Dreamstarter Teacher Engages Students Through Art

On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, $1,000 (or $998.54 to be exact) goes a long way in the development of a child’s education.

Thanks to the supporters of Running Strong for American Indian Youth®, we were able to provide a grant to the Lakota Waldorf School to purchase art supplies for students.

“The Lakota children of the Pine Ridge Reservation face many challenges that children of other historical backgrounds don’t have to,” reported teacher Celestine Stadnick who applied last year for a Dreamstarter Teacher grant.

“Art is a tool that applied correctly can help mend emotional wounds,” she said, adding that at Lakota Waldorf children “are provided with a curriculum that is focused on the very individual needs they bring to the school.”

With the grant funding, Celestine was able to purchase high-quality art supplies that the children had never had the opportunity to use before, including Blick colored pencils which “…are highly pigmented, smooth and enable a very fulfilling drawing experience for the children.”

Along with the pencils, she was able to purchase plenty of painting paper, acrylic paint and paint brushes so students had the opportunity to be creative in ways that best suited them.

“Art is an element that is woven throughout daily lives for the Lakota Waldorf Students,” she explained. “It is a tool used to transmit information, develop social skills, experience emotions that are relevant for teachers, and it has a healing effect on students.”

The art instruction provided several benefits for the students including:

  • Creating a portal for students to express themselves
  • Teaching artistic skills
  • Furthering fine motor skills
  • Relieving students’ stress levels and anxiety
  • Developing healthy identities
  • Building self-esteem

Celestine described how one student in particular “experienced a large transition” as a result of the art classes.

“He has a vivid imagination and great care for the people around him, but lacks fine motor skills,” she said.

“Doing art was something he wasn’t familiar with and in the beginning he often thought it was about creating beautiful results,” she continued.

“After a few weeks he finally started understanding that his art wasn’t for others to be judged, it was only for his own inner life.

“He now creates very original, creative and deep art,” she said. “He understands that making art in my classroom is about the artist – and not about the consumer.

“Witnessing his transition into a boy that is in touch with his emotions and his surroundings has been a wonderful experience for me.”

With the seed money for art supplies Celestine received from her Dreamstarter Teacher grant, she is now able to improve the artistic experiences of her students.

“The arts are very important to Native youth,” she said. “It isn’t only one of our ancient ways of telling our stories, but also helps the children cope with life’s challenges. This program will continue on into the future as its necessity is clear to all teachers and administrators.

“This was the first time I’ve received a grant and I’m thankful for this experience.”

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