At UICS, creativity means that an ordinary box is not just an ordinary box. It is a treehouse, a rocket ship, or a secret hiding place. It can even transform into a kind Robot….

UICS-St. Mark Center Arts Coordinator, Brianne (Bri) Pegg encourages little learners to think outside of the box (metaphorically and physically!) through creative process-based arts experiences. With March being National Youth Art Month, we want to share how UICS celebrates the arts this month and every month!

Most recently, Bri created a project inspired by the book “Robot in Love” by T.L. McBeth. The story focuses on a robot who works to share his love for someone he admires. He does this by sharing something beautiful he’s made and through kind words.

“After reading the book, each class designed, assembled, and painted their own robots,” Bri said, “and to feed them, we give them notes of kindness.”

The colorful cardboard robots were installed in UICS-St. Mark Center’s entrance lobby where they eagerly await sweet notes.

Parents/caregivers are invited to write notes of kindness to their kids and drop them into the robot that corresponds to their child’s classroom. Bri then delivers those notes to the classrooms for teachers to disperse to the students.

Bri explained, “Sometimes teachers pass them out to students who might be having a rough time or right before nap/quiet time when many children are really missing their caregiver(s). It helps them feel connected and allows parents/caregivers to communicate with them throughout the day.”

Every year, arts educators come together for National Youth Art Month to select a theme to help gain support of arts programs across the country and to inform audiences about how important art and arts education is for children. This year’s theme is “Arts Connect Us”.

In addition to making our lobby more colorful and vibrant, the robots embody that sentiment beautifully through Bri’s vision.

“I wanted to find a way to engage families through art in the classrooms. I wanted them to feel connected since they can’t visit the classrooms or come past the main entrance due to new safety guidelines. While they wait to pick up their kids, they have something meaningful to do.”

Bri also shared, “Some parents have even brought in their parents to participate, so we have grandparents writing sweet notes too!”

This is not the only art displayed around UICS-St. Mark Center to recognize National Youth Art Month either! To further embody the theme and demonstrate how the arts bring us together, teachers and students are also participating in Art Bingo this month.

“This is my fourth year leading Art Bingo at UICS-St. Mark Center. It’s a fun way to climb out of the melancholy winter blues and have some fun doing experimental arts.”

Bri described, “I provide the teachers with the tools, and it’s a great way for them to engage in more process-based art projects in their classrooms. Sometimes they recycle things we’ve already done.”

The instructions for Art Bingo include the teachers leading an arts activity listed on the bingo sheet, documenting the experiences through photographs of the students, providing brief explanations of the experiences and quotes from the students, and showcasing the children’s artwork. The first three teachers who complete four of these activities on the bingo board in a row (up, down, across, or diagonally) win a prize. Any teacher who completes the entire board with documentation will also win a prize.

UICS-St. Mark Center toddler teacher, Shuryce (Niqui) Hill loves Art Bingo and is a reigning champion.

“I love it and won last year! It’s open to kids of all ages. We all get themes and an opportunity to be creative. The kids have a bunch of fun.” Niqui said.

Niqui added, “Basically, I pick a few things my friends are interested in from the sheet and build my lesson plans around it. Bri always has the materials ready for us and makes it easy.”

As a school with an arts-focused curriculum, we take pride in our staff uniting to encourage arts experiences in the classrooms, on the playgrounds, and wherever opportunity exists.

“I love it, because there’s eight times as much art in the school. Some years the teachers get competitive to do all the projects. They also love showing other classrooms what art activities they’ve completed. Infants, toddlers and pre-K students participate, and the projects are tailored for each age group.” Bri said.

Little learners are beginning to explore the world around them and experiment with new concepts. The arts not only entertain, but they also educate in fun and interactive ways and connect us to the world and people around us. They are transformative, unifying, and everything in between. At UICS, we take great pride in encouraging limitless possibility in a limitless world through the arts.