Many of my homeschool programs focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts. But I truly love art! So I’m grateful when I come across an artist who so intrigues me that I’m able to focus on another important acronym: STEAM. Aminah Robinson was just such an artist. When I discovered her art on the Columbus Museum of Art’s website, I knew I had a unique and wonderful homeschool art program just waiting to be shared.
Home Studio Tour
The Columbus Museum of Art featured a video tour of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s home, which also served as her studio. I began my homeschool program by showing the students snippets of this video. I paused in key places to engage in conversation about what they had seen. After showing them a little bit of her front yard, I asked for their predictions about the meaning behind the wagon wheel. We discussed their thoughts about what a bottle garden might represent. Then we watched more of the video to compare their answers to the curators’ explanations.
Math AND Art!
As a former teacher, I was thrilled when the video revealed Robinson’s paintings of a famous math problem: The Man Who Crossed the River (seen in the video at the 8’54” mark). After showing the homeschool students that part of the video, I had them solve the problem. The problem is that a man has a boat that will only fit him and one other thing. He has to ferry a fox, a chicken, and a sack of corn across the river. If he leaves the fox and the chicken on the bank, the fox will eat the chicken. If he leaves the chicken and the corn together on the bank, well, you guessed it: the chicken will eat the corn! How can he get all three across the river successfully? No spoiler alerts here….you’ll have to read to the end of the post to get the answer!
Homeschool Art Activity
Lastly, we made art based on Aminah Robinson’s beautiful work entitled Gift of Love. Ms. Robinson created this thronelike chair using a tree root her father found and leather she tanned and carved herself. Hogmawg figures of her parents and community graced the chair as well. Hogmawg was the term for her mixture of mud, pig grease, sticks, lime, and other materials that she used to create 3D figures.
The Columbus Museum of Art has a special website as well as fantastic resources on Aminah Robinson for teachers and students. It was there that I found a lesson about Gift of Love and loosely based my activity on that plan. The students discussed how it would feel to sit in a chair surrounded by those figures and how that tied into the name she gave this beautiful work.
Because of the timing of my program, we couldn’t interview members of their families or community. Instead, the students created chairs based on what they love, rather than who. First, I taught them a simple lesson in how to draw a chair. Then I discussed what might decorate their chair. My own example was a springtime chair. I drew flowers winding up the legs, a seat cushion that resembled water, a blue sky back rest, and a headrest to look like the sun. Two participants created chairs based on their hobbies: Charles drew Charles’ Hobby Chair, which featured football, LEGO®, and Nintendo®. William created The Fisherman’s Throne.
I hope to revisit the lessons inherent in Aminah Robinson’s stunning work, Gift of Love. To more closely follow Robinson’s example, I think it would be wonderful to have the students decorate a miniature chair based on people they love or their community . Interviewing family members or other special people would offer valuable lessons in developing interview questions as well as public speaking. I love offering homeschool art programs, and this one was a huge success!
I encourage you to take a look at Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s artwork. Her life and her art will inspire you and your young patrons!
(I haven’t forgotten about the answer to the math problem! If the man takes the chicken with him, the fox and the corn are safe on the riverbank. He can come back to pick up the fox and carry it across the river. However, since he can’t leave the fox and the chicken together, he can bring the chicken BACK with him! He’ll leave the chicken in order to pick up the corn. Leaving the corn and the fox safe across the river, he can head back one more time to pick up the lonely chicken. He and the chicken will head back across the river for the last time! Problem solved!)
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group and III. Programming Skills.