"For the month of November, all three kindergarten classes teach the theme we call 'Brave and Smart Girls.' I have students make a book about themselves that explains how they are brave and smart, and at the same time look into historical figures. We try to highlight a range of women from different backgrounds. Mary Cassatt is a natural, and her story fits right in with the month-long theme. We also do Ella Fitzgerald—we watch videos of her performing on YouTube. And every time we do Michelle Kwan every girl wants to be a figure skater! In fact, that is an easy sell, since many of them belong to the Wissahickon Skating Rink, which is just across the street. In gym class they will talk about Mia Hamm while they learn soccer. We brought out all of Beatrix Potter's books when he studied her, and since we have two rabbits in the classroom that was also an easy connection. The main idea is that these women went ahead and did something that wasn't easy, or that maybe people suggested they could not do. The message we want to get across is that these women followed their dreams. "Mary Cassatt is great because, not only does she come from Pennsylvania, she is relatable for the girls. The idea of mother and child—a common theme in many of Cassatt's paintings—is something they all understand. We read about her and they color-in some Cassatt masterpieces. Then we talk about their mothers, and they write about how their mothers are brave and smart. One of our books talks about Mary Cassatt painting with love; students create a portrait of their mothers and are told to paint them with love. It is always very quiet when they paint their mothers. The portraits end up being very large and are hung up in the hall—I add their quotes about their mothers." Of course, the parents come by to see their portraits. "In fact, they can't miss them! I also put them all on the classroom blog for the parents to see. (The classroom blog contains a weekly newsletter for parents as well as a summary of recent class activities and a preview of things to come.) The portraits go home for Valentine's Day."
Abbie’s portrait of her mother
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