by Leigh Anne Preston, Primary Program Art & PE Teacher
Art, Nature, and PE are not just special areas at LCA, but the perfect combination of life practices.
I recently posed the question, “Is gardening a sport?” “No, Mrs. Preston,” my students answered, laughing while tugging on tomato and squash plants to clear them from the summer bed and loading them into the wheelbarrow. “Of course gardening is not a sport.”
Not only did they get a good workout harvesting and cleaning out the garden, but it goes a step further. St. Andrew’s allowed us to adopt the “Helping Garden” which supports the monthly food pantry. With their children being available only weekly, it has become a great partnership since LCA can care for it during the week. I’m happy we adopted it because it is now the centerpiece of my nature classroom and on occasion PE and art. The children all understand that the garden’s harvest helps food-insecure people in the Highlands and surrounding area have some fresh produce. But they are also learning about growing seeds, healthy vegetables, and the amazing way nature produces.
Nature, of course, also opens our eyes to the wonders of habitat, adaptations, migration, and the sheer beauty of watching the bees, birds, and butterflies on our campus. Ask your 2-3 student what Aristotle hypothesized about bird migration compared to what we know now. They thought it was pretty unbelievable and silly. Our youngest students continually show amazement as they become “nature spies” and sneak up on our birds in their habitat. They are observing details and looking for evidence. In addition to all of this, nature class builds an appreciation for what we have, empathy for others, and gives the students a chance to help their community.
My K-3 art class has a focus on “art journaling” this year, and the message the students hear constantly is that art is a “practice.” It is a way to relax, redirect, and surprise yourself. It is a place to express feelings and play with different media. It is a place to gain confidence, explore, and unload.
In PE, we practice working together as teammates and friends. We acknowledge mistakes and find healthy interactive ways to correct. We learn skills, games, and sports of course, but the piece that holds it all together is sportsmanship--being a good teammate, and learning how to play by the rules and how to treat each other, which, I would argue, are necessary life skills.
But how are they connected? It is more important now than ever to have strategies to take care of our mental and physical wellbeing. Each of these classes embeds tools for the kids to use, not just that day, but as a practice, every day. I am so grateful to be a part of a school that prioritizes these important special areas, and I especially love how beautifully connected they are and the curiosity and joy they bring.