Meet the Teaching Artist: Krina Patel

Meet the Teaching Artist: Krina Patel

Think-Create-Learn: Making Art Mindfully

I am a visual designer and artist. Increasingly, my practice, especially my socially engaged arts projects, include both visuals, audio, and text.

Think-Create-Learn, that is my mantra. Professor David Perkins, with whom I studied and worked writes, “Learning is a consequence of thinking.” My research shows that the process of learning skills that require the engagement of the body and senses is indeed thinking in action. When we make art, we think and learn in real time. This is the theory that underlies the often used phrase in education – “learning by doing”. For example, students who are engaged in a drawing and coloring/painting activity are developing their aesthetic sense, thinking and communicating visually, learning about a topic as in the owl and fish images below, as well as practicing manual skills using drawing and coloring/painting tools. All this is happening in real time as they are engaged in the activity.

Drawings for owl study by a kindergartner at Everett Elementary School, Boston.

Painting for study of fish in their habitat by a kindergartner at Everett Elementary School, Boston.

I arrive at my teaching approach from this understanding of the process of learning. My goal is to engage students so that they immerse themselves in the activity and experience thinking-creating-learning or what is referred to as the “flow” experience. In a way this is related to mindfulness. It can even be viewed as meditation in practice. We focus, block off the distractions and immerse ourselves in the activity. It is heartwarming to see very young children sit “criss cross apple sauce”, take a deep breath, be still for a few moments, THEN get ready to go to their stations to immerse themselves in drawing, coloring, tearing/ripping paper for their art projects.

One of the picture books that is helpful for introducing mindfulness to young children.

Currently I am making picture books with kindergartners. This is a collaborative project with the classroom teachers. Each class is working on a picture book that is related to their curricular topic. Teachers are learning art techniques along with the children. Teachers being excellent learners, they are also incorporating and adding these techniques to their classroom activities. This is the desired outcome and what I am working towards. For example, after I had worked on drawing fishes with the students as part of their study of Salmon, the classroom teacher, Ms. Moore expanded the activity to include water color painting. My goal is to work collaboratively with teachers to establish a strong arts foundation for the students so that they can build on it as they progress. Critical in this foundation are drawing skills as well as a sense of aesthetics – an understanding of line, color, textures and composition.

We are looking forward to our book launch party that will culminate my 10 week residency with the kindergartners.

Bio: Artist and educator, Krina Patel started her career in India working in the arts with children with special needs. Krina attended Bank Street College of Education, taught at schools in the New York area before coming to the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she completed her doctoral research. Teaching with empathy, Krina encourages students to think and express themselves through a range of visual media and text. Her arts practice includes community arts projects and studio work where she integrates traditional media with digital tools.

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