Making a Rainbow: Each Hand Counts
I taught kindergarten for five years before being moved to fourth grade. It was quite a jump for me, requiring me to adapt my classroom management techniques, my lessons, and my library corner to accommodate the “big kids.” But, it was hard to leave all my kindergarten lessons behind, namely, the fun, art projects. It was my experience, that as our children get older their school days involve a lot more testing and a lot less art. So I did what I could to incorporate bits of art and bits of fun into my upper-grade classroom.
One of my favorite March activities was creating a class rainbow made of my students’ handprints. There were colleagues who questioned my activity, deeming my nine and ten-year-olds too old to be painting their hands. But my kids loved it! I prepared paint in the colors of the rainbow. (A veteran teacher shared this tip with me when I first started teaching — when preparing paint, add a bit of soap – either dish soap or hand soap — to the paint. It makes the paint easier to wash off hands and clothes.)
Each child made six handprints (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple). After the paint was dry, I cut out the handprints and assembled our class rainbow. The completed bulletin board always looked bright and colorful and happy. But I asked my students what the purpose of the activity was (besides fun)? What lesson was there for us with this project?
The answer wasn’t usually initially apparent to them. For them, it was all about the fun. But, there was an underlying message I was trying to get across to my students. By themselves, a rainbow consisting of six handprints isn’t all that impressive. But, a rainbow made with at least one hundred eighty handprints (at least thirty students, each making six handprints) is quite striking. It shows us what can be accomplished by working together. It shows us the beauty that can be created by combining our efforts. And, each student’s contribution was necessary to the final project.
It’s a powerful reminder that big things begin as little things. That big changes begin as little changes. That the individual is important to the group. It’s a lesson I hope my students carried with them long after they left my class.