelmed with the enormity of the homeless problem in our town. She didn’t judge the man by the choices that brought him to living under a tree. She didn’t weigh herself down with the trying to find a solution or helping the thousands of people who needed it. She figured he needed food, so she sent some.

She knew she could help this one, those two and maybe one more. She made a difference for them.

As a kid, I didn’t know my Grandparents were unique in their capacity for giving, for opening their hearts to serve. It is something I marvel at today. It drives me to give back in any way I can to anyone that needs me.

I was so excited to see that the NaBloPoMo theme for September is Service. In an attempt to live up to my grandmother’s legacy, I have always made time for volunteering and find that it is something that feeds my soul in ways I could not have imagined.

I have taught art and Sunday School. I have led 4-H projects, served as the Community Club Leader, and on the County Council. I’m currently County Key Leader, All Star Advisor, and Project Leader for 4-H, and I’m on the Board for a new non-profit called the Acrobatic Gymnastics Foundation.

I’m often asked how I find time for such endeavors and I simply respond that I don’t do dishes or clean the bathrooms – you’d be amazed how much time it frees up! I love volunteer work and hope that you find inspiration in the stories you read this month.