Nickelodeon Animation Studios, in a partnership with teachers at Washington Elementary, send artists and production staff to the elementary school for a weekly art class aptly titled “Let’s Draw.” The enrichment class visits a different grade each week, rotating through all the K-5 classes several times each semester. Carson Smith, Nickelodeon HR Manager, brought three Nickelodeon employees, Fabian Corona, Kelly Gollogly and Steven Hirt, to teach the art basics to two third grade classrooms last Thursday, January 16.
“We start off drawing Spongebob and characters from the Nickelodeon universe,” commented Smith. “We teach the children to look for shapes when drawing. That’s the main objective, to get the kids to understand the basic shapes used in drawing.”
Hirt and Gollogly started out as interns at the studio and after transitioning to the production department are now Nickelodeon artists. Corona works in development at the studio. All three spoke to the classes and explained some of what they do for their jobs at Nickelodeon. Then, they provided step-by-step information on drawing favorite animated characters, asking questions of the children and actively engaging them in the process of art.
The eight and nine-year-olds were focused on drawing the entire time of the hour-long class and were quite pleased at how close their own art was to the example created by the visiting instructors.
“The presentation inspired many of my students to consider their future,” commented third grade teacher Beth Morgan. “I have several very imaginative, gifted artists and they were contemplating the thought of what it would be like to be an artist when they grew up. One of them said, ‘Wow! I could get paid for something I love to do! I didn’t know a job could be so fun!’ We really appreciate Nickelodeon partnering with us and allowing our students to dream big about the future!”
Morgan has taught deaf and hearing-impaired children at Washington Elementary for over 20 years. In her third-grade mainstreaming class, hearing children and deaf children learn side by side, as Morgan explained, “The hearing children learn a new language, sign language, and the deaf children learn English not only from the teacher but also by watching peers and interacting on the yard.”
“Art is such an important tool in my room. It is a real equalizer. Many times I have had deaf children who excel in art and it allows the hearing children to see that deaf children are gifted in certain areas the same as they are,” continued Morgan. “It helps them begin to accept their friends for who they are, not from what label they happen to carry.”
“We also use art as a foundational skill for writing. We can use it as a scaffolding from which we can build a written story by asking our students to explain their picture and then, encourage them to tell that story in writing,” she continued. “The more detailed their picture, the more detailed their story-telling is and thus, their writing can then also include all those wonderful details.”
In teacher Dorothy Hernandez’ third grade class, Nickelodeon artist Steven Hirt drew two different views of Spongebob and talked about the shapes and ways to twist and turn them. He demonstrated how a rectangle can stretch its back.
“He brought the concepts we are learning in geometry to life,” commented Hernandez. “This was such a great way to reinforce some of the geometry and math skills that we had been working on in class.”
“With the artist breaking down some of the drawings, showing the students how just starting with a basic shape, they too could create some of the characters that they see on some of their favorite cartoons,” added Hernandez. “It was also a fantastic way to bring the community into the classroom. The students were able to see what the people at Nickelodeon do to create these characters.”
“The students were so excited and felt successful with something that they would have thought was extremely difficult and that they could never have imagined creating on their own,” she continued. “I know that because of this opportunity a spark was lit and we could have some future Nickelodeon artists in the classroom!”
“I never have a hard time finding volunteers at the studio for these classes or for the other programs and projects we do at the schools,” added Smith, who brings different employees each week to the elementary school for the Let’s Draw program. “We spend the hour introducing the children to the joys of drawing – what can be better than that?!”