If you were to ask my class about pysanky, they would excitedly tell you about the day when they made their own pysanky using traditional Ukrainian tools. These decorated eggs were the focus of our classroom for an entire day. After a short teacher-led demonstration of how to put the wax into the kistka, melt the wax with a candle, draw with wax on the egg and choose the progression of dyes, the students took over. It did not take long for students to discover that making pysanky was not as easy as they thought it would be; instead of becoming upset, students saw the difficulty as a challenge that they could overcome. They revised their designs and continued to experiment with their technique.
Students knew that they had the entire day to create three pysanky and I was impressed by how they were able to focus on their art for such an extended period of time. While many students were finished after working for about three hours, there were a number of students who worked for up to 4 ½ hours to create their intricate designs. Parent volunteers gave us the gift of their time, some for part of the day and some for the whole day. Without their assistance, the day would not have been possible.
So what did students learn this day? They learned respect for an artistic tradition of another culture and that they are dedicated artists. They learned that plans can change, mistakes can happen, eggs can break, and the world will go on.
Donna Ainslie-O’Connor is a grade 3 teacher at Brookwood School. She loves giving her students a challenge and then watching them discover how creative and capable they are.