Charting a Course for Creativity During COVID

A special note from coxswain Diana Cox, Grammar School Art Teacher

Mrs. Cox is in her 15th year on staff at Providence Classical School. She developed the classical Christian art curriculum at PCS for grades Pre-K through 6th and continues to create lessons and write original poetry, songs, and movements to the delight of her students.

Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea — the Lord on high is mighty.
Psalm 93:4

Despite the uncharted seas of teaching amid a pandemic without an equipped art room on a more limited budget, I launch my vessel early in the day to set sail across the Grammar school decks alongside fellow mariners (LAMPS teachers) to dock in 17 separate “cohorts” or groups of expectant artistic shipmates. Art on a cart is much like sailing the seas in a dory boat named “Semper Gumby” to varying ports of call. Sometimes the winds are fair and breezy — easy peasy. Other day trips I heavily sport the life jacket of faith and lean into the winds of change.

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Grammar School Art Cart

Classical Christian education is the slow and steady compass for developing rigorous students who put on their sea boots to take challenges head-on.

It was necessary for one of our largest Grammar school cohorts to be in the space that previously was a well-equipped art/copy room. This year due to Covid-19 classroom restrictions, I surrendered my classroom to Haaland’s Harbor. It is not lost forever – just for this season thankfully. Therefore, this year I gratefully prep individual supplies in advance for each cohort to maximize minutes and minimize contact.

My “cargo ship,” a wheeled utility cart for creativity, is loaded with drawing and paint supplies, lesson plans, and cleaning supplies. It is constantly cleaned and restocked for different types of Pre-K – 6th grade art experiences. A laptop sets sail as well to enable synchronous learners to join LIVE with classmates.

2nd grade explored liquid watercolor, water-based oil pastels, gouache, and Flair pens to compose seascapes. They learned hand motions and clicks to sing about the dolphins in the ancient Minoan palace frescoes.

In the days of social distancing, creativity in community refreshes our spirits and allows us to live out the Imago Dei (image of God) soli Deo gloria (to the glory of God alone).

Each week students anticipate incredible art experiences for the purpose of exploring art techniques. Their brains are boosted and memory ignited while chanting, singing the elements of art, and moving to the principles of design. Part of my COVID days’ recipe for art fun includes incorporating my original poetry, songs, chants, and movements based on the language of art or art history. Integration with other subjects is not only a classical method for learning but also lessens student anxiety towards creativity amongst peers. I thank God for enabling me to join Him in stirring the gifts within during these atypical times. I firmly believe our art experiences in cohort community increase immunity.

Several art classes started the year drawing folding cartoon self-portraits with masks. They enjoyed reciting or singing from memory the fruit of the Spirit such as joy, patience, and peace. Students shared their goals of walking in the Spirit while including the words as their mask unfolded with colorful and creative lettering to share the fruit of the Spirit they are expressing or developing during 2020.

6th grade folding cartoon self-portraits with masks and fruits of the Spirit

Artists develop a keen eye and concentration while drawing contour lines. Older grammar students added miniature people performing adventure sports based on two principles of design. Before putting the pencil to the paper, they were encouraged to follow the creative process of creating lists. List-making has been proven to broaden thinking and problem-solving. Both the mask project and the shoe project ignited imagination, joy, and the feeling of adventure during our mask-up days.

5th and 6th grade contour line shoes with adventure sports

PCS artists and teachers alike are approaching creativity and physical distancing challenges with imagination, faith, and a growth mindset.

Adding new strategies to their toolkit for communicating the universal language of art, students’ brains are forming new pathways for innovative or creative problem solving. Earthly life presents problems, so developing visual thinking and problem solvers is paramount. In addition, developing craftsmanship and gifts in the fine arts equips students with the tools of learning to communicate the truth of God to a world turned upside down.

Classical students are great observers and thinkers, having learned to connect truth to goodness and beauty. They are sponges, absorbing how their parents and teachers take on challenges like teaching from a cart with humility, grace, or innovation. The fact is that teaching from a cart challenges the teacher more than the student. It requires more thorough planning and organization, flexibility, and laughter, not always in that order.

Could God be using this pandemic season for stretching and advancement, despite setbacks? Perhaps our purpose during this time of COVID-19 is to share Christ through the arts with a world in need of an anchor. May we be found faithful mariners as we create art to the glory of God!

You answer us in righteousness, with awe-inspiring works, God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the distant seas.

Psalm 65:5

About Diana Cox:
Mrs. Cox received a Bachelor of Science degree from The University of Texas at Austin in General Home Economics which included coursework in interior design, textiles and clothing, child development, and nutrition. She met her husband of 30 years, Paul, in a 300 voice choir. Together, they ministered in churches, prisons, and at special events using the fine arts of music, art, and drama. Paul is a loan officer and continues to develop his gifts as a praise band leader, songwriter, and classical guitarist. Mrs. Cox began teaching at Providence 14 years ago and developed our classical Christian Grammar School art program, including songs, chants, and hand motions that teach both the elements and history of art. Her two sons and two daughters are currently in college/university.

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Keep reading for more information on how fine arts programs are integrated into our uniquely classical and Christian education at Providence Classical School!