The Suitcase Lady


May 26, 2015, 9:12 pm

I’ve just finished another year of Art in a Suitcase programs. One overriding thing made all these years possible….curiosity. My curiosity was the catalyst that started the adventure, and the curiosity of thousands of children and their parents has allowed it to flourish.

When I began teaching art many years ago, I frequently had my young artists draw, paint or sculpt animals. Somewhere along the way, I felt a need to expand the lessons to give the children a few science facts about the animals and habitats they were portraying. My curiosity was sparked as well, and I quickly became hooked on the natural sciences.

Art in a Suitcase was the result. In hindsight, a more appropriate name should have been Art and Science in a Suitcase. (Since this is a mouthful, I decided to keep the original name intact.)

The curiosity of children is a never-ending source of joy. Almost all the young people I work with want to learn. If I throw out a few facts about the planets, Komodo dragons, fireflies, oceans, sharks, volcanoes, the Arctic or any other topic found in a natural history museum, hands shoot up to ask questions.

When I do encounter children with an attitude that announces, “I dare you to say anything that interests me”,  I know that something has gone terribly wrong in their young lives. Paradoxically, I’ve noted that these children are most often from homes with a shocking lack of material resources or an egregious abundance of them.

Our current educational system in America is not focused on the power of curiosity. The emphasis on testing and grades trumps all else. We need to bring back the wonder.

Historian David McCullough, a two time Pulitzer Prize winner, succinctly notes, “Curiosity is what separates us from the cabbages. It’s accelerative. The more we know, the more we want to know.”



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