Continuing our theme “Women Who Did” for this year, our second amazing woman from history is Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter who suffered and survived not only childhood Polio, but also a bus accident that left her in a full body cast and bed ridden for two years. Despite spending the rest of her life in constant pain, Frida lived that life abundantly, boldly, and with an enviable strength.
“I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.”- Frida Kahlo
One thing to be said for self-awareness is that, with luck and a bit of effort, you’ll like what you see. Being good to others, kind to others, and loving towards others starts with being good, kind and loving to yourself. Frida Kahlo spent a lot of time on her own after the accident that should by rights probably have killed her or left her paralysed. She spent the rest of her life in a lot of pain, and as a result, a lot of it alone.
Frida Kahlo painted over 50 self-portraits in her life, many of them depicting her “message of pain” (read more about the stories behind her self portraits at ArtyFactory – it’s not all happy reading so I’d recommend a pre-read). Some of the portraits were about her, rather than of her – for example What the Water Gave Me is a picture of her legs and feet in the bath, surrounded by lots of other floating images.
“In the water Frida paints floating remints of her life; an island which holds a volcano that erupts a skyscraper, a dead woodpecker perched upon a tree, and small skeleton that rests upon a hill. From this island a tight rope begins which creates a diamond-like shape within the center of the tub and wraps around the neck of naked female figure who is floating, Ophelia-like. From this female figure that may in fact be Frida herself, the rope returns back into the hand of a faceless man that seems to be watching the woman he strangles as he lounges on the edge of the island. Also floating in this bathtub is an empty Mexican dress, a seashell full of bullet-holes, a couple that resembles Kahlo’s parents and from her earlier paintings My Grandparents My Parents and I and two lesbian lovers that can also be seen in her earlier painting Two Nudes in A Forest” 1.”
“About Me” Activities
I’m really blessed to list among my friends, the fantastically talented artist Donna Jones MBE. I asked Donna if she would be happy to come over and show us how to paint some self portraits (which she did, but I had to go out so I didn’t get any pictures of her painting with the kids, which is a huge shame!)
Donna, knowing that we’re learning about Frida Kahlo and surrealism (which Frida didn’t believe she was, because “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” 2 turned up with the 3 activities for the kids to do.
1. Self-portrait painting
For some reason the kids weren’t keen on looking in the mirror, so Donna drew outlines of faces for them, and they painted/coloured them. Between you and me, you wouldn’t be able to identify the kids on the street using these as self-portraits but that’s not the end of the world. They did the activity and are quite happy with the results.
2. Message in a bottle
Donna has a whole art project around poems in bottles which have been sent all over the world to be buried and ‘found’ at some point in the future. She brought some bottles for the girls, and got them to write about themselves: who am I, how old am I, what’s my favourite colour, my best friend and so on. I thought that’s a really good activity for self-reflection. It’s like a time capsule you can look back on later in life. What a sweet and simple idea. You can bury it somewhere, if you like, (I’m not so keen on throwing it in the ocean these days!) and add a phone number or email address, to see if anyone ever unearths it!
Ours is going into the memory box where the girls can look back on it one day.
3. Picasso faces
Not strictly Frida, but still a self-portrait and still surrealist, Donna cut out parts of faces and had the kids arrange theirs into Picasso-esque self-portraits.
Interestingly, during all this self-portraiting, the kids were talking to Donna about bullying and what to do when you’re being bullied and so on. I thought it was an interesting lead-in, reflecting on self, and diverting to external opinion.
These final two activities weren’t with Donna, but I’m adding them here as they fall under the ‘self-portrait’ and ‘about me’ category of activities.
4. Frida Khalo Shadow Boxes
We don’t have a lot of magazines that are good for cutting up, but I had the kids go through the ones we have and choose images that resonated with them – that said something about who they are. They chose things from the two magazines I could find, and then I printed a bunch of pictures from Google and let them choose which ones they felt were relevant to them. We used square deep box frames from The Range and I printed one of our recent photos (for each frame) then the girls used regular Bostik White Glu to stick the pictures to the wooden frames.
5.Expressing Feelings in Healthy Ways – from Heroine’s Club book
This activity requires a conversation about feelings and healthy ways to express them. It’s one of those nice activities where you can work and talk at the same time. The book suggests starting with the body outlines already drawn, and then using a marker pen to write the feelings we feel in the head and heart spaces. Around the body write down ideas on how we can express our feelings in healthy ways.
It’s a fantastic talking activity to do with children.
There’s a lot of power in being self-aware, so giving kids the tools to know who they are is a valuable life skill.
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Since we’ve been learning about Frida Kahlo, I thought we’d put some geography on the ‘lesson plan’ and learn about Mexico. Frida Kahlo was very proud of her place of birth and while she travelled with her husband Diego and lived in some of the major cities in the USA and travelled to Paris, France, her heart was always in Mexico.
She dressed in the peasant wardrobe of one of the local regions, and even when she moved in ‘high society’ of the time, she preferred the more rustic wardrobe of her national dress – not necessarily because of the fashion but because of the pride she felt in portraying her homeland.
The next craft project for our Frida Kahlo learning was to make a bold and colourful beaded necklace from oven baked clay. How do these beads tie in with our Frida Kahlo based theme? Well, we’ve taken creative licence, for sure. What we know is that Frida Kahlo liked wearing bright, bold colours, and liked bringing the essence of Mexico to the world. Have a look on Google for Mexican art and you’ll see a lot of prime colours (we added green) and a lot of delicate patterns. That’s what we were going for with these bead necklaces. If you look at images of our current heroine, you’ll see that she often wore big, bulky neck adornments too, so I reckon she’d have approved of our finished product.
I decided this year to utilise some of the many books we have and use famous – or should-be-famous – women from history as our educational starting points. A friend gave me a guidebook for a mothers and daughters circle called The Heroine’s Club a few years ago, and I’ve decided to use that as the foundation for our studies. Our first woman from history is Amelia Earhart, the first woman to cross the Atlantic.
Who Was Amelia Earhart?
Many people know the name Amelia Earhart and even know that she was the first woman to cross the Atlantic by plane. But here are a few other things you may not have known about Amelia Earhart:
- Amelia was homeschooled until high school
- She suffered from chronic sinusitis
- She worked as a nurses’ aid during the Second World War
- Amelia took her first flight in an airoplane at 23 years old. She started lessons 5 days later.
- Amelia was the 16th woman in the US to be issued a pilot’s licence.
- She gained her pilots licence less than a year later.
- Involved in creating the first commercial airline in the world.
- Amelia set 7 women’s speed and distance aviation records, including a world altitude record.
- Amelia also created a functional sporty fashion line.
Did you know that 70% of people surveyed in a recent YouGov Poll 1 said they would love to know more about local wildflowers? But more and more – or is that less and less – people are losing the connection with nature, and with it their knowledge of things like flowers.
- https://www.plantlife.org.uk/uk/about-us/news/plantlife-launches-the-great-british-wild-flower-hunt ↩
This year we’ve once again participated in the Potatoes for Schools – Grow Your Own Potatoes project, whereby they send you potatoes and instructions, and you have to grow your own. As part of the project you’re supposed to keep an eye on your potatoes, soil them up from time to time, and generally follow their progress. We measured them intermittently, and made sure it was slug free and so on, but we did fail miserably at the seed potato – the one you’re supposed to plant in such a way that you can actually see the root system. I know we planted it in a jar, I just have no idea what became of the jar! We did, however, do the same with a pumpkin seed and a sunflower, and were able to watch their root systems stretch towards water. It was all very interesting. But back to the potatoes…
Happy Dr.Seuss Birthday! I know this makes me sound old, because I never asked this as a kid, but where’s this year going! I just packed away the Christmas decorations, and here we are into the 3rd month of the year already. The 3rd month does start with a bang though, with World Book Day and Dr Seuss birthday on the 2nd of March.
If you don’t have the fantastic collection of Dr Seuss books there are a good selection of the short movies available online that you can watch in a pinch:Read more: 26 Free Dr Seuss Book Readings And Movies
You know those days when you wake up in the morning and mentally go through your day, only to suddenly remember the birthday party you’re meant to be at in two hours, so you stumble bleary-eyed over to the gift cupboard and realise that you now only have gifts left for babies, blessingways and older kids, so you log in to your online banking really hoping your client has paid you, but alas, she hasn’t… so you have less than two hours to come up with a present. What do you do? I’ve mentioned before what I do – I go to Twinkl, so that’s precisely what I did today.
If you’ve been inspired by National Storytelling Week or you’re simply hoping to encourage your little storyteller to grow in the craft, there are a number of books on the market that offer just that. We recently bought My First Story Writing Book from Usborne books to work through during the week and we loved it so much, I wanted to share it with you.