“The Anti-Coloring Book Phenomenon” July 29, 2011, Middletown Patch - http://middletown-ct.patch.com/blog_posts/the-anti-coloring-book-phenomenon
Susan was featured in the Greenwich Time
Wednesday, October 7, 2009, Page A001
By Colin Gustafson, Staff Writer
Cos Cob School art teacher Susan Striker has always considered herself "math phobic."
As a grade-school student, Striker
hated having to go to math class, detested the homework and dreaded the quizzes. And as an art teacher, math has long been among the furthest topics from her mind.
So when Cos Cob's principal,
Kimberly Beck, recently handed her a copy of the school's math curriculum and pointed out how much it overlapped with her art lessons, Striker was at first incredulous.
"My first reaction:
she was nuts," Striker recalled of the encounter last year. "Here I was teaching perspective, and calling it art, and down the hall, they were teaching perspective, and calling it math."
This fall, however, the art lover and self-professed "math phobe" has combined the two topics in an interdisciplinary teaching project that she's dubbed "Art-Rithmetic."
The focal point of that project is a new art display in the school's second-floor hallway where Striker has posted prints of favorite artworks alongside banners that hail the
mathematical concept each illustrates.
For instance, an Andy Warhol painting of the pop artist's image reproduced in various color schemes on a calendar-like
grid illustrates the concept of an "array," which is used at the school to teach to multiplication and division.
Nearby, a painting by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein of a
woman's hand coating a slice of bread with butter illustrates addition. A Jim Dine sketch, "Portrait of Mr. Blitz," of a sullen-looking man whose body has been partially erased,
"It's so much more alive to show a child the patterns in a (painting) than to say, 'This is one, two, one, two," Striker
said. "I'm using an exciting medium to teach all this stuff that I thought was boring."
In addition to exposing students to great artworks, the exhibit
is intended to help illuminate basic mathematical concepts, particularly for students who may be strong visual learners, but have had difficulty on math assessments, Beck said.
About a third of the art concepts highlighted in the display -- from parallel and perpendicular lines, to symmetry, perspective and patterns -- relate directly to math concepts
tested on the Connecticut Mastery Test, according to the principal.
"For kids who consider themselves math-phobic and are certainly much more artistically inclined or more visually
inclined, this draws parallels -- pun intended -- for them. And they understand it better," Beck said.
One of the most educational artworks on display at Cos Cob
School, she believes, is Piet Mondrian's famous "Broadway Boogie-Woogie," the 1943 abstract painting that appears in the Museum of Modern Art.
Striker said she included Mondrian's piece, inspired by the brightly lit city grid of Manhattan, to educate her students about the use of primary colors, straight lines and geometric
patters in painting.
Beck said those concepts and others appearing on state tests, such as intersecting and parallel lines, the formation of polygons, sequences and right angles, come to light in
Mondrian's masterpiece as well.
"Honestly this (painting) represents three-quarters of the geometry strand on the CMT," she said.
In addition to setting up the exhibit, Striker has compiled a binder of tips for fellow teachers on how to incorporate art into their lessons. She also plans to work closely with art-oriented
kids who have had particular difficulty in math, like her.
On top of that, Striker hopes to update her hallway exhibit later in the school year. One idea she has is to illustrate
subtraction using a Michelangelo sculpture and quote.
"Michelangelo is quoted as having said "he didn't understand why anybody didn't look at a piece of marble and see that he
had just removed everything but the angel."
Articles by Susan Striker
- “Check out your child’s school thoroughly”, Fairfield
Minuteman, September, 2005
- “Susan Striker: Outside the Lines”, Teaching K-8,
- “Art and Self Esteem”, SFCH Newsletter,
- “Coloring Books Revisited”, School Arts, March, 2003
- “Significant Scribbles”, Parent Guide, May 2002
- “Using Art to Develop Literacy”, Connecticut Family Today, September, 2O02
- “Young at Art”, ParentGuide, March 2002
- “Symmetrical Leprechaun”, School Arts, March, 2002
- “Blue Willow Story Plates”, School Arts, December, 1997
- “Fund Raising with Note Cards”, School Arts, December, 1999
- “Patterns of Collaboration”, School Arts, October, 1995
- “Whole Language and Art”, Teaching K-8, August-September, 1992
- “Artists at Work, Guidance News”, Volume III, Issue 2, MY 1991
- “Crafts Corner”, New York Family, 1988
- “Growing Up With Art”, New York Family, 1987
- “Holiday Projects”, Big Apple Parents, December, 1987
- “The Importance of the Graphic Arts in Early Childhood”, Moms Amazing, Vol. 6, 1986
- “Kid’s Art Studio”, New York Family, October, 1986
- “The Best Kid’s Art Programs”, Parent Guide, September, 1986
- “Outdoor Art”, Parent Guide, June, 1986
- “Birthday Time”, parent Guide, May, 1986
- “Vacation Creativity:, Our Town, March, 1985
- “Young at Art”, Parent Guide, June, 1985
- “A Puppet Project”, School Arts, June, 1974
- “Self Portraits”, School Arts, May, 1972
The Minuteman - September 8, 2005
This past summer all of us were saddened and horrified to hear about campers in nearby Fairfield being left
unsupervised while their drunk counselors partied elsewhere. Also prominent in the news was the story of a counselor with a suspended driver's license who drove her campers on
a camp outing at over 100 mph head on into another car. We all know of the massacre of school children in Rusia.
I have over 40 years of experience teaching and running schools, and I still cannot get used to the casual manner in which
parents entrust their children to camps and programs, including my own, without thoroughly checking into them. In public schools, teachers are fingerpritned and have a thorough
criminal background check before being hired. Their credentials are validated regularly and they will be fired if they do not keep them current. In private schools however, we
rely on the school administrator to do the hiring. Often, that very same administrator has no formal certification in school administration and may not have been subjected to a
background check. . With the proliferation of storefront schools teaching everything from music, dance and art to physical education, there is no way to know if the teachers have
appropriate training or if even minimum standards for safety are being addressed. Nevertheless, these schools have cute names, slick brochures and web sites and parents sign their
children up at them in droves.
I urge parents to check schools thoroughlyl. Ask what a teacher's qualification and experience are. Is the teacher a
certified teacher or is she just someone who calls herself a teacher? There is a big difference! There is always potential for injury in any of these programs, and this risk is
increased when teachers are inexperienced and untrained. Many schools invite potential clients to tour the school while classes are in session, which puts all children at risk.
Doors should always be locked during school hours. Think about it; you wouldn't leave the door to your home unlocked and invite strangers in off the street while your children
were there. Why should a school? Is there a well stocked First Aid kit on the premises? Are teachers trained in first aid? It is not at all unreasonable to ask about these things.
In fact, it is irresponsible not to. Ask also about how transition is handled. Always try to stay for at least part of the first class, not only to help your child feel secure but
to feel secure yourself. This should be as important to the school as it is to you, so if they object, ask why. While at the school, look around. Are the same safety precautions
that you implemented in your own home evident in the school? Are materials stored safely? Are the toys washed and disinfected regularly? How often? Are outlets covered? Is there a
plan in evidence in case of fire or other emergency? Does the staff have your emergency phone numbers handy? (Not locked in a file cabinet somewhere)
Many schools and camps have opened to meet the new demand for early education of our children. While these schools remain
unregulated by the State and Federal government, it is essential for parents to remain vigilant and responsible, keep their eyes wide open and choose carefully.