At some point this past week, Meg became obsessed with Richard III. Some show she watched mentioned that the bones of Richard III had been recently found in a parking lot. She mentioned that to me and I told her I had watched a great documentary that followed the archaeologists as they found the bones. She then watched that documentary and decided that she was going to be a historian and archaeologist.
When the girls happen upon an interest such as this, I like to jump on it while the interest is still there. I remembered reading that our city of Alexandria, Virginia, has an archaeological site and that they host family days and workshops. The family days for the year were booked, but I found an open workshop for this weekend.
Meg and I spent Saturday afternoon at Shuter's Hill, which overlooks Old Town Alexandria. An large plantation house once sat on the site and a Civil War fort was located close by. The workshop began with city archaeologist discussing the history of the site as well as the geophysical surveys that have been conducted. The archaeologists are trying to piece together the layout of the property during the 18th Century.
After making our own attempts at analyzing the geophysical maps, we were tasked with sifting through dirt. I truly did not expect to find anything except rocks, but we were successful. Meg found glazed brick and broken pieces of olive glass. I found the remnants of an old nail that had oxidized. We had a great time and the staff was very willing to talk with us and guide us in sorting through the dirt. It was such a fun experience.
This year the focus has been French art. We missed the first two weeks due to illness, which meant we missed two of my favorite artists, Van Gogh and Mary Cassatt. This weekend's program was on Constant Troyon's painting The Approaching Storm. After discussing things the children observed in the painting, the instructor guided the kids to discuss what clues in the painting reveal that a storm is approaching. The book for this week's lesson was Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds. Sky Color is a charming story about a girl who must paint the sky on a mural, but she has run out of the color blue. As she thinks about her dilemma through sunset and night, she observes many different colors other than blue in the sky.
The craft was brilliant. The children were given a page where part of The Approaching Storm was printed in full, while part was only outlined (see the picture below). This picture had been scanned onto Crayola Color Wonder paper and the kids used Crayola Color Wonder paint to fill in the color. As I am sure most of you know, the Color Wonder line is a mess free craft solution. Color Wonder markers and paint only show up on Color Wonder paper. We mothers were all ready to purchase these fine art versions of a Color Wonder coloring book, but unfortunately they were just produced for this event. I would love to be able to buy my kids a Color Wonder book of french art rather than just Frozen and Paw Patrol.
I have noticed (to my amusement) that the crafts have become less messy since the first year we participated in Stories in Art. That year the girls worked with terracotta colored clay in the middle of the National Gallery of Art. Since then, the crafts have been more tame.
I cannot recommend the Art Investigators (formerly, Stories in Art) program enough. If you are in the D.C. area, take your kids to this amazing and entirely free educational program. Where else can teachers use priceless works of art as simple teaching aids for your kids? It truly is a wonderful program.