During the fall semester, students in Melanie Manos’ Detroit Connections: In the Classroom course were faced with a challenging question: How could they connect kids with creative activities and art education while so many K-12 students were studying remotely? 

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Under Manos’ guidance, the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design class addressed this question through Art Connects Kids, a website brimming with original, kid-friendly art projects for families to do together at home. 

Envisioned and documented by undergraduate students in the Detroit Connections class, the projects on the website encourage exploration across a wide range of media with the goal of inspiring kids and families to get creative together. The projects can be modified to suit all ages.

“Students worked hard and managed their collaborative groups inventively,” Manos said. “I was impressed.”

This image was created using the "Painting Minimalist Landscapes" project prompt on Art Connects Kids, a new website created by students at the Stamps School of Art & Design.
This image was created using the “Painting Minimalist Landscapes” project prompt on Art Connects Kids, a new website created by students at the Stamps School of Art & Design.

An important goal of the class was to ensure that the creative prompts and project instructions were clear, manageable and fun. To this end, students gathered “real world” user feedback from Stamps lecturer Emilia White and alumna Sarah Buckius, both of whom are parenting young children at home.

“The projects that the students created are well done and cover a wide variety of topics and art mediums,” White said. “They were also thoughtful about the type of materials and parental support that may or may not be available during this time.”

Sofia Stark, creator of the Painting Minimalist Landscapes project, was thankful for the opportunity to be of service to families during the pandemic through the Art Connect Kids website.

“Creating activities to keep kids busy so their parents can take a quick breather and facilitating projects for families to bond over is something that is very important during this time,” Stark said. “Art is a beautiful way to do that.”

For Leila Mullison, work on the Art Connect Kids storytelling projects started during an independent project last summer. Working with an art teacher from middle school, Mullison created a video to encourage kids to try stop-motion animation. 

This image was created using the "Mixed Media Scavenger Hunt" project prompt on Art Connects Kids.
This image was created using the “Mixed Media Scavenger Hunt” project prompt on Art Connects Kids.

“During the fall semester, I took a step back to think about how I could simplify the project,” Mullison said. “Through research, I learned that puppetry was like an ancestor of stop-motion, and I realized it would let kids bring a character to life in real time instead of through a camera. I never would have thought of the project if I had stuck to my own interests instead of focusing on what would best suit the kids.”

Manos plans the site to be a resource for future Detroit Connections classes to use as a learning tool, populating the site with new projects along the way.

“In nonpandemic times, the Detroit Connections class partners with public schools and we work with students in-person, which is wonderful and deeply meaningful,” Manos said. 

“The Art Connects Kids website has the potential to broaden the reach of Detroit Connections to schools and communities in our region, the U.S. and globally. I look forward to the interactive online possibilities that affords.”

Student creators of the Art Connect Kids website include: Sara Carrier, Carmen Flores, Allegra Forman, Lili Imboden, Maddie McFarland, Sara Ganshaw, Emma Goodman, Lauren Mills, Leila Mullison, Erin Ruark, Sofia Stark, Jenny Suh, Kaitlyn Vanderyacht, Caroline White, Taryn Wilcher and Larrea Young.

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