Children’s Art as Community Conversation

Children’s Art as Community Conversation

Posted on June 07, 2017 by Julie Farmer
Editor's Note: Julie Farmer is a Youth Services Librarian for the Manatee County Public Library System and a participant in the Harwood Public Innovators Lab underwritten by The Patterson Foundation for library leadership in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

My name is Julie Farmer, and I am a Youth Services Librarian for the Manatee County Public Library System. Our Long Range Planning Committee used the “Turn Outward” model to invite feedback from our community. We especially wanted to hear from communities that we may not have heard from in the past.

As a Long Range Planning team member, I was asked to get feedback from Head Start students on the question, “What kind of community do you want Manatee County to be?” We wanted this feedback to be in the form of pictures the children had created.

Each month, Youth Services librarians present storytimes at every Head Start center in Manatee County. The Head Start center that was able to complete pictures within our time frame was the Myakka Center of the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project. The East Coast Migrant Head Start Project provides early childhood education services to children of migrant and seasonal farm workers. It operates centers along the east coast of the United States to ensure continuity of services and advocate for children and their families in other areas of need.

The Myakka Center is located in a remote area of Manatee County, surrounded by pasture, scrub land, and farm fields. One of the teachers shared with me some background information on the pictures when I received the art. The Myakka Center has a raised, open-air deck outside the classroom. The teachers use this deck for bird and wildlife watching with their students. From their deck, the students see a wide variety of animals and birds that they then discuss in the classroom: cows, birds, and alligators. As a result, some of the artwork reflected their interest in the animal life surrounding the center.

We were very pleased with the art responses from these 3–5-year-old students.

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