ROCKLAND — Leaps of Imagination is a school-day art program that propels children’s imaginations and empowers students as artists and deep thinkers. Founded on the premise that art inspires elementary school students to make connections between art, literacy, and environmental science, Leaps teaches young people to observe, explore materials and perspectives, and make bold works of art. Learning from local artists, children realize their capacity to create and imagine a better future.
Leaps’ team of artists will host a 10-year celebration on Saturday, March 4, from 2 - 4 p.m., open to the public. A special exhibition of children’s art will be on display at Maine Coastal Islands Visitor Center located at 9 Water Street in Rockland. Leaps’ participants will offer mini lessons on drawing from observation and talk about their art.
Leaps of Imagination was conceived in 2013, when a group of artists in Midcoast Maine realized that school budget cuts would limit children’s access to art education. The program, which began as a pilot, weaves art experiences into existing classroom curricula. Teachers are full collaborators with local artists as mentors to underserved students. Since then, the program has grown from two RSU13 second grades to reach six communities—Rockland, Thomaston, St. George, Cushing, Searsmont and Vinalhaven—and more than 1,000 children from prekindergarten through seventh grade. The organization has also forged a partnership with Wheeler Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, helping strengthen the connections between nature and art.
“It is inspiring to see how this program has grown and, most importantly, how it continues to embolden children to explore, think and create in our region,” said Nancy Harris Frohlich, founder and Executive Director of Leaps of Imagination, in a news release. “We are grateful to our school partners and artists who took a leap of faith with us ten years ago and have helped this program expand and thrive. We are excited about what the future holds.”
Frohlich added, “Our programs link children to issues in today’s world, to the wonders of nature and being outside. To big ideas like equity and environmental preservation. Kids realize that their ideas matter, and they are ready to act on them.”
“Leaps of Imagination invites our students to get out in nature in a different way and really be creative,” said Ainslee Riley, principal of Thomaston Grammar School.
Riley was a first-year principal at Lura Libby School in Thomaston when Frohlich approached her with the idea for the program 10 years ago.
“This takes our students beyond the art classes we offer in-house and allows them to explore further,” said Riley. “The pieces they have created are amazing.”
Rosemarie Richter, Gifted and Talented teacher for RSU 13 and former fourth grade teacher at Thomaston Grammar School, loves seeing students blossom through the experience of showing their work in an art gallery.
“It lets kids shine who don’t normally shine,” said Richter. “It lets them get in tune with their feelings. Their work is phenomenal.”
Richter also remarked that participation in Leaps of Imagination impacts students’ learning beyond their art classes: “It affects their learning, and teaches them to dig deeper in math, for example. The journaling component of the program encourages their writing.”
Children are taking away important life lessons from the program and having fun. Comments from second grade students participating in Leaps of Inspiration have included:
“Art gets you going! It makes you smarter.”
“Art is important for kids because they will learn to imagine things in a different way and be free with art.”
“I realized that my artwork is beautiful!”
“I discovered that I am a really good artist - that I didn’t know before!”
“I didn’t know, as an artist, that you can do anything!
“Your imagination can run wild!”
“I felt imaginative and good. I also felt proud.”
“I learned that friendship is really good. People haven’t figured it out sometimes.”
“If you just work as one, you won’t get as much work done. And it is a long time to do stuff that you do all by yourself.”
About Leaps of Imagination
Leaps of Imagination brings local Maine artists together with elementary school students and teachers in a collaborative school-day classroom program. Mentor artists interweave in-depth art making experiences with thoughtfully chosen environmental science and social justice themes linked to the class curriculum. Our project empowers children to believe in their own capacity to create and to make change in both their local community and the larger world.
The Mission at Leaps of Imagination is to ignite the imaginative spirit and inspire new ways of thinking so that young people can realize that their ideas have purpose and that they have the courage to act on them.
Leaps currently brings its programs in midcoast Maine to South School’s (Rockland) third and fifth grades, St. George School’s prekindergarten, Thomaston Grammar School’s kindergarten, third, and fourth grades, and Vinalhaven School’s second, third, fourth, and fifth grades. We are grateful to RSU13, St. George School MSU, Vinalhaven School, and the following foundations: Onion Foundation, Davis Family Foundation, Daniel W. Dietrich ll Foundation, Maine Arts Commission, Maine Community Foundation, Crewe Foundation, Nellie Leaman Taft Foundation, Partners in Island Education, and Vinalhaven Land Trust for supporting our work with children in public schools.
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