The art of knitting has widely been talked about as being therapeutic. In the learning and teaching space it is an activity I like to use to encourage problem solving skills, focus, peer teaching, positive appreciations and confidence in completing a piece of textile based art work. Just recently I worked with a group of students on a finger knitting challenge. This was actually inspired by a good friend of mine who has been working in a before and after school program with primary aged children. She had taught the children how to finger knit and this in turn had spread throughout the school. Even parents had been coming up to her in the school yard requesting finger knitting lessons. What better inspiration than to apply this to my own teaching curriculum.
Last week I worked with a group of fabulous pre-service teachers in the visual arts classroom. I introduced them to finger knitting. After some focus of the required pattern to weave wool in and out between our fingers we soon were able to produce magnificent pieces of knitting. The peer teaching and problem solving along the way was marvelous to see in amongst the classroom community. Those who were familiar with the task or who could pick up the process quickly were a great source for help for those who were new to experiencing any form of knitting. The conversations and positive affirmations were very encouraging. “I always wanted to try this but didn’t know how to do it” was a comment from one student while others were so surprised at how quickly they could produce a length of knitting.
What I most loved about this teaching and learning experience was how it was so organic and supportive of moving from individual art work into the generation of a whole class piece of art. Inspired by recent yarn bombing explosions around the inner Melbourne suburbs, we used our finger knitting pieces to create a piece of public art. The process of deciding what to yarn bomb supported wonderful classroom conversations about how much knitting we had, how the public could access the art work, how the individual pieces could be sewn together, and the anticipation of what reactions would be generated. This process was all student lead and directed. We moved between accessing a tree, to chair to concrete poles, and then settled on the hand railings that run along side a staircase. The generation of our art work moved from an individual piece to a whole class contribution through peer teaching, supportive dialogue and conversations to problem solve, to think about the audience of the public art, and development of arts based language to describe and respond to the process.
When have you had the opportunity to facilitate such an art experience?