I came across some articles and TED talks recently that argued that there was a creativity crisis happening in schools and across America. Granted, these articles and talks happened several years ago but some may contend that this trend continues to this day.

I believe that creativity is, sometimes, a product of crisis. As an introvert, artistic expression was always (and continues to be) my outlet – especially when I was/am at my most vulnerable. I took up hobbies like painting, photography, mixed media arts, and more recently, graphic arts, because these mediums granted me the opportunity to come to terms with whatever turmoil I was experiencing in my personal or professional life. Getting my frustration, my sadness, my disappointment, my rage, my resentment out on a “canvas” was always engrossing…but a necessary purge.

Having limited exposure to activities I once took for granted (running to Target, grabbing a Starbucks with friends, or going out to dinner to eat), I’ve been confined – for the most part – to the four walls of my home. I’m 34 years-old and going stir crazy – I can only imagine what my younger students are feeling right now. Are they safe? Are they happy? Do they miss school? Are they as bored as I am? Do they have an outlet?

As I mentioned, I love creating – it helps me process things. I also love creating with tools that students can access (sorry, fancy Adobe Photoshop – I love you but you’re not for my kiddos!) Last fall I created an activity for my kids to create Google Doodles within Google Slides – it was definitely one of the more creative activities students got to do on their Chromebooks. I wanted to create another activity that students would enjoy doing – and offer some calm during all the crazy.

Enter monochromatic art.

I love monochromatic pieces – they are beautiful in their simplicity. Just looking at a piece brings me peace, calm. And I appreciate that – like most types of art – it can be created with a variety of mediums (ink, charcoal, photography, paint, etc.).

An example of a monochromatic photograph

I got it into my head that I would have my students create a monochromatic landscape piece within Google Slides for our next technology lesson (via distance learning thanks to “corona”!) Now…how the heck would I accomplish that?!

First, I wanted to set parameters – these kids need some guidance. I found a bunch of vector images that students could use for both background/foreground. I dropped those into a shared Google Drive folder. I would let them decide what direction they want to take their landscape. They could easily create their own silhouette shapes within Slides using the shape tools, but – as this was supposed to be a “45-minute” lesson – I wanted to maximize their time.

Second, I needed to figure out how I was going to change my basic (black) vector images into monochrome pieces – and do it with a program that my students would have access to at home. I found PineTools which allowed me to colorize my vectors.

Next, it was just a matter of placing and arranging my different monochromatic pieces onto a blank slide. Most of my students benefit from both auditory and visual support (who doesn’t?) – so I created a screencast of the entire process from beginning to end.

Because we are creating “art” – let’s throw a gallery walk in there for good measure. So, I created a Padlet for my students to share their final work on with one another.

I was pretty proud of myself by the end of it.

Now, I have no idea if this lesson will be a success or not – this lesson won’t be pushed out to kids for another week or two. But I figure it’s a lot better than another Google Sheets lesson…or God forbid, any “educational games” (I was in fact, asked by one of my teachers if that is what I would be giving students!)

Creativity through crisis is therapeutic. I don’t expect art to change the course of this pandemic – but maybe through one fun, creative art lesson, it could improve the mental health of our students.

For a copy of my lesson (along with all the screencasts), click here.

About Kristin Oropeza
Kristin is a full-time special education teacher, contract consultant, and educational content writer. She is a Google Certified Teacher (Level 1 and 2), Google Certified Trainer, and MIE Expert for 2020-2021.